The Valley of Baca

J.C. PhilpotThe Valley of Baca
Preached at Zoar Chapel, London
on July 28, 1846, by J. C. Philpot

Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. Psalm 84:5-7

The time and circumstances under which this Psalm was written we may fairly gather from the internal evidences of the Psalm itself. First, then, this Psalm was composed while “the ark of God dwelt within curtains,” and therefore while the tabernacle was yet standing, before Solomon’s temple was erected. This we gather from verse 1—”How amiable are your tabernacles,” (or tents) “O Lord Almighty!” Secondly, it was written after the ark of God had been brought to Mount Zion, the city of David, of which we have a full account given us in 2 Samuel 6; this we gather from the 7th verse, “They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appears before God.” Thirdly, the Psalm was composed during the time of David’s flight from Jerusalem—for it is the language of one who was sighing after the courts of the Lord, and yet was debarred from approaching them. By this internal evidence, therefore, the time is strictly fixed to the flight and exile of David from Jerusalem on account of Absalom’s rebellion.

David, then, in his exile, was mourning after the blessings and privileges of those true believers who were going up to the house of the Lord, according to his command, to worship at Jerusalem. We cannot enter into the feelings of a true Israelite upon these occasions. The Lord has ordained that three times in the year all their males should appear before him. They came up from different parts of the land, according to this command; and there, from time to time, the Lord met with and blessed their souls. There they had a glimpse of the glory of the Lord dwelling between the cherubim; there they had their prayers answered, and their souls refreshed; and there they beheld, typically and figuratively foreshadowed, “the true tabernacle,” the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, “which God pitched, and not man.”

But David was debarred from going up to the house of the Lord. He was sitting solitary, and mourning, not only on account of the deep mortification of being driven from his throne, but also at not being able to come before the Lord, as in times of old. He envied therefore the very sparrow and the swallow that could fly through the air, and take up their happy abode beneath those altars which his soul so longed to approach. And doubtless, there was one feeling which pressed very hard on David’s soul—that his sins had driven him into exile. The finger of scorn throughout Israel was pointed at him as an open adulterer and convicted murderer. Thus, he had not only the melancholy feeling of being debarred from approaching God’s sanctuary; but this feeling was deeply increased by the guilt and shame that he had brought upon his own head.

Now while he was thus solitarily musing upon these pilgrims going upward to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in his earthly courts in Zion, his soul seems to have fallen into a train of holy and spiritual meditation. This earthly pilgrimage foreshadowed to him the pilgrimage of a saint heavenward; and thus, viewing all the circumstances of their journey, his thoughts turned upon what this pilgrimage spiritually typified; and he breaks out into this blessing upon God’s worshiping people —”Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they will still be praising you.”

But are these the only persons blessed? No. He adds “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you;” who has something more than the mere outward privilege of drawing near these courts; whose inward strength is in God, and who draws his supplies out of his fullness of grace and mercy. “Blessed is the man,” he further adds, “in whose heart,” that is, in whose experience, through divine teaching and divine testimony, “are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well.”

In considering the words of the text this evening, I shall view them as the Holy Spirit has given us the spiritual clue to their import. There is a true spiritualization of God’s word, and there is a false spiritualization of it. Some men can see deep mysteries in the “nine-and-twenty knives” that came from Babylon; in the oak beneath which Deborah was buried; and I dare say, some would find unfathomable depths in “Appii Forum, and the Three Taverns.” (Acts 28:15.) But we cannot build up a spiritual interpretation except the Holy Spirit has laid a foundation, nor track out a path unless he has given us a clue. But as the blessed Spirit, by the mouth and pen of David, has here given us a spiritual clue, we may follow these pilgrims in their journey up to the earthly Jerusalem, and see in it a lively representation of the true pilgrims journeying to heaven, their happy home.

We will then, as the Lord may enable, endeavor severally to unfold the distinct clauses of our text. Observe, then,

I. The BLESSING that David pronounces upon the man whose strength is in God. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.” But where shall we find that man? Where are we to look for him? In what corner does he dwell? I am bold to say, that no man ever had his strength in God until he had lost all his own. I am bold to say, from Scripture and from experience, that no man ever felt or ever knew, spiritually and experimentally, what it was to put his trust and confidence in God, who had not been thoroughly weaned and emptied from putting all trust and confidence in himself. Therefore, when David pronounces this spiritual blessing, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you,” his eye was fixed upon a certain gracious character, one who had been deeply emptied, one whose strength had been turned into weakness, his wisdom into folly, and his loveliness into corruption. How are you, how am I, to put our trust in an invisible God? Can I see him? And can I put my trust in an invisible being? It is impossible, unless I have faith to see God, who is invisible.

Two distinct things must therefore meet in my heart, under the Spirit’s secret operations, before I can come in for any share of this blessing. I must, first, by a work of grace upon my soul be weakened; as we read, “He weakened my strength in the way.” “He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help.” I must be weakened by being experimentally taught that all my natural strength in divine things is but impotency and helplessness. And how can I learn this, but through a series of trials? I must have temptations; and find my strength against these temptations utterly powerless. I must have trials; and find these trials so great, that my own strength is insufficient to bear them. I must have a discovery of God’s majesty, purity, and holiness, that all my strength may wither at the glance of the eye of God in my conscience. I must sink down into creature ruin, hopelessness, and helplessness, before I can ever give up the fancied idea of strength in myself. Man is born an independent creature. It is the very breath of a natural man. “Independence” was once my boasted motto. It suits the proud heart to rest upon itself. And our rebellious nature will always rest upon self, until self has received its death-blow from the slaughter-weapon that the man clothed with linen carries in his hand. (Ezek. 9.)

Now this in most cases will take a series of trials to produce. We are not stripped in a day; we are not emptied in a day; we are not ruined and brought to beggary and rags in a day. Many of the Lord’s people are years learning that they have nothing and are nothing. They have to pass through trial after trial, temptation after temptation, affliction after affliction, before they learn the secret of creature weakness, creature helplessness, and creature hopelessness.

But there is another requisite. It is not sufficient for me to know my poverty, my ruin, my wretchedness; I must have something more than this revealed in my heart. I must have another lesson unfolded to my soul by the power of God the Spirit. I must learn this sacred truth, “I have laid help upon One that is mighty.” I must be taught to say, “God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” I must know what the Lord Jesus so sweetly unfolded to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9.)

Have you found out these two things in your heart? How many years have some here made a profession, have come to hear the truth preached, have approved of the testimony of God’s servants, and have read the writings of gracious men! But have you learned these two lessons yet? first, creature weakness, helplessness, and hopelessness; to sink down into your miserable self; to be filled with confusion; to have nothing in yourselves but rags and ruin? And then, has the Spirit opened up, brought down into your heart, and unfolded to your soul that precious Mediator between God and man, “the Hope of Israel,” the blessed Jesus, whose strength is made perfect in weakness, that on him you may lean, in him you may trust, and upon whom you may rely to bring you safely through all? If you have learned experimentally in your conscience those two lessons—creature weakness and Creator might—the helplessness of man and the power of God—then you come in for the blessing, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.”

II. “In whose heart are the ways of them, who passes through the valley of Baca, make it a well.” David casts a glimpse here at those pilgrims who were traveling their upward journey to worship God in Zion. He marks their road, and takes occasion to spiritualize it; for he says, “in whose heart,” in whose experience, in whose soul, “are the ways” of these pilgrims Zionward.

What are these “ways?” It is this, that “passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a well.” This valley of Baca appears to have been a very perilous pass, through which pilgrims journeyed toward Jerusalem—and on account of the difficulties, dangers, and sufferings that they met with, it was named “the valley of Baca,” or ‘the valley of weeping,’ ‘the valley of tears.’

And is not this very emblematical and figurative of the valley of tears through which God’s people journey in their course heavenward? There are many circumstances which draw tears from their weeping eyes. Depend upon it, if, in the course of your profession, you have never known anything of this valley of Baca, you have mistaken the road; you are not traveling through the true valley to reach Zion; you are taking another route which leads not heavenward, but to eternal destruction.

Many are the circumstances in providence that draw tears from the eyes, and cause poignant sorrow to be felt in the heart of the true child of God. Men naturally have many sorrows in their course through life. But the Lord’s people seem to have a double portion allotted to them. They have the cares of life like their fellow-mortals; they have sources of temporal sorrow in common with their fellow-sinners. But, in addition to these providential afflictions, they have that which is peculiar to themselves—spiritual grief, burdens, and sorrows. Some of the Lord’s people are deeply sunk in poverty; others, have an almost daily cross from a suffering and weakly tabernacle; others, have to endure persecutions, and to receive many severe blows from sinners and severer from saints; others, have family afflictions; others are mourning over their blighted schemes, and the disappointment of all their temporal expectations.

But, added to these temporal trials that the Lord’s people have to pass through in common with their fellow-men, they have spiritual trials that far outweigh any of a temporal nature. Sharp and cutting temptations; the workings of a heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; the hidings of the Lord’s countenance; the doubts and alarms that work in their minds whether their feet are upon the rock; the fear of death, and the prospect of eternity; the harassing darts of the Wicked One; inward guilt and grief on account of an idolatrous, adulterous, and backsliding nature—these are but a small portion of those sorrows that draw tears from the true pilgrim’s eye. It is indeed a valley of tears for the Lord’s family, a “valley of Baca,” which they have to pass through to reach the heavenly Zion.

But the Psalmist says, “Blessed is the man in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well.” Here is the distinctive character of the true pilgrim. Not that he is journeying merely through the “valley of Baca;” not that his eyes are drowned in tears; not that his heart is filled with sorrows; not that his soul is cut with temptations; not that his mind is tried by suffering. But this is his distinctive feature—he “makes it a well.” This the ungodly know nothing of; this the professing world, for the most part, are entirely unacquainted with; but this is the “secret which no fowl knows, and which the vulture’s eye has not seen.”

One feature of the “valley of Baca” was, that the burning sun above, and the parched ground beneath, at the time of year when the pilgrims traveled, made the whole valley arid and dry. But “they made it a well.” There were wells dug in this valley of Baca for the pilgrims to slake their thirst at. And David, looking at these wells dug for the pilgrims, applies them spiritually to the refreshment that the Lord’s people meet with in their course Zionward.

“Make it a well;” that is, there are from time to time sweet refreshments in this valley of tears; there are bubblings up of divine consolation; there are fountains of living waters, streams of heavenly pleasures. And when the sun-burnt, weary pilgrims, all parched and dry, are journeying through this valley, and their tongues cleave to the roof of their mouths with thirst, the Lord from time to time opens up in this valley a well; as we read, Isa. 41:17, 18, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

Some manifestation of his gracious presence, some promise coming with power to the soul, some testimony of saving interest in the love and blood of Jesus, some smile from his countenance, some word from his lips, some encouraging testimony that the feet are upon the Rock, is given. This is a well at which his thirst is slaked; his parched tongue no longer cleaves to his palate; he drinks of the water that bubbles up from the thirsty soil to refresh the weary Pilgrim.

By this you may know whether you are a pilgrim Zionward. You all find this fallen world a valley of tears; you have burdens, sorrows, and afflictions of various kinds. But have you nothing more? If there be nothing more, are you a pilgrim? This is their distinctive feature—they “make it a well.” What! no refreshments from the divine presence? no sweet encouragements from time to time in prayer? no blessing under the preached word? no melting of heart from a sense of the Lord’s kindness to your soul? no glimpses and glances of a precious Jesus? no bubblings up of life and feeling to soften a hard heart? It will not do to call yourself a pilgrim merely because you have trials, and are journeying through a valley of tears. We must have something more than this to prove that we are pilgrims; we must have wells—”a well of water,” as the Lord speaks, “springing up into everlasting life”—divine refreshments, gracious manifestations, heavenly testimonies—something from God that comforts, that blesses, that waters the soul, and makes it like a watered garden.

And is it not the valley of tears—the dry, the parched, the arid, the sun-burnt valley—that makes the well so acceptable? I remember a friend of mine telling me, that once journeying through one of the deserts in Asia, they came to a well; and the disappointment of the company when they found the well was dry, he said, no language could depict; their grief and trouble when, after hours of traveling, they came at night to encamp by the well, and found that the sun had dried it up, were indeed most acute. As therefore, none but pilgrims through the dry and parched valley could adequately feel the sweetness of the natural well; so none but spiritual pilgrims, afflicted, exercised, and harassed, can feel the sweetness of the “pure water of life” that the Lord at times refreshes the soul with.

When David therefore blesses the pilgrims, he does not bless them on account of their traveling through the “valley of Baca;” he does not bless them for the tears that fall from their eyes, for the sorrows that fill their hearts, for the afflictions and perplexities that they are tried with; but because they make it a well. Because it is not all darkness, but there is sometimes a ray of light; because it is not all despondency, but sometimes beams of hope; because it is not all unbelief, but sometimes the actings of faith; because it is not all temptations, trials, and afflictions, but sometimes the sweet refreshings and revivings of God’s gracious presence.

III. “The rain also fills the pools.” It appears that there were “pools,” or tanks, which were built for the use of the pilgrims as they journeyed through this valley. The wells of springing water were not their only resource; lest they should fail, there were tanks or pools constructed; and these derived their supplies of water from the rain that fell into them. And may we not give this a spiritual interpretation? I think we justly may, without violating the mind and meaning of the Spirit. These pools, then, seem to represent what are called the means of grace, the ordinances of the Lord’s house, and those various helps that God himself has appointed; but which are in themselves as desolate and dry as the pool or tank, and need the rain of heaven to fill them with sweet and refreshing water for the use of the weary pilgrims.

For instance—prayer and supplication, waiting upon the Lord, going to his footstool, begging him to appear on our behalf—this is a pool which the Lord has appointed. “Call unto me; I will answer you.” “Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “For all these things will I be enquired of by the house of Israel, that I may do it.” “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and upbraids not, and it shall be given him.” Here are pools; but do we not need the rain to fill them? What is prayer, unless the Lord inspires the petition? What is prayer, unless the Lord give an answer?

I remember, many years ago, seeing in Canterbury Cathedral, the shrine of Thomas a Beckett; and—would you believe it?—the pavement is actually worn into hollows by the pilgrims who used to kneel there in the superstitious days of Popery. How many true prayers were offered at that idolatrous shrine? Prayers! Abominations in the sight of a holy God! Yet they could wear the pavement hollow with their knees. But have not you and I offered prayers equally unacceptable to the Lord God of hosts as the prayers that were offered at the shrine of Thomas a Beckett? Yes, thousands. But when “the rain fills the pools,” it is different. When the Lord draws, the soul runs; when the Lord inspires, the soul breathes; when the Lord smiles, the soul melts; when the Lord invites, the soul follows; when he says, “Call unto me,” we come, beg, and pray. When “the rain fills the pools,” we are like Hannah of old, who when she had poured out her heart before the Lord, and got the answer of peace from Eli’s mouth, went her way and was no more sad; she had drunk a draught of the pool.

Are not God’s promises pools? How they are strewed up and down God’s word, like the pools or tanks in “the valley of Baca!” But have you not sometimes come to the promises, and found them as dry as the brooks spoken of in the 6th chapter of Job, which so disappointed the companies of Sheba. I read the promises—can they refresh my soul? I may come to the pool; but if the pool is dry, will coming to the dry pool refresh my parched palate? No. The rain must fill it. When the rain has filled the pool, I can then bow down, and slake my thirst. The rain of God’s grace, and the dew of heaven, must drop into the promise, and fill the pool that you and I may come to it, feel a sweetness in it, and have our souls refreshed and strengthened by it.

And is not preaching a pool? Has not God appointed “by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe?” But have not you and I often found it a dry pool? How many sermons have you heard during the past year that really blessed, comforted, and strengthened your soul? Has one in ten, one in twenty, one in a hundred, really brought a blessing into your heart by the power of God? How often these pools are dry! I find them so; you find them so, who know the difference between letter and spirit, between “bodily exercise which profits little,” and the power of vital godliness that is profitable unto all things. The Lord will teach his people this; and he will teach it his ministers also. They may construct a pool—in their parlours at home they may build a very pretty tank; it may be divided and sub-divided; a cell here, and a compartment there—and they may come with their pools to chapel; but unless the rain fills it from above, all their ingenuity will be thrown away, and they had better have left it high and dry at home.

Are not the ordinances of God’s house pools? And have we not had continual experience how barren, how dry these pools sometimes are? Have we not sometimes sat at the table of the Lord, and blasphemous thoughts, filthy imaginations, horrible workings filled our minds? Have we not felt carnality, deadness, bondage, darkness? no rain filling the pool? And have we not looked upon the baptismal pool, and though filled with rain from the roof, it never profited unless the rain from heaven filled the spiritual ordinance, as well as the rain from above has filled the natural baptistery.

So we might travel through the various means of grace which God has spoken of in his word; and we would find alike in all, that unless God fills the pools, they cannot slake our spiritual thirst.

But this is the blessedness of the pilgrims, that the rain does sometimes fill the pools. It is not with them all deadness in prayer, all coldness in reading, or all darkness in hearing. There are sometimes heavenly manifestations, diving refreshments, and breakings in of the Lord’s presence and favor; this is the rain filling the pools. And when the rain fills the pools, then it is, and then only, that they afford any life or feeling to our souls.

IV. “They go from strength to strength.” It is in the margin, “from company to company.” I rather think, that the meaning implied is, “they go from resting place to resting place.” There were certain fixed spots where the whole company rested at night; as we read, when the infant Jesus tarried in Jerusalem, his parents knew it not—they supposed that he was “in the company;” that is, had gone on with the traveling pilgrims—but when night came, and they looked for him, he was not there. (Luke 2:44.)

These resting places were certain spots where the caravan of the traveling pilgrims rested at night; by these successive stoppings their strength was restored, and they were enabled to bear the long journey, rising in the morning refreshed with their night’s rest.

The Psalmist viewing it spiritually, says, “They go from strength to strength.” At each resting place they received fresh strength to pursue their journey onward. And is not this true in grace? There are resting places in the divine life, spots of rest, where the true pilgrims renew their strength. For instance; every manifestation of the Lord is a communication of divine strength, a recruiting place, where the soul renews its strength to travel onward. Every promise that comes with sweet power is another halting place where the traveler may rest. Every discovery of saving interest in Christ; every glimpse of the grace and glory of Jesus; every word from the Lord’s lips; every smile from the Lord’s face; every token for good; everything that encourages, supports, blesses, and comforts the soul, enabling it to go onwards towards its heavenly home—is a resting place, where the pilgrim rests, and where he renews his weary limbs.

And where can we rest, except where God rests? But does not God “rest in his love?” And can we rest anywhere short of God’s love shed abroad in our heart? Does not God rest in his dear Son? Did not this voice come from the excellent glory, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?” All the satisfaction of God centers in Jesus; all the delight of the Father rests in the Son of his love. “Behold my servant; whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights!” (Isa. 42:1.) Can we then rest anywhere but where God rests? Is it not spiritually with us as with the Israelites of old? When the cloud tarried, they tarried; when the cloud went, they went; when the cloud moved onward they followed it; and when the cloud stopped, they halted, and rested beneath its shadow.

What rest can I have in my troubles, afflictions, exercises, and temptations? Can I rest in them? I might just as well think of trying to rest myself on the bottom of the Thames; I might just as well try to lie down on some deep marsh, and there recline my weary bones. As to resting on doubts and fears, trials and temptations, griefs and sorrows, exercises and perplexities, the troubled bosom of the sea is as much a bed for the storm-tossed mariner, as exercises and troubles are for the weary pilgrim. I cannot, I must not rest short of that rest which “remains for the people of God.” What is that? Christ—the true Sabbath. I can only rest in his finished work, in his atoning blood, in his dying love, in his imputed righteousness. He, and he only, can be the rest of my restless soul. And when I can do that, I am like the weary caravan of pilgrims traveling Zionward; they halted for the night; they sweetly slept, for the shadow of God’s everlasting love was over them; and thus they recruited their strength for the next day’s journey.

But mark, they were not always resting. They had alternate jouneyings by day, and restings by night; the thorns of the valley often lacerated their tender feet; the burning sun beat upon their aching heads; the wild beasts of the valley howled and shrieked through the bushes; banditti perhaps hovered upon the rocks, waiting to cut off a straggling passenger; the trackless wilderness was behind, the wild desert before, and Zion to them at a boundless distance. Yet on they journeyed, and never went back. They had a certain goal in view—Zion, Zion, their eyes were fixed upon—and the thought of reaching this cheered them as they went on.

Is it not so with spiritual pilgrims? Is it always rest with you? Are you always satisfied that you are a child of God? Are you always certain that heaven is your home? Can you always rest in God’s love to your soul? Can you always find Christ precious to your heart? I cannot; if you can. We have to journey onward; another day of sorrow, another day of trial, another day of temptation, another day of exercise—each day bringing a new trial. Yet we journey onward; not driven from truth, not driven from Zion, not driven from God, not driven from Jesus—onward, onward, onward we go; our faces set Zionward, our backs towards the world. These poor weary pilgrims would often march staggering and fainting under their burdens, burnt by the rays of the sun, scarcely able to move one foot before another. But the resting place is reached; the signal is given; once more they rest, and their strength is restored.

It is so spiritually. God gives a little rest to the soul; some manifestation, some evidence, some testimony; a word, a look, a smile, a glimpse, a glance. “They go from strength to strength.” Is not this strength? There is no other. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.” Therefore it is “from strength to strength.” It must be God’s strength he goes forward in, not his own. If it were his own, he would not come under the blessing; “whose strength is in you.” If he could rest when he would, eat when he would, drink when he would, he would not need the Lord to be the “strength of his heart and his portion forever.” This puts sweetness into the pilgrimage—”they go from strength to strength,” from halting place to halting place, from refreshment to refreshment. For it was at these resting places the wells were dug; at these pools they tarried for the night, and sometimes found them filled with the rain of heaven. Thus they not only rested their weary limbs upon the desert, but they slaked their thirst at the well, or pool, and ate of the palm that overshadowed their head.

And is it not so spiritually? Where we rest, there we find water, refreshment, and strength. We do not find the pool when we are journeying onward; but when we are weary, exhausted, and faint, the Lord opens rivers in the wilderness, and waters in the desert; and when we come there, we are allowed to tarry for a night, as the children of Israel encamped by the waters of Elim.

V. And then, what comes as the glorious CONSEQUENCE? O sweet winding-up of this heavenly subject! O blessed crown that the Lord puts upon it all! “Every one of them in Zion appears before God.” None perished by the way, none were devoured by the wild beasts, none cut off by the wandering banditti, none fainted on the road; some perhaps, straggling in the rear, and others coming in late and lagged. But when the company is counted, none are missing; old men and young children, tender women and stout youth—all the company of the pilgrim caravan—when they are counted, one by one, all answer to their names. “Every one of them in Zion appears before God.”

And is not this true spiritually of God’s own family? What did the Lord say? “Those you gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.” And when he presents his innumerable host of redeemed souls before the throne of the Almighty, will not this be the language of his lips to his Father? “Behold me, and the children whom you have given me.” “Yours they were; for all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” And will not this be the theme of every spiritual pilgrim?—”Kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” As the Lord is true, no spiritual pilgrim will ever fall and die in the valley of Baca.

Some may fear that through temptation, their strong passions or boiling lusts will one day break out and destroy them. No, not if they are pilgrims. “Every one of them in Zion appears before God.” Others may think they never shall have a testimony; they never shall read their name clearly in the Book of Life; the Lord will never appear in their heart or bless their soul; they never shall be able to say, “Abba, Father.” If Jesus is theirs, they shall.

But are they spiritual pilgrims? Do they find it a valley of tears? Are their faces Zionward? Have they come out of the world? Do they sometimes find a well in the valley of Baca? And does the rain fill the pools? And have they ever had strength made perfect in weakness? Then every one of them will appear before God in Zion. Blessed end! Sweet accomplishment of the pilgrim’s hopes, desires, and expectations! The crowning blessing of all that God has to bestow! “Every one of them appears before God,” washed in the Savior’s blood, clothed in the Redeemer’s righteousness, adorned with all the graces of the Spirit, and made fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.

No weeping then! The valley of Baca is passed, and tears wiped from off all faces. No thorns to lacerate the weary feet there; no prowling wild beasts to seize the unwary traveler there; no roving banditti to surprise stragglers there; no doubts and fears and cutting sorrows to grieve, perplex, and burden them there. Safe in Zion, safe in the Redeemer’s bosom, safe in their Husband’s arms, safe before the throne, every one of them appears before God in glory.

Pilgrim of Zion, take a glimpse at your spiritual life. Do see if you can find the features of the spiritual pilgrimage in it. How does it begin? “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.” Is your strength in God? Have you learned your weakness, feebleness, helplessness, hopelessness, and been enabled to cast anchor within the veil, and lean your weary soul upon the strength of Jesus? You are a blessed man; you have set out Zionward; your feet are in the road that leads to glory.

How have you found the road? Very easy to your feet? A green, grassy, flowery garden? a smooth meadow, with primroses and violets in the hedges, and you every now and then sitting on a stile, inhaling the breath of the May morn? or sometimes reclining on the grass, listening to the nightingale? This is not the way to heaven; you have mistaken the road. The way to heaven is through “the valley of Baca!” the valley of tears—a dry, parched, and burnt up valley, with thorns lacerating the traveler’s feet; the wild beasts lurking in the dens; and Satan and his host, as armed prowlers, seeking to destroy. Depend upon it, if we find the way very smooth, very easy, very pleasing, and very agreeable, we have made a great mistake; we have not got into the right road yet. God bring those in the road who are his people, that have at present mistaken it! But you, traveler and pilgrim Zionward, have you not found it a valley of tears, have you not had cutting things in providence, heavy trials, harassing temptations, fiery darts, persecutions, sufferings from men, and above all from yourselves?

But have you not sometimes found a WELL open? Have you not sometimes found the Lord to be, what he says he is, “a Fountain of living waters?” And have you not sometimes come to the blessed Jesus all dry, all parched, all languid, and all sinking; and found some glimpses, glances, and testimonies? These have refreshed, strengthened, comforted, and blessed you. Then you are a pilgrim! though you have found the way that leads to Zion a valley of tears; yet in that tearful valley you have every now and then found a well. Then you are a pilgrim! Let the devil, let unbelief, let men, let persecutors, let the world, let your heart say to the contrary, God has blessed you in his word as a spiritual pilgrim.

And have you not found also that RAIN has filled the pools? It has not been always dry with you; it has not been always a barren land; there has been a melting, a softening, a breaking down, a something that has watered your heart; you have felt blessed from time to time under the preaching of the truth, in reading the word, in secret prayer, in the pouring out of your soul before God. You are a pilgrim!—another mark for you! And have you not sometimes found strength? You have had temptations, but you have had strength to bear them; you have had trials, but you have had grace to endure them; you have had persecutions, but you have had support under them; you have had heart-rending afflictions, but the Lord has not allowed you to be destroyed by them; there has been some secret strength communicated to your soul; you have leaned upon an unseen arm, and have found support in invisible realities. Another mark that you are a pilgrim!

And then, sweetest, crowning mercy, that “every one”—(O what there is in these words? doubting, fearing, tried, tempted, distressed, exercised, and sorrowing pilgrim)—”every one of them in Zion appears before God.” So that when the Redeemer counts his sheep, and they shall again pass under the hand of him who counts them, not one of the ransomed will be missing, but all will be present to sing forever the glory and praise of God!

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also fills the pools. They go from strength to strength—every one of them in Zion appears before God.” Psalm 84:5-7

“Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7

The time and circumstances under which this Psalm was written we may fairly gather from the internal evidences of the Psalm itself. First, then, this Psalm was composed while “the ark of God dwelt within curtains,” and therefore while the tabernacle was yet standing, before Solomon’s temple was erected. This we gather from verse 1—”How amiable are your tabernacles,” (or tents) “O Lord Almighty!” Secondly, it was written after the ark of God had been brought to Mount Zion, the city of David, of which we have a full account given us in 2 Samuel 6; this we gather from the 7th verse, “They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appears before God.” Thirdly, the Psalm was composed during the time of David’s flight from Jerusalem—for it is the language of one who was sighing after the courts of the Lord, and yet was debarred from approaching them. By this internal evidence, therefore, the time is strictly fixed to the flight and exile of David from Jerusalem on account of Absalom’s rebellion.

David, then, in his exile, was mourning after the blessings and privileges of those true believers who were going up to the house of the Lord, according to his command, to worship at Jerusalem. We cannot enter into the feelings of a true Israelite upon these occasions. The Lord has ordained that three times in the year all their males should appear before him. They came up from different parts of the land, according to this command; and there, from time to time, the Lord met with and blessed their souls. There they had a glimpse of the glory of the Lord dwelling between the cherubim; there they had their prayers answered, and their souls refreshed; and there they beheld, typically and figuratively foreshadowed, “the true tabernacle,” the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, “which God pitched, and not man.”

But David was debarred from going up to the house of the Lord. He was sitting solitary, and mourning, not only on account of the deep mortification of being driven from his throne, but also at not being able to come before the Lord, as in times of old. He envied therefore the very sparrow and the swallow that could fly through the air, and take up their happy abode beneath those altars which his soul so longed to approach. And doubtless, there was one feeling which pressed very hard on David’s soul—that his sins had driven him into exile. The finger of scorn throughout Israel was pointed at him as an open adulterer and convicted murderer. Thus, he had not only the melancholy feeling of being debarred from approaching God’s sanctuary; but this feeling was deeply increased by the guilt and shame that he had brought upon his own head.

Now while he was thus solitarily musing upon these pilgrims going upward to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in his earthly courts in Zion, his soul seems to have fallen into a train of holy and spiritual meditation. This earthly pilgrimage foreshadowed to him the pilgrimage of a saint heavenward; and thus, viewing all the circumstances of their journey, his thoughts turned upon what this pilgrimage spiritually typified; and he breaks out into this blessing upon God’s worshiping people —”Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they will still be praising you.”

But are these the only persons blessed? No. He adds “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you;” who has something more than the mere outward privilege of drawing near these courts; whose inward strength is in God, and who draws his supplies out of his fullness of grace and mercy. “Blessed is the man,” he further adds, “in whose heart,” that is, in whose experience, through divine teaching and divine testimony, “are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well.”

In considering the words of the text this evening, I shall view them as the Holy Spirit has given us the spiritual clue to their import. There is a true spiritualization of God’s word, and there is a false spiritualization of it. Some men can see deep mysteries in the “nine-and-twenty knives” that came from Babylon; in the oak beneath which Deborah was buried; and I dare say, some would find unfathomable depths in “Appii Forum, and the Three Taverns.” (Acts 28:15.) But we cannot build up a spiritual interpretation except the Holy Spirit has laid a foundation, nor track out a path unless he has given us a clue. But as the blessed Spirit, by the mouth and pen of David, has here given us a spiritual clue, we may follow these pilgrims in their journey up to the earthly Jerusalem, and see in it a lively representation of the true pilgrims journeying to heaven, their happy home.

We will then, as the Lord may enable, endeavor severally to unfold the distinct clauses of our text. Observe, then,

I. The BLESSING that David pronounces upon the man whose strength is in God. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.” But where shall we find that man? Where are we to look for him? In what corner does he dwell? I am bold to say, that no man ever had his strength in God until he had lost all his own. I am bold to say, from Scripture and from experience, that no man ever felt or ever knew, spiritually and experimentally, what it was to put his trust and confidence in God, who had not been thoroughly weaned and emptied from putting all trust and confidence in himself. Therefore, when David pronounces this spiritual blessing, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you,” his eye was fixed upon a certain gracious character, one who had been deeply emptied, one whose strength had been turned into weakness, his wisdom into folly, and his loveliness into corruption. How are you, how am I, to put our trust in an invisible God? Can I see him? And can I put my trust in an invisible being? It is impossible, unless I have faith to see God, who is invisible.

Two distinct things must therefore meet in my heart, under the Spirit’s secret operations, before I can come in for any share of this blessing. I must, first, by a work of grace upon my soul be weakened; as we read, “He weakened my strength in the way.” “He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help.” I must be weakened by being experimentally taught that all my natural strength in divine things is but impotency and helplessness. And how can I learn this, but through a series of trials? I must have temptations; and find my strength against these temptations utterly powerless. I must have trials; and find these trials so great, that my own strength is insufficient to bear them. I must have a discovery of God’s majesty, purity, and holiness, that all my strength may wither at the glance of the eye of God in my conscience. I must sink down into creature ruin, hopelessness, and helplessness, before I can ever give up the fancied idea of strength in myself. Man is born an independent creature. It is the very breath of a natural man. “Independence” was once my boasted motto. It suits the proud heart to rest upon itself. And our rebellious nature will always rest upon self, until self has received its death-blow from the slaughter-weapon that the man clothed with linen carries in his hand. (Ezek. 9.)

Now this in most cases will take a series of trials to produce. We are not stripped in a day; we are not emptied in a day; we are not ruined and brought to beggary and rags in a day. Many of the Lord’s people are years learning that they have nothing and are nothing. They have to pass through trial after trial, temptation after temptation, affliction after affliction, before they learn the secret of creature weakness, creature helplessness, and creature hopelessness.

But there is another requisite. It is not sufficient for me to know my poverty, my ruin, my wretchedness; I must have something more than this revealed in my heart. I must have another lesson unfolded to my soul by the power of God the Spirit. I must learn this sacred truth, “I have laid help upon One that is mighty.” I must be taught to say, “God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” I must know what the Lord Jesus so sweetly unfolded to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9.)

Have you found out these two things in your heart? How many years have some here made a profession, have come to hear the truth preached, have approved of the testimony of God’s servants, and have read the writings of gracious men! But have you learned these two lessons yet? first, creature weakness, helplessness, and hopelessness; to sink down into your miserable self; to be filled with confusion; to have nothing in yourselves but rags and ruin? And then, has the Spirit opened up, brought down into your heart, and unfolded to your soul that precious Mediator between God and man, “the Hope of Israel,” the blessed Jesus, whose strength is made perfect in weakness, that on him you may lean, in him you may trust, and upon whom you may rely to bring you safely through all? If you have learned experimentally in your conscience those two lessons—creature weakness and Creator might—the helplessness of man and the power of God—then you come in for the blessing, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.”

II. “In whose heart are the ways of them, who passes through the valley of Baca, make it a well.” David casts a glimpse here at those pilgrims who were traveling their upward journey to worship God in Zion. He marks their road, and takes occasion to spiritualize it; for he says, “in whose heart,” in whose experience, in whose soul, “are the ways” of these pilgrims Zionward.

What are these “ways?” It is this, that “passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a well.” This valley of Baca appears to have been a very perilous pass, through which pilgrims journeyed toward Jerusalem—and on account of the difficulties, dangers, and sufferings that they met with, it was named “the valley of Baca,” or ‘the valley of weeping,’ ‘the valley of tears.’

And is not this very emblematical and figurative of the valley of tears through which God’s people journey in their course heavenward? There are many circumstances which draw tears from their weeping eyes. Depend upon it, if, in the course of your profession, you have never known anything of this valley of Baca, you have mistaken the road; you are not traveling through the true valley to reach Zion; you are taking another route which leads not heavenward, but to eternal destruction.

Many are the circumstances in providence that draw tears from the eyes, and cause poignant sorrow to be felt in the heart of the true child of God. Men naturally have many sorrows in their course through life. But the Lord’s people seem to have a double portion allotted to them. They have the cares of life like their fellow-mortals; they have sources of temporal sorrow in common with their fellow-sinners. But, in addition to these providential afflictions, they have that which is peculiar to themselves—spiritual grief, burdens, and sorrows. Some of the Lord’s people are deeply sunk in poverty; others, have an almost daily cross from a suffering and weakly tabernacle; others, have to endure persecutions, and to receive many severe blows from sinners and severer from saints; others, have family afflictions; others are mourning over their blighted schemes, and the disappointment of all their temporal expectations.

But, added to these temporal trials that the Lord’s people have to pass through in common with their fellow-men, they have spiritual trials that far outweigh any of a temporal nature. Sharp and cutting temptations; the workings of a heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; the hidings of the Lord’s countenance; the doubts and alarms that work in their minds whether their feet are upon the rock; the fear of death, and the prospect of eternity; the harassing darts of the Wicked One; inward guilt and grief on account of an idolatrous, adulterous, and backsliding nature—these are but a small portion of those sorrows that draw tears from the true pilgrim’s eye. It is indeed a valley of tears for the Lord’s family, a “valley of Baca,” which they have to pass through to reach the heavenly Zion.

But the Psalmist says, “Blessed is the man in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well.” Here is the distinctive character of the true pilgrim. Not that he is journeying merely through the “valley of Baca;” not that his eyes are drowned in tears; not that his heart is filled with sorrows; not that his soul is cut with temptations; not that his mind is tried by suffering. But this is his distinctive feature—he “makes it a well.” This the ungodly know nothing of; this the professing world, for the most part, are entirely unacquainted with; but this is the “secret which no fowl knows, and which the vulture’s eye has not seen.”

One feature of the “valley of Baca” was, that the burning sun above, and the parched ground beneath, at the time of year when the pilgrims traveled, made the whole valley arid and dry. But “they made it a well.” There were wells dug in this valley of Baca for the pilgrims to slake their thirst at. And David, looking at these wells dug for the pilgrims, applies them spiritually to the refreshment that the Lord’s people meet with in their course Zionward.

“Make it a well;” that is, there are from time to time sweet refreshments in this valley of tears; there are bubblings up of divine consolation; there are fountains of living waters, streams of heavenly pleasures. And when the sun-burnt, weary pilgrims, all parched and dry, are journeying through this valley, and their tongues cleave to the roof of their mouths with thirst, the Lord from time to time opens up in this valley a well; as we read, Isa. 41:17, 18, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

Some manifestation of his gracious presence, some promise coming with power to the soul, some testimony of saving interest in the love and blood of Jesus, some smile from his countenance, some word from his lips, some encouraging testimony that the feet are upon the Rock, is given. This is a well at which his thirst is slaked; his parched tongue no longer cleaves to his palate; he drinks of the water that bubbles up from the thirsty soil to refresh the weary Pilgrim.

By this you may know whether you are a pilgrim Zionward. You all find this fallen world a valley of tears; you have burdens, sorrows, and afflictions of various kinds. But have you nothing more? If there be nothing more, are you a pilgrim? This is their distinctive feature—they “make it a well.” What! no refreshments from the divine presence? no sweet encouragements from time to time in prayer? no blessing under the preached word? no melting of heart from a sense of the Lord’s kindness to your soul? no glimpses and glances of a precious Jesus? no bubblings up of life and feeling to soften a hard heart? It will not do to call yourself a pilgrim merely because you have trials, and are journeying through a valley of tears. We must have something more than this to prove that we are pilgrims; we must have wells—”a well of water,” as the Lord speaks, “springing up into everlasting life”—divine refreshments, gracious manifestations, heavenly testimonies—something from God that comforts, that blesses, that waters the soul, and makes it like a watered garden.

And is it not the valley of tears—the dry, the parched, the arid, the sun-burnt valley—that makes the well so acceptable? I remember a friend of mine telling me, that once journeying through one of the deserts in Asia, they came to a well; and the disappointment of the company when they found the well was dry, he said, no language could depict; their grief and trouble when, after hours of traveling, they came at night to encamp by the well, and found that the sun had dried it up, were indeed most acute. As therefore, none but pilgrims through the dry and parched valley could adequately feel the sweetness of the natural well; so none but spiritual pilgrims, afflicted, exercised, and harassed, can feel the sweetness of the “pure water of life” that the Lord at times refreshes the soul with.

When David therefore blesses the pilgrims, he does not bless them on account of their traveling through the “valley of Baca;” he does not bless them for the tears that fall from their eyes, for the sorrows that fill their hearts, for the afflictions and perplexities that they are tried with; but because they make it a well. Because it is not all darkness, but there is sometimes a ray of light; because it is not all despondency, but sometimes beams of hope; because it is not all unbelief, but sometimes the actings of faith; because it is not all temptations, trials, and afflictions, but sometimes the sweet refreshings and revivings of God’s gracious presence.

III. “The rain also fills the pools.” It appears that there were “pools,” or tanks, which were built for the use of the pilgrims as they journeyed through this valley. The wells of springing water were not their only resource; lest they should fail, there were tanks or pools constructed; and these derived their supplies of water from the rain that fell into them. And may we not give this a spiritual interpretation? I think we justly may, without violating the mind and meaning of the Spirit. These pools, then, seem to represent what are called the means of grace, the ordinances of the Lord’s house, and those various helps that God himself has appointed; but which are in themselves as desolate and dry as the pool or tank, and need the rain of heaven to fill them with sweet and refreshing water for the use of the weary pilgrims.

1. For instance—prayer and supplication, waiting upon the Lord, going to his footstool, begging him to appear on our behalf—this is a pool which the Lord has appointed. “Call unto me; I will answer you.” “Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “For all these things will I be enquired of by the house of Israel, that I may do it.” “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and upbraids not, and it shall be given him.” Here are pools; but do we not need the rain to fill them? What is prayer, unless the Lord inspires the petition? What is prayer, unless the Lord give an answer?

I remember, many years ago, seeing in Canterbury Cathedral, the shrine of Thomas a Beckett; and—would you believe it?—the pavement is actually worn into hollows by the pilgrims who used to kneel there in the superstitious days of Popery. How many true prayers were offered at that idolatrous shrine? Prayers! Abominations in the sight of a holy God! Yet they could wear the pavement hollow with their knees. But have not you and I offered prayers equally unacceptable to the Lord God of hosts as the prayers that were offered at the shrine of Thomas a Beckett? Yes, thousands. But when “the rain fills the pools,” it is different. When the Lord draws, the soul runs; when the Lord inspires, the soul breathes; when the Lord smiles, the soul melts; when the Lord invites, the soul follows; when he says, “Call unto me,” we come, beg, and pray. When “the rain fills the pools,” we are like Hannah of old, who when she had poured out her heart before the Lord, and got the answer of peace from Eli’s mouth, went her way and was no more sad; she had drunk a draught of the pool.

2. Are not God’s promises pools? How they are strewed up and down God’s word, like the pools or tanks in “the valley of Baca!” But have you not sometimes come to the promises, and found them as dry as the brooks spoken of in the 6th chapter of Job, which so disappointed the companies of Sheba. I read the promises—can they refresh my soul? I may come to the pool; but if the pool is dry, will coming to the dry pool refresh my parched palate? No. The rain must fill it. When the rain has filled the pool, I can then bow down, and slake my thirst. The rain of God’s grace, and the dew of heaven, must drop into the promise, and fill the pool that you and I may come to it, feel a sweetness in it, and have our souls refreshed and strengthened by it.

3. And is not preaching a pool? Has not God appointed “by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe?” But have not you and I often found it a dry pool? How many sermons have you heard during the past year that really blessed, comforted, and strengthened your soul? Has one in ten, one in twenty, one in a hundred, really brought a blessing into your heart by the power of God? How often these pools are dry! I find them so; you find them so, who know the difference between letter and spirit, between “bodily exercise which profits little,” and the power of vital godliness that is profitable unto all things. The Lord will teach his people this; and he will teach it his ministers also. They may construct a pool—in their parlours at home they may build a very pretty tank; it may be divided and sub-divided; a cell here, and a compartment there—and they may come with their pools to chapel; but unless the rain fills it from above, all their ingenuity will be thrown away, and they had better have left it high and dry at home.

4. Are not the ordinances of God’s house pools? And have we not had continual experience how barren, how dry these pools sometimes are? Have we not sometimes sat at the table of the Lord, and blasphemous thoughts, filthy imaginations, horrible workings filled our minds? Have we not felt carnality, deadness, bondage, darkness? no rain filling the pool? And have we not looked upon the baptismal pool, and though filled with rain from the roof, it never profited unless the rain from heaven filled the spiritual ordinance, as well as the rain from above has filled the natural baptistery.

So we might travel through the various means of grace which God has spoken of in his word; and we would find alike in all, that unless God fills the pools, they cannot slake our spiritual thirst.

But this is the blessedness of the pilgrims, that the rain does sometimes fill the pools. It is not with them all deadness in prayer, all coldness in reading, or all darkness in hearing. There are sometimes heavenly manifestations, diving refreshments, and breakings in of the Lord’s presence and favor; this is the rain filling the pools. And when the rain fills the pools, then it is, and then only, that they afford any life or feeling to our souls.

IV. “They go from strength to strength.” It is in the margin, “from company to company.” I rather think, that the meaning implied is, “they go from resting place to resting place.” There were certain fixed spots where the whole company rested at night; as we read, when the infant Jesus tarried in Jerusalem, his parents knew it not—they supposed that he was “in the company;” that is, had gone on with the traveling pilgrims—but when night came, and they looked for him, he was not there. (Luke 2:44.)

These resting places were certain spots where the caravan of the traveling pilgrims rested at night; by these successive stoppings their strength was restored, and they were enabled to bear the long journey, rising in the morning refreshed with their night’s rest.

The Psalmist viewing it spiritually, says, “They go from strength to strength.” At each resting place they received fresh strength to pursue their journey onward. And is not this true in grace? There are resting places in the divine life, spots of rest, where the true pilgrims renew their strength. For instance; every manifestation of the Lord is a communication of divine strength, a recruiting place, where the soul renews its strength to travel onward. Every promise that comes with sweet power is another halting place where the traveler may rest. Every discovery of saving interest in Christ; every glimpse of the grace and glory of Jesus; every word from the Lord’s lips; every smile from the Lord’s face; every token for good; everything that encourages, supports, blesses, and comforts the soul, enabling it to go onwards towards its heavenly home—is a resting place, where the pilgrim rests, and where he renews his weary limbs.

And where can we rest, except where God rests? But does not God “rest in his love?” And can we rest anywhere short of God’s love shed abroad in our heart? Does not God rest in his dear Son? Did not this voice come from the excellent glory, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?” All the satisfaction of God centers in Jesus; all the delight of the Father rests in the Son of his love. “Behold my servant; whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights!” (Isa. 42:1.) Can we then rest anywhere but where God rests? Is it not spiritually with us as with the Israelites of old? When the cloud tarried, they tarried; when the cloud went, they went; when the cloud moved onward they followed it; and when the cloud stopped, they halted, and rested beneath its shadow.

What rest can I have in my troubles, afflictions, exercises, and temptations? Can I rest in them? I might just as well think of trying to rest myself on the bottom of the Thames; I might just as well try to lie down on some deep marsh, and there recline my weary bones. As to resting on doubts and fears, trials and temptations, griefs and sorrows, exercises and perplexities, the troubled bosom of the sea is as much a bed for the storm-tossed mariner, as exercises and troubles are for the weary pilgrim. I cannot, I must not rest short of that rest which “remains for the people of God.” What is that? Christ—the true Sabbath. I can only rest in his finished work, in his atoning blood, in his dying love, in his imputed righteousness. He, and he only, can be the rest of my restless soul. And when I can do that, I am like the weary caravan of pilgrims traveling Zionward; they halted for the night; they sweetly slept, for the shadow of God’s everlasting love was over them; and thus they recruited their strength for the next day’s journey.

But mark, they were not always resting. They had alternate jouneyings by day, and restings by night; the thorns of the valley often lacerated their tender feet; the burning sun beat upon their aching heads; the wild beasts of the valley howled and shrieked through the bushes; banditti perhaps hovered upon the rocks, waiting to cut off a straggling passenger; the trackless wilderness was behind, the wild desert before, and Zion to them at a boundless distance. Yet on they journeyed, and never went back. They had a certain goal in view—Zion, Zion, their eyes were fixed upon—and the thought of reaching this cheered them as they went on.

Is it not so with spiritual pilgrims? Is it always rest with you? Are you always satisfied that you are a child of God? Are you always certain that heaven is your home? Can you always rest in God’s love to your soul? Can you always find Christ precious to your heart? I cannot; if you can. We have to journey onward; another day of sorrow, another day of trial, another day of temptation, another day of exercise—each day bringing a new trial. Yet we journey onward; not driven from truth, not driven from Zion, not driven from God, not driven from Jesus—onward, onward, onward we go; our faces set Zionward, our backs towards the world. These poor weary pilgrims would often march staggering and fainting under their burdens, burnt by the rays of the sun, scarcely able to move one foot before another. But the resting place is reached; the signal is given; once more they rest, and their strength is restored.

It is so spiritually. God gives a little rest to the soul; some manifestation, some evidence, some testimony; a word, a look, a smile, a glimpse, a glance. “They go from strength to strength.” Is not this strength? There is no other. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.” Therefore it is “from strength to strength.” It must be God’s strength he goes forward in, not his own. If it were his own, he would not come under the blessing; “whose strength is in you.” If he could rest when he would, eat when he would, drink when he would, he would not need the Lord to be the “strength of his heart and his portion forever.” This puts sweetness into the pilgrimage—”they go from strength to strength,” from halting place to halting place, from refreshment to refreshment. For it was at these resting places the wells were dug; at these pools they tarried for the night, and sometimes found them filled with the rain of heaven. Thus they not only rested their weary limbs upon the desert, but they slaked their thirst at the well, or pool, and ate of the palm that overshadowed their head.

And is it not so spiritually? Where we rest, there we find water, refreshment, and strength. We do not find the pool when we are journeying onward; but when we are weary, exhausted, and faint, the Lord opens rivers in the wilderness, and waters in the desert; and when we come there, we are allowed to tarry for a night, as the children of Israel encamped by the waters of Elim.

V. And then, what comes as the glorious CONSEQUENCE? O sweet winding-up of this heavenly subject! O blessed crown that the Lord puts upon it all! “Every one of them in Zion appears before God.” None perished by the way, none were devoured by the wild beasts, none cut off by the wandering banditti, none fainted on the road; some perhaps, straggling in the rear, and others coming in late and lagged. But when the company is counted, none are missing; old men and young children, tender women and stout youth—all the company of the pilgrim caravan—when they are counted, one by one, all answer to their names. “Every one of them in Zion appears before God.”

And is not this true spiritually of God’s own family? What did the Lord say? “Those you gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition.” And when he presents his innumerable host of redeemed souls before the throne of the Almighty, will not this be the language of his lips to his Father? “Behold me, and the children whom you have given me.” “Yours they were; for all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” And will not this be the theme of every spiritual pilgrim?—”Kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” As the Lord is true, no spiritual pilgrim will ever fall and die in the valley of Baca.

Some may fear that through temptation, their strong passions or boiling lusts will one day break out and destroy them. No, not if they are pilgrims. “Every one of them in Zion appears before God.” Others may think they never shall have a testimony; they never shall read their name clearly in the Book of Life; the Lord will never appear in their heart or bless their soul; they never shall be able to say, “Abba, Father.” If Jesus is theirs, they shall.

But are they spiritual pilgrims? Do they find it a valley of tears? Are their faces Zionward? Have they come out of the world? Do they sometimes find a well in the valley of Baca? And does the rain fill the pools? And have they ever had strength made perfect in weakness? Then every one of them will appear before God in Zion. Blessed end! Sweet accomplishment of the pilgrim’s hopes, desires, and expectations! The crowning blessing of all that God has to bestow! “Every one of them appears before God,” washed in the Savior’s blood, clothed in the Redeemer’s righteousness, adorned with all the graces of the Spirit, and made fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.

No weeping then! The valley of Baca is passed, and tears wiped from off all faces. No thorns to lacerate the weary feet there; no prowling wild beasts to seize the unwary traveler there; no roving banditti to surprise stragglers there; no doubts and fears and cutting sorrows to grieve, perplex, and burden them there. Safe in Zion, safe in the Redeemer’s bosom, safe in their Husband’s arms, safe before the throne, every one of them appears before God in glory.

Pilgrim of Zion, take a glimpse at your spiritual life. Do see if you can find the features of the spiritual pilgrimage in it. How does it begin? “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.” Is your strength in God? Have you learned your weakness, feebleness, helplessness, hopelessness, and been enabled to cast anchor within the veil, and lean your weary soul upon the strength of Jesus? You are a blessed man; you have set out Zionward; your feet are in the road that leads to glory.

How have you found the road? Very easy to your feet? A green, grassy, flowery garden? a smooth meadow, with primroses and violets in the hedges, and you every now and then sitting on a stile, inhaling the breath of the May morn? or sometimes reclining on the grass, listening to the nightingale? This is not the way to heaven; you have mistaken the road. The way to heaven is through “the valley of Baca!” the valley of tears—a dry, parched, and burnt up valley, with thorns lacerating the traveler’s feet; the wild beasts lurking in the dens; and Satan and his host, as armed prowlers, seeking to destroy. Depend upon it, if we find the way very smooth, very easy, very pleasing, and very agreeable, we have made a great mistake; we have not got into the right road yet. God bring those in the road who are his people, that have at present mistaken it! But you, traveler and pilgrim Zionward, have you not found it a valley of tears, have you not had cutting things in providence, heavy trials, harassing temptations, fiery darts, persecutions, sufferings from men, and above all from yourselves?

But have you not sometimes found a WELL open? Have you not sometimes found the Lord to be, what he says he is, “a Fountain of living waters?” And have you not sometimes come to the blessed Jesus all dry, all parched, all languid, and all sinking; and found some glimpses, glances, and testimonies? These have refreshed, strengthened, comforted, and blessed you. Then you are a pilgrim! though you have found the way that leads to Zion a valley of tears; yet in that tearful valley you have every now and then found a well. Then you are a pilgrim! Let the devil, let unbelief, let men, let persecutors, let the world, let your heart say to the contrary, God has blessed you in his word as a spiritual pilgrim.

And have you not found also that RAIN has filled the pools? It has not been always dry with you; it has not been always a barren land; there has been a melting, a softening, a breaking down, a something that has watered your heart; you have felt blessed from time to time under the preaching of the truth, in reading the word, in secret prayer, in the pouring out of your soul before God. You are a pilgrim!—another mark for you! And have you not sometimes found strength? You have had temptations, but you have had strength to bear them; you have had trials, but you have had grace to endure them; you have had persecutions, but you have had support under them; you have had heart-rending afflictions, but the Lord has not allowed you to be destroyed by them; there has been some secret strength communicated to your soul; you have leaned upon an unseen arm, and have found support in invisible realities. Another mark that you are a pilgrim!

And then, sweetest, crowning mercy, that “every one”—(O what there is in these words? doubting, fearing, tried, tempted, distressed, exercised, and sorrowing pilgrim)—”every one of them in Zion appears before God.” So that when the Redeemer counts his sheep, and they shall again pass under the hand of him who counts them, not one of the ransomed will be missing, but all will be present to sing forever the glory and praise of God!

The Christian Race

The Christian Race
by J. C. Ryle

“Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Beloved, I have lately spoken to you much about the character and experience of true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the men who are sowing for everlasting life.

Before, however, we continue this inquiry, I wish to warn you against forgetting the sure foundation; I wish to caution you most strongly against losing sight of the root of the whole matter—a simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You must not stumble at the outset by supposing I want you to set up a righteousness of your own. Some think their own endeavors after holiness are to make up their title to salvation; some think that when they come to Christ, their ‘past sins’ alone are forgiven, and for the time to come, they must depend upon themselves. Alas! there always have been mistakes upon this point: men toil and labor after peace with God as if their own exertions would give them a right to lay hold on Christ, and when they find themselves far short of the Bible standard they mourn and grieve and will not be comforted; and all because they will not see that in the matter of forgiveness, in the matter of justification in the sight of God, it is not doing which is required—but believing; it is not working—but trusting; it is not perfect obedience—but humble faith.

Now, once for all, let us understand, that all who have really fled for mercy to the Lord Jesus Christ are, as Paul assures the Colossians, complete in Him! In themselves they may be poor shortcoming sinners—but seeing they have laid hold on Christ, God looks upon them as complete—completely pardoned, completely righteous, completely pure—no jot or tittle of condemnation can be laid to their charge.

They have nothing more to do with the law as a covenant of works, as a condition they must fulfill or die: the Lord does not say, “Be perfect and then you shall live,” but “Christ has given you life, and for His sake strive to be perfect.” But you will ask me, “Why do they hunger and thirst so much after holiness, since all their debt has been paid?” I answer, They work for love’s sake—for gratitude; they do not work and strive after holiness in order that they may be forgiven—but because they are forgiven already, chosen and sealed and saved and redeemed and bought with a price, and they cannot help desiring to glorify Him with their bodies and spirits—who loved them and gave Himself for them. They thirst after holiness because their Father loves holiness; they thirst after purity because their Master loves purity; they strive to be like Jesus because they hope to be one day forever with Him.

But seeing they have many a difficulty in doing the things that they desire, and are continually warring with the world, the flesh, and the devil, and sometimes are so ready to faint that they doubt whether they really are of Christ’s family or not—seeing these things are so, I have tried to give you a faint outline of their experience on recent occasions, and I purpose this afternoon to lay before you, the advice which the apostle gives them in my text.

Now, I say that the text contains five points

I. We have all a race to run.

II. Many have gone before us.

III. We must lay aside every weight.

IV. We must run with patience.

V. We must be continually looking unto Jesus.

The Lord pour down His Spirit upon each of you, and bow the hearts of all here present, as the heart of one man, that you may seek the Lord while there is yet time, and set your faces towards Jerusalem, and not die the death of the faithless and unbelieving.

I. We have all a race to run. By this you are not to understand that our own arm and our own strength can ever open for us the gates of everlasting life, and win us a place in heaven. Far from it: that is all of grace—it is another question. It simply means that all who take up the cross and follow Christ must make up their minds to meet with many a difficulty, they must calculate on labor and toil and trouble, they have a mighty work to do, and there is need for all their attention and energy. Without there will be fightings, within there will be fears; there will be snares to be avoided, and temptations to be resisted; there will be your own treacherous hearts, often cold and dead and dry and dull; there will be friends who will give you unscriptural advice, and relations who will even war against your soul. In short, there will be stumbling-blocks on every side, there will be occasion for all your diligence and watchfulness and godly jealousy and prayer—you will soon find that to be a real Christian is no light matter.

Oh what a condemnation there is here for all those easy-going people who seem to think they may pass their time as they please, and yet be numbered with the saints in glory everlasting! Are those who show less earnestness about their souls than about their earthly amusements, and those who have much to tell you about this world’s business but nothing about heaven, and those who think nothing of neglecting the commonest helps towards Zion, and count it much to give religion a few Sunday thoughts—are these men running the Christian race, and straining every nerve after the prize? I leave the answer with yourselves: judge what I say!

And those who profess to have entered the course, and yet find time to rest by the wayside and trifle with temptation, and find fault with the anxiety of others—and those who stop to take breath and boast of their attainments, and look behind them—are such running the race set before them as if it was a matter of life and death? Oh no! They may get the name of Christians—but they are not so running that they shall obtain.

But those who are taught and called of God may soon be distinguished from the sleeping children of this world. These have no leisure for vain amusements; their eyes are fixed and their thoughts are engaged upon the narrow path they have to tread, and the crown they hope to receive. They have counted the cost, and come out from the world; and their only wish is that they may finish their course with joy.

II. The second thing you may learn from the text is this: Many have gone before us. “We are encompassed with a great cloud of witnesses.” The witnesses here spoken of are those patriarchs and prophets who are mentioned in the eleventh chapter, and the apostle calls upon us to remember them and their troubles and take courage. Are we frail earthen vessels? so were they. Are we weak and encompassed with infirmities? so were they. Are we exposed to temptation and burdened with this body of corruption? so were they. Are we afflicted? so were they. Are we alone in our generation, the scorn of all our neighbors? so were they. Have we trials of cruel mockings? so had they. What can we possibly be called upon to suffer which they have not endured? What consolations did they receive which we may not enjoy?

You may talk of your cares and business and families—but their portion was just like yours; they were men of like passions; they did not neglect business, and yet they gave their hearts to God. They show the race can always be run by those who have the will. Yes, they were all flesh and blood like ourselves, and yet by grace they became new creatures; and so by faith they “obtained a good report;” by faith they confessed themselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth; through faith they “quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.”

But grace exceedingly abounded, and all fought a good fight and finished their course and kept the faith, and to God Almighty every one of them appeared in Zion. Take courage, fainting Christians: you are encompassed with a great cloud of witnesses! The race that you are running has been run by millions before; you think that no one ever had such trials as yourself—but every step that you are journeying has been safely trod by others; the valley of the shadow of death has been securely passed by a multitude of trembling, doubting ones like yourself. They had their fears and anxieties, like you—but they were not cast away. The world, the flesh and the devil can never overwhelm the weakest woman who will set her face towards God. These millions journeyed on in bitterness and tears like your own, and yet not one perished—they all reached their eternal home.

III. The third point to be considered is the apostle’s advice, to “lay aside every weight.” By this he means that we must give up everything which is really hurtful to our souls. We must act like men who throw off all their long and flowing garments, as an encumbrance, when about to enter a race. We must cast away everything which hinders us upon our road towards heaven—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; the love of riches, pleasures, and honors, the spirit of lukewarmness and carelessness and indifference about the things of God—all must be rooted out and forsaken if we are anxious for the prize. We must mortify the deeds of the body, we must crucify our affections for this world. We must look well to our habits and inclinations and employments, and if we find anything coming in as a stumbling-block between ourselves and salvation, we must be ready to lay it aside as if it were a millstone about our necks, although it cost us as much pain as cutting off a hand or plucking out a right eye. Away with everything which keeps us back; our feet are slow at the very best, we have a long course to run, we cannot afford to carry weight, if we are really contending for everlasting life.

But above all we must take heed that we lay aside the sin which does most easily beset us, the sin which from our age—or habit—or taste—or disposition—or feelings, possesses the greatest power over us. I know of two which are always at our elbows, two sins which try the most advanced Christians even to the end, and these are pride and unbelief. Pride in our own difference from others, pride in our reputation as Christians, pride in our spiritual attainments. Unbelief about our own sinfulness, unbelief about God’s wisdom, unbelief about God’s mercy. Oh, they are heavy burdens, and sorely do they keep us back, and few really know they are carrying them, and few indeed are those who will not discover them at the very bottom of the chamber of their hearts, waiting an opportunity to come out.

But there are particular besetting sins, of which each separate Christian can alone furnish an account; each single one of us has some weak point, each one has got a thin, weak spot in his wall of defense against the devil, each one has a traitor in his camp ready to open the gates to Satan, and he who is wise will never rest until he has discovered where this weak point is. This is that special sin which you are here exhorted to watch against, to overcome, to cast forth, to spare no means in bringing it into subjection—that it may not entangle you in your race towards Zion. One man is beset with lust, another with a love of drinking, another with evil temper, another with malice, another with covetousness, another with worldly-mindedness, another with idleness—but each of us has got about him some besetting infirmity, which is able to hinder him far more than others, and with which he must keep an unceasing warfare—or else he will never so run as to obtain the prize.

Oh these bitter besetting sins! How many have fallen in their full course, and given occasion to God’s enemies to blaspheme, from thinking lightly of them, from not continually guarding against them, from a vain notion that they were altogether cut off! They have been over-confident and presumptuous. They have said “We are the temple of the Lord, and we cannot greatly stumble,” and they have forgotten that hidden root, that branch of the old Adam; and so day after day, little by little, shoot after shoot, it grew, it strengthened, it filled their heart, it blighted their few graces; and suddenly, without time to think, they have slipped and fallen headlong in the race, and now they are hurrying down stream amidst that miserable party, the backsliders, and who can tell what their end may be?

But what was the simple cause? They disregarded some besetting sin. Go, child of God, and search the chambers of your heart! See whether you can find there some seed of evil, some darling thing which you have tenderly spared hitherto, because it was a little one. Away with it! There must be no mercy, no compromise, no reserve! It must be laid aside, plucked up, torn up by the roots—or it will one day trip you up, and prevent you running your race towards Zion. The gates of heaven are broad enough to receive the worst of sinners—but too narrow to admit the smallest grain of unforsaken sin!

IV. The fourth point to be noticed in the text is the frame of mind in which we are to run: “let us run with patience.” I take this patience to mean that meek, contented spirit, which is the child of real living faith, which flows from a confidence that all things are working together for our good. Oh, it is a most necessary and useful grace! There are so many crosses to be borne when we have entered the course, so many disappointments and trials and fatigues, that, except we are enabled to possess our souls in patience, we shall never persevere unto the end. But we must not turn back to Egypt, because some bring up an evil report of the promised land; we must not faint because the journey is long and the way lies through a wilderness, we must press forward without flagging, not murmuring when we are chastened—but saying, with Eli, “It is the Lord: let Him do that which seems good to Him.”

Look at Moses, in Hebrews 11: “When he was come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward; he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”

Look at Job, when God permitted Satan to afflict him: “Naked,” he says, “I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there: the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” “What? shall we receive good from the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

Look at David, the man after God’s own heart. How many waves of trouble passed over that honored head; how many years he fled from the hand of Saul, how much tribulation did he suffer from his own family; and hear what he says when he is fleeing from his own son Absalom, and a certain Benjamite came forth and cursed him. “Behold, my son seeks my life: how much more may this Benjamite do it? Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.” Mark too, as you read his Psalms, how often you come on that expression, “waiting upon God”: it seems as if he thought it the highest grace a Christian can attain to.

Look lastly at your blessed Lord Himself. Peter says, “He left us an example, that we should walk in His steps: who did no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth: who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not—but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Paul says: “For consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds. You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children—My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

O yes, beloved, we must run with patience—or we shall never obtain. There may be many things we cannot understand, much that the flesh could perhaps wish otherwise—but let us endure unto the end, and all shall be made clear, and God’s arrangements shall be proved best. Think not to have your reward on earth, do not draw back because your good things are all yet to come. Today is the cross—but tomorrow is the crown. Today is the labor—but tomorrow is the wages. Today is the sowing—but tomorrow is the harvest. Today is the battle—but tomorrow is the rest. Today is the weeping—but tomorrow is the joy. And what is today compared to tomorrow? Today is but threescore years and ten—but tomorrow is eternity. Be patient and hope unto the end.

V. The last point is the most important in the text. It is the object on which our eyes are to be fixed. We are to run our race “looking unto Jesus.” We are to run, depending on Him for salvation, renouncing all trust in our own poor frail exertions, and counting our own performances no better than filthy rags, and resting wholly and entirely, simply and completely, upon that perfect righteousness which He worked out for us upon the cross. We need not run uncertain of the end, we need not fight in ignorance of what shall follow. We have only to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and believe that He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, and will soon present us spotless and unblameable in His Father’s sight.

And then we are to run, making Jesus our Example, taking no lower pattern than the Son of God Himself, endeavoring to copy His meekness, His humility, His love, His zeal for souls, His self-denial, His purity, His faith, His patience, His prayerfulness. And as we look—we shall daily become more like Him!

And then we are to run, looking for our blessed Lord’s appearing, praying always with all prayer and supplication that He will hasten His coming and kingdom and accomplish the number of His elect. Unto those who look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation; and their vile bodies in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, shall be made like unto His glorious body, and they shall be forever with their Lord!

Oh, this looking unto Jesus! here is the secret cause which kept that cloud of witnesses steadfast and unmoveable in this narrow way! Here is the simple rule for all who wish to enter on the course which lands a man in Paradise! Look not to earth: it is a sinful, perishable place, and they who build upon it shall find their foundation of the earth earthy; they will not stand the fire. Set not your affections upon it—or else you will perish together; the earth shall be burned up, and if you cling to it, in death you shall not be divided!

Look not to yourselves! you are by nature wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked; you cannot make atonement for your past transgressions, you cannot wipe out a single page in that long black list. And when the King shall ask you for your wedding garment you will be speechless. Look simply unto Jesus, and then the weight shall fall from off your shoulders, and the course shall be clear and plain, and you shall run the race which is set before you. Truly a man may be mistaken for a season, and walk in darkness for a time—but if he once determines to look to Jesus, he shall not greatly err.

Who now are the men and women in this congregation who have not entered on the grand struggle for life? This day, you Christless, sleeping ones, this day I charge you to be honest and merciful to your souls. Turn! O turn you from your evil ways! Turn from your self-pleasing and self-indulging; seek you the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near; cry mightily unto the Lord Jesus Christ, before the night comes and you sleep for evermore. I know the thoughts that are in the hearts of those among you who ever think, (for many come and go without thinking): I know your thoughts; you cannot make up your mind to lay aside every weight, you cannot throw overboard the sin that does so easily beset you. Alas! like Herod you would do many things—but not all: you will not give up that Herodias. That darling bosom-sin—the world, the business, the drink, the pleasure—you cannot give it up, it must have the first place in your heart. I testify, I warn you, I take you to record, that God has declared there shall never enter into heaven anything that defiles. And if you are determined not to give up your sins, your sins will cleave to you like lead and sink you in the pit of destruction. You need not wait: you must show some inclination; God will not convert you against your will; except you show the desire, how can you expect He will give you the grace?

But where are the men and women who are running the race and struggling towards the heavenly Jerusalem? Think not that you have anything which makes your journey more difficult than others. The saints at God’s right hand were perfected through sufferings; and you must run with patience. Millions have gone safely through, and so shall you.

Beware of cumbering yourselves with any weight of earthly cares. Examine your hearts most closely, and purge out each besetting sin with a godly prayerful jealousy. Remember that blessed rule, “looking unto Jesus.” Peter did run well for a time, when he left the ship to walk upon the sea to Jesus—but when he saw the waves and the storm he was afraid and began to sink. Thus many a one sets out courageously—but after a while corruptions rise high within, corruptions are strong without, the eye is drawn off Jesus, the devil gets an advantage—and the soul begins to sink. Oh, keep your eye steadily fixed on Christ, and you shall go through fire and water and they shall not hurt you.

Are you tempted? look unto Jesus. Are you afflicted? look unto Jesus. Do all speak evil of you? look unto Jesus. Do you feel cold, dull, backsliding? look unto Jesus. Never say, “I will heal myself and then look unto Jesus, I will get into a good frame and then take comfort in my Beloved.” This is the delusion of Satan. But whether you are weak or strong, in the valley or on the mount, in sickness or in health, in sorrow or in joy, in going out or in coming in, in youth or in age, in richness or in poverty, in life or in death—let this be your motto and your guide, “LOOKING UNTO JESUS!”

Christ the Believer’s Husband

Christ the Believer’s Husband
By George Whitefield
Isaiah 54:5, “For thy Maker is thine Husband.”

Although believers by nature, are far from God, and children of wrath, even as others, yet it is amazing to think how nigh they are brought to him again by the blood of Jesus Christ. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of any man living, fully to conceive, the nearness and dearness of that relation, in which they stand to their common head. He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Behold, says the blessed Jesus in the days of his flesh, “my mother and my brethren.” And again after his resurrection, “go tell my brethren.” Nay sometimes he is pleased to term believers his friends. “Henceforth call I you no longer servants, but friends.” “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” And what is a friend? Why there is a friend that is nearer than a brother, nay as near as one’s own soul. And “thy friend, (says God in the book of Deuteronomy) which is as thy own soul.” Kind and endearing applications these, that undoubtedly bespeak a very near and ineffably intimate union between the Lord Jesus and the true living members of his mystical body! But, methinks, the words of our text point out to us a relation, which not only comprehends, but in respect to nearness and dearness, exceeds all other relations whatsoever. I mean that of a Husband, “For 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.”

These words were originally spoken to the people of the Jews, considered collectively as a peculiar people, whom our Lord had betrothed and married to himself; and they seem to be spoken, when religion was on the decline among their churches; when they had, in a great measure, lost that life and power, which they once experienced; and their enemies began to insult them with a “where is now your God?” Such a state of things must undoubtedly be very afflicting to the true mourners in Zion; and put them upon crying unto the Lord, in this their deep distress. He hears their prayer, his bowels yearn towards them; and in the preceding verse, he assures them, that though the enemy had broken in upon them like a flood, yet their extremity should be his opportunity to lift up a standard against him. “Fear not, (says the great Head and King of his church) for thou shalt not be ashamed (finally or totally); neither be thou confounded, (dissipated or dejected, giving up all for gone, as though thou never shouldst see better days, or another revival of religion) for thou shalt not (entirely) be put to shame;” though for a while, for thy humiliation, and the greater confusion of thy adversaries, I suffer them to triumph over thee: “For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widow-hood any more;” i.e. I will vouchsafe you such another glorious gale of my blessed Spirit, that you shall quite forget your former troubled widow-state, and give your enemies no more occasion to insult you, on account of your infant-condition, but rather to envy you, and gnash their teeth, and melt away at the sight of your un-thought-of glory and prosperity. And why will the infinitely great and condescending Jesus deal thus with his people? Because the church is his spouse; “For, (as in the words just now read to you) thy Maker is thy husband; thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel;” and therefore he loves them too well, to let thy enemies always trample thee under foot. “The Lord of Hosts is his name, the God of the whole earth shall he be called;” and therefore he is armed with sufficient power to relieve his oppressed people, and over come and avenge himself of all their haughty and insulting foes.

This seems to be the prime and genuine interpretation of the text and context, especially if we add, that they may have a further view to the latter-day glory, and that blesses state of the church, which the people of God have been looking for in all ages, and the speedy approach of which, we undoubtedly pray for, when we put up that petition of our Lord’s, “thy kingdom come.”

But, though the words were originally spoken to the Jews, yet they are undoubtedly applicable to all believers in all ages, and, when enlarged on in a proper manner, will afford us suitable matter of discourse both for sinners and for saints; for such as know God, as well as for such who know him not; and likewise for those, who once walked in the light of his blessed countenance, but are now backslidden from him, have their harps hung upon the willows, and are afraid that their beloved is gone, and will return to their souls no more. Accordingly, without prefacing this discourse any further, as I suppose that a mixed multitude of saints, unconverted sinners, and backsliders, are present here this day, I shall endeavor to speak from the words of the text, that each may have a proper portion, and none be went empty away.

In prosecuting this design, I will,

I. Endeavor to show, what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, “that our Maker is our husband.”

II. The duties of love which they owe to our Lord, who stand in so near a relation to him

III. The miserable condition of such as cannot yet say “their Maker is their husband.” And

IV. I shall conclude with a general exhortation to all such unhappy souls, to come and match with the dear Lord Jesus. And O! may that God who blessed Abraham’s servant, when he went out to seek a wife for his son Isaac, bless me, even me also, now I am come, I trust, relying on divine strength, to invite poor sinners, and recall backsliders, to my Master Jesus!

And FIRST, I am to show, what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, “Our Maker is our husband.”

But before I proceed to this, it may not be improper to observe, that if any of you, amongst whom I am now preaching the kingdom of God, are enemies to inward religion, and explode the doctrine of inward feelings, as enthusiasm, cant and nonsense, I shall not be surprised, if your hearts rise against me whilst I am preaching; for I am about to discourse on true, vital, internal piety; and an inspired apostle hath told us, “that the natural man discerneth not the things of the spirit, because they are spiritually discerned.” But, however, be noble as the Bereans were; search the Scriptures as they did; lay aside prejudice; hear like Nathaniel, with a true Israelitish ear; be willing to do the will of God; and then you shall according to the promise of our dearest Lord, “know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

This being premised, proceed we to show what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls, before we can say, “our Maker is our husband.”

Now, that we may discourse more pertinently and intelligibly upon this point, it may not be amiss to consider, what is necessary to be done, before a marriage between two parties amongst ourselves, can be said to be valid in the sight of God and men. And that will lead us in a familiar way, to show what must be done, or what must pass between us and Jesus Christ, before we can say, “our Maker is our husband.”

And FIRST, in all lawful marriages, it is absolutely necessary, that the parties to be joined together in that holy and honorable estate, are actually and legally freed from all pre-engagements whatsoever. “A woman is bound to her husband, (saith the apostle) so long as her husband liveth.” The same law holds good in respect to the man. And so likewise, if either party be betrothed and promised, though not actually married to another, the marriage is not lawful, till that pre-engagement and promise be fairly and mutually dissolved. Now, it is just thus between us and the Lord Jesus. For, we are all by nature born under, and wedded to the law, as a covenant of works. Hence it is that we are so fond of, and artfully go about, in order to establish a righteousness of our own. It is as natural for us to do this, as it is to breathe. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, even after the covenant of grace was revealed to them in that promise, “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,” reached out their hands, and would again have taken hold of the tree of life, which they had forfeited, had not God drove them our of paradise, and compelled them, as it were, to be saved by grace. And thus all their descendants naturally run to, and want to be saved, partly at least, if not wholly, by their works. And even gracious souls, who are inwardly renewed, so far as the old man abides in them, find a strong propensity this way. Hence it is, that natural men are generally so fond of Arminian principles. “Do and live,” is the native language of a proud, self-righteous heart. But before we can say, “our Maker is our husband,” we must be delivered from our old husband the law; we must renounce our own righteousness, our own doings and performances, in point of dependence, whether in whole or part, as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. For thus speaks the apostle Paul to the Romans, chapter 7:4, “Ye also are become dead to the law (as a covenant of works) by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him, who is raised from the dead.” As he also speaketh in another place, “I have espoused you, as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ.”

This was the apostle’s own case. Whilst he depended on his being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and thought himself secure, because, as to the outward observation of the law, he was blameless; he was an entire stranger to the divine life: but when he began to experience the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we find him, in his epistle to the Philippians, absolutely renouncing all his external privileges, and all his Pharisaical righteousness; “Yes, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, nay but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” And thus it must be with us. Ere we can say, “our Maker is our husband.” Though we may not be wrought upon in that extraordinary way in which the apostle was, yet we must be dead to the law, we must be espoused as chaste virgins to Jesus Christ, and count all external privileges, and our most splendid performances (as was before observed) only “as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

But further; before a marriage among us can stand good in law, both parties must not only be freed from all pre-engagements, but there must be a mutual consent on both sides. We are not used to marry people against their wills. This is what the Jews called betrothing, or espousing, a thing previous to the solemnity of marriage. Thus we find, the Virgin Mary is said to be espoused to Joseph, before they actually came together, Matt. 1:18. And thus it is among us. Both parties are previously agreed, and, as it were, espoused to each other, before we publish, what we call the banns of marriage concerning them. And so it will be in the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and our souls. Before we are actually married or united to him by faith; or, to keep to the terms of the text, before we assuredly can say, that “our Maker is our husband,” we must be made willing people in the day of God’s power, we must be sweetly and effectually persuaded by the Holy Spirit of God, that the glorious Emanuel is willing to accept of us, just as we are, and also that we are willing to accept of him upon his own terms, yea, upon any terms. And when once it comes to this, the spiritual marriage goes on apace, and there is but one thing lacking to make it complete. And what is that? An actual union.
This is absolutely necessary in every lawful marriage among men. There must be a joining of hands before witnesses, ere they can be deemed lawfully joined together. Some men indeed of corrupt minds, are apt to look upon this as a needless ceremony, and think it sufficient to be married, as they term it, in the sight of God. But whence men get such divinity, I know not. I am positive, not from the Bible; for we there read that even at the first marriage in paradise, there was something of outward solemnity; God himself (if I may speak) being there the priest. For we are told, Gen. 2:22 that, after God had made the woman, “he brought her unto the man.” And indeed, to lay aside all manner of outward ceremony in marriage, would be to turn the world into a den of brute beasts. Men would then take, or forsake as many wives as they pleased, and we should soon sink into as bad and brutal a state, as those nations are, amongst whom such practices are allowed of, and who are utterly destitute of the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Whoever has experienced the power of his resurrection, I am persuaded will never plead for such a licentious practice. For the terms made us of in Scripture, to represent the mystical union between Christ and his church, such as, our being “joined to the Lord,” and “married to Jesus Christ,” are all metaphorical expressions, taken from some analogous practices amongst men. And as persons when married, though before twain, are now one flesh; so those that are joined to the Lord, and can truly say, “our Maker is our husband,” are in the apostle’s language, one spirit. This was typified in the original marriage of our first parents. When God brought Eve to Adam, he received her with joy at his hands, and said, “this is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” They had there, primarily, but one name. For thus speaks the sacred Historian, Gen. 5: 1-2, “In the day that God created man, he blessed them, and called their name Adam.” And why? Because they were one flesh, and were to have but one heart. The self same terms are made use of in Scripture, to express the believer’s union with Jesus Christ. We are called Christians, after Christ’s name, because made partakers of Christ’s nature. Out of his fullness, believers receive grace for grace. And therefore, the marriage state, especially by the apostle Paul, is frequently made use of, to figure out to us the real, vital union, between Jesus Christ and regenerate souls. This is termed by the apostle, Eph. 5:32, “A great mystery.” But great as it is, we must all experience it, before we can say assuredly, that “our Maker is our husband.” For what says our Lord, in that prayer he put up to his Father before his bitter passion? “Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, shall be where I am, that they may be one with thee; even as thou, O Father, and I are one, I in them, and they in me, that we all may be made perfect in one.” O infinite condescension! On ineffable union! Hence it is, that believers are said to be members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Hence it is, that the apostle speaking of himself, says, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” What an expression is that? How much does it comprehend? And, that we might not think this was something peculiar to himself, he puts this close question to the Corinthians; “Know ye not, that Christ is in you, unless you be reprobates?” Agreeable to what he says in his epistle to the Colossians; “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” And hence it is, that our church, in the communion-office, directs the minister to acquaint all those who receive the sacrament worthily, that they are one with Christ, and Christ with them; that they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them. Words that deserve to be written in letters of gold, and which evidently show, what our reformers believed all persons must experience, before they could truly and assuredly say, that “their Maker is their husband.”

From what has been delivered, may not the poorest and most illiterate person here present easily know whether or not he is really married to Jesus Christ. Some indeed, I am afraid, are so presumptuous as to affirm, as least to insinuate, that there is no such thing as knowing, or being fully assured, whilst here below, whether we are in Christ or not. Or at least, if there be such a thing, it is very rare, or was only the privilege of the primitive believers. Part of this is true, and part of this absolutely false. That this glorious privilege of a full assurance is very rare, is too, too true. And so it is equally too true, that real Christians, comparatively speaking, are very rare also. But that there is no such thing, or that this was only the privilege of the first followers of our blessed Lord, is directly opposite to the word of God. “We know (says St. John, speaking of believers in general) that we are his, by the spirit which he hath given us;” and, “He that believeth hath the witness of himself;” “because you are sons (saith St. Paul) God hath sent forth his Spirit into your hearts, even the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Not that I dare affirm, that there is no real Christian, but what has this full assurance of faith, and clearly knows, that his Maker is his husband. In speaking thus, I should undoubtedly condemn some of the generation of God’s dear children, who through the prevalence of unbelief, indwelling sin, spiritual sloth, or it may be, for want of being informed of the privileges of believers, may walk in darkness, and see no light; therefore, though I dare not affirm, that a full assurance of faith is absolutely necessary for the very being, yet I dare assert, that it is absolutely necessary, for the well being of a Christian. And for my own part, I cannot conceive, how any persons, that pretend to Christianity, can rest satisfied or contented without it. This is stopping short, on this side Jordan, with a witness. And gives others too much reason to suspect, that such persons, however high their profession may be, have, as yet, no true saving grace at all.

Men, whose hearts are set on this world’s goods, or, to use our Lord’s language, “the children of this world,” act not so. I suppose there is scarce a single merchant in this great congregation, especially in these troublous times, that will venture out either his ship or cargo, without first insuring, both against the violence of an enemy, or a storm. And I suppose there is scarce a single house, of any considerable value, in any populous town or city, but the owner has taken out a policy from the fire-office, to insure it, in case of fire. And can I be so irrational as to think, that there is such a thing as securing my goods, and my house, and that there is no such thing as insuring, what is infinitely more valuable, my precious and immortal soul? Or if there be such a thing, as undoubtedly there is, what foolishness of folly must it needs be in men, that pretend to be men of parts, of good sense, and solid reasoning, to be so anxious to secure their ships against a storm, and their houses against a fire, and at the same time, not to be unspeakably more solicitous, to take a policy out of the assurance-office of heaven; even the soul and witness of the blessed Spirit of God, to insure their souls against that storm of divine wrath, and that vengeance of eternal fire, which will at the last decisive day come upon all those, who know not God, and have not obeyed his gracious gospel? To affirm therefore, that there is no such thing as knowing, that “our Maker is our husband;” or that it was a privilege peculiar to the first Christians, to speak in the mildest terms, is both irrational and unscriptural. Not that all who can say, their Maker is their husband, can give the same clear and distinct account of the time, manner and means of their being spiritually united and married by faith, to the blessed bridegroom of the church. Some there may be now, as well as formerly, sanctified from the womb. And others in their infancy and non-age, as it were silently converted. Such perhaps may say, with a little Scotch maiden, now with God, when I asked her, whether Jesus Christ had taken away her old eart, and given her a new one? “Sir, it may be, (said she,) I cannot directly tell you the time and place, but this I know, it is done.” And indeed it is not so very material, though no doubt it is very satisfactory, if we cannot relate all the minute and particular circumstances, that attended our conversion; if so be we are truly converted now, and can say, the work is done, and that, “our Maker is our husband.” And I question, whether there is one single adult believer, now on earth, who lived before conversion, either in a course of secret or open sin, but can, in a good degree, give an account of the beginning and progress of a work of grace in his heart.

What think ye? Need I tell my married persons in this congregation, that they must go to the university, and learn the languages, before they can tell whether they are married or not? Or, if their marriage was to be doubted, could they not, think you, bring their certificates, to certify the time and place of their marriage; and the minister that joined them together in that holy state? And if you are adult, and are indeed married to Jesus Christ, though you may be unlearned, and what the world terms illiterate men, cannot you tell me the rise and progress, and consummation of the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and your souls? Know you not the time, when you were first under the drawings of the Father, and Jesus began to woo you for himself? Tell me, O man, tell me, O woman, knowest thou not the time, or at least, knowest thou not, that there was a time, when the blessed Spirit of God stripped thee of the fig-leaves of thy own righteousness, hunted thee out of the trees of the garden of they performances, forced thee from the embraces of thy old husband the law, and made thee to abhor thy own righteousness, as so many filthy rags? Canst thou not remember, when, after a long struggle with unbelief, Jesus appeared to thee, as altogether lovely, mighty and willing to save? And canst thou not reflect upon a season, when thy own stubborn heart was made to bend; and thou wast made willing to embrace him, as freely offered to thee in the everlasting gospel? And canst thou not, with pleasure unspeakable, reflect on some happy period, some certain point of time, in which a sacred something (perhaps thou could it not then well tell what) did captivate, and fill thy heart, so that thou could say, in a rapture of holy surprise, and ecstasy of divine love, “My Lord and my God! My beloved is mine, and I am his; I know that my Redeemer liveth;” or, to keep to the words of our text, “My Maker is my husband.” Surely, amidst this great and solemn assembly, there are many that can answer these questions in the affirmative. For these are transactions, not easily to be forgotten; and the day of our espousals is, generally, a very remarkable day; a day to be had in everlasting remembrance.

And can any of you indeed, upon good grounds say, that your Maker is your husband? May I not then (as it is customary to wish persons joy who are just entered into the marriage state) congratulate you upon your happy change, and wish you joy, with all my heart? Sure am I that there was joy in heaven on the day of your espousals: and why should not the blessed news occasion joy on earth? May I not address you in the language of our Lord to the women that came to visit his sepulcher, “All hail!” for ye are highly favored. Blessed are ye among men, blessed are ye among women! All generations shall call you blessed. What! “is your Maker your husband? The holy one of Israel your Redeemer?” Sing, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! What an amazing stoop is this! What a new thing has God created on the earth! Do not your hearts, O believers, burn within you, when meditating on this unspeakable condescension of the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity? Whilst you are musing, does not the sacred fire of divine love kindle in your souls? And, out of the abundance of your hearts, do you not often speak with your tongues, and call upon all that is within you, to laud and magnify your Redeemer’s holy name? Is not that God-exalting, self-abasing expression frequently in your mouths, “Why me, Lord, why me?” And are you not often constrained to break out into that devout exclamation of Solomon, when the glory of the Lord filled the temple, “And will God indeed dwell with man?” ungrateful, rebellious, ill, and hell-deserving man! O, my brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you! Tears, while I am speaking, are ready to gush out. But they are tears of love and joy. How shall I give it vent? How shall I set forth thy happiness, O believer, thou bride of God! And is thy Maker thy husband? Is his name “The Lord of hosts?” Whom then shouldst thou fear? And is thy Redeemer the holy one of Israel? The God of the whole earth should he be called! Of whom then shouldst thou be afraid? He that toucheth thee, toucheth the very apple of God’s eye.

“The very hairs of thy head are all numbered;” and “it is better that a man should have a millstone tied round his neck, and be drowned in the sea, than that he should justly offend thee.”

All hail, (I must again repeat it) thou Lamb’s bride! For thou art all glorious within, and comely, through the comeliness thy heavenly bridegroom hath put upon thee. Thy garment is indeed of wrought gold; and, ere long, the King shall bring thee forth with a raiment of needle-work, and present thee blameless before his Father, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. In the mean while, well shall it be with you, and happy shall you be, who are married to Jesus Christ: for all that Christ has, is yours. “He is made of God to you, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption.” “Whether Paul, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.” All his attributes are engaged for your preservation, and all things shall work together for your good, who love God, and, by being thus married to the Lord Jesus, give an evident proof that you are called according to his purpose. What say you? When you meditate on these things, are you not frequently ready to cry out, What shall we render unto the Lord for all these mercies, which, of his free unmerited grace, he hath been pleased to bestow upon us? For, though you are dead to the law, as a covenant of works, yet you are alive to the law as a rule of life, and are in, or under the law (for either expression seems to denote the same thing) to your glorious husband, Jesus Christ.

Pass we on therefore to the SECOND general head, under which I was to show, what duties of love they owe to Jesus Christ, who are so happy as to be able to say, “My Maker is my husband.”

I say, duties of love. For being now married to Jesus Christ, you work not for life, but from life. The love of God constrains you, so that, if there was no written law, or supposing Jesus would set you at liberty from his yoke, so far as grace prevails in your hearts, you would say, we love our blessed bridegroom, and will not go from him.

And what does the Lord require of you? That we may speak on this head as plainly as may be, we shall pursue the method we began with; and, by carrying on the allegory, and examining what is required of truly Christian wives, under the gospel, infer what our Lord may justly demand of those who are united to him by faith, and can therefore say, “our Maker is our husband.”

And here let us go to the law and to the testimony. What says the scripture? “Let the wife see that she REVERENCE her “husband.” It is, no doubt, the duty of married women to think highly of their husbands. From whom may husbands justly command respect, if not from their wives? The apostle’s expression is emphatic.
“Let the wife see that she reverence her husband;” thereby implying, that women, some of them at least, are too prone to disrespect their husbands; as Michal, Saul’s daughter, despised David in her heart, when she tauntingly said, 2 Sam. 6:20, “How glorious was the king of Israel to-day, who uncovered himself to-day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself.” This is a source and fountain, from whence many domestic evils frequently flow. Women should remember the character that husbands sustain in scripture. The are to them, what Christ is to the church. And it is mentioned to the honor of Sarah, that she called Abraham “Lord.” “Shall I have a child who am old, my Lord being old also?” It is remarkable, there are but two good words in that whole sentence, “my Lord,” (for all the others are the language of unbelief) and yet those two words the Holy Ghost mentions to her eternal honor, and buries, as it were, the rest in oblivion. “Even as Sarah (says St. Peter) obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord.” An evident proof how pleasing it is in the sight of God, for women in the married state to reverence and respect their husbands. Not that husbands therefore should lord it over their wives, or require too much respect at their hands. This would be unchristian, as well as ungenerous, indeed. They ought rather, as God has taken such care to keep up their authority, commanding their wives to reverence and respect them; they ought, I say, to be doubly careful, that they live so holy and unblameable, as to lay their wives under no temptation to despise them. But to return from this digression. Does the apostle say, “Let the wife see that she reverence her husband?” May I not pertinently apply this caution to you who are married to Jesus Christ? See to it that you reverence and respect your husband. I say, SEE TO IT. For the devil will be often suggesting to you hard and mean thoughts against your husband. It was thus he beset our mother Eve, even in a state of innocence. He would fain persuade her to entertain hard thoughts of her glorious benefactor, “What, has God said, ye shall not eat of the trees of the garden?” Has he been so cruel to put you here in a beautiful garden only to vex and tease you? This he made use of as an inlet to all his succeeding insinuations. And this trade he is still pursuing, and will be pursuing to the very end of time. Besides, in the eyes of the world, Jesus Christ has no form or comeliness that they should desire him; and therefore, unless you “watch and pray,” you will be led into temptation, and not keep up such high thoughts of your blessed Jesus as he justly deserves. In this you can never exceed. Women, perhaps may sometimes think too highly of, and, through excess of love, idolize their earthly comforts. But it is impossible for you to think too highly of your heavenly husband, Jesus Christ.

Farther, what says the apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians? Speaking of the marriage state, he says, “The wife is the glory of her husband;” as though he had said, a Christian wife should so behave, and so walk, as to be a credit to her husband. As Abigail was an honor to Nubal, and by her sweet deportment made up, in some degree, for her husband’s churlishness. This is to be a help-meet indeed. Such a woman will be praised in the gate; and her husband get glory, and meet with respect on her account. And ought a woman to be the glory of her husband? How much more ought you, that are the Lamb’s bride, so to live, and so to walk, as to bring glory, and gain respect, to the cause and interest of your husband Jesus? This is what the apostle everywhere supposes, when he would draw a parallel between a temporal and spiritual marriage. “The woman, is the glory of her husband, even as the church is the glory of Christ.” Agreeable to this, he tells the Corinthians, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God;” and as he also speaks to the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 2:11-12, “As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you (as a father doth his children) that you would walk worthy of God who hath called you to his kingdom, and his glory.” What an expression is here! “That you would walk worthy of God.” O! how ought this, and such like texts, to stir up your pure minds, O believers, so to have your conversation in this world, that you may be what the apostle says some particular persons were, even “the glory of Christ.” You are his glory; he rejoices over you with singing; and you should so walk, that all who know and hear of you, may glorify Christ in you.

SUBJECTION, is another duty, that is enjoined married women, in the word of God. They are to “be subject to their own husbands in every thing.” Every lawful thing: “For, the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.” And knowing how inapt some base minds would be to submit to the husband’s authority, he takes care to enforce this duty of subjection by many cogent and powerful arguments.” “For Adam was first made, and not Eve. Neither was the man made for the woman, but the woman for the man.” And again, “The man was not first in the transgression, but the woman.” Upon which accounts, subjection was imposed on her as part of her punishment. “Thy desire (says God) shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule (though not tyrannize) over thee.” So then, to use the words of pious Mr. Henry, those who attempt to usurp authority over their husbands, not only contradict a divine command, but thwart a divine curse. And if women are to be subject to their own husbands in every thing, how much more ought believers, whether men or women, to be subject to Jesus Christ: for he is the head of the church. He has bought her by his blood. Believers therefore are not their own, but are under the highest obligations to glorify and obey Jesus Christ, in their bodies and their souls, which are his. Add to this, that his service, as it is admirably expressed in one of our collects, is perfect freedom. His commandments holy, just, and good. And therefore it is your highest privilege, O believers, to submit to, and obey them. Earthly husbands may be so mean as to impose some things upon their wives, merely to show their authority; but it is not so with Jesus Christ. He can and does impose nothing, but that immediately conduces to our present, as well as future good. In doing, nay, in suffering for Jesus Christ, there is a present unspeakable reward. And therefore I may say to believers, as the blessed Virgin said to the servants at the marriage in Cana, “Whatsoever he says unto you, do it.” “For his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.” And I believe it might easily be proved in a few minutes, that all the disorders which are now in the world, whether in church or state, are owing to a want of being universally, unanimously, cheerfully, and perseveringly conformed to the laws and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Again, FAITHFULNESS in the marriage state, is strictly enjoined in the scriptures of truth. “Marriage is
honorable in all, and the bed undefiled. But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Nay, adultery is an iniquity to be punished by the earthly judges; it dissolves the marriage relation. “For the man has not power over his own body, but the woman; neither has the woman power over her own body, but the man.” The heathens themselves have been taught this by the light of nature; and adultery, among some of them, is punished with immediate death. And ought married persons to be thus careful to keep the marriage-bed undefiled, how carefully then ought believers to keep their souls chaste, pure, and undefiled, now they are espoused to Jesus Christ? For there is such a thing as spiritual adultery; “O ye adulterers and adulteresses,”saith St. James. And God frequently complains of his people’s playing the harlot. Hence it is, that St. John, in the most endearing manner, exhorts believers to “keep themselves from idols.” For the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and pride of life, are always ready to steal away our hearts from Jesus Christ. And every time we place our affections upon any thing more than Christ, we do undoubtedly commit spiritual adultery. For we admit a creature to rival the Creator, who is God over all, blessed for evermore. “Little children, therefore, keep yourselves from idols.”

But it is time for me to draw towards the close of this head. FRUITFULNESS was a blessing promised by God to the first happy pair; “Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth.” “Lo, children, and the fruit of the womb, (says the Psalmist) are a gift and heritage, which cometh of the Lord.” And so, if we are married to Jesus Christ, we must be fruitful. In what? In every good word and work: for this speaks the Apostle, in his epistle to the Romans: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.” What follows? “That we should bring forth fruit unto God.” Glorious words, and proper to be considered in a peculiar manner, by such who would explode the doctrine of free justification, as an Antinomian doctrine, and as though it destroyed good works. No; it establishes, and lays a solid foundation, whereon to build the superstructure of good works. Titus is therefore commanded to “exhort believers to be careful to maintain good works.” And “herein (says our Lord) is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven;” with a multitude of passages to the same purpose.
Moreover, it is required of wives, that they not only love and reverence their husbands, but that they also love and respect their HUSBAND’S FRIENDS. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall not only reverence the bridegroom, but we shall also love and honor the bridegroom’s friends. “By this, shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.” “By this we know, (says the beloved disciple) that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren.” Observe, the brethren, indefinitely; of whatever denomination. And this love must be “without dissimulation, and with a pure heart fervently.” This was the case of the primitive Christians. They were all of one heart, and of one mind. It was said of them (O that it could be said of us!) “See how these Christians love one another!” They were of the same spirit as a good woman of Scotland was, who, when she saw a great multitude, as is customary in the country, coming from various parts to receive the blessed sacrament, saluted them with a “Come in, ye blessed of the Lord, I have an house that will hold an hundred of you, and a heart that will hold ten thousand.” Let us go and do likewise.

Once more. Persons that are married, take one another FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, for richer or for poorer, to love and to cherish each other in sickness and in health. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall be willing to bear his CROSS, as well as to wear his CROWN. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Neither will they be compelled to do this, as Simon of Cyrene was, but they will be volunteers in his service; they will cry out, Crown him, crown him ,when others are crying out, “Crucify him, crucify him.” They will never leave or forsake him, but willingly follow the Captain of their salvation, though it be through a sea of blood.

I might run the parallel still further, and also enlarge upon the hints already given; but I fear I have said enough already to reproach most believers; I am sure I have said more than enough to abash and upbraid myself. For alas! how vilely, treacherously, and ungratefully have we behaved towards our spiritual husband, the dear Lord Jesus, ever since the day of our espousals? Had our friends, or even the wives of our own bosoms, behaved to us as we have behaved to our great and best friend, our glorious husband, we should have broken off our friendship, and sued for a bill of divorcement long ago. Under our first love, what promises did we make to him?

But how frowardly have we behaved ourselves in this covenant? How little have we reverenced him? How often has our Beloved been no more to us than another beloved? How little have we lived to his glory? Have we not been a shame and reproach to his gospel? Have we not crucified him afresh, and has he not been sorely wounded in the house of his friends? Nay, has not his holy name been blasphemed through our means? For alas! how little have we obeyed him? How careless and indifferent have we been, whether we pleased him or not? We have often said, indeed, when commanded by him to go work in his vineyard, We go, Lord; but alas! we went not. Or if we did go, with what reluctance has it been? How unwilling to watch with our dear Lord and Master, only one hour? And of his sabbaths, how often have we said, What weariness is this? As for our adulteries, and spiritual fornications, how frequent, how aggravated have they been? Have not idols of all sorts, been suffered to fill up the room of the ever-blessed Jesus in our hearts? You that love him in sincerity, will not be offended if I tell you, that the 16th chapter of Ezekiel gives, in my opinion, a lively description of our behavior towards our Lord. We were, like base-born children, cast out in the field to the loathing of our persons: no eye pitied or had compassion on us. Jesus passed by, saw us polluted in our own blood, and said unto us, “Live,” i.e. preserved us, even in our natural state, from death. And when his time of love was come, he spread the skirt of his imputed righteousness over us, and covered the nakedness of our souls, entered into covenant with us, and we became his. He washed us also with water, even in the laver of regeneration, and thoroughly washed us by his precious blood, from the guild of all our sins. He clothed us also with broidered work, and decked us with ornaments, even with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. We did eat fine flour and honey at his ordinances, and we fed on Jesus Christ in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving. In short, we were made exceeding beautiful, and the kingdom of God was erected in our hearts. We were renowned among our neighbors for our love to God, and all that know us took knowledge of us, that we had been with Jesus. But alas! how have we fallen, who were once sons of the morning! How have we trusted in our own beauty, have grown spiritually proud, and provoked our patient and unspeakably long-suffering Lord to anger? Where is that ardent love we spoke of, when we told him, that, though we should die for him, we would not deny him in any wise? How desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things, have we proved our hearts to be, since we have done all these things, even the work of an imperious woman? These are great and numerous charges; but great and numerous as they are, there is not a single believer here present, but, if he knows his own heart, may plead guilty to some, or all of them. But this is a tender point: I see you concerned: your tears, O believers, are a proof of the anguish of your souls. And can any of us give any reason, why Jesus Christ should not give us a bill of divorcement, and put us away? May he not justly speak to us as he did to his adulteress Israel, in the aforementioned 16th of Ezekiel, “Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord; I will judge thee as women that break wedlock, and shed blood, are judged. I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy, because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things. Behold, therefore, I also will recompense thy way upon thy head. I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised the oath, in breaking the covenant, the marriage contract that was between us.” This, I am persuaded, you will confess to be the treatment which we all most justly deserve. But be not overwhelmed with over-much sorrow: for though the Lord our God is a jealous God, and will certainly visit our offenses with a rod, and our backslidings with a spiritual scourge, yet his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from us, nor suffer his truth to fail. Though we have changed, yet he changeth not: He abideth faithful: his loving-kindness abideth for evermore. Hark! How sweetly he speaks to his backsliding people of old; “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.

I will heal their backsliding, and love them freely.” And in the verses immediately following the words of the text, how comfortably does he address his espoused people! “In a little wrath, I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me; for as I have sworn, that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn, that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.” O that this goodness may lead us to repentance! O that this unparalleled, infinite, unchangeable love, may constrain us to an universal, uniform, cheerful, unanimous, persevering obedience to all the commands of God!

Brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you, and I could dwell a long while upon the many great and precious invitations that are made to backsliders, to return to their first love, and do their first works: but it is high time for me, if, as was proposed,

III. I give to every one their proper portion; to speak to those poor souls, who know nothing of this blessed Bridegroom of the church, and consequently cannot say, “My Maker is my husband.”

Ah! I pity you from my inmost soul; I could weep over, and for you, though perhaps you will not weep for yourselves. But surely you would weep, and howl too, did you know the miserable condition those are in, who are not married to Jesus Christ. Will you give me leave (I think I speak it in much love) to inform you, that if you are not married to Jesus Christ, you are married to the law, the world, the flesh, and the devil, neither of which can make you happy; but all, on the contrary, concur to make you miserable. Hear ye not, ye that are married to the law, and seek to be justified in the sight of God, partly, at least, if not wholly, by your own works, what the law saith to those that are under it, as a covenant of works? “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Every word breathes threatening and slaughter to poor fallen creatures. Cursed, both here and hereafter, be this man, and every one, naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, without exception, that continueth not, even to the very end of life, in all things; not only in some, or many, but in all things, that are written in the book of the law, to do them, in the utmost perfection; for “he that offendeth in one point, is guilty of all.” So that, according to the tenor of the covenant of works, whosoever is guilty of one wicked thought, word, or action, is under the curse of an angry sin-avenging God.

“For a many as are under the law, are under the curse.” And do you know what it is to be under the curse of God, and to have the wrath of God abide upon you? If you did, I believe you would not be so unwilling to be divorced from the law, and be espoused, as chaste virgins, to Jesus Christ.

And why are ye so wedded to the world? Did it ever prove faithful or satisfactory to any of its votaries? Has not Solomon reckoned up the sum total of worldly happiness? And what does it amount to? “Vanity, vanity, saith the preacher, all is vanity,” nay he adds, “and vexation of spirit.” And has not a greater than Solomon informed us, that a man’s life, the happiness of a man’s life, doth not consist in the things which he possesseth?

Besides, “know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God; so that whosoever will be a friend to the world, (to the corrupt customs and vices of it) is an enemy of God?” And what better reasons can you give for being wedded to your lusts? Might not the poor slaves in the galleys, as reasonably be wedded to their chains? For do not your lusts fetter down your souls from God? Do they not lord it, and have they not dominion over you? Do not they say, Come, and ye come; Go, and ye go; Do this, and ye do it? And is not he or she that liveth in pleasure, dead, whilst he liveth? And above all, how can ye bear the thoughts of being wedded to the devil, as every natural man is: for thus speaks the scripture, “He now ruleth in the children of disobedience.”
And how can ye bear to be ruled by one, who is such a professed open enemy to the most high and holy God?
Who will make a drudge of you, whilst you live, and be your companion in endless and extreme torment, after you are dead? For thus will our Lord say to those on the left hand, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” But,

IV. Will you permit me, O sinners, that I may draw towards a close of this discourse, to propose a better match to your souls. This is a part of the discourse which I long to come to, it being my heart’s desire, and earnest prayer to God, that your souls may be saved. “And now, O Lord God Almighty, thou Father of mercies, and God of all consolations, thou God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hast promised to give thy Son the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, send me good speed this day. O Lord, send me now prosperity. Behold, I stand here without the camp, bearing a little of thy dear Son’s sacred reproach! Hear me, O Lord, hear me, and according to thy word, let thy dear, thine only begotten Son, see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied! O help me so to speak, that many may believe on, and cleave unto thy blessed, thine holy child Jesus!

But who am I, that I should undertake to recommend the blessed Jesus to others, who am myself altogether unworthy to take his sacred name into my polluted lips? Indeed, my brethren, I do not count myself worthy of such an honor; but since it has pleased him, in whom all fullness dwells, to count me worthy, and put me into the ministry, the very stones would cry out against me, did I not attempt, at least, to lisp out his praise, and earnestly recommend the ever-blessed Jesus to the choice of all.

Thus Abraham’s faithful servant behaved, when sent out to fetch a wife for his master Isaac. He spake of the riches and honors, which God had conferred on him; but what infinitely greater honors and riches, has the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, conferred on his only Son, to whom I now invite every Christless sinner! To you, therefore, I call, O ye sons of men, assuring you, there is everything in Jesus that your hearts can desire, or hunger and thirst after. Do people in disposing of themselves or their children in marriage, generally covet to be matched with PERSONS OF GREAT NAMES? Let this consideration serve as a motive to stir you up to match with Jesus. For God the Father has given him a name above every name; he has upon his vesture, and upon his thigh, a name written, “The King of kings, and the Lord of lords;” and herein the text we are told, “The Lord of Hosts is his name.” Nor has he an empty title, but power equivalent; for he is a prince, as well as savior. “All power is given unto him, both in heaven and on earth;” “The God of the while earth, (says our text) he shall be called.” The government of men, of the church, and of devils, is put upon his shoulders: “Thrones, principalities and powers, are made subject unto him; by him kings reign, and princes decree justice; he setteth up one, and putteth down another: and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Will RICHES be an inducement unto you to come and match with Jesus? Why then, I can tell you, the riches of Jesus are infinite: for unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach to poor sinners, the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. I appeal to you that are his saints, whether you have not found this true, by happy experience; and though some of you, may have been acquainted with him thirty, forty, fifty years ago, do you not find his riches are yet unsearchable, and as much past finding out, as they were the very first moment in which you gave him your hearts?

Would you match with a WISE HUSBAND? Haste then, sinners, come away to Jesus: He is the fountain of wisdom, and makes all that come unto him, wise unto salvation: “He is the wisdom of the Father: the Lord possessed him in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. When he prepared the heavens, he was there; when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then was he with him, as one brought up with him; he was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” As he is wise, so is he HOLY; and therefore, in the words of our text, he is stiled, “The Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:” and by the angel Gabriel, “That holy Thing.” The apostles, addressing God the Father, stile him his “holy child Jesus:” and the spirits of just men made perfect, and the angels in heaven, cease not day or night, saying, “Holy, holy, holy.” Nor is his BEAUTY inferior to his wisdom or holiness; the seraphs veil their faces, when they appear before him: “He is the chiefest among ten thousand, nay, he is altogether lovely.” And, as he is altogether lovely, so is he altogether LOVING: his name and his nature is Love. God, God in Christ is love: love in the abstract. And in this has he manifested his love, in that, whilst we were yet sinners, may open enemies, Jesus, in his own due time, died for the ungodly. He loved us so as to give himself for us. O what manner of love is this! What was Jacob’s love to Rachel, in comparison of the love which Jesus bore to a perishing world! He became a curse for us. For it is written, “Cursed is every man that hangeth upon a tree.” What Zipporah said to her husband improperly, Jesus may say properly to his spouse the church, “A bloody wife hast thou been to me, because of the crucifixion.” For he has purchased her with his own blood. And having once loved his people, he loves them unto the end. His love, like himself, is from everlasting to everlasting. He hates putting away: though we change, yet he changeth not: he abideth faithful. When we are married here, there comes in that shocking clause, to use the words of holy Mr. Boston, “Till death us doth part:” but death itself shall not separate a true believer from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus his Lord: for he will never cease loving his Bride, till he has loved her to heaven, and presented her before his Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Nay, his love will, as it were, but be beginning, through the endless ages of eternity.

And now, Sirs, what say you? Shall I put that question to you, which Rebecca’s relations, upon a proposal of marriage, put to her? “Will ye go with the man?” With the God-man, this infinitely great, this infinitely powerful, this all-wise, all-holy, altogether lovely, ever-loving Jesus? What objection have you to make against such a gracious offer? One would imagine, you had not a single one; but it is to be feared, through the prevalency of unbelief, and the corruption of your desperately wicked deceitful hearts, you are ready to urge several. Methinks I hear some of you say within yourselves, “We like the proposal, but alas! we are poor.” Are you so? If that be all, you may, notwithstanding, be welcome to Jesus: “For has not God chosen the poor of this world, to make them rich in faith, and heirs of his everlasting kingdom?” And what says that Savior, to whom I am now inviting you? “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for there is the kingdom of heaven.” And what says his Apostle concerning him? “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. But say you, “We are not only poor, but we are in debt; we owe God ten thousand talents, and have nothing to pay;” but that need not keep you back: for God the Father, from the Lord Jesus, his dearly beloved Son, has received double for all believers sins: the blood of Jesus cleanseth from them all. But you are blind, and miserable, and naked; to whom then should you fly for succor, but to Jesus, who came to open the eyes of the blind, to seek and save the miserable and lost, and clothe the naked with his perfect and spotless righteousness. And now, what can hinder your espousals with the dear and ever-blessed Lamb of God? I know but of one thing, that dreadful sin of unbelief. But this is my comfort, Jesus died for unbelief, as well as for other sins, and has promised to send down the Holy Spirit to convince the world of this sin in particular: “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will send the Comforter, and he will convince the world of son.” What sin? of unbelief; “because they believe not on me.” O that this promise may be so fulfilled in your hearts, and Jesus may so become the author of divine faith in your souls, that you may be able to send me the same message as a good woman in Scotland, on her dying bed, sent me by a friend: “Tell him, (says she) for his comfort, that at such a time he married me to the Lord Jesus.” This would be comfort indeed.
Not that we can marry you to Christ: No; the Holy Ghost must tie the marriage knot. But such honor have all God’s ministers; under him they espouse poor sinners to Jesus Christ. “I have espoused you (says St. Paul) as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ.” O that you may say, We will go with the man; then will I bow my head, as Abraham’s servant did, and go with joy and tell my Master, that he has not left his poor servant destitute this day: then shall I rejoice in your felicity. For I know, my Master will take you into the banqueting-house of his ordinances, and his banner over you shall be love. That this may be the happy case of you all, may the glorious God grant, for the sake of Jesus his dearly beloved Son, the glorious bridegroom of his church, to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and for evermore. Amen, and Amen.

What It Costs Not to Be a Christian

What it Costs Not to be a Christian
A Sermon by R.A. Torrey

“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.-Psalm 119:59

A good many years ago I was talking to a young society lady in the city of New Haven in America, and suddenly she stopped me and said, “Don’t talk that way; it makes me think, and I hate to think.” The world is full of people who hate to think, and because they hate to think they go into things blindfolded, and come out with blighted hope and broken hearts and blasted lives. It is so in business. How many a business man there is in this city to-night who a few years ago had a business proposition made to him, and instead of sitting down, as any long-headed business man would do, and thinking it all over, and figuring it an out as to how much money he would have to put into that investment before he realized, how many years it would be before there was any adequate return, and what interest on his money there would be, just because it promised well on the surface he accepted the proposition without sufficient thought regarding it, he just put his money into that project and left it there, and that man’s life ever since has been a wretched drag for a bare existence. Simply because he hated to think! It is the same way in social life. How many a young woman has met at some social gathering a handsome, attractive young man, a young fellow of pleasant manners, who knows how to do a thousand and one little acts that mean so little and yet so easily gain the hearts of women, a young fellow who is a fine waltzer, and popular and attractive in all his ways; and one night that young man makes a proposal of marriage to her, and instead of sitting down, as any sensible girl would do, and asking herself whether that man has the mental and moral qualities that fit him to be a companion for life, just because he is handsome, because he is attractive and popular, because he is a beautiful waltzer, that young woman accepts his proposal of marriage and marries him; and after a few months she wakes up one day to find that she has married a fool, or, what is worse, a rascal. And all that woman’s future life is wretched beyond description, just because she hated to think. But there is no place where that mistake is made so often and where it is so fatal as in the matter of being, or not being a Christian. Men and women go into a Christless life, or, being in a Christless life, drift on in it, without even once sitting down to give the question thirty minutes’ honest consideration, What it Costs to Live and Die without Jesus Christ. Now I am going to ask you to do some thinking to-night, some hard, serious, honest thinking. What I am going to ask you to think about is this: what it costs not to be a Christian, what it costs to live and die without Jesus Christ. And if when I get through you think you are willing to pay the price of a Christless life, I have nothing more to say. But if, when you have thought it all out, you come to the conclusion that it costs too much to live and die without Christ, I am going to ask you to do the only intelligent thing there is to do in the circumstances, that is, to stand up here to-night and declare your purpose to accept Jesus Christ right now.

What does it cost not to be a Christian? First of all, what is it to be a Christian? By a Christian, I understand, any man, woman, or child, that comes to God as a lost sinner, takes Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, surrenders to Him as their Lord and Master, confesses Him as such publicly before the world, and strives to live to please Him in everything day by day. Let me repeat that definition. A Christian is any man, woman or child that comes to God as a lost sinner, takes Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, surrenders to Him as their Lord and Master, confesses Him as such publicly before the world, and strives to live to please him in everything day by day.

What does it cost not to do it?

1. In the first place not to be a Christian costs the sacrifice of peace.-A Christian has peace: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.”-Romans, v. 1. And having peace with God we have peace in our hearts, but no man out of Christ has peace. “There is no peace for the wicked, saith my God.” One night in Chicago, after a meeting like this, when the congregation had gone out, I went and sat down in a scat by the side of a gentleman about thirty-five years of age, and I said, “My friend, why are you not a Christian?” “Oh,” he said, with a shrug of his shoulders, “I am very well satisfied as I am.” I said, “You haven’t peace.” He said, “How do you know that?” I said, “Because God says so; ‘There is no peace for the wicked, saith my God. ‘” The man dropped his head, and said, “You are right, sir, I haven’t peace.” And there is not a man or woman in this audience to-night out of Christ that has peace. Money won’t give you peace; the pleasures of this life won’t give you peace; no number of good earthly friends will give you peace; not to be a Christian costs the sacrifice of peace.

2. In the second place, not to be a Christian costs the sacrifice of the highest, deepest, purest, holiest, most overflowing joy that can be known right here on earth. -As we read, in the Scripture lesson to-night, in 1 Peter i. 8: “Though now ye see Him not, yet believing in Him ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” That was Peter’s testimony. That is the experience of every true Christian. A real living faith in Jesus Christ gives a man joy unspeakable and full of glory. Nobody out of Christ has joy unspeakable and full of glory. “Oh,” but you say, “I know many a Christian that has not joy unspeakable and full of glory.” A real Christian? You know there are two kinds-professing Christians and real Christians. Now I will admit that there are a great many people in the world that call themselves Christians, who have just enough religion to make themselves miserable. They are bolding to the world with one hand, generally the right hand, and to Jesus Christ with the other. Of course they have not joy unspeakable and full of glory. But show me a Christian who has dropped the world with both hands, and laid hold of Jesus Christ with both hands, and I will show you a man or woman that has joy unspeakable and full of glory, every time. But nobody out of Christ has joy unspeakable and full of glory. How Satan deceived me along that line for many years when I was a mere lad! I went one day up to the third story of our home, where we had a great store-room where we put away the old books out of the library, and as a boy I loved to go and sit on the floor of that room, and get the books around me and look through them, and one day I came across the covenant of the church of my mother, and commenced to read it, and I said to myself, “I wonder if I cannot be a Christian?” I can say “Yes” to that, and can say “Yes” to that, and that, and after a time I came to a place where it said something to this effect, “If I became a Christian I was to be willing to do anything God said, and go anywhere He said.” I shut up the book and said, “No, just as likely as not I’ll have to be a preacher if I say ‘Yes, to that, and then life won’t be worth living.” And I threw that book away and deliberately refused to take Jesus Christ, and deliberately refused to think about it any more. Then I said to myself, “I am going in for all the pleasure I can get”; and I had a good opportunity to get it. My father was well off in this world’s goods; and as a boy of fifteen I was sent off to the university and matriculated for a degree, and my father sent me up all the money I wanted. Now, if you put a boy into a university, who learns easily and has no trouble to keep up with his class, a boy with a rich father, who does not ask him how he spends his money -I have often thought it would have been a good thing for me if he had- if anybody can have a good time, he can, and I went in for a good time. Did I find it? Yon know whether I did or not. I did not. And I went deeper, deeper, deeper, deeper into dissipation and sin to find joy to satisfy my unsatisfied heart. I did not find it, and one awful night, a mere boy still, with all hope gone, with life desolate and bare, life so barren that there was just one step between me and hell, in fact, that very night I started to take that awful step, to take my life by my own hand. I sprang out of bed and drew open a drawer to take out the instrument that would end my. life. For some reason or other I could not find it. God did not let me find it, and I dropped upon my knees, and said, “O God, if you will take this awful burden from my heart, I will preach the Gospel;” and God not only removed the burden, I found a joy I had never dreamed of in this world, and all the years since it has gone on increasing, with the exception of a short time when I fell under the blighting power of skepticism and agnosticism; all the rest of the time all these years the joy has grown brighter, brighter, brighter every year. Young men and women, if you want the deepest, sweetest, purest, most overflowing joy there is to be known on earth, come to Jesus Christ.

3. In the third place, not to be a Christian costs the sacrifice of hope. A Christian has hope.- As we read in Titus i. 2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised.” Oh, how magnificent that hope is, hope of eternal life! How sure it is, resting on the Word of God, who cannot lie. The world has no hope like that. The world holds out no hope that has any foundation. Hope for the future is more important than present possession. “Oh,” some one says, “I do not believe that; give me the present and I will let the future take care-of itself.” Yes, you do believe it. There is not a man or woman here to-night thatdoes not believe that hope for the future is more important than present possession. A man says, “I do not believe it.” Yes, you do; I will prove it to you in five minutes. Suppose you had your choice to-night between being a millionaire and having all that money can buy for to-night, with no hope for to-morrow, but with the rising of to-morrow’s sun and the opening of to-morrow’s banks to be proved to be an embezzler, and all your money swept away, and you cast into prison to spend the rest of your life there; or to be absolutely penniless to-night, but with the absolute certainty that with the rising of to-morrow’s sun and the opening of to-morrow’s banks you were to be a millionaire all the rest of your life, which would you choose? “Oh!” you say, “that’s very easy; I would choose to be penniless to-night, with the certainty that to-morrow and all the rest of my life I was to be a millionaire.” So would I, but that only shows that you believe that hope for the future is more important than present possession; and I would rather be the poorest child of God in the world to-night, with the absolute certainty that with the dawning of eternity I was to be for all eternity an heir of God and joint-heir with Jesus Christ, than to be the richest man on earth to-night out of Christ, with no outlook for all eternity but to be cast into God’s eternal prison-house of hell. A man out of Christ has no hope, even from the life that now is, that is at all sure. You say, “That is too strong; a man out of Christ may have no hope for the future, but if he is rich he has for the present life.” You are mistaken. Come with me to New York City. We walk up Fifth Avenue; we stop before one of the most elegant mansions there; we go up the steps and are ushered through the hall down to the library at the end of the hall. You and I stand there on the threshold and look into the library. In it there are two men deep in earnest conversation. This is not an imaginary case, but an actual one. One of these men is worth one hundred and ninety-six millions of dollars, by an actual inventory of his property taken a few days after the time of which I am speaking. The other man is one of America’s greatest financiers. You and I stand there and look in, and you say, “Well, I would like to be in that man’s shoes. One hundred and ninety-six million dollars! I do not know anything about his religious convictions, I do not know anything about his eternal prospects, but he is well fixed for many years to come so far as this life is concerned.” You are mistaken. While you and I are looking in, that man falls out of his chair on his face on the floor, and when Quincey Garrett picks Wm. H. Vanderbilt from the floor he is a corpse. For all his one hundred and ninety-six millions he had no hope for five minutes. Friends, we all of us here to-night are like men standing on the seashore looking out over the boundless ocean of eternity, and as we look out, there comes towards some of us -those of us who have a living faith in Jesus Christ- gallant vessels laden with gold and silver and precious stones, with every sail set, waited swiftly towards us by the breezes of the divine favour. But toward the rest of us -those out of Christ- as we look out over the boundless ocean of eternity, there come no vessels, but dismantled wrecks, with, no cargoes but the livid corpses of lost opportunities, over which are hovering the vultures of eternal despair, driven madly towards us by the fast-rising blasts of the indignation of a holy and an outraged God. That is what it costs not to be a Christian.

4. In the next place, not to be a Christian costs the sacrifice of the highest manhood and the highest womanhood.-Have you ever thought of it, that we have all fallen away from God’s ideal of manhood and womanhood through sin? Paul puts it in his tremendous way, “We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God;” all fallen short of God’s ideal of manhood; and the only way back to it is by the acceptance of those regenerating and transforming powers that there are in Jesus Christ; or, to put it into ordinary language, by regeneration through Christ. And the best that any man or woman can attain to out of Christ is to be a mere caricature of manhood or womanhood as God created men and women to be. Is there a man in this audience to-night so lost to all that is noble, to all that is good, to all that is truly manly, that he is willing to be a mere caricature of manhood as God created man to be? Is there a woman here to-night so lost to all that is true, to all that is womanly, that she is willing to be a mere caricature of womanhood as God created woman to be? That is what it costs not to be a Christian; and, men and women, if there were no other argument but that, I would come to Christ to-night.

5. In the next place, not to be a Christian costs the sacrifice of God’s favour.-We have all sacrificed God’s favour through sin. The only way back to God’s favour is by the acceptance of the Sin-bearer whom God has provided. How plain the Bible makes that. Turn to John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” “Oh,” but some man says, “I do not know that I care about that. The favour of God? God is not real to me. He is so far away. If I have the favour of my neighbour, the favour of my employers, the favour of my friends in the club, the favour of my constituents in politics, I do not know that I care whether I have the favour of this far-away being that you call God or not.” Wait a moment; when you go out of this place to-night, look up at the stars over your head, and say to yourself, “The great God that made those stars, the great God that made those wonderful worlds of light, about which the astronomers are telling such wonderful things in these days, the God that holds them in the hollow of His hand as they go whirling through space with such incredible momentum, that God loves me, but He is displeased with me.” When you get home to-night and lie down to sleep, and cannot -for I trust, in the kind mercy of God, some of you will not sleep when you get home to-night through thinking of what you have heard here- when you get home and cannot sleep, and all the rest of the house is asleep, and you lie there alone, alone with God, looking up into the face of God, and God looking down not into your face only but also into your heart, say to yourself, “The great God into whose face I am now looking up, and who is looking down not into my face only but also into my heart, that God loves me, but He is displeased with me.” Men and women, if I had to face that thought tonight, if there were any way to find peace with God -and thank God there is!- I would not rest till I had found it.

6. In the next place, not to be a Christian costs the sacrifice of Christ’s acknowledgment in the world to come. How plain the Word of God is about that. Turn to Jesus’ own words in Matthew x. 32,33: “Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in Heaven; but whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven.” You will often hear men say this: “If a man believes in Christ in the secrecy of his heart, even if he never confesses Him or says anything about it, God yet knows what is in his heart, and will accept him on the ground of the faith which he never confesses.” I challenge any man to show me one line in this book that countenances such a statement. That Word says as plainly as day, in Romans x. 10., “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.- That Word says as plainly as day, and the Master Himself said it, in Mark viii. 38, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” That word says as plainly as day, “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father which is in Heaven, but whosoever denieth me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven.” You say, “Does not faith save?” Yes, and faith confesses; and the faith that does not lead to confession is no faith and the faith that does not lead to confession will not lead to salvation. I can imagine that great day, when the Lord Jesus summons all His own before the bar of God. There we stand in bright and glorious array, the Lord Jesus Christ at our head, and He turns to His Father and says, “Father, all these are Mine; they confessed me upon earth before men, and I now confess them before Thee My Father in Heaven.” But look, away over on the outskirts of that crowd is a man who hung upon the outskirts of the Church of Christ on earth. His sympathies were with the Church, his associations were with the Church, but he was a coward, and had not the courage of his convictions. He was afraid of his business partner, of his associates in politics or in society, and he never came out and confessed Christ openly before men. But he thinks that because he hung upon the outskirts of the Church of Christ on earth, that he can hang upon the outskirts up there. The Lord Jesus Christ now turns to him -I do not believe it will be so much in anger as in unutterable pity-and with a sad wave of His hand He says, “Depart, depart; you did not confess Me upon earth before men; I cannot confess thee before My Father which is in Heaven.” Men and women, that is what it costs not to be a Christian. Not to be an open, confessed, out-and-out follower of Jesus Christ.

7. Once more, not to be a Christian costs the sacrifice of eternal life, and means to perish for ever. How plain the Word of God is about that. Take the words of Jesus Christ Himself in John iii. 14,15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” How plain it is. Believe-have everlasting life; not believe-perish. John iii. 16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” How plain it is; believe-have everlasting life; not believe-perish. Once more, John iii. 36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” How plain it is; believe-have everlasting life – not believe shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Do you ask me what eternal life means? I cannot tell you. I can tell you what its beginnings are, for, thank God, I have them in my own heart to-night. But what eternal life means in all its fulness, in its eternal outworking, no human language can describe, and no human fancy can conceive. I will tell you what to do. Take that moment of your life whose joy was purest, deepest, highest, holiest, divinest, multiply it by intensity, and carry it out to all eternity, and you will have some faint conception of what eternal life means. Do you ask me what it means to perish? I cannot tell you. You and I sometimes see the beginnings of it in the man or woman who has gone down through sin, in the depravity of their lives, in the corruption of their characters, in their wretchedness and despair. But what it means to perish in all the eternal outworkings of a depraved character, what it means to perish in that endless vista that lies ahead of us, no human language can describe, no human fancy can conceive. But I will tell you what to do. Take that moment in your own life whose degradation was deepest, whose corruption was completest, whose despair was the most blank and the most utter, and whose agony was the most appalling, multiply it by infinity, and carry it out to all eternity, and you have some faint conception of what it means to perish. And that is what it costs not to be a Christian.

Men and women, I put to you then this question: Are you willing to pay the price of a Christless life? If you are, I have nothing more to say. If not, I ask you to stand right up and profess your acceptance of Christ like men and women. Now I will admit that you may gain something by not becoming Christians. I will admit that it will cost you something to become real Christians. It will in all probability cost you the loss of friends that you hold very dear. I never knew a man to step out of the world without losing friends. It will cost you the loss of money, for real Christianity touches a man’s pocketbook. I am willing to admit that. You cannot do some things in business if you become a Christian that add to your income and which you do to-day. I will admit that. I want you to know this. I do not want you to come out under false pretenses. It will cost you very likely the loss of pleasures of which you are very fond, and not for one day only, but for weeks and months and years to come. When I gave my heart to Christ I had to give up everything I was most addicted to in the days gone by, the things without which, it seemed to me, life would not be worth living. I want you to know this to-night. We want real conversion here. But I also want to ask you a question: Are you willing, for the sake of a few godless companions that you are better off without, are you willing, for the sake of a few hundred or a few thousand or a hundred thousand, if need be, of pounds sterling, are you willing, for the sake of foolish, godless pleasures that are unworthy of a thinking being anyhow, and unworthy of your brain and your feet and hands, that men and women ought to be ashamed of even if they are not Christians, like the dance, the card table, the theatre, that intelligent people ought to be ashamed of even if they are not Christians” are you willing, for the sake of such things as these, to sacrifice peace and joy and hope and manhood and womanhood and God’s favour and Christ’s acknowledgment and eternal life, and perish for ever? Are you willing to make so great a sacrifice for so paltry gain? One night in New York City, at the close of a sermon by Dr. MacArthur, a gentleman came to him and said, “Dr. MacArthur, I want to ask you a question; if I become a Christian must I give up my money?” Dr. MacArthur was a wise man, and answered, “If you become a Christian, and Jesus Christ asks you for your money, you must be willing to give it up, every penny of it.” The man said, “Dr. MacArthur, I will take a week to think about that.” Dr. MacArthur knew it was no good pressing the man just then, and he said, “Very well.” The man came back after a week, and said, “Dr. MacArthur, I have settled it; I will hold on to my money till death, and if Christ and Heaven must go, they must go.” That was an awful decision, but it was an intelligent one. Are you ready to say that to-night? “I will hold on to my money till death; I will hold on to godless companions till death; I will hold on to my godless pleasures till death; and if Christ and Heaven must go, and peace and joy and hope and manhood and go, and peace and joy and hope and manhood and womanhood and God’s favour and Christ’s acknowledgment and eternal life must go, and eternal ruin come, let them go and let it come.” Are you ready to say that, men and women? That is what you do say, practically, if you go out of this place to-night without Jesus Christ.

Strong Faith in a Faithful God

Strong Faith in a Faithful God

A Sermon by Charles Spurgeon

“I will cry unto God Most High; unto God that performs all things for me.” Psalm 57:2.

DAVID was in the Cave Adullam. He had fled from Saul, his remorseless foe, and had found shelter in the clefts of the rock. In the beginning of this Psalm he rings the alarm bell—and very loud is the sound of it. “Be merciful unto me,” and then the clapper hits the other side of the bell. “Be merciful unto me.” He utters his Miserere again and again. “My soul trusts in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.” Thus he solaces himself by faith in his God. Faith is always an active Grace. Its activity, however, is first of all manifested in prayer. This precedes any action. “I will cry,” he says, “unto God Most High.” You know how graciously he was preserved in the cave, even when Saul was close at his heels. Among the winding intricacies of those caverns he was enabled to conceal himself, though his enemy, with armed men, was close at hand. The Targum has a note upon this which may or may not be true. It states that a spider spun its web over the door of that part of the cave where David was concealed. The legend is not unlike one told of another king at a later time. It may have been true of David, and it is quite as likely to be true of the other. If so, David would, in such a passage as this, have directed his thoughts to the little acts God had performed for him which had become great in their results. If God makes a spider spin a web to save His servant’s life, David traces his deliverance not to the spider, but to the wonder-working Jehovah! And he says, “I will cry unto God Most High, unto God that performs all things for me.” It is delightful to see these exquisite prayers come from holy men in times of extreme distress. As the sick oyster makes the pearl, and not the healthy one, so does it seem as if the child of God brings forth gems of prayer in affliction more pure, brilliant and sparkling than any that he produces in times of joy and exultation.

Our text is capable of three meanings. To these three meanings we shall call your attention briefly. “Unto God who performs all things for me.” First, there is Infinite Providence. As it stands, the words, “all things,” you perceive, have been added by the translators. Not that they were mistaken in so doing, for the unlimited expression, “God that performs for me,” allows them to supply the omission without any violation of the sense. Secondly, there is inviolable faithfulness, as we know that David here referred to God’s working out the fulfillment of the promises He had made. We sang just now of the sweet promise of His Grace as the performing God. I think Dr. Watts borrowed that expression from this verse. Thirdly, there is a certainty of ultimate completeness. The original has for its root the word, “finishing,” and now working it out, it means a God that performs or, as it were, perfects and accomplishes all things concerning me. Whatever there is in His promise or Covenant that I may need, He will perfect for me. To begin with—

I. THE MARVELOUS PROVIDENCE.

The text, as it stands, speaks of a service—“I will cry unto God Most High; unto God that performs all things for me.” “All things,” that is to say, in everything that I have to do, I am but an instrument in His hands—it is God who does it for me. The Christian has no right to have anything to do for which he cannot ask God’s help. No, he should have
no business which he could not leave with his God. It is his to work and to exercise prudence, but it is his to call in the aid of God to his work and to leave the care of it with the God who cares for him. Any work in which he cannot ask Divine co-operation, the care of which he cannot cast upon God is unfit for him to be engaged in. Depend upon it, if I cannot say of the whole of my life, “God performs all things for me,” there is sin somewhere and evil lurks in the disposition thereof. If I am living in such a state that I cannot ask God to carry out for me the enterprises I have embarked in, and entirely
rely on His Providence for the issues, then what I cannot ask Him to do for me, neither have I any right to do for myself! Let us think, therefore, of the whole of our ordinary life and apply the text to it. Should we not, each morning, cry unto God to give us help through the day? Though we are not going out to preach. Though we are not going up to the assembly for worship. Though it is only our ordinary business, that ordinary business ought to be a consecrated thing! Opportunities
for God’s service should be sought in our common avocations—we may glorify God very much therein. On the other hand, our souls may suffer serious damage, we may do much mischief to the cause of Christ in the ordinary walk of any one day. It is for us, then, to begin the day with prayer—to continue all through the day in the same spirit and to
close the day by commending whatever we have done to that same Lord. Any success attending that day, if it is real success, is of God who gives it to us! “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it,” is a statement applicable to the whole of Christian life! It is vain to rise early and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness, for so He gives His Beloved sleep. If there is any true blessing, such blessing, as Jabez craved, when he said, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed,” it must come from the God of Heaven—it can come from nowhere else. Cry then, Christian, concerning your
common life to God! Say continually, “I will cry unto God Most High; unto God that performs all things for me.”

Perhaps at this hour you are troubled about some petty little thing, or you have been through the day exercised about some trivial matter. Do you not think we often suffer more from our little troubles than from our great ones? A thorn in the foot will irritate our temper, while the dislocation of a joint would reveal our fortitude. Often the man who would bear the loss of a fortune with the equanimity of Job will wince and fume under a paltry annoyance that might rather excite a smile than a groan. We are apt to be disquieted in vain. Does not this very much arise from our forgetting that God performs all things for us? Do we not ignore the fact that our success in little things, our rightness in the minutiae in life, our comfort in these inconsiderable trifles depends upon His blessing? Know you not that God can make the gnat and the fly to be a greater trouble to Egypt than the diseases of cattle, the thunder, or the storm? Little trials, if unblessed—if unattended with the Divine Favor, may scourge you fearfully and betray you into much sin. Commend them to God, then! And little blessings, as you think, if taken away from you, would soon involve very serious consequences. Thank God, then, for the little. Put the little into His hands—it is nothing to Jehovah to work in the little, for the great is little to Him! There is not much difference, after all, in our littles and our greats to the Infinite Mind of our
glorious God. Cast all on Him who numbers the hairs of your head, and allows not a sparrow to fall to the ground without His decree! Unto God cry about the little things, for He performs all things for us. Do I speak to some who are contemplating a great change in life? Take not that step, my Brother, my Sister, without much careful waiting upon God. But if you be persuaded that the change is one that has the Master’s approval, fear not, for He performs all things for you. At this moment you have many perplexities. You may vex yourself with anxiety, and make yourself foolish with shilly-shallying if you sport with fancy, vexing up bright dreams, and yielding to dark forebodings. There is many a knot we seek to untie which were better cut with the sword of faith! We should end our difficulties by leaving them with Him who knows the end from the beginning!

Up to this moment you have been rightly led—you have the same Guide. To this hour, He who sent the cloudy pillar has led you rightly through the devious ways of the wilderness—follow, still, with a sure confidence that all is well. If you keep close to Him, He performs all things for you. Take your guidance from His Word and, waiting upon Him in prayer, you need not fear. Just now, perhaps, in addition to some exciting dilemma, you are surrounded with real trouble and distress. Will it not be well to cry unto God Most High, who now, in the time of your strait and difficulty, will show Himself, again, to you a God all-sufficient to His people in their times of need? He is always near! I do not know that He has said, “When you walk through the green pastures, I will be with you, and when your way lies hard by the river of the Water of Life, where lilies bloom, I will strengthen you.” I believe He will do so, but I do not remember such a promise.
But, “When you go through the rivers, I will be with you,” is a well-known promise of His. If ever He is present, it shall be in trial—if He can be absent, it will certainly not be when His servants most need His aid! Rest in Him, then. But you say, “I can do so little in this time of difficulty.” Do what you can, and leave the rest to Him! If you see no way of escape, does it follow that there is none? If you see no help, is it, therefore, to be inferred that help cannot come? Your Lord and Savior found no friend among the whole family of man, “Yet,” said He, “could I not presently pray to My Father, and
He would send me twelve legions of angels?” Were it necessary for your help, the squadrons of Heaven would leave the Glory Land to come to your rescue—the least and poorest of the children of God as you may be! He will perform for you—be you, therefore, obedient, trustful, patient. ‘Tis yours to obey, ‘tis His to command, ‘tis yours to perceive, ‘tis His to perform. He will perform all things for you!

Very likely among this audience, some are foolish enough to perplex themselves as to their future life, and forestall the time when they shall grow old and their vigor shall be abated. It is always unwise to anticipate our troubles. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Of all self-torture, that of importing in sure trouble into present account is, perhaps, the most insane! Do you tell me you cannot help looking into the future. Well, then, look and peer into the distance as far as your weak vision can reach, but do not breathe upon the telescope with your anxious breath and fancy you see
clouds! On the contrary, just wipe your eyes with the soft kerchief of some gracious Word of promise and hold your breath while you gaze through that transparent medium. Use the eye-salve of faith! Then, whatever you discern of the future, you will also descry. He rules and He overrules! He will make all things work together for good! He will surely bring you through! Goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life, and you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever! He it is who will perform all things for you. Oh, strange infatuation! You see your weakness, you see the temptations that will assail you and the troubles that threaten you, and you are afraid. Look away from them all! This is no business of yours. Leave it in His hands, who will manage well, who will be sure to do the kindest and the best thing for you. Be of good confidence and rest in peace!

So shall it be even at life’s close. He performs all things for me. I have the boundary of life in the prospective, the almost certainty that I must die. Unless the Lord comes before my term expires, I must close these eyes, gather up these feet in the bed, breathe a last gasp and yield my soul to Him who gave it. Well, fear not! He helped me to live—He will help me to die! He has made me perform up to this moment my allotted task, yes, He has performed it for me—giving me His Grace and working His Providence with me. Shall I fear that He will desert me at the last? He performs not some things, but all things, and He cannot omit this most important thing which often makes me tremble. No, that must be included, for all things are mine—death as well as life! I leave my dying hour, then, with Him, and never boding ill of it, I cry unto God Most High, unto God that performs all things for me! I want, dear Brothers and Sisters, to leave this impression in
your minds, that in the great business of life, whatever it is, while we do not sit still and fold our hands for lack of work, yet God works in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure. This we recognize distinctly—if anything is done right, or successfully, it is God that performs it, and we give Him the Glory! I want you to feel that, as the task is performed by Him in all its details, so to the very close of your life, all shall be performed of His Grace through you by Himself, to His own honor and praise, world without end! The second run of thought which the text suggests is that of—

II. INVIOLABLE FAITHFULNESS.

“Unto God that performs all things for me.” The God who made the promises has not left them as pictures, but has made them to fulfill them. It is God who is the actual Worker of all that He declared in the Covenant of Grace should be worked in and for His people!

Let us think of this as it pertains to our Redeemer’s merits. “Unto God that performs all things for me.” Meritoriously our Savior-God has performed all things for us. Our sin has been all put away—He bore it all—every particle of it. The righteousness that wraps us is complete—He has woven it all from the top throughout. All that God’s infinite,
unflinching Justice can ask of us has been performed for us by our Surety and our Covenant Head. I need not say I have to fight—my warfare is accomplished. I need not think I have to wash away my sins—as a Believer, my sin is pardoned. All things are performed for me! Don’t forget amidst your service for Christ what service Christ has rendered to you! Do all things for Christ, but let the stimulating motive be that Christ has done all things for you! There is not even a little thing that is for you to do to complete the work of Christ. The Temple He has built needs not that you should find a single stone to make it perfect. The ransom He has paid does not wait until you add the last mite. It is all done! O Soul, if Christ has completely redeemed you and saved you, rest on Him and cry to Him! And if sin rebels within you at this present moment, fly—though your spirit is shut up as in the Cave Adullam—fly to Him by faith—to Him who has done all things for you as your Representative and Substitute! After the same manner, all things in us that have ever been worked there have been performed by God for us. The Holy Spirit has worked every fraction of good that is within our souls. No one flower that God loves grows in the garden of our souls in the natural soil, self-sown. The first trembling desire after God came from His Spirit. The blade, though very tender would never have sprung up if Jesus had not sown the seed. Though the first rays of dawn were scarcely light, but only rendered the darkness visible, yet from the Sun of Righteousness they come—no light sprang from the natural darkness of our spirit! It could not be that life could be begotten of death, or that light could be the child of darkness. He began the work. He led us when we went tremblingly to the foot of the Cross. He helped us when we followed Him with staggering steps. The eyes with which we looked to Jesus and believed, were opened by Him! Christ was revealed to us not by our own discovery, nor by our own tuition, but the Spirit of God revealed the Son of God in our spirit! We looked and we were lightened. The vision and the enlightening were alike from Him—He performed all for us.

As I look back upon my own spiritual career, when I was seeking the Savior, I am wonderfully struck with the way in which God performed everything for me. For if He had not, I do remember well when I should have rendered it impossible for me to have been here to tell of the wonders of His Grace! Hard pressed by Satan and by sin, my soul chose strangling rather than life. Had I known more of my own guiltiness, my heart would utterly have broken and my life have failed. But wisdom and prudence were mingled with the teachings of God’s Law. He did not allow the schoolmaster to be too severe, but stayed the soul beneath the dire remorse which conviction caused. I had never believed on Him if He had not taught me to believe! To give up hope in self was desperate work, and then to find hope in Christ seemed more desperate,
still. It appeared to me easy enough to believe in Jesus while one was really believing in one’s self, but when “despair” was written upon self, then one was too apt to transfer the despair even to the Cross, itself, and it appeared impossible to believe! But the Spirit worked faith in me, and I believed. That is not my testimony, only, but the testimony of all my Brothers and Sisters—in that hour of sore trouble it was God who performed all things for us! Since then and up to this moment, my Brothers and Sisters, if there has been any virtue, if there has been in you anything lovely and of good repute, to whom do you or can you attribute it? Must you not say, “Of Him all my fruit was found”? You could not have done without Him! If you have made any progress, if you have made any advance, or even if you think you have, believe me, your growth, advance, progress, have all been a mistake unless they have come entirely from Him! There is no wealth for us but that which is dug in this mine. There is no strength for us but that which comes from the Omnipotent One Himself. “You who perform all things for me,” must be our cry up to this hour!

What a consolation it is that our God never changes! What He was yesterday, He is today. What we find Him today, we shall find Him forever! Are you struggling against sin? Don’t struggle in your own strength—it is God who performs all things for you! Victories over sin are only sham victories unless we overcome through the blood of the Lamb, and through the power of Divine Grace. I am afraid of backsliding, but I think I am more afraid of growing in sanctification
apparently in my own strength. It is a dreadful thing for the gray hairs to appear here and there—but it is worse, still, for the hair to appear to be of raven hue when the man is weak. Only the indication is changed, but not the state itself. May we have really what we think we have—no surface work, but deep, inner, spiritual life, worked in us from God—yes, every good spiritual thing from Him who performs all things for us and, I say, whatever struggles may come, whatever
vehement temptations assail, or whatever thunderclouds may burst over your heads, you shall not be deserted, much less destroyed! In spiritual things it is God who performs all things for you. Rest in Him, then. It is no work of yours to save your own soul—Christ is the Savior. If He cannot save you, you certainly cannot save yourself. Why rest you your hopes where hopes never ought to be rested? Or let me change the question. Why do you fear where you never ought to
have hoped? Instead of fearing that you cannot hold on, despair of holding on yourself and never look in that direction again! But if the preservation is of God, where is the cause for anxiety with you? In Him let your entire reliance be fixed. Cast the burden of your care on Him who performs all things for you! Lastly, this text in its moral, literal acceptation refers to—

III. THE FINISHING STROKE OF A GRAND DESIGN.

It really means, “I will cry unto God Most High—unto God who perfects all things concerning me.” David’s career was charged with a great work. It was portentous with a high destiny. He had been anointed when a lad by Samuel. The Lord had said, “I have provided Me a king among the sons of Jesse.” And Samuel had taken “the horn of oil and
anointed him in the midst of his brothers.” He was thus clearly ordained to be king over Israel. His way to the throne was by Adullam. Strange route! To be king over Israel and Judah, he must first become a rebel, a wandering vagabond, known as a chieftain of bandits, hunted about by Saul, the reigning monarch. He must seek refuge in the courts of his country’s enemies, the Philistines, being without an earthly refuge, or place to lay his head. Strange way to a throne! Yet the Son of David had to go that way, and all the sons of God. The younger brethren of the Crown Prince will have to find their way to their crown by much the same route. But is not this a brave thing? Though Adullam does not look like the way to Zion, where he shall be crowned, David is so confident that what God has said will come to pass, so sure that Samuel’s anointing was no farce, but that he must be king, that he praises and blesses God that while He is making of him
a houseless wanderer, He is perfecting that which concerns him and leading him by a sure path to the throne. Now, can I believe that He who promises that I shall be with Him where He is, that I may behold His Glory—He who gives the certainty to every Believer that he shall enter into everlasting happiness—can I believe tonight that He is perfecting that for me—that the way by which He is taking me tonight, so dark, so gloomy, so full of dangers, is, nevertheless, the shortest
way to Heaven? That He is, tonight using the quickest method to perfect that which concerns my soul? O Faith! Here is something for you to do and if you can perform it, you shall bring glory to God! The pith of it is this—that if God has the keeping of us, He will perfect the keeping in the day of Christ! All His people are in the hands of Jesus, and in those hands they shall be forever and ever! “None shall pluck them out of My hands,” He says. Their preservation shall be perfected. So, too, their sanctification. Every child of God is set apart by Christ and in Christ—and the work of the Spirit has commenced which shall subdue sin and abolish the very roots of corruption—and this work shall be perfected! No, is being perfected at this very moment! The dragon is being trodden down under foot. The Seed of the woman within us is beginning to bruise the serpent’s head and shall clearly bruise it and crush it, even to the death within our soul.

He is perfecting us in all things for Himself! He has promised to bring us to Glory. We have the earnest of that great Glory in us now. The new life is there—all the elements of Heaven are within us. Now He will perfect all these. He will not allow one good thing that He has planted within us to die. It is a living and incorruptible seed which lives and abides forever. He will perfect all things for us. There is nothing that makes the saints complete but what God will give to us.
There shall be lacking in us no one trait of loveliness that is necessary for the courtiers of the skies—no one virtue that is
necessary to mark us as of the Divine Race, but shall be given, no, perfected in us! What a marvelous thing is a Christian! How mean; how noble! How abject; how august! How near to Hell; how close to Heaven! How fallen, yet lifted up! Able to do nothing; yet doing all things! Doing nothing; yet accomplishing all things because herein it is that, in the man, and with the man, there is God—and He performs all things for us! God, give us Grace to look away entirely, evermore, from ourselves and to depend entirely upon Him!

Now is there a soul here that desires salvation? My text gives you the clue of comfort. Try—the thing is simple—try. Look to Him. He performs all things for you! Everything that is needed to save your soul, your Heavenly Father will give you. Jesus, the Savior, has worked out all the sinner’s needs. You have but to come and take what is already accomplished and rest in it. “I cannot save myself,” you say. You need not—there is One who performs all things for you. “I am bruised and mangled by the Fall,” says one, “as though every bone were broken.” “I am incapable of a good thought. There is nothing good in me, or that can come from me.” Soul! It is not what you can do, but what God can do—what Christ has done—that must be the ground of your hope! Give yourself up unto God, Most High—unto God, who performs all things for you, and you shall be blessed, indeed! God send you away with His own blessing, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

A Warning to Believers

A Warning to Believers
by Charles Spurgeon

“Let no man beguile you of your reward.”—Colossians 2:18.

There is an allusion here to the prize which was offered to the runners in the Olympic games, and at the outset it is well for us to remark how very frequently the Apostle Paul conducts us by his metaphors to the racecourse. Over and over again he is telling us so to run that we may obtain, bidding us to strive, and at other times to agonize, and speaking of wrestling and contending. Ought not this to make us feel what an intense thing the Christian life is—not a thing of sleepiness or haphazard, not a thing to be left now and then to a little superficial consideration? It must be a matter which demands all our strength, so that when we are saved there is a living principle put within us which demands all our energies, and gives us energy over and above any that we ever had before. Those who dream that carelessness will find its way to heaven have made a great mistake. The way to hell is neglect, but the way to heaven is very different. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” A little matter of neglect brings you to ruin, but our Master’s words are “Strive to enter in at the straight gate, for many, I say unto you, shall seek”—merely seek—”to enter in, and shall not be able.” Striving is needed more than seeking. Let us pray that God the Holy Spirit would always enable us to be in downright, awful earnest about the salvation of our souls. May we never count this a matter of secondary importance, but may we seek first, and beyond everything else, the kingdom of God and his righteousness. May we lay hold on eternal life; may we so run that we may obtain.

I would press this upon your memories because I do observe, observe it in myself as well as in my fellow-Christians, that we are often more earnest about the things of this life than we are about the things of the life to come. We are all impressed with the fact that in these days of competition, if a man would not be run over and crushed beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of poverty, he must exert himself. No man seems now able to keep his head above water with the faint swimmer strokes which our forefathers used to give. We have to strive, and the bread that perisheth hath to be laboured for. Shall it be that this poor world shall engross our earliest thoughts and our latest cares, and shall the world to come have only now and then a consideration’ No; may we love our God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our strength, and may we lay our body, soul, and spirit upon the altar of Christ’s service, for these are but our reasonable sacrifice to him.

Now the Apostle in the text before us gives us a warning, which comes to the same thing, however it is interpreted; but the passage is somewhat difficult of rendering, and there have been several meanings given to it. Out of these there are three meanings which have been given of the text before us which are worthy of notice. “Let no man beguile you of your reward.” The Apostle, in the first place, may mean here:—

I. LET NO MAN BEGUILE ANY OF YOU who profess to be followers of Christ of the great reward that will await the faithful at the last.

Now, my brethren, we have, many of us, commenced the Christian race, or we profess to have done so, but the number of the starters is far greater than the number of the winners. “They that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize.” “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Many commence, apparently, in the Christian career, but after a while, though they did run well, something hinders them that they do not obey the truth, and they go out from us because they were not of us, for if they had been of us, doubtless they would have continued with us. Now we may expect, now that we have commenced to run, that some will come and try to turn us out of the race course openly—not plausibly and with sophistry, but with an open and honest wickedness. Some will tell us plainly that there is no reward to run for, that our religion is all a mistake, that the pleasures of this world are the only things worth seeking, that there are delights of the flesh and the lusts thereof, and that we should do well to enjoy them. We shall meet the Atheist with his sneer and with his ringing laugh. We shall meet with all kinds of persons who will to our faces tell us to turn back, for there is no heaven, there is no Christ, or, if there be, it is not worth our while to take so much trouble to find him. Take heed of these people. Meet them face to face with dauntless courage. Mind not their sneers. If they persecute you only, reckon this to be an honour to you, for what is persecution but the tribute which wickedness pays to righteousness, and what is it, indeed, but the recognition of the seed of the woman when the seed of the serpent would fain bite his heel?

But the Apostle does not warn you so much against those people who openly come to you in this way. He knows that you will be on the alert against them. He gives a special warning against some others who would beguile you; that is to say, who will try to turn you out of the right road, but who will not tell you that they mean to do so. They pretend that they are going to show you something that you knew not before, some improvement upon what you have hitherto learned. In Paul’s day there were some who took off the attention of the Christian from the worship of God to the worship of angels. “Angels,” said they, “these are holy beings; they keep watch over you; you should speak of them with great respect”; and then when they grew bolder, they said, “You should ask their protection”; and then after a little while they said, “You should worship them; you should make them intermediate intercessors”; and so, step by step, they went on and established an old heresy which lasted for many years in the Christian church, and which is not dead even now, and thus the worship of angels crept in.

And nowadays you will meet with men who will say, “That bread upon the Table—why, it represents the body of Jesus Christ to you when you come to the Lord’s Supper; therefore, you ought to treat that bread with great respect.” By and bye they will get a little bolder, and then they say, “As it represents Christ, you may worship it, pay it respect as if it were Christ.” By and bye it will come to this, that you must have a napkin under your chin, lest you should drop a crumb; or it will be very wicked if a drop of the sacred wine should cling to your moustache when you drink; and there will be the directions which are given in some of the papers coming out from the High Church party—absurdities which are only worthy of the nursery—about the way in which the holy bread is to be eaten, and the holy wine is to be drunk—bringing in idolatry, sheer, clear idolatry, under the presence of improving upon the too bare simplicity of the worship of Christ. Have a care of the very first step, I pray you.

Or, perhaps, it may come to you in another shape. One will say to you, “The place in which you worship—is it not very dear to you? That seat where you have been accustomed to sit and listen, is it not dear?”; and your natural instincts will say, “Yes. ” Then it will go a little farther. “That place is holy; it ought never to be used for anything but worship ” Then a little farther it will be, “Oh! that is the house of God,” and you will come to believe that, contrary to the words which you know are given to you of the Holy Ghost, that God dwells not in temples made with hands; that is to say, in these buildings, and you will get by degrees to have a worship of places, and a worship of days, and a worship of bread, and a worship of wine. And then it will be said to you, “Your minister, has he not often cheered you? Well then, you should reverence him; call him ‘Reverend.’” Go a little farther, and you will call him “Father”; yet a little farther, and he will be your confessor; get a little farther and he will be your infallible Pope. It is all step by step until it is done. The first step seems to be very harmless indeed. Indeed, it is a kind of voluntary humility. You look as if you were humbling yourselves, and were paying reverence to these things for God’s sake, whereas the object is to get you to pay reverence to them, instead of to God, and here the Apostle’s words come in, “Let no man setting up other objects of reverence besides those which spiritual men worship.

So, too, they too, by slow degrees try to insinuate a different way of living from that which is the true life of the Christian. You who have believed in Jesus are saved; your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. You are accustomed to go to Jesus Christ constantly to receive that washing of the feet of which he spake to Peter when he said, “He that is washed needeth not except to wash his feet, for he is clean every whit.” You go to him with “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.” But there will be some who will come in and tell you that to live in that way by a simple faith in Jesus Christ is not, perhaps, the best way. Could you not get a little farther? Could you not lead the life of those recluses who mortify the flesh in such a way that at last they come to have no sins, but commence to be perfect in themselves? Could you not begin, at least in some degree, to commit your soul’s care to some priest, or to some friend, and instead of making every place holy and every day a holy day, would it not be well to fast on such and such days in the week, to scrupulously observe this rule and the other rule, and walk by the general opinion of the ancient Church, or by some one of those books which profess to show how they used to do it a thousand years ago? All this may have a great show of wisdom, and antiquity, and beauty; there may be a semblance of everything that is holy about it, and names that should never be mentioned without reverence may be appended to it all, but listen to the Apostle as he saith, “Beware lest any man beguile you of your reward,” for if they get you away from living upon Christ as a poor sinner from day to day by simple confidence in him, they will beguile you of your reward.

There is another party who will seek to beguile you of your reward by bringing in speculative notions, instead of the simple truths of God’s Word.There is a certain class of persons who think that a sermon must be a good one when they cannot understand it, and who are always impressed with a man whose words are long; and if his sentences are involved they feel, poor souls, that because they do not know what he is talking about, there is no doubt that he is a very wise and learned man; and after a while when he does propound something that they can catch at, though it may be quite contrary to what they have learned at their mother’s knee or from their father’s Bible, yet they are ready to be led off by it. There are many men nowadays who seem to spend their time in nothing else but in spinning new theories, and inventing new systems, gutting the gospel taking the very soul and bowels out of it, and leaving there nothing but the mere skin and outward bones. The life and marrow of the gospel is being taken away by their learning, by their philosophies, by their refinements, by their bringing everything down to the test of this wonderfully enlightened nineteenth century to which we are all, I suppose, bound to defer. But a voice comes to us, “let no man beguile you of your reward.” Stand fast to the old truths; they will outlast all these philosophies. Stand fast to the old way of living; it will outlast all the inventions of men. Stand fast by Christ, for you want no other object of worship but himself.

The Apostle gives us this warning, “Let no man beguile you of your reward,” reminding us that these persons are very likely to beguile us. They will beguile us by their character. Have I not often heard young people say of such and such a preacher who preaches error, “But he is so good a man.” That is nothing to the point. “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” If the life of the man should be blameless as the life of Christ, yet if he preach to you other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, take no heed of him; he weareth but the sheep’s clothing, and is a wolf after all. Some will plead, “But such and such a man is so eloquent”. Ah! brethren, may the day never come when your faith shall stand in the words of men. What is a ready orator, after all, that he should convince your hearts? Are there not ready orators caught any day for everything? Men speak, speak fluently, and speak well in the cause of evil, and there are some that can speak much more fluently and more eloquently for evil than any of our poor tongues are ever likely to do for the right. But words, words, words, flowers of rhetoric, oratory—are these the things that saved you? Are ye so foolish that having begun in the spirit by being convinced of your sins, having begun by being led simply to Christ, and putting your trust in him—are you now to be led astray by these poetic utterances and flowery periods of men? God forbid! Let nothing of this kind beguile you.

Then there will be added to these remarks that the man is not only very good and very eloquent, but that he is very earnest—he seems very humble-minded. Yes, and of old they wore rough garments to deceive, and in the connection of the text we find that those persons were noted for their voluntary humility and their worship of angels. Satan knows very well that if he comes in black he will be discovered, but if he puts on the garb of an angel of light, then men will think he comes from God, and so will be deceived. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” If they give you not the gospel, if they exalt not Christ, if they bear not witness to salvation through the precious blood, if they do not lift up Jesus Christ as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, have nothing to do with them, speak as they may. “Let no man beguile you of your reward.” Though it should happen to be your relative, one whom you love, one who may have many claims on your respect otherwise—let no man, let no man, however plausible may be his speech, or eminent his character, beguile you of your reward.

Recollect, you professors, you lose the reward if you lose the road to the reward. He that runs may run very fast, but if he does not run in the course, he wins not the prize. You may believe false doctrine with great earnestness, but you will find it false for all that. You may give yourself up indefatigably to the pursuit of the wrong religion, but it will ruin your souls. A notion is abroad that if you are but earnest and sincere, you will be all right. Permit me to remind you that if you travel never so earnestly to the north, you will never reach the south, and if you earnestly take prussic acid you will die, and if you earnestly cut off a limb you will be wounded. You must not only be earnest, but you must be right in it. Hence is it necessary to say, “Let no man beguile you of your reward.” “I bear them witness,” said the Apostle, “that they had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, but went about to establish their own righteousness, and have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” Oh! may we not be beguiled, then, so as to miss the reward of heaven at the last!

But I must pass on, especially as the light fails us this evening; I hope it is prognostic of a coming shower. Here is a second rendering which may be given to the text:—

II. LET NO MAN DOMINEER OVER YOU.

This rendering, or something analogous to it, is in the French translation. One of the great expositors in his commentary upon this passage refers it to the judges at the end of the course, who sometime would give the reward to the wrong person, and the person who had really run well might thus be deprived of his reward. Now, however close a man may be to Christ, the world, instead of honouring him for it, will, on the contrary, censure and condemn him, and hence the Apostle’s exhortation is, “Let no man domineer over you.”

And, my brethren, I would earnestly ask you to remember this first as to your course of action. If you conscientiously believe that you are right in what you are doing, study very little who is pleased or who is displeased. If you are persuaded in your own soul that what you believe and what you do are acceptable to God, whether they are acceptable to man or not is of very small consequence. You are not man’s servant, you do not look to man for your reward, and, therefore, you need not care what man’s opinion may be in this matter. Be just and fear not. Tread in the footsteps of Christ, follow what may. Live not on the breath of men. Let not their applause make you feel great, for perhaps then their censure will make you faint. Let no man in this respect domineer over you, but let Christ be your Master, and look to his smile.

So not only with regard to your course of action, but also with reference to your confidence, let no man domineer over you. If you put your trust in Jesus Christ, there are some who will say it is presumption. Let them say it is presumption. “Wisdom is justified of all her children,” and so shall faith be. If you take the promise of God and rest upon it, there will be some who will say that you are hare-brained fanatics. Let them say it. They that trust in him shall never be confounded. The result will honour your faith. You have but to wait a little while, and, perhaps, they that now censure you will have to hold up their hands in astonishment, and say with you, “What hath God wrought?” Your confidence in Christ, especially, my dear young friend, I trust does not depend upon the smile of your relatives. If it did, then their frown might crush it. Walk with your Saviour in the lowly walk of holy confidence, and let not your faith rest in man, but in the smile of God.

Let no man domineer over you, again, by judging your motives. Men will always give as bad a reason as they can for a good man’s actions. It seems to be innate in human nature never to give a man credit for being right if you can help it, and often tender minds have been greatly wounded when they have been misrepresented, and their actions have been imputed to sinister and selfish motives, when they have really desired to serve Christ. But do not let your heart be broken about that. You will appear before the judgment-seat of Christ: do not care about these petty judgments-seats of men. Go on with your Master’s work dauntlessly and fearlessly. Let them say, as David’s brethren said of him, “Because of thy pride and the naughtiness of thy heart to see the battle, art thou come.” Go you and get Goliath’s head, and bring it back, and that shall be the best answer to these sneering ones. When they see that God is with you, and that he has given you the triumph, you shall have honour, even in the eyes of those who now ridicule you. I think sometimes the Christian should have very much the same bravado against the judgment of men as David had when Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants,” and he said, “It was before the Lord, and I will yet be more vile than thus.” Let your eye be to God, and forget the eyes of men. Live so that, whether they know what you do, or do not know, you will not care, for your conduct will bear the blaze of the great Judgment Day, and, therefore, the criticisms of earth do not affect you. Let no man domineer over you.

So may I put it in another light—let no man sway your conscience so as to lead you. I am always anxious, my dear hearers, that, whatever respect I may ever win from you—and I trust I may have your esteem and your affection—yet that you will never believe a doctrine simply because I utter it, but unless I can confirm it from the Word of God, away with it. If it be not according to the teaching of the Lord and Master, I beseech you follow me not. Follow me only as far as I follow Christ. And so with every other man. Let it be God’s truth, God’s Word, the Holy Spirit’s witness to that Word in your soul, that you are seeking after, but rest, I pray you, never short of that, for if you do your faith must stand merely in the wisdom of men, and when the man who helped you to believe is gone, perhaps your faith may be gone too, when most you need its comforting power. No; let no man domineer over you, but press forward in the Christian race, looking unto Jesus, and looking unto Jesus only.

But now a third meaning belongs to the text. A happy circumstance it is, this dark night, that the preacher does not need to use his manuscript, for if he did his sermon must certainly come to an end now. But here is this point, “Let no man beguile you of your reward.” It may mean this:—

III. LET NO MAN ROB YOU OF THE PRESENT REWARD WHICH YOU HAVE IN BEING A CHRISTIAN.

Let no man deprive you of the present comfort which your faith should bring to you. Let me just for a few minutes have your attention while I speak upon this. Dear brethren, you and I, if we are believers in Christ, are this day completely pardoned. There is no sin in God’s book against us. We are wholly and completely justified. The righteousness of Jesus Christ covers us from head to foot, and we stand before God as if we had never sinned. Now let no man rob you of this reward. Do not be tempted by anything that is said to doubt the completeness of a believer in Christ. Hold this, and, as you hold it, enjoy it. Do not let the man, yourself, whom you have most to fear, beguile you. Even though conscience should upbraid you, and you should have many grave reasons for doubt, as you imagine, yet if you believe in Jesus, stand to it—”There is, therefore, now no condemnation to me, for I am in Christ Jesus; he that believeth on him is not condemned; I have believed, and I am not condemned, neither will he permit condemnation to be thundered against me, for Christ has borne my sin for me, and I am clear in him.” Let no man beguile you of the reward of feeling that you are complete in Christ.

Further, you who have believed in Jesus Christ are safe in Christ.Because he lives, you shall live also. Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord? He has said, “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” Now there are some who will tell you that you are not safe, and that it is dangerous for you to believe that you are. Let no man beguile you of this reward. You are saved. If you are believing on him, he will keep you, and you may sing, “Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before his presence with exceeding great joy. unto him be glory.” Hold to that blessed truth that you are in Jesus—safe in Jesus Christ.

There is a third blessed truth. that not only are you pardoned and safe in Christ, but you are accepted at this moment, in the Beloved. Your acceptance with God does not rest upon anything in you. You are accepted because you are in Christ, accepted for Christ’s sake. Now sometimes you will get robbed of this reward if you listen to the voice which says, “Why, there is sin in you still; your prayers are imperfect; your actions are stained.” Yes, but let no man beguile you of this conviction that, sinner as you are, you are still accepted in Christ Jesus.

The Lord grant that you may feel this within, and let no man beguile you of your reward as long as you live. May you live and die in the enjoyment of it, beloved, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ…

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
(Rom 1:16)

The apostle Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ and neither should we. If you are reading this and have been born again you know, personally, the power that the gospel has to bring conviction of sin and salvation to the sinner through the Holy Spirit. God’s primary concern is the saving of sinners and it has pleased Him to do this through the sharing of the gospel to a lost and dying world. Great learning and worldly wisdom can be advantageous in this world but the salvation is provided only by the gospel of the Jesus Christ (1 Co. 1:21). When you share the gospel with someone, or when the pastor preaches the gospel from the pulpit, more is occurring than the outward senses perceive.

Firstly, sharing the gospel with someone is an act of true faith – a faith that is demonstrated in the work (Jas 2:18). The deliverer is demonstrating faith that the gospel of Christ is real, true, and is blessed of God. They have believed God when He said “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. 55:11). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6); but the works of true faith is always pleasing unto Him and brings Him glory.

Secondly, sharing the gospel with someone is an act of unselfish love and a demonstration of Christ-likeness. It is God’s will that people should repent of their sins and be saved (2Pe 3:9) and as you share the gospel you are an instrument in the out-working of God’s will. While Jesus walked the earth He performed many miracles; healing the sick, making the lame to walk, causing the blind to see, and casting out demons. But His primary work was to die a sacrificial death on the cross in our place. His primary message, the message that He was sent to both deliver and validate by His death, burial, and resurrection, was “… Ye must be born again.” That, of course, is at the heart of the gospel message of Christ. When you deliver the gospel you are following in the footsteps of Christ while demonstrating and emulating His love toward those who are trapped in the deadly bonds of sin.

Thirdly, because the gospel is God’s message to humanity (and always has been throughout the ages in one form or another) the Holy Spirit works in the heart of the hearer and convicts them of their sin, warning them of their separation from God and danger of Hellfire. You could talk to someone all day about any given subject; sports, world news, politics, even the doctrines of other religions but none of those topics will initiate the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener. But if you were to change the subject to the gospel of Christ there will always be a reaction from the listener. Those who have not been born again will experience conviction as the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to the truth of God’s Word and their need of Christ. For those who have been born again the gospel message is one that we never grow tired of hearing – for to us it was indeed the power of God unto salvation and for time eternal will be our song of glory to our savior, Jesus Christ.

We read with awe the power that the apostles and the prophets of old seemed to command. They would call down fire from heaven, raise the dead, make the lame to walk, and make the blind to see – all by the power of God and for His glory. None of us would be ashamed to demonstrate such miraculous power in this world. But by delivering the gospel message we are involved in the delivery of God’s greatest miracle; the salvation of human souls. By it Christ sets up His throne in the heart of man, the sinner is raised from the death and bondage of sin to new life in Christ, the spiritually lame and blind now walk freely and see with spiritual eyes of discernment. The gospel of Christ is not something to be ashamed of but rather something to embrace and be glorified in.

Commentary written by Daniel Walter McRae

The Reward of the Faithful by D.L. Moody

D. L. Moody

I can speak from experience – I have been in the Lord’s service for twenty one years, and I want to testify that He is a good paymaster – that He pays promptly. Oh, I think I see faces before me light up at these words. You have been out in the harvest fields of the Lord, and you know this to be true. To go out and labor for Him is a thing to be proud of – to guide a poor, weary soul to the way of life, and turn his face towards the golden gates of Zion. The Lord’s wages are better than silver and gold, because he says that the loyal soul shall receive a crown of glory. If the Mayor of Chicago gave out a proclamation stating that he had work for the men, women, and children of the city, and he would give them a dollar a day, people would say this was very good of the Mayor. This money, however, would fade away in a short time. But here is a proclamation coming directly from the Throne Of Grace to every man, woman, and child in the wide world to gather into God’s vineyard, where they will find treasures that will never fade, and these treasures will be crowns of everlasting life; and the laborer will find treasures laid up in his Father’s house, and when, after serving faithfully here, he will be greeted by friends assembled there. Work for tens of thousands of men, women, and children! Think of it, and the reward. These little children, my friends, are apt to be over looked; but they must be led to Christ – Children have done a great deal in the vineyard. They have led parents to Jesus. It was a little girl that led Naaman to Christ. Christ can find useful work for these little ones. He can see little things, and we ought to pay great attention to them. As I was coming along the street today I thought that if I could only impress upon you all that we have come here as to a vine yard, to reap and to gather, we shall have a glorious harvest, and we want every class to assist us. The first class we want is the Ministers. There was one thing that pleased me this morning, and that was the eight thousand people who came to this building, and the large number of Ministers who seized me by the hand, with the tears trickling down their cheeks, and who gave me a “God bless you!” It gave me a light heart. There are some Ministers who get behind the posts, as if they were ashamed of being seen in our company and of our meetings. They come to criticize the sermon and pick it to pieces. No effort is required to do this. We don’t want the Ministers to criticize but to help us, and tell us when we are wrong. There was one Minister in this city who did me a great deal of good when I first started out. When I commenced to teach the Word of God I made very many blunders. I have learned that in acquiring anything a man must make many blunders. If a man is going to learn any kind of trade – carpenter’s, plumber’s, painter’s – he will make any amount of mistakes. Well, this Minister, an old man, used to take me aside and tell me my errors. So we want the Ministers to come to us and tell us of our blunders, and if we get them to do this with us, a spiritual fountain will break over every Church in the city. Many Ministers have said to me, “What do you want us to do?” The Lord must teach us what our work shall be. Let every child of God come up to these meetings, and say, “Teach me, O God, what I can do to help these men and women who are inquiring the way to be saved,” and at the close of the meetings draw near to them and point out the way. If men and women are to be converted in great meetings, it is by personal dealings with them. What we want is personal contact with them. If a number of people were sick, and a doctor prescribed one kind of medicine for them all, you would think this was wrong. This audience is spiritually diseased, and what we want is that Christian workers will go to them and find out their trouble. Five minutes private consultation will teach them. What we want is to get at the people. Every one has his own particular burden; every family has a different story to tell. Take the gospel of the Lord to them and show its application; tell them what to do with it, so as to answer their own cases; let the Minister come into the inquiry room.

An old man – a Minister in Glasgow, Scotland was one of the most active in our meetings. When he would be preaching elsewhere he would drive up in a cab with his Bible in his hand. It made no difference what part of Glasgow he was preaching in, he managed to attend nearly every one of our services. The old man would come in and tenderly speak to those assembled, and let one soul after another see the light. His congregation was comparatively small when we got there, but, by his painstaking efforts to Minister to those in search of the Word, when we left Glasgow his Church could not hold the people who sought admission, and I do not know of any man who helped us like Dr. Andrew Bonner. He was always ready to give the weak counsel and point the way out to the soul seeking Christ. If we have not Ministers enough, let those we have come forward, and their elders and Deacons will follow them.

The next class we want to help us to reach the people is the Sunday school teachers, and I value their experience next to that of the Ministers. In the cities where we have been, teachers have come to me and said, “Mr. Moody, pray for my Sunday school scholars,” and I just took them aside and pointed out their duties and showed how they themselves ought to be able to pray for their pupils. Next meeting very often they would come, and the prayer would go up from them, “God bless my scholars.”

In one city we went to, a Sunday school superintendent came to his Minister and said: “I am not fit to gather sinners to life eternal; I cannot be superintendent any longer.” The Minister asked, “What is the reason?” and the man said, “I am not right with God.” Then the Minister advised him that the best thing, instead of resigning, was to get right with God. So he prayed with that teacher that the truth would shine upon him; and God lit up his soul with the Word. Before I left that town, the Minister told me all doubt had fled from that superintendent’s mind, and he had gone earnestly to work and gathered, from the time of his conversion, over six hundred scholars into the school of his Church. “God can bless, of course, in spite of schools and teachers; but they are the channels of salvation. Bring your classes together, and pray to God to convert them. We have from three thousand to five thousand teachers here. Suppose they said: “I will try to bring my children to Christ,” what a reformation we should have! Don’t say that that boy is too small, or that girl is too puny or insignificant. Every one is valuable to the Lord. A teacher, whom I found at our services when she ought to have been attending to her class, upon my asking why she was at our meeting, said: “Well, I have a very small class – only five little boys.” “What,” said I, “you have come here and neglected these little ones! Why, in that little tow head may be the seeds of a reformation. There may be a Luther, a Wheaton, a Wesley, or a Bunyan among them, You may be neglecting a chance for them, the effects of which will follow them through life.” If you do not look to those things, teachers, some one will step into your vineyard and gather the riches you would have.

Look what that teacher did in Southern Illinois. She had taught a little girl to love the Savior, and the teacher said to her: “Can’t you get your father to come to the Sunday school?” This father was a swearing, drinking man, and the love of God was not in his heart. But under the tuition of that teacher, the little girl went to her father, and told him of Jesus’ love, and led him to that Sunday school. What was the result? I heard before leaving for Europe, that he had been instrumental in founding over seven hundred and eighty Sabbath schools in Southern Illinois. And what a privilege a teacher has – a privilege of leading souls to Christ. Let every Sabbath school teacher say: “By the help of God I will try to lead my scholars to Christ.”

It seems to me that we have more help in our revivals from young men, except from mothers, than from any other class. The young men are pushing, energetic workers. Old men are good for counsel, and they should help, by their good words, the young men in making Christianity aggressive. These billiard halls have been open long enough. There is many a gem in those places, that only needs the way pointed out to fill their souls with love of Him. Let the young men go plead with them, bring them to the Tabernacle, and don’t let them go out without presenting the claims of Christ, and show them His never dying love. Take them by the hand and say: “I want you to become a Christian.” What we want is a hand-to-hand conflict with the billiard saloons and drinking halls. Do not fear, but enter them and ask the young men to come. I know that some of you say, in a scornful way: “We will never be allowed to enter; the people who go there will cast us out.” This is a mistake. I know that I have gone to them and remonstrated, and have never been unkindly treated. And some of the best workers have been men who have been proprietors of these places, and men who have been constant frequenters. There are young men there breaking their mothers’ hearts, and losing themselves for all eternity. The Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ asks you to seek them out. If we cannot get them to come here, let the building be thrown aside, and let us go down and hunt them up, and tell them of Christ and Heaven. If we get someone to preach to, let us preach, even if it be to one person. Christ preached one of His most wonderful sermons to the woman at the well; and shall we not be willing to go to one, as He did, and tell that one of salvation? And let us preach to men, even if they are under the influence of liquor.

I may relate a little experience. In Philadelphia, at one of our meetings, a drunken man rose up. Till that time I had no faith that a drunken man could be converted. When any one approached he was generally taken out. This man got up and shouted, “I want to be prayed for.” The friends who were with him tried to draw him away, but he shouted only louder, and for three times he repeated his request. His call was attended to, and he was converted. God has power to convert a man even if he is drunk.

I have still another lesson. I met a man in New York who was an earnest worker, and I asked him to tell me his experiences. He said he had been a drunkard for over twenty years. His parents had forsaken him, and his wife had cast him off and married some one else. He went into a lawyer’s office in Poughkeepsie, mad with drink. This lawyer proved a good Samaritan, and reasoned with him and told him he could be saved. The man scouted the idea. He said: “I must be pretty low when my father and mother, my wife and kindred cast me off, and there is no hope for me here or hereafter.” But this good Samaritan showed him how it was possible to secure salvation; got him on his feet, got him on his beast, like the good Samaritan of old, and guided his face toward Zion. And this man said to me: “I have not drank a glass of liquor since.” He is now leader of a young men’s meeting in New York. I asked him to come up last Saturday night to Northfield, my native town, where there are a good many drunkards, thinking he might encourage them to seek salvation, he came, and brought a young man with him. They held a meeting, and it seemed as if the power of God rested upon that meeting when these two men went on telling what God had done for them – how He had destroyed the works of the devil in their hearts, and brought peace and unalloyed happiness to their souls. These grog shops here are the works of the devil – they are ruining men’s souls every hour. Let us fight against them, and let our prayers go up in our battle, “Lord, manifest Thy power in Chicago this coming month.” It may seem a very difficult thing for us, but it is a very easy thing for God to convert rum sellers.

A young man in New York got up and thrilled the meeting with his experience. “I want to tell you,” he said, “that nine months ago a Christian came to my house and, said he, wanted me to become a Christian. He talked to me kindly and encouragingly, pointing out the error of my ways, and I became converted. I had been a hard drinker, but since that time I have not touched a drop of liquor. If any one had asked who the most hopeless man in that town was they would have pointed to me.” Today this young man is the superintendent of a Sabbath school. Eleven years ago, when I went to Boston, I had a cousin who wanted a little of my experience. I gave him all the help I could, and he became a Christian. He did not know how near death was to him. He wrote to his brother and said: “I am very anxious to get your soul to Jesus.” The letter somehow went to another city, and lay from the 28th of February to the 28th of March – just one month. He saw it was in his brother’s handwriting, and tore it open and read the above words. It struck a chord in his heart, and was the means of converting him – And this was the Christian who led this drunken young man to Christ.

This young man had a neighbor who had drank for forty years, and he went to that neighbor and told him what God had done for him, and the result was another conversion.

I tell you these things to encourage You to believe that the drunkards and saloon keepers can be saved – There is work for you to do, and by and by the harvest shall be gathered, and what a scene will be on the shore when we hear the Master on the throne shout, “Well done! Well done!”

Let me say a word to you, mothers. We depend a good deal upon you. It seems to me that there is not a father and mother in all Chicago who should not be in sympathy with this work. You have daughters and sons, and if work is done now they will be able to steer clear of many temptations and will be able to lead better lives here. It seems to me selfishness if they sit down inactive and say, “There is no use in this. We are safe ourselves, what is the use of troubling?” If the mothers and fathers of the whole community would unite their prayers and send up appeals to God to manifest His power, in answer to them there would be mighty work.

I remember in Philadelphia we wanted to see certain results, and we called a meeting of mothers. There were from five to eight thousand mothers present, and each of them had a particular burden upon her heart. There was a mother who had a wayward daughter, another a reckless son, another a bad husband. We spoke to them confidently, and we bared our hearts to one another. They prayed for aid from the Lord, and that Grace might be shown to these sons and daughters and husbands, and the result was that our inquiry rooms were soon filled with anxious and earnest inquirers.

Let me tell you about a mother in Philadelphia. She had two wayward sons. They were wild, dissipated youths. They were to meet on a certain night and join in dissipation. The rendezvous was at the corner of Market and Thirteenth streets, where our meetings were held. One of the young men entered the large meeting, and when it was over went to the young men’s meeting near at hand, and was quickened, and there prayed that the Lord might save him. His mother had gone to the meeting that night, and, arriving too late, found the door closed. When that young man went home he found his mother praying for him, and the two mingled their prayers together. While they were praying together the other brother came from the other meeting, and brought tidings of being converted, and at the next meeting the three got up and told their experience, and I never heard an audience so thrilled before or since.

Another incident. A wayward boy in London, whose mother was very anxious for his salvation, said to her, “I am not going to be bothered with your prayers any longer. I will go to America and be rid of them.” “But, my boy,” she said, “God is on the sea, and in America, and He hears my prayers for you.” Well, he came to this country, and as they led into the port of New York some of the sailors told him that Moody and Sankey were holding meeting in the Hippodrome. The moment he landed he started for our place Of meeting, and there he found Christ. He became a most earnest worker, and he wrote to his mother and told her that her prayers had been answered; that he had been saved, and that he had found his mother’s God.

Mothers and fathers, lift up your hearts in prayer, that there may be hundreds of thousands saved in this city.

When I was in London, there was one lady dressed in black up in the gallery. All the rest were Ministers. I wondered who that lady could be. At the close of the meeting I stepped up to her, and she asked me if I did not remember her. I did not, but she told me who she was, and her story came to my mind.

When we were preaching in Dundee, Scotland, a mother came up with her two sons, 16 and 17 years old. She said to me, “Will you talk to my boys?” I asked her if she would talk to the inquirers, and told her there were more inquirers than workers. She said she was not a good enough Christian – was not prepared enough. I told her I could not talk to her then. Next night she came to me and asked me again, and the following night she repeated her request. Five hundred miles she journeyed to get God’s blessing for her boys. Would to God we had more mothers like her. She came to London, and the first night I was there, I saw her in the Agricultural Hall. She was accompanied by only one of her boys – the other had died. Towards the close of the meetings I received this letter from her:

“Dear Mr. Moody: For months I have never considered the day’s work ended unless you and your work had been specially prayed for. Now it appears before us more and more. What in our little measure we have found has no doubt been the happy experience of many others in London, my husband and I have sought as our greatest privilege to take unconverted friends one by one to the Agricultural Hall, and I thank God that, with a single exception, those brought under the preaching from your lips have accepted Christ as their Savior, and are rejoicing in His love.”

That lady was a lady of wealth and position. She lived a little way out of London; gave up her beautiful home and took lodgings near the Agricultural Hall, so as to be useful in the inquiry room. When we went down to the Opera House she was there; when we went down to the east end there she was again, and when I left London she had the names of 15O who had accepted Christ from her. Some said that our work in London was a failure. Ask her if the work was a failure, and she will tell you. If we had a thousand such mothers in Chicago we would lift it. Go and bring your friends, here to the meetings.

Think of the privilege, my friends of saving a soul, if we are going to work for good we must be up and about it. Men say, “I have not the time.” Take it. Ten minutes every day for Christ will give you good wages. There is many a man who is working for you – Take them by the hand. Some of you with silver locks, I think I hear you saying, I wish I was young, how I would rush into the battle.” Well, if you cannot be a fighter, you can pray and lead on the others. There are two kinds of old people in the world. One grows chilled and sour, and there are others who light up every meeting with their genial presence, and cheer on the workers. Draw near, old age, and cheer on the others, and take them by the hand and encourage them.

There was a building on fire. The flames leaped around the stair case, and from a three story window a little child was seen who cried for help. The only way to reach it was by a ladder. One was obtained and a fireman ascended, but when he had almost reached the child, the flames broke from the window and leaped around him. He faltered and seemed afraid to go further. Suddenly some one in the crowd shouted, and then a cheer went up. The man was nerved with new energy, and rescued the child. Just so our young men. Whenever you see them wavering, cheer them on. If you cannot work yourself, give them cheers to nerve them on in their glorious work. May the blessing of God fail upon us this afternoon, and let every man and woman be up and doing.

Life and Walk of Faith by Charles Spurgeon

Life and Walk of Faith

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.—Colossians 2:6.

OUR NATURE IS FOND of change. Although man was made in the image of God at first, it is plain enough that any trace of immutability which he may once have possessed has long ago departed. Man, unrenewed, could he possess the joys of heaven, would in time grow weary of them, and crave for change. When the children of Israel in the wilderness were fed on angels’ food, they murmured for variety, and groaned out, “Our soul loatheth this light bread.” It is little wonder, then, that we need cautions against shifting the ground of our hope and the object of our faith. Another evil principle will co-work with this love of change in our hearts, and produce much mischief—our natural tendency to build upon our own works. For a time that pernicious habit is cured by conviction of sin. The law, with its sharp axe, cuts down the lofty cedar of fleshly confidence, and withers all its verdure; but, since the root still remains, at the very scent of water it sprouts again, and there is good need to set the axe going with all its former edge and weight. When we think legality quite dead, it revives, and, linking hands with our love of change, it tempts us to forsake our simple standing upon Christ, the Rock of Ages, and urges us to advance to a something which it decorates before our eyes with fancied colors, and makes out to our feeble understandings to be better or more honorable to ourselves. Though this will certainly be again beaten down in a Christian, for he will meet with trouble after trouble when once he goeth astray from his first path, yet again the old secret desire to be something, to do something, to have some little honor by performing the works of the law, will come in, and we shall have need to hear the voice of wisdom in our hearts saying to us, “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him;” persevere in the same way in which ye have begun, and, as at the first Christ Jesus was the source of your life, the principle of your action, and the joy of your spirit, so let him be the same even till life’s end, the same when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and enter into the joy and the rest which remain for the people of God.
In trying to teach this very useful, though simple lesson, I shall, in the plainest possible language, first of all talk a little of the text by way of exposition; then, secondly, by way of advocacy; and then, thirdly, by way of application.

I. Oh that the gracious Spirit, who alone can lead us into all truth, would aid me awhile I endeavor to open up this verse BY WAY OF EXPOSITION.
In expounding the text, we readily break it up into two parts: here is the life of faith—receiving Christ Jesus the Lord; here is, secondly, the walk of faith—so walk ye in him.

1. The Holy Spirit here reveals to us the life of faith—the way by which you and I are saved, if saved at all. Remark, carefully, that it is represented as receiving. Now the word receiving implies the very opposite of anything like merit. Merit is purchasing; merit might be called making by labor, or winning by valor; but receiving is just the accepting of a thing as a gift. The eternal life which God gives his people is in no sense whatever the fruit of their exertions; it is the gift of God. As the earth drinks in the rain, as the sea receives the streams, as night accepts light from the stars, so we, giving nothing, partake freely of the grace of God. The saints are not by nature wells, or streams, they are but cisterns into which the living water flows. They are but as the empty vessel; sovereign mercy puts them under the conduit-pipe, and they receive grace upon grace till they are filled to the brim. He that talks about winning salvation by works; he that thinks he can earn it by prayers, by tears, by penance, by mortification of the flesh, or by zealous obedience to the law, makes a mistake; for the very first principle of the divine life is not giving out, but receiving. It is that which comes from Christ into me which is my salvation; not that which springs out of my own heart, but that which comes from the divine Redeemer and changes and renews my nature. It is not what I give out, but what I receive, which must be life to me.

The idea of receiving, again, seems to imply in it a sense of realization, making the matter a reality. One cannot very well receive a shadow; we receive that which is substantial. Gold, silver, precious stones—such things we can receive; estates, riches, bread, water, food, raiment—all these are things which are substances to us, and therefore it becomes possible for us to receive them. We do not receive a dream; we do not receive, again I say, a shadow; we do not speak of receiving a spectre; we do not receive a phantom. There is something real in a thing that is received. Well now so is it also in the life of faith; we realize Christ. While we are without faith, Christ is a name to us, a person that may have lived a long while ago, so long that his life is only a history to us now! By an act of faith Christ becomes a real person in the consciousness of our heart, as real to us as our own flesh, and blood, and bones, and we speak of him and think of him as we would of our brother, our father, our friend. Our faith gives a substance to the history and idea of Christ, puts real solidity into the spirit and name of Christ, and that which to the worldly man is but a phantom, a thing to hear about, and talk about, becomes to us a thing to taste, and handle, to lay hold upon, and to receive as real and true. I know, ye that are unconverted, that ye think all these things an idle tale; but you that are saved, you who have received Christ, you know that there is substance here, and shadow everywhere else. This has become to you the one grand reality, that God is in Christ reconciling you unto himself.

But receiving means also a third thing, that is getting a grip of it, grasping it. The thing which I receive becomes my own. I may believe it to be real, but that is not receiving it. I may believe, also, that if I ever do get it, it must be given to me, and that I cannot earn it for myself, but still that is not receiving it. Receiving is the bona fide taking into my hand and appropriating to myself as my own property that which is given to me. Now this is what the soul doth when it believes on Christ. Christ becomes my Christ; his blood cleanses my sin, and it is cleansed; his righteousness covers me, and I am clothed with it; his Spirit fills me, and I am made to live by it. He becomes to me as much mine as anything that I can call my own; nay, what I call my own here on earth is not mine; it is only lent to me, and will be taken from me; but Christ is so mine, that neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, shall ever be able to rob me of him. Oh! I hope, dear friends, you have that blessed appropriating faith which says, “Yes, he is not another man’s Christ, he is my Christ,” I hope you can look into his face to-day and say, “My beloved, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I hope you do not talk of these things as I might talk of my lord So-and-So’s park, and admire its beauties, while I myself have no right to one acre of the many thousands within the park-fence; but I trust, on the other hand, you can say—”The blessings and promises of the Lord my God are all my own; whatever I read of in the covenant of grace that is good, that is comely, that is desirable, I have heard a voice say in my ears, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look to the north, and the south, to the east, and the west—all this have I given thee to be thy possession for ever and ever by a covenant of salt.” Now put these three things together, and I think you have the idea of receiving Christ. To receive him is to have him as the result of God’s free gift; to realize him; and then to appropriate him to yourselves.

The word “receive” is used in some ten or a dozen senses in holy Scripture; five of them will suffice my purpose just now. To receive is often used for taking. We read of receiving a thousand shekels of silver, and of receiving money, garments, olive-yards, sheep, and oxen. Perhaps in this sense we understand the words of the Master—”No man can receive anything unless it be given him from above,” and that other sentence—”To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” We take Christ into us-to return to my old simile-as the empty vessel takes in water from the stream; so we receive Christ. The love, life, merit, nature, and grace of Jesus freely flow into us, as the oil into the widow’s vessels. But the word is also used in Scripture to signify holding that which we take in; indeed, a vessel without a bottom could hardly be said to receive water. I do not suppose any one would talk of a sieve receiving water except in a mock sense. But the life of faith consists in holding within us that which Christ hath put into us, so that Jesus Christ is formed in us the hope of glory. By faith it comes in; by faith it is kept in; faith gives me what I have; keeps what I have; faith makes it mine; faith keeps it mine; faith gets hold of it with one hand, and then clasps it with both hands with a grasp that neither death nor life can loose. Then, receiving sometimes means in Scripture simply believing. “He came unto his own and his own received him not.” We read of receiving false prophets, that is, believing them. Now, to receive Christ is to believe him. He says, “I can save you.”—I receive that. He says, “I will save you.”—I receive that. He says, “Trust me and I will make you like myself.”—I receive that. Whatever Jesus says, I believe him, and receive him as true. I make his word so true to myself that I act upon it as being true, and regard it not as a word that may possibly be true, but which must be true, even if heaven and earth should pass away. This is receiving Christ—believing what he has said.

Receiving, also, often signifies in Scripture entertaining. Thus the barbarous people at Melita received Paul and his companions kindly, and kindled a fire. Ah! after we have once found all in Christ to be our own, and have received him into ourselves by faith, then we entreat the Lord to enter our hearts and sup with us. We give him the best seat at the table of our souls; we would feast him on the richest dainties of our choicest love. We ask him to abide with us from morn till eve; we would commune with him every day, and every hour of the day. We entertain him; we have a reception-chamber in our hearts, and we receive Christ. And then, once again, receiving in Scripture often signifies to enjoy. We hear of receiving a crown of life which fadeth not away; that is, enjoying it, enjoying heaven, and being satisfied with all its bliss. Now, dear friends, when we receive Christ, there is intended in this an enjoying of it. I am only now talking the simplicities of our faith, but I do want to make them very personal to you. Are you thus enjoying Christ? if you had a crown you would wear it; you have a Christ—feed on him. If you were hungry and there were bread on the table, you would eat. Oh! eat and drink, beloved, of your Lord Jesus Christ. If you have a friend, you enjoy his company: you have a friend in Christ; Oh! enjoy his conversation. Do not leave him, like a bottle of cordial for the fainting, sealed up from us; let him not be as some choice dainty all untasted, while you are hungry. Oh! receive Christ, for this is the very heaven and rest of the soul. His flesh is meat indeed, his blood is drink indeed. Never did angels taste such divine fare. Come hither saints and satiate yourselves in him. To take him into one’s self, to hold him there, to believe every word he says, to entertain him in our hearts, and to enjoy the luscious sweetness which he must confer upon all those who have eaten his flesh, and have been made to drink of his blood—this it is to receive Christ.

But we have not brought out the real meaning of this life of faith yet till we dwell upon another word. As ye have received. Received what? Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but beloved, beloved, here is a thought here—oh that you may get hold of it! We have not only received these things, but we have received CHRIST. “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” Do you catch it? It is true that He gave us life from the dead? He gave us pardon of sin; He gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but you see we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured out into us, and we have received him, and appropriated him. Mark, I say, not merely the blessings of the covenant, but himself; not merely the purchase of his blood, but he himself from whose veins the blood hath flowed has become ours; and every soul that hath eternal life is this day a possessor of Christ Jesus the Lord. Now we will put this, also, personally to you. Have I received Christ, that is the anointed. My soul, hast thou seen Christ as the anointed of the Father in the divine decree to execute his purposes? Hast thou seen him coming forth in the fullness of time wearing the robes of his priesthood, the anointed of the Father? Hast thou seen him standing at the altar offering himself as a victim, an anointed priest, anointed with the sacred oil by which God has made him a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec? My soul, hast thou seen Jesus going within the veil and speaking to thy Father and to his Father as one whom the Father has accepted, of whom we can speak, in the language of David, as our shield and God’s anointed? Oh! it is a delight indeed to receive Christ not as an unsent prophet, not as a man who came of his own authority, not as a teacher who spoke his own word, but as one who is Christos, tho anointed, the anointed of God, ordained of the Most High, and therefore most certainly acceptable, as it is written, “I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people. It pleased the Father to bruise him, he hath put him to grief.” Delightful is the contemplation of Christ under that aspect! Soul, dost thou thus receive the Messias of God? But the text says,” Christ Jesus.” Now Jesus means a Savior. Christ is his relation to God, Jesus his relation to me. Have I received Christ in his relationship to me as a Savior? My soul, has Christ saved thee? Come, no “ifs” and “ans” about it. Hast thou received him as thy Savior? Couldest thou say in that happy day when thy faith closed with him, “Yes, Jesus, thou hast saved me!” Oh! there are some professors of religion who do not seem to have received Christ as Jesus. They look upon him as one who may help them to save themselves, who can do a great deal for them, or may begin the work but not complete it. Oh! beloved, we must get a hold of him as one that has saved us, that has finished the work. What know ye not that ye are this day whiter than the driven snow because his blood has washed you? Ye are this day more acceptable to God than unfallen angels ever were, for ye are clothed in the perfect righteousness of a divine one. Christ has wrapped you about with his own righteousness; you are saved; you have received him as God’s anointed, see that you receive him as Jesus your Savior.

Then, again, it is clear that saving faith consisteth also in receiving him as he is in himself, as the divine Son. “Ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” Those who say they cannot believe in his Deity have not received him. Others theoretically admit him to be divine, but he is never a subject of confidence as such; they have not received him. But I trust I speak to many hundreds this morning who willingly accept his Godhead, and say, “I entertain no doubt about his Deity, and, moreover, on that I risk my soul; I do take him into my heart as being God over all, blessed for ever, Amen; I kiss his feet while I see his humanity; but I believe that, since those feet could tread the waters, he is divine. I look up to his hands, and as I see them pierced I know, that he is human; but as I know that those hands multiplied the loaves and fishes till they fed five thousand, I know that he is divine. I look upon his corpse in the tomb, and I see that he is man; I see him in the resurrection, and I know that he is God. I see him on the cross, suffering, and I know that he is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; but I hear a voice which saith, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him,’ ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;’ and I bow before him and say, ‘Oh Lord, thou Son of God and son of Mary, I receive thee as Christ Jesus the Lord.’”

Now this is all very plain talking you will say; and I remind you that souls are saved by very plain truths, and the dealings of men’s souls with Christ are not carried on in learned or metaphysical terms. We do believe, and so take Christ Jesus the Lord into us, and by that act of faith, without any doing of our own, we are completely saved.

I shall only make this further remark here, that the apostle speaks of this as a matter of certainty, and goes on to argue from it. Now we do not argue from a supposition. I must have you clear, dearly beloved in the Lord, that this is a matter of certainty to you. We can hardly get to the next point unless you can say, “I have received Jesus.” The verse runs, “As or since ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk ye in him.” We must not alter it into, “Since I hope I have,” “Since I trust I have.” Ye either have or have not; if ye have not, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and cry to him for his great gift; but if you have, O, dear friends, do not let it be a question with you, but say “Yes, yes, yes, I can say, once for all, I have received him; poor, weak, and worthless though I am, I do put my humble seal to the fact that God is true, and I trust in him who is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him.” This is the life of faith.

2. Now, in expounding the text, our second point was the walk of faith. “Since ye have received him, walk in him.” Walk implies, first of all, action. Do not let your reception of Christ be a mere thing of thought to you, a subject only for your chamber and your closet, but act upon it all. If you have really received Christ, and are saved, act as if you were saved, with joy, with meekness, with confidence, with faith, with boldness. Walk in him; do not sit down in indolence, but rise and act in him. Walk in him; carry out into practical effect that which you believe. See a man who has received an immense fortune, his purse is bursting, and his caskets are heavy; what does he do? Why, he behaves like a rich man; he sees a luxury which pleases him, and he buys it; there is an estate he desires, and he purchases it; he acts like a rich man. Beloved brethren, you have received Christ—act upon it. Do not play the beggar now that boundless wealth is conferred upon you. Walking, again, implies perseverance not only being in Christ to-day, that would be standing in him and falling from him; but being in him to-morrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next; walking in him all your walk of life. I remember Matthew Henry, speaking about Enoch walking with God, says he did not only take a turn or two up and down with God, and then leave him, but he walked with God four hundred years. This implies perseverance. You have received Christ—persevere in receiving him; you have come to trust him—keep on trusting him; you hang about his neck as a poor, helpless sinner—remain hanging there; in other words abide in him. Walking implies habit. When we speak of a man’s walk and conversation, we mean his habits, the constant tenor of his life. Now, dear friends, if you and I sometimes enjoy Christ, and then forget him; sometimes say he is ours, and anon loose our hold, that is not a habit; we do not walk in him. But if you have received him, let it be your habit to live upon him, keep to him; cling to him, never let him go, but live and have your being in Him. This walking implies a continuance. There is no notice given in the text of the suspension of this walking, but there must be a continual abiding in Christ. How many Christians there are who think that in the morning and evening they ought to come into the company of Christ, and then they may be in the world all the day. Ah! but we ought always to be in Christ, that is to say, all the day long, every minute of the day; though worldly things may take up some of my thoughts, yet my soul is to be in a constant state of being in Christ, so that if I am caught at any moment, I am in him; at any hour if any one should say to me, “Now, are you saved?” I may be able still to say, “Yes.” And if they ask me for an evidence of it, I may, without saying so, prove it to them by the fact that I am acting like a man who is in Christ, who has Christ in him, has had his nature changed by receiving Christ’s nature, and has Christ to be his one end and aim. I suppose, also, that walking signifies progress. So walk ye in him; proceed from grace to grace, run forward until you reach the uttermost limit of knowledge that man can have concerning our Beloved. “As ye have received him walk in him.”

But now I want you to notice just this; it says, “Walk ye in him.” Oh! I cannot attempt to enter into the mystery of this text—”Walk in him!” You know if a man has to cross a river, he fords it quickly and is out of it again at once, but you are to suppose a person walking in a certain element always, in Christ. Just as we walk in the air, so am I to walk in Christ; not sometimes, now and then coming to him and going away from him, but walking in him as my element. Can you comprehend that? Not a soul here can make anything out of that but the most silly jargon, except the man who having received the inner spiritual life, understandeth what it is to have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Dear friends, in trying to open up that point just for a moment, let us notice what this walking in Christ must mean. As Christ was at first when we received him the only ground of our faith; so as long as we live, we are to stand to the same point. Did you not sing the other day when you first came to him—

“I’m a poor sinner and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all?”

Well, that is how you are to continue to the end. We commence our faith with—

“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling.”

When thou art hoary with honors, when thou art covered with fame, when thou hast served thy Master well, still come in just the same way with—

“A guilty weak and helpless worm,
On Christ’s kind arms I fall,
He is my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all.”

Let not your experience, your sanctification, your graces, your attainments, come in between you and Christ, but just as you took him to be the only pillar of your hope at first, so let him be even to the last. You received Christ, again, as the substance of your faith. The infidel laughed at you, and said you had nothing to trust to; but your faith made Christ real to you. Well, now, just as the first day when you came to Jesus you no more doubted the reality of Christ than you did your own existence, so walk ye in him. Well can I recollect that first moment when these eyes looked to Christ! Ah! there was never anything so true to me as those bleeding hands, and that thorn-crowned head. I wish it were always so, and indeed it ought to be. As ye have received Christ really, so keep on realising and finding substance in him. And that day, beloved, Christ became to us the joy of our souls. Home, friends, health, wealth, comforts—all lost their lustre that day when He appeared, just as stars are hidden by the light of the sun. He was the only Lord and giver of life’s best bliss, the one well of living water springing up unto everlasting life. I know that the first day it mattered not to me whether the day itself was gloomy or bright. I had found Christ; that was enough for me. He was my Savior; he was my all. I do think that that day I could have stood upon the faggots of Smithfield to burn for him readily enough. Well now, just as you received him at first as your only joy, so receive him still, walking in him, making him the source, the center, ay, and the circumference too of all your souls’ range of delight, having your all in him. So, beloved, that day when we received him, we received him as the object of our love. Oh! how we loved Christ then! Had we met him that day, we would have broken the alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it upon his head; we would have washed his feet without tears, and wiped them with the hairs of our head. Ah! Jesus, when I first received thee, I thought I should have behaved far better than I have, I thought I would spend and be spent for thee, and should never dishonor thee or turn aside from my faith, and devotedness, and zeal; but ah! brethren, we have not come up to the standard of our text—walking in him as we have received him. He has not been by us so well beloved as we dreamed he would have been.

I take it then to be the meaning of our text, as Christ Jesus the Lord was at the first All-in-All to you, so let him be while life shall last.

II. I shall be very brief upon THE ADVOCACY OF THIS PRINCIPLE, for surely you need no urgent persuasion to cleave unto such a Lord as yours.

In advocating this principle, I would say, first of all, suppose, my brethren, you and I having been saved by Christ, should now begin to walk in some one else, what then? Why, what dishonor to our Lord. Here is a man who came to Christ and says he found salvation in him, but after relying upon the Lord some half-a-dozen years, he came to find it was not a proper principle, and so now he has begun to walk by feelings, to walk by sight, to walk by philosophy, to walk by carnal wisdom. If such a case could be found, what discredit would it bring upon our Holy Leader and Captain. But I am certain no such instance will be found in you, if you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Have you not up till now found your Lord to be a compassionate and generous friend to you, and has not simple faith in him given you all the peace your spirit could desire? I pray you, then, unless you would stain his glory in the dust, as you have received Christ, so walk in him.

Besides, what reason have you to make a change? Has there been any argument in the past? Has not Christ proved himself all-sufficient! He appeals to you to-day—”Have I been a wilderness unto you?” When your soul has simply trusted Christ, have you ever been confounded? When you have dared to come as a guilty sinner and believed in him, have you ever been ashamed? Very well, then, let the past urge you to walk in him. And as for the present, can that compel you to leave Christ? Oh! when we are hard beset with this world or with the severer trials within the Church, we find it such a sweet thing to come back; and pillow our head upon the bosom of our Savior. This is the joy we have to-day, that we are in trial, that we are saved in him, and if we find this to-day to be enough, wherefore should we think of changing! I will not forswear the sunlight till I find a better, nor leave my Lord until a brighter Lover shall appear; and, since this can never be, I will hold him with a grasp immortal, and bind his name as a seal upon my arm. As for the future, can you suggest anything which can arise that shall render it necessary for you to tack about, or strike sail, or go with another captain in another ship? I think not. Suppose life to be long—He changes not. Suppose you die; is it not written that “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” You are poor; what better than to have Christ who can make you rich in faith? Suppose you are sick; what more do you want than Christ to make your bed in your sickness? Suppose you should be maltreated, and mocked at, and slandered for his sake—what better do you want then to have him as a friend who sticketh closer than a brother? In life, in death, in judgment, you cannot conceive anything that can arise in which you would require more than Christ bestows.

But, dear friends, it may be that you are tempted by something else to change your course for a time. Now what is it? Is it the wisdom of this world, the cunning devices and discoveries of man? Is it that which our apostle mentions as philosophy? The wise men of the world have persuaded you to begin questioning; they have urged you to put the mysteries of God to the test of common-sense, reason, and so forth, as they call it, and not lean on the inspiration of God’s Word. Ah! well, beloved, it is wisdom, I suppose, which philosophy offers you. Well, but have you not that in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? You received Christ at first, I thought, as being made of God unto you wisdom, and sanctification, and righteousness, and so on; well, will you cast him off when you have already more than all the wisdom which this philosophy offers?

Is it ceremonies that tempt you? Has the priest told you that you ought to attend to these, and then you would have another ground of confidence? Well, but you have that in Christ. If there is anything in the circumcision of the Jews, you have that, for you are circumcised in him. If there be anything, in baptism, as some think that to be a saving ordinance, you have been buried with hmt in baptism; you have that. Do you want life? your life is hid with him. Do you want death? You are dead with Christ, and buried with him. Do you want resurrection? he hath raised you up with him. Do you want heaven? he hath make you sit together in heavenly places in him. Getting Christ, you have all that everything else can offer you; therefore be not tempted from this hope of your calling, but as ye have received Christ, so walk in him.

And then, further, do you not know this? that your Jesus is the Lord from heaven? What can your heart desire beyond God? God is infinite; you cannot want more than the infinite. “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Having Christ you have God, and having God you have everything. Well might the apostle add to that sentence, “And ye are complete in him!” Well, then, if you are complete in Christ, why should you be beguiled by the bewitcheries of this world to want something besides Christ? If resting upon him, God is absolutely yours, and you are, therefore, full to the brim with all that your largest capacity can desire, oh! wherefore should you thus be led astray, like foolish children, to seek after another confidence and another trust? Oh! come back, thou wanderer; come thou back to this solid foundation, and sing once again with us—

“On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”

III. And now, last of all, a few words BY WAY OF APPLICATION.

“So walk ye in him.” One of the first applications shall be made with regard to some who complain of a want of communion, or rather, of those of whom we ought to complain, since they injure us all by their distance from Christ. There are some of you who never have much communion with Christ. You are members of the Church, and very decent people, I dare say, in your way; but you do not have communion with Christ. Ask some professors—”Do you ever have communion with Christ?” They would be obliged to say—”Well, I do not know that my life is inconsistent; I do not think anybody could blame me for any wrong act towards my fellow-man; but if you come to that, whether I have ever had communion with Christ, I am compelled to say that I have had it now and then, but it is very seldom, it is like the angels’ visits, few and far between.” Now, brethren, you have received Christ, have you not? Then the application of the principle is, as you have received him, so walk in him. If it were worth while for you to come to him at first, then it is worth while for you always to keep to him. If it were really a safe thing for you to come to him and say, “Jesus, thou art the way,” then it is a safe thing for thee to do now; and if that was the foundation of blessedness to thee, to come simply to Christ, then it will be the fountain of blessedness to thee to do the same now. Come, then, to him now. If thou wert foolish in trusting him at the first, then thou art wise in leaving off doing so now. If thou wert wise, however, in approaching to Christ years gone by, thou art foolish in not standing by Christ now. Come, then, let the remembrance of thy marriage unto the Lord Jesus rebuke thee; and if thou hast lost thy fellowship with Jesus, come again to his dear body wounded for thy sake, and say, “Lord Jesus, help me from this time forth as I have received thee, day by day to walk in thee.”

There are many of you who complain of a want of comfort. You are not so comfortable as you would like to be, and why? Why you have sinned. Yes, yes, but how did you receive Christ. As a saint? “No, no,” say you, “I came to Christ as a sinner.” Come to him as a sinner now, then. “Oh! but I feel so guilty.” Just so, but what was your hope at first? Why, that guilty though you were, he had made an atonement, and you trusted in him. Well, you are guilty still; do the same as you did at first; walk in him, and I cannot imagine a person without comfort who continually makes this the strain of his life, to rest on Christ as a poor sinner, just as he did at first. Why, Lord, thou knowest the devil often says to me, “Thou art no saint.” Well then if I be not a saint, yet I am a sinner, and it is written “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Then

“Just as I am, and waiting not,
To rid my soul of one foul spot,
To him whose blood can cleanse each blot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

Why, you cannot help having comfort if you walk with your Surety and Substitute as you did at the first, resting on Him, and not in feelings, nor experience, nor graces, nor anything of your own; living and resting alone on him who is made of God unto you all that your soul requires.
There is yet another thing. There are many Christians whose lives really are not consistent. I cannot understand this if they are walking in Christ; in fact, if a man could completely walk in Christ he would walk in perfect holiness. We hear an instance, perhaps, of a little shopkeeper who puffs and exaggerates as other shopkeepers do—he does not exactly tell a lie, but something very near it. Now I want to know whether that man was walking in Christ when he did that. If he had said to himself, “Now I am in Christ,” do you think he would have done it? We hear of another who is constantly impatient, always troubled, fretting, mournful. I want to know whether that man is really walking in Christ as he walked at first, when he is doubting the goodness, the providence, the tenderness of God. Surely he is not. I have heard of hard-hearted professors who take a Christian brother by the throat with, “Pay me what thou owest.” Do you think they are walking in Christ when they do that? We hear of others, when their brothers have need, shut up the bowels of their compassion; are mean and stingy; are they walking in Christ when they do that? Why, if a man walks in Christ, then he so acteth as Christ would act; for Christ being in him, his hope, his love, his joy, his life, he is the reflex of the image of Christ; he is the glass into which Christ looks; and then the image of Christ is reflected, and men sav of that man, “He is like his Master; he lives in Christ.” Oh! I know, dear brethren, if we lived now as we did the first day we came to Christ, we should live very differently from what we do. How we felt towards him that day! We would have given all we had for him! How we felt towards sinners that day! Lad that I was, I wanted to preach, and

“Tell to sinners round,
What a dear Savior I had found.”

How we felt towards God that day! When we were on our knees what pleading there was with him, what a nearness of access to him in prayer! Oh! how different; how different with some now! This world has with rude hand brushed the bloom from the young fruit. Is it true that flowers of grace, like the flowers of nature, die in the autumn of our piety? As we all get older, ought we to be more worldly? Should it be that our early love, which was the love of our espousals, dies away? Forgive, O Lord, this evil, and turn us anew unto thee.

“Return, O holy Dove! return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
We hate the sins that made thee mourn,
And drove thee from our breast.
The dearest idol we have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help us to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
So shall our walk be close with God,
Calm and serene our frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads us to the Lamb.”

“As ye have received him walk in him,” and if ye have not received him, oh! poor sinner, remember he is free and full, full to give thee all thou needest, and free to give it even to thee. Let the verse we sung be an invitation to thee:

“This fountain, though rich, from charge is quite clear;
The poorer the wretch, the welcomer here:
Come, needy and guilty; come, loathsome and bare;
Though leprous and filthy, come just as you are.”

Trust in God’s anointed—that is receive him—and then, having trusted him, continue still to trust him. May his Spirit enable you to do it, and to his name shall be glory for ever and ever.

To the Afflicted by D. L. Moody

D. L. Moody

If I were to ask this audience what Christ came into this world for, every one of you would say to save sinners, and then you would stop. A great many think that is all Christ came to do – to save sinners. Now, we are told that He came, to be sure, to “seek and save that which was lost”; but then He came to do more. He came to heal the broken hearted. In that eighteenth verse of the fourth chapter of Luke, which I read to you last night, He said that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, and that He was anointed to preach the Gospel to the poor, and in the next sentence He tells us, He is sent to heal the broken hearted. In another place we are told He came into the world to declare who the Father was, and reveal Him to the sons of men.

Tonight I want to take up this one thought – that Christ was sent into the world to heal the broken hearted. When the Prince of Wales came to this country a few years ago, the whole country was excited as to his purpose. What was his object in coming here? Had he come to look into our republican form of government, or our institutions, or was it simply to see and be seen? He came and he went without telling us what he came for. When the Prince of Peace came into this dark world, He did not come in any private way. He tells us that He came, not to see and be seen, but to “seek and save that which was lost” and also “to heal the broken hearted.” And in the face of this announcement, it is a mystery to me why those who have broken hearts will rather carry them year in and year out, than just bring them to this Great Physician. How many men in Chicago are just going down to their graves with a broken heart? They have carried their hearts weighted with trouble for years and years, and yet when they open the Scriptures they can see the passage telling us that He came here for the purpose of healing the broken hearted. He left Heaven and all its glory to come to the world – sent by the Father, He tells us, for the purpose of healing the broken hearted.

You will find, my friends, that there is no class of people exempt from broken hearts. The rich and the poor suffer alike. There was a time when I used to visit the poor, that I thought all the broken hearts were to be found among them, but within the last few years I have found there are as many broken hearts among the learned as the unlearned, the cultured as the uncultured, the rich as the poor. If you could but go up one of our avenues and down another, and reach the hearts of the people, and get them to turn out their whole story, you would be astonished at the wonderful history of every family.

I remember a few years ago I had been out of the city for some weeks. When I returned I started out to make some calls. The first place I went to I found a mother, her eyes red with weeping. I tried to find out what was troubling her, and she reluctantly opened her heart and told me all. She said, “Last night my only boy came home about midnight drunk. I didn’t know that he was addicted to drunkenness, but this morning I found out that he has been drinking for weeks, and,” she continued, “I would rather have seen him laid in the grave than have him brought home in the condition I saw him in last night.” I tried to comfort her as best I could when she told me her sad story. When I went away from that house I didn’t want to go into any other house where there was family trouble. The very next house I went to, however, where some of the children who attended my Sunday school resided, I found that death had been there and laid his hand on one of them. The mother spoke to me of her afflictions, and brought to me the playthings and the little shoes of the child, and the tears trickled down that mother’s checks as she related to me her sorrow.

I got out as soon as possible, and hoped I should see no more family trouble that day.

The next visit I made was to a home where I found a wife with a bitter story. Her husband had been neglecting her for a long time, “and now,” she said, “he has left me, and I don’t know where he has gone. Winter is coming on, and I don’t know what is going to become of my family,” I tried to comfort her, and prayed with her, and endeavored to get her to lay all her sorrows on Christ. The next home I entered I found a woman crushed and broken hearted. She told me her boy had forsaken her, and she had no idea where he had gone. That afternoon I made five calls, and in every home I found a broken heart. Every one had a sad tale to tell, and if you visited any home in Chicago you would find the truth of the saying, that “there is a skeleton in every house.”

I suppose while I am talking, you are thinking of the great sorrow in your own bosom. I do not know anything about you, but if I came round to every one of you, and you were to tell me the truth, I would hear a tale of sorrow. The very last man I spoke to last night was a young mercantile man, who told me his load of sorrow had been so great, that many times during the last few weeks he had gone down to the lake and had been tempted to plunge in and end his existence. His burden seemed too much for him. Think of the broken hearts in Chicago tonight! They could be numbered by hundreds – yea, by thousands. All over this city are broken hearts. If all the sorrow represented in this great city was written in a book, this building couldn’t hold that book, and you couldn’t read it in a long life time.

This earth is not a stranger to tears, neither is the present the only time when they could be found in abundance. From Adam’s days to ours tears have been shed, and a wail has been going up to Heaven from the broken hearted. And I say it again, it is a mystery to me how all those broken hearts can keep away from Him who has come to heal them. For six thousand years that cry of sorrow has been going up to God. We find the tears of Jacob put on record, when he was told that his own son was no more. His sons and daughters tried to give him comfort, but he refused to be comforted. We are also told of the tears of King David. I can see him, as the messenger brings the news of the death of his son, exclaiming in anguish, “O, Absalom, my son, would that I had died for thee!” And when Christ came into the world the first sound He heard was woe – the wail of those mothers in Bethlehem; and from the manger to the Cross, He was surrounded with sorrow. We are told that He often looked up to Heaven and sighed. I believe it was because there was so much suffering around Him. It was on His right hand and on His left – everywhere on earth; and the thought that He had come to relieve the people of the earth of their burdens, and so few would accept Him, made Him sorrowful. He came for that purpose. Let the hundreds of thousands just cast their burdens on Him. He has come to bear them, as well as our sins. He will bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. There is not a burdened son of Adam in Chicago who cannot but be freed if he will only come to Him.

Let me call your attention to this little word “sent.” “He hath sent me.” Take your Bibles and read about those who have been sent by God, and one thought will come to you – that no man who has ever been sent by God to do His work has ever failed. No matter how great the work, how mighty the undertaking; no matter how many difficulties had to be encountered, when they were sent from God they were sure to succeed. God sent Moses down to Egypt to bring 3,000,000 people out of bondage. The idea would have seemed absurd to most people. Fancy a man with an impediment in his speech, without an army, without Generals, with no record, bringing 3,000,000 people from the power of a great nation like that of the Egyptians. But God sent him, and what was the result? Pharaoh said they should not go, and the great king and all his army were going to prevent them. But did he succeed? God sent Moses and he didn’t fail.

We find that God sent Joshua to the walls of Jericho, and he marched around the walls, and at the proper time those walls came tumbling down and the city fell into his hands. God sent Eliab to stand before Ahab, and we read the result; Samson and Gideon were sent by God and we are told in the Scriptures what they accomplished, and so all through the word we find that when God sent men they have never failed.

Now, do you think for a moment that God’s own Son sent to us is going to fail? If Moses, Elijah, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, and all these mighty men sent by God succeeded in doing their work, do you think the Son of Man is going to fail? Do you think, if He has come to heal broken hearts, He is going to fail? Do you think there is a heart so bruised and broken that can’t be healed by Him? He can heal them all, but the great trouble is that men won’t come. If there is a broken heart here tonight just bring it to the Great Physician, if you break an arm or a leg, you run off and get the best physician. If you have a broken heart, you needn’t go to a doctor or Minister with it; the best physician is the Great Physician. In the days of Christ they didn’t have hospitals or physicians as we have now. When a man was sick he was taken to the door, and the passersby prescribed for him. If a man came along who had had the same disease as the sufferer he just told him what he had done to get cured – I remember I had a disease for a few months, and when I recovered if I met a man with the same disease I had to tell him what cured me. I could not keep the prescription all to myself. When He came there and found the sick at their cottage door, the sufferers found more medicine in His words than there was in all the prescriptions of that country. He is a mighty physician who has come to heal every wounded heart in this building and in Chicago tonight.

You needn’t run to any other physician. The great difficulty is that people try to get some other physician – they go to this creed and that creed, to this doctor of Divinity and that one, instead of coming directly to the Master. He has told us that His mission is to heal the broken hearts, and if He has said this, let us take Him at His word and just ask Him to heal.

I was thinking today of the difference between those who know Christ when trouble comes upon them, and those who know Him not. I know several members of families in this city who are just stumbling into their graves over trouble. I know two widows in Chicago who are weeping and moaning over the death of their husbands, and their grief is just taking them to their graves. Instead of bringing their burdens to Christ they mourn day and night, and the result will be that in a few weeks or years at most their sorrow will take them to their graves, when they ought to take it all to the Great Physician.

Three years ago a father took his wife and family on board that ill fated French steamer. They were going to Europe, and when out on the ocean another vessel ran into her and she went down. That mother when I was preaching in Chicago used to bring her two children to the meetings every night. It was one of the most beautiful sights I ever looked on, to see how those little children used to sit and listen, and to see the tears trickling down their cheeks when the Savior was preached. It seemed as if nobody else in that meeting drank in the truth as eagerly as those little ones. One night when an invitation had been extended to all to go into the inquiry room, one of these little children said: “Mamma, why can’t I go in, too?” The mother allowed them to come into the room, and some friend spoke to them, and to all appearances they seemed to understand the plan of Salvation as well as their elders. When that memorable night came, that mother went down and came up without her two children. Upon reading the news I said: “It will kill her,” and I quitted my post in Edinburgh – the only time I left my post on the other side – and went down to Liverpool to try and comfort her. But when I got there, I found that the Son of God had been there before me, and instead of me comforting her she comforted me. She told me she could not think of those children as being in the sea; it seemed as if Christ had permitted her to take those children on that vessel only that they might be wafted to Him, and had saved her life only that she might come back and work a little longer for Him. When she got up the other day at a mothers’ meeting in Farwell Hall, and told her story, I thought I would tell the mothers of it the first chance I got. So if any of you have some great affliction, if any of you have lost a loved and loving father, mother, brother, husband, or wife, come to Christ, because God has sent Him to heal the broken hearted.

Some of you, I can imagine, will say, “Ah, I could stand that affliction; I have something harder than that.” I remember a mother coming to me and saying, “It is easy enough for you to speak in that way; if you had the burden that I’ve got, you couldn’t cast it on the Lord.” “Why, is your burden so great that Christ can’t carry it?” I asked. “No, it isn’t too great for Him to carry; but I can’t put it on Him.” “That is your fault,” I replied; and I find a great many people with burdens who, rather than just come to Him with them, strap them tighter on their backs and go away staggering under their load. I asked her the nature of her trouble, and she told me, “I have an only boy who is a wanderer on the face of the earth. I don’t know where he is. If I only knew where he was I would go round the world to find him. You don’t know how I love that boy. This sorrow is killing me.” “Why can’t you take him to Christ? You can reach Him at the Throne, even though He be at the uttermost part of the world. Go tell God all about your trouble, and He will take away this, and not only that, but if you never see him on earth, God can give you faith that you will see your boy in Heaven.”

And then I told her of a mother who lived down in the southern part of Indiana. Some years ago her boy came up to this city. He was a moralist. My friends, a man has to have more than morality to lean upon in this great city. He hadn’t been here long before he was led astray. A neighbor happened to come up here and found him one night in the streets drunk. When that neighbor went home at first he thought he wouldn’t say anything about it to the boy’s father, but afterwards he thought it was his duty to tell. So in a crowd in the street of their little town, he just took that father aside, and told him what he had seen in Chicago. It was a terrible blow. When the children had been put to bed that night he said to his wife: “Wife, I have bad news. I have heard from Chicago today.” The mother dropped her work in an instant, and said: “Tell me what it is.” “Well, our son has been seen on the streets of Chicago drunk.” Neither of them slept that night, but they took their burden to Christ. About daylight the mother said: “I don’t know how, I don’t know when or where, but God has given me faith to believe that our son will be saved and will never come to a drunkard’s grave.” One week after, that boy left Chicago. He couldn’t tell why – an unseen power seemed to lead him to his mother’s home, and the first thing he said on coming over the threshold was, “Mother, I have come home to ask you to pray for me”; and soon after he came back to Chicago a bright and a shining light. If you have got a burden like this, fathers, mothers, bring it to Him and cast it on Him and He, the Great Physician, will heal your broken hearts.

I can imagine again some of you saying, “How am I to do it?” My friends, go to Him as a personal friend. He is not a myth. What we want to do is to treat Christ as we treat an earthly friend. If you have sins, just go and tell Him all about them; if you have some great burden, “Go bury thy sorrow,” bury it in His bosom. If you go to people and tell them of your cares, your sorrows, they will tell you they haven’t time to listen. But He will not only hear your story, however long it be, but will bind your broken heart up. Oh, if there is a broken heart here tonight, bring it to Jesus, and I tell you upon authority, He will heal you. He has said He will bind your wounds up – not only that, He will heal them.

During the war I remember of a young man, not 20, who was court-martialed down in the front and sentenced to be shot. The story was this: The young fellow had enlisted. He was not obliged to, but he went off with another young man. They were what we would call “chums.” One night this companion was ordered out on picket duty and he asked the young man to go for him. The next night he was ordered out himself, and having been awake two nights, and not being used to it, fell asleep at his post, and for the offense he was tried and sentenced to death. It was right after the order issued by the President that no interference should be allowed in cases of this kind. This sort of thing had become too frequent, and it must be stopped.

When the news reached the father and mother in Vermont, it nearly broke their hearts. The thought that their son should be shot was too great for them. They had no hope that he would be saved by anything they could do. But they had a little daughter who had read the life of Abraham Lincoln and knew how he loved his own children, and she said: “If Abraham Lincoln knew how my father and mother loved my brother he wouldn’t let him be shot,” That little girl thought this over and made up her mind to go and see the President. She went to the White House, and the sentinel, when he saw her imploring looks, passed her in, and when she came to the door and told the private secretary that she wanted to see the President he could not refuse her. She came into the chamber and found Abraham Lincoln surrounded by his generals and counselors, and when he saw the little country girl he asked her what she wanted. The little maid told her plain simple story – how her brother, whom her mother and father loved very dearly, had been sentenced to be shot. How they were mourning for him, and if he was to die in that way it would break their hearts. The President’s heart was touched with compassion, and he immediately sent a dispatch canceling the sentence and giving the boy a parole so that he could come home and see that father and mother.

I just tell you this to show you how Abraham Lincoln’s heart was moved by compassion for the sorrow of that father and mother, and if he showed so much, do you think the Son of God will not have compassion upon you sinner, if you only take that crushed, bruised heart to Him? He will read it. Have you got a drunken husband? Go tell him. He can make him a blessing to the Church and to the world. Have you a profligate son? Go take your story to him, and he will comfort you, and bind up and heal your sorrow. What a blessing it is to have such a Savior. He has been sent to heal the broken hearted. May the text, if the sermon doesn’t, reach everyone here tonight, and may every crushed, broken, and bruised heart be brought to that Savior, and they will hear His comforting words. He will comfort you as a mother comforts her child if you will only come in prayer and lay all your burdens before Him.