Friday, July 31, 2009
“The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.”
The King’s daughter is all glorious within: — In this text we believe the King’s daughter has reference to the bride of Christ which is the church of the living God.
Why and what causes her to be glorious within?
This shows that love is within the heart, sanctified by the Spirit. This is true spiritual love and not a mere pretense. “Let love be without dissimulation.” (Romans 12:9)
Religion is a personal matter between us and the Lord.
It causes us to search our hearts and ask ourselves: Is my heart right with God?
We may deceive the brethren, but the Lord knows what lies in our hearts. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)
The Lord causes His people to be glorious within. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
They have been loved with an everlasting love, and at the appointed time this wonderful love is made manifest to them. We cannot help loving others because of this glorious feeling within. “We love Him, because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19)
The world seeks after the outward show.
“And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39; Matthew 23:25-26)
This describes those who appear to be religious, but whose heart is not in the matter. “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me.” (Matthew 15:8)
“. . . that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in the heart.” (II Corinthians 5:12)
Does this not have reference to the outward show?
The poor sinner’s desire is to do that which is acceptable and well pleasing in the
sight of the Lord.
“Take heed that ye do not your alms (good deeds) before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee ..."
“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
It would be helpful if we would consider the above Scriptures and practice them in our daily walk as the Lord blesses us.
Why did the Lord inspire those Scriptures to be written, if not to this very end, that we be exhorted in them?
Let us not be caught off guard because of Satan’s snares; for we are not ignorant of
his devices. (See II Corinthians 3:11)
Satan may tempt one to be conformed to this world and, through pride, seek after the
outward show. The Scripture speaks of those who glory in appearance and not in heart.
It is written: “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” (II Corinthians 10:7)
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;” all of which is an exhortation against the outward show.
Many do good deeds for the purpose of receiving the praise of men. “But let it be that of the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (I Peter 3:3-4)
May the Lord bless us to carefully consider the expression:
“Which is in the sight of God of great price.”
Are we really humble in our hearts before the Lord?
If so, then, the Lord has already blessed us with a precious gift which is of great price in the sight of Almighty God.
“Her Clothing Is Of Wrought Gold.”
We understand this to mean the righteousness of the saints, which is imputed
to them. “Their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17)
This righteousness has been placed upon them by the Lord. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh Himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)
The Lord has adorned His people “that He might present it (the church) to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
This Scripture shows the clothing of the bride which is the imputed righteousness of the Lord. “And to her was granted that she would be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.” (Revelation 19:8)
The beauty that we are looking forward to see is described thus: “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2)
Since the righteousness of the children of God has been given to them by the Lord, it exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees. (See Matthew 5:20)
The Lord directs the steps of His people.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.”
The Lord has purposed that His people should walk in good works, for it is written: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
And the next Scripture tells us what causes the children of God to walk in good works — it is not left up to them to decide the matter: “And I will PUT My spirit within you, and CAUSE you to walk in My statutes, and ye SHALL keep My judgments, and DO THEM.” (Ezekiel 36:27)
Do you believe the children of God will fail to walk in good works?
Have you read, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”
Notice that Jesus stated that He has ordained His people to bring forth fruit.
Do you believe this means the same as walking in good works?
What causes one to do that which is acceptable and well pleasing in the sight of the Lord?
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it IS GOD which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
Notice the thought that God works in His people to bring forth good fruit. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, MAKE YOUR PERFECT IN EVERY GOOD WORK TO DO HIS WILL, WORKING IN YOU THAT WHICH IS WELLPLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
In Scripture, gold symbolizes glory. The wrought gold, then, could mean the works that God’s people walk in, the good fruit they produce, and the imputed righteousness that God places upon them; all which is wrought of God.
What a blessing to meditate upon the wonderful works of God!
Jesus has cleansed His people from their sins, presented them holy and dressed them in His robe of righteousness, done everything that is necessary for their salvation and did not leave
The Lord’s name is to be praised!
“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.” (Psalm 113:3).
By Woodrow W. Hudson
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The elect of God do believe in the truth in due time. "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48)
This Scripture proves that ALL of the elect shall believe the truth.
The Lord blesses His people, or the elect, with repentance.
"The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."
"Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to GIVE repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
Please observe that the Lord turned Ephraim and this CAUSED him to re-pent: "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned: for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented;" (Jeremiah 31:18-19)
The children of God do walk in good works or bring forth good fruit.
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain."
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath BEFORE ORDAINED that we should walk IN them."
Do you believe the elect will fail to walk in good works when God has purposed that they perform them?
The elect have the desire within their hearts to do that which is right and acceptable in the sight of the Lord.
The elect believe because they have the witness or Spirit of Truth within their hearts. Since the world cannot receive the Holy Ghost, only the elect receive the Holy Ghost or Comforter.
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be IN you."
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listed, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is EVERY ONE that is BORN OF THE SPIRIT."
Dear reader, did you have anything to do with your first birth?
Did you choose your parents, whether they would be rich or poor, or the race or nation in which you would live?
Do you believe man has something to do with the second birth of which Jesus spoke?
It is the sovereign work of the Holy Ghost that causes this great salvation to be made manifest to the children of God in due time. "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to OUR works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was give us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality TO LIGHT through the Gospel."
(II Timothy 1:9-10)
Please notice that this salvation was stored up in Christ Jesus BEFORE the foundation of the world, and that it is made manifest by the Spirit of God. We feel the sweetness of this salvation when the Lord delivers us from the bondage of darkness, brings us from darkness to light, brings our soul out of prison, and blesses us with the sweet song of deliverance.
"And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
"Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son."
"I waited patiently for the Lord: and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a Rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord."
"Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name."
"That ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."
(I Peter 2:9)
Dear Reader, do you know anything about the above Scriptures?
Have they touched your heart?
Have you experienced the change of which the Lord directed the apostles to write?
Does this cause you to praise the Lord?
By Woodrow W. Hudson
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, on June 15, 1858, by J. C. Philpot
"But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
The promises are strewn thickly through the pages of God's inspired word– as thickly, and, viewed by a spiritual eye, more gloriously than the stars which stud the midnight sky. These promises, so countless in number, so glorious in nature, are more certain in the fulfillment than the very rising or setting of those heavenly orbs; for their full accomplishment rests not on fixed laws of creation, but on what is more stable than creation itself, even the eternal counsel, determinate will, and unchangeable faithfulness of the Almighty Promiser. The goodness of man, the unworthiness of the creature, no more hasten and no more arrest their fulfillment than they do the course of the stars or the movement of the sun. Were it so, not one of these promises could ever have its due fulfillment, for their basis would be as fleeting as a summer cloud. Did they rest in any measure upon such a contingency as the obedience of man, every promise that God has given must fall to the ground unaccomplished, for fallen man is inherently incapable of rendering a pure obedience, and no other is available or acceptable. But, resting as they do upon the faithfulness of an unchanging and unchangeable Jehovah, his very glory is concerned in their complete accomplishment.
But, apart from the question of their fulfillment, there are two things declared by the Holy Spirit of the promises generally, which are as important as they are blessed.
1. He says of them, by the pen of Paul, that "all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." (2 Cor. 1:20.) That is, all the promises are so ratified and established in the Son of his love; if I may use the expression, they are all so lodged by the will of God in the hands and heart of Christ, that they can no more fall out of his hands and heart than Christ himself can fall from his mediatorial throne. The promises can only cease to be fulfilled when Christ ceases to be the fulfiller, for he lives at the right hand of the Father to carry into accomplishment every promise recorded in the pages of inspired truth.
2. The second thing said of them is– "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises– that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:4.) Thus the promises provide for our sanctification as well as for our salvation; for when applied to the heart by the power of God, they instrumentally raise up a new and divine nature, and thus deliver us from the power and prevalence of those worldly lusts in which thousands live in present corruption, and die in everlasting perdition.
We have in the words before us a cluster of blessed promises made to Jacob and to Israel. But the question at once arises, Whom are we to understand by Jacob and Israel here? To elucidate this question, we must bear in mind that there is an Israel after the flesh, and an Israel after the spirit. Now Israel after the flesh, that is, the lineal descendants of Abraham, in the first instance inherited the promises, as the apostle declares– "To whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises?" (Rom. 9:4.) But these privileges they forfeited by rejecting the Son of God, for in rejecting him they cast away the promises made in and by him. Thus "they were broken off" as the apostle says in the same epistle, "because of unbelief." (Rom. 11:20.) They were once a good olive tree and stood in the garden of the Lord, bearing fruit to his praise; but they rejected the Son of God, for when he came unto his own, his own received him not (John 1:11); and therefore God for a time, for his rejection of them is not final, broke off the natural branches, and grafted into the stock the Gentiles, the believing Gentiles, that they might partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree. (Rom. 11:17, 18.) In this way, Israel after the spirit, that is, the election of grace among the Gentiles, passed into the place of Israel after the flesh. And it is for this reason that the promises of old addressed to Israel and Jacob now belong to the believing church of God; for the Gentile church has passed by grace and faith into that state before God out of which the Jewish Church passed by her unbelief and her rejection of the Lord of life and glory.
It is, then, to believing Jacob– it is to spiritual Israel– in other words, the living family of God, that the Lord the Spirit addresses those comforting and encouraging promises in our text, which he prefaces by the words which so often drop in the Scriptures– from his heart and mouth– "Fear not." Knowing how subject Israel is to fears; how weak and helpless she is, and how when the Lord is not present to sustain her footsteps, she falls into doubts, as a child falls into the road when the mother lets go her hand, he bids her "Fear not," that she may be encouraged to look up in faith and hope that he will never leave or forsake her, but still be with her even to the end.
But you will find all through the word of God– and our text is no exception– that the promises are usually adapted to the peculiar circumstances of the saints of God– that they are not, so to speak, cast before them without any discrimination; not tossed down at their feet heedlessly and carelessly, as grain is scattered in a field; but are addressed to them for the most part as passing through affliction and trial– as being in circumstances that need the promise, and require that help which it holds forth and gives. Thus, in our text, when the Lord has spoken to Jacob and to Israel, and bade them "fear not," he adds– "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you– when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you."
In opening up the words before us, I shall, with God's blessing–
I. First, endeavor to show the broad basis, the strong foundation upon which the promises rest, which is in the Lord having done four things on behalf of his people–
1, He has created them;
2, He has redeemed them;
3, He has called them;
4, He has taken possession of them– the last being implied by the words– "You are mine." And because he has done these things for them, he virtually engages that he will be with them when they pass through flood and fire.
II. Secondly, the state, case, and condition of mind to which those promises are spoken, and to which they are so eminently adapted, which is, when Israel has to pass through the waters and wade through the rivers; when she has to walk through the fire, and to be encompassed with the flame.
III. Thirdly, the gracious promises which the Lord makes to Israel in these circumstances of distress and peril– that in passing through the waters he will be with her; as she goes through the rivers, they shall not overflow her; when she walks through the fire, she shall not be burned; and when surrounded by the flame, it shall not kindle upon her.
I. The strong foundation upon which the promises rest. The Lord does not give his promises in a promiscuous, indiscriminating way. He does not, if I may use the expression, throw them down for anybody to pick up; nor does he deal wantonly and heedlessly with these blessed treasures. But though he gives them, and that most lovingly and affectionately, yet it is only to those for whom he has designed them in his own eternal mind, and for whom he has done or intends to do a saving, sanctifying work.
A. He has CREATED them. Thus, before he gives the promise to Israel, the Lord lays a broad basis of interest in him by declaring that he has created him and formed him. He thus claims him as his peculiar property, as the express work of his creating hand. For who can have such a title to him as his own Creator? As he elsewhere speaks– "This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise." (Isaiah. 43:21.) But this right of creation embraces various particulars.
1. God, in the operations of his Almighty hand, created both our body and soul; and holy writ tells us how he created both. In creating man's body, he formed it out of the dust of the ground. He gave it life, but he did not bestow upon it immortality. He made it capable of sin and death. But in creating man's soul, God breathed into it the breath of life, and thus made it an heir of immortality. Yet immunity from sin was no more given to the soul than to the body; though sin and the entrance of death by sin did not destroy the immortality that God gave it when he breathed into it the breath of life.
But in creating the soul immortal, how wonderfully has God formed it, and given it such qualities as to fit it for the eternal enjoyment of himself! What an understanding has he blessed it with– what affections he has given– what capacities of happiness– what powers of thought, reasoning, and expression– what faculties of admiration and adoration, which, when renewed by grace and developed, as they will be one day beyond all present conception, will be capable of apprehending and enjoying God in Christ in all his glorious perfections and eternal majesty.
How curiously, too, has he wrought our body! What consummate wisdom has he stamped upon every part of it! How wonderfully has he formed this earthly tabernacle that it may be a receptacle for our soul during its time state; and afterwards, when fully purified from the stain of corruption and perfectly conformed to the glorious body of the Lord Jesus, may be a fit companion for the immortal soul throughout the countless ages of eternity.
2. The time when, the place where, we came into being, were also ordained and arranged of God. In this sense he may be said to have "created" and "formed" us, by fixing the bounds of our habitation, giving us that station in society, and placing us exactly in that position of life which he saw were best adapted to our spiritual profit, most conducive to his own glory, and harmonizing most thoroughly with his own eternal good counsel. It is not by chance, then, that we are what we are as men and women. It was not blind fortune or casual accident which fixed your first birth, any more than that it was chance which fixed your second birth; so that what we are as present members of society, as occupying our various positions and stations in life, we are by divine appointment and in pursuance of the original design of him in "whom we live, and move, and have our being."
3. But the words "created and formed" have a deeper meaning than this. They have respect not merely to the body and soul which God gave us, and to our present position in life, but point also to our eternal standing in the Son of God's love. Christ is spoken of in Scripture as possessing a mystical body, of which he is the glorious Head, as the apostle speaks, "And not holding the Head from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered and knit together, increases with the increase of God." (Col. 2:19.) Now every member of this mystical body has its appointed and determinate place in the mind of God, and is brought forth in time as he eternally designed it. I do not understand the words "creating" and "forming" here as referring so much to the work of regenerating grace, though I do not exclude that meaning, as to the mystical creation of the members of Christ, which "were written in his book and in continuance were fashioned when as yet there was none of them." (Psalm. 139:16.) Thus the "substance" of Christ, that is, his mystical body, "was not hid" from the searching eye of God, when it was "made in secret," in the secret purposes of God, "and curiously wrought," that is, beautifully put together "in the lowest parts of the earth," as the place destined of God, where the members were successively to appear in their time state. (Psalm. 139:15.) As the covenant Head of his mystical body, the blessed Lord is represented as the Father's "daily delight, rejoicing always before him;" and "while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world," as "rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth, and his delight being with the sons of men." (Prov. 8:26-31.) There are "vessels of mercy which God has afore prepared unto glory" (Rom. ix. 23); and those were created and formed in the mind of God, as a potter forms in his mind the exact figure of the vessel, its size, shape, and use before he casts it on the wheel or moulds it, while lying there, with his fingers.
B. But the Lord also tells Israel that he has REDEEMED as well as created her; and this has additionally engaged him to be upon her side forever and ever. This has made him a promise making and a promise keeping God; for it has engaged not only the love of his heart, but the faithfulness of his nature. But for the fall there would have been no promises; therefore no display of God's faithfulness in fulfilling them. The covenant of grace was made before the fall, but with a fore-view of it; and therefore all the promises made in the covenant regard man as a fallen sinner. Redemption was a part of the covenant; but the very meaning of the word points to a state of slavery and bondage. We were not created slaves. It is a state into which we sank through the Adam fall. Adam may be said literally to have sold himself to Satan; and for what? For an apple. He sold himself and all his posterity at that miserable price. He was tempted by Satan, through the instrumentality of his wife, to break the express command of God; and by that one act of willful, voluntary disobedience, "Brought death into the world, and all our woe;" and cast himself and us into a pit of misery and wretchedness, out of which we never would have come but for the blood shedding and obedience of the Son of God.
The Lord Jesus, we read, "loved the Church and gave himself for it." (Eph. 5:25.) But when did he begin to love it, if we may use such a word as 'begin' of love eternal? Surely before the fall. He saw her fall, as we might see a beloved wife fall into a river or from a window. So Jesus saw Adam fall into disobedience, and saw all the members of his mystical body ruined in the same dreadful crash. The abyss of sin and guilt, of misery and woe, of alienation and enmity, of separation and death, into which the Church at that moment sank, was not hidden from the eyes of the Son of God as he lay in his Father's bosom. He saw her wallowing in filth and guilt, under condemnation and wrath, and reduced to a state of hopelessness and helplessness of which we can form no adequate conception.
But this did not change the love of his heart. He loved her in the midst of, in spite of all her sin, filth, and folly. She never fell out of his heart; and this in due time he showed by coming into the world as her Redeemer to deliver her by his precious blood shedding and death from sin, death, hell, and despair. Though not only by original but by personal and actual sin, the Church was sunk into dreadful depths of guilt, yet he redeemed her, paid the full, the stipulated price for her– nothing less than his own life, his own blood; and by his sufferings and sorrows in the garden, and on the cross, by offering up in sacrifice his pure and spotless humanity, his holy body and soul, he redeemed her to God; he bought her back from death and hell, from sin and Satan, from the curse of the Law, and every pain and penalty which she had incurred as a trespasser and a transgressor, as a debtor and as a criminal. He washed away her sins in his most precious blood, worked out for her a robe of righteousness which he put upon her and in which she outshines the very angels, and will one day bring her with him in glory to astonish and judge a guilty world.
C. But the Lord adds also in the text that he had called her by her name; that is, he had specially and spiritually called her by his grace– had separated her by regenerating work upon her heart from a state of carnality and death. As God called Abraham to go out of Chaldea into a land which he knew not, so does he now call his people out of the world to a spiritual and experimental knowledge of himself as the only true God and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent. And this he intimates by the expression– "I have called you by your name;" for in calling her by her name, he had set upon her his own distinguishing mark. As a shepherd brands his sheep with the name of the owner, so when the Lord calls a soul by his grace, he puts his own mark upon it. Or as when a person calls us by our own name, it implies that he knows us and that we know him, so the Lord implies by the expression that he knows the Church with a knowledge of love and approbation.
D. The last stone, so to speak, laid in our text as a part of this strong foundation for all the promises to rest upon is, that he has taken possession of her; for he says "You are mine." Now this is the sweetest and most blessed declaration of all the four, for in it the Lord assures her that not only has he created and formed her, redeemed her, and called her by her name, but that, by manifesting himself to her soul, and revealing his love and blood to her heart, he has taken possession of her affections, and thus made her manifestly and eternally his; so that he can look down from heaven to earth, and say, "You are mine– mine by electing purpose; mine by redeeming love; mine by calling grace; and mine by possessing power. It is as when the bridegroom after a long and faithful courtship, when a thousand difficulties and obstacles are at last surmounted, and marriage has made them one, clasps his beloved bride to his arms and whispers into her ear, "Now, you are mine."
II. But to come to our second point. The PATH of God's people from earth to heaven is for the most part one of much affliction, sorrow, and tribulation; and thus they are called from time to time to pass through waters and wade through rivers– to walk through fires and be surrounded by the flame of hot furnaces. But when they are placed in those circumstances, then it is that the Lord's promises are suitable to them, and this is the season when those promises are applied and sealed upon their heart and conscience.
A. But what is it "to pass through the waters?" WATERS in Scripture are often used to signify trouble and sorrow. "I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me." (Psalm 69:2.) "All your waves and your billows are gone over me." (Psalm. 42:7.) Thus the Church here is represented as passing through the waters, that is, the floods of trouble and sorrow through which she wades heavenward and homeward.
1. Some of these waters are TEMPORAL afflictions. Few of the Lord's people escape a large measure of those afflictions which spring out of and are connected with their earthly circumstances. As inhabitants of earth; as husbands, wives, and parents; as earning their bread with the sweat of their brow; as taking a part in the great battle of life in this day of unprincipled competition, where the weak are relentlessly trodden down by the strong; as necessarily in the world though mercifully not of it, the saints of God have assuredly a large measure of earthly anxieties, sorrows, and cares. But mercy meets them even here. They need to be weaned from the world– to have the strongest bitters put into the sweetest cup– to be divorced from that love of earthly things which is so natural to us. The Lord therefore sends upon them many painful and severe afflictions. And these sometimes break forth upon them as waters; the idea being that of a flood bursting forth unexpectedly and with such extreme violence that but for the repressing hand of God it would carry them away.
How many of the dear saints of God are now suffering under his afflicting hand! How many are now lying on beds of languishing and pain! We pass through the streets; we see the young, the healthy, and the strong, some bustling with business and some sauntering for amusement, with health and animation on every face. But do we see the pale sickly invalids, except now and then a poor consumptive one just come out for a little air? And who knows how many of these afflicted ones are the Lord's, and are now passing through these waters to that happy land of which "the inhabitant shall not say I am sick."
How many, too, of the Lord's people are depressed with troubles and anxieties that spring from their providential circumstances? And often hears the expression, "Riches cannot give happiness;" but we rarely find the converse added, "Poverty can bring great misery." The Lord can indeed support under the heaviest load of monetary troubles; but there can be no doubt that providential difficulties, and the anxieties connected with them rack and tear the mind almost more than any other temporal affliction.
How many too are clad in mourning both in body and mind under distressing bereavements, rending as it were their very heartstrings asunder. We see men's faces, and they may wear an outward show of cheerfulness; but could we read their hearts, we would see many of the Lord's family bowed down with sorrow and care, as being surrounded on every hand with difficulties and perplexities to which they see no present termination.
2. But these "waters" may also signify SPIRITUAL afflictions; for these are the most trying of all the griefs and sorrows that can befall the saints of God. When the Psalmist, or rather the Lord speaking in the person of the Psalmist, said, "I have come into deep waters" (Psalm. 64:2), he meant the waters of deep soul trouble. These waters are a deep and abiding sense of God's wrath as a consuming fire; the curse of a broken law drying up the spirit; the distressing weight and burden of guilt upon a man's conscience which he cannot get away from, and which seem a foretaste of the agonies of hell; the fears of perishing under the justly deserved anger of God, and sinking in death into the gloomy regions of endless despair.
3. "Waters" further signify great and powerful TEMPTATIONS. As we read of the dragon that "He cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood." (Rev. 12:15); so, as in the case of Job, Satan casts floods of temptation into the soul to drown it, if possible, in unbelief, rebellion, and self-pity, until hope and help seem almost gone.
II. RIVERS also are spoken of in our text. Now "waters" burst out occasionally; but "rivers" are ever flowing. Thus "the rivers" spoken of in our text may be applied to those continual streams of grief and trouble which seem the allotted portion of some of the Lord's people. In the case of some, troubles come in gushes; now a cessation; then another gush. But in the case of others, troubles are continual; they never seem out of them, but, like the Psalmist, their "sore runs in the night and ceases not;" and, as Job complains, "the Almighty does not allow them to take breath," or "let them alone until they swallow down their spittle." (Job 7:19; 9:18.) If the former are "waters," the latter are "rivers," for the first break out in gushes, but the last flow in unceasing streams.
C. But we read also in our text of "the FIRE." The figure is changed, because the Holy Spirit will not limit himself here or elsewhere to one comparison. He seizes figure after figure to convey his mind and meaning; plainly and distinctly. Fire shall try the saint of God as well as water, that his power may be as much seen and his grace be as conspicuous in flame as in flood, in the hot furnace as in the deep waters. Several things in Scripture are compared to fire, and singly or in combination constitute "the fiery trial" spoken of as intended to try the Church of God. (1 Peter 4:12.)
1. Thus the Law is spoken of as a fire; for it is called "a fiery law which went from God's right hand." (Deut. 33:2.) It was given with thunders and lightnings; and the Lord himself descended upon Mount Sinai in a fire. (Exod. 19:18.) The apostle, therefore, calls it "the mountain that burned with fire" (Heb. 12:18), as distinct from Zion, the city of the living God. All this fire and smoke with these terrific thunders and lightnings were figurative of God as a consuming fire. For there is a fearful curse attached to the law– "Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." And this dreadful curse will burn up and consume all found under it. Now when this holy and righteous law is applied to the conscience, its curse comes in through the breach, and this curse being the fire of God's indignation against sin, it burns up all our fleshly righteousness; for it consumes everything which is not in strict accordance with its demands and its spirituality.
2. But as the figure of fire may be extended to all that burns, it may comprehend the workings of our vile heart, the corruptions of our base and fallen nature. These are fires, because they tend, except as restrained by the grace of God, to consume both body and soul. There is a fire of lust, of pride, of rebellion, of enmity, of daring determination, and unbending obstinacy, which all, when "set on fire of hell," like the tongue of which James speaks, would destroy us here and hereafter, unless the Lord were with us as with the three children in the hot fiery furnace.
3. Then there are also the grievous assaults of Satan, what the Scripture calls "the fiery darts of the wicked" (Eph. 6:16), which Satan, himself consuming in a perpetual fire, casts into the mind, and which seem to inflame all that is there combustible.
III. But the Lord PROMISES– and this brings us to our third point– that when Israel passes through the waters, he will be with her, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow her; when she walks through the fire, she shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon her. Who can support the soul when it is passing through afflictions and trials except the Lord himself? There is everything in nature to sink and give way under the afflicting strokes of God's hand. There is no patience in the human mind– no resignation– no submission to the will of God. When his afflicting strokes come, they find in us nothing but rebellion, peevishness, and discontent.
A. The Lord, then, must manifestly, by his presence and grace, be with his saints when they are passing through the waters and through the rivers, that they may not give way to that rebellion, peevishness, and discontent that their hearts are full of. They need the Lord to be with them, that they may feel submission to his afflicting strokes. For when he is with them, by speaking a word home with power to their heart, by manifesting his presence, shedding abroad his love, and revealing his goodness and mercy, strength is communicated to the soul, so that when it passes through the waters it finds that secret and sacred support which bears it up and preserves it from sinking into, and being carried away by them. In fact, the promise– "I will be with you," embraces everything that God can give in a way of sensible support; for if he is with the soul, he is with it in all his grace and love, in all his presence and power. There is, there can be, no greater blessing, no stronger support than this. Nor is there a single trouble, grief, or sorrow, which cannot be borne when the Lord is sensibly present, and lays his everlasting arms underneath the soul. And this he has pledged himself ever to do when his beloved Jacob and redeemed Israel pass through the waters, however high they may rise, however loudly the waves and billows may roar.
But again the promise runs– "The rivers shall not overflow you." The natural tendency of these rivers is to sweep away, drown, and overwhelm. Let sin only be allowed to break forth out of the depths of our carnal mind in its dreadful depth, in its dreadful extent and unmitigated fury; let only one lust or one evil passion burst forth in all its magnitude and to the utmost extent of its capabilities; and what would be the consequences? Such as any person of the commonest feeling of morality would shudder to think of. For whence come all those horrid crimes which shock society but from the depths of sin and evil which exist in every heart?
Or let temptation be permitted to assail us in any or all its various forms, and let it meet with the sin that lies in our nature as so much ready-laid material, and the consequence would be that we would be swept away into destruction and perdition. We would commit the unpardonable sin, cast ourselves upon the rocks of despair, or be swept away by the stream into such an abyss of rebellion and alienation, that return to God would almost seem impossible. Our very character would be gone; we would disgrace our families and our own religious name, and concerning faith make utter shipwreck.
But the Lord has promised that when we pass through the waters he will be with us, and through the rivers, however deep, however high they may swell, they shall not overflow us; we shall not be carried away by them far away from God and godliness; they shall not drown us in their rage and fury, dash us against the rocks, and leave our bleeding carcasses stripped and naked upon the riverbank. But the rivers shall be so restrained by the power of God, that though they may rise, they shall rise only to a certain height; though they may swell and roar, it shall not be with such extreme violence as to overwhelm and drown the soul.
How many of the dear saints of God, when they have been brought into tribulation and sorrow, have found the fulfillment of this most gracious promise! And is there not one of these waters through which all must go– that deep and rapid Jordan which everyone must pass through? How dark and gloomy those waters have appeared to the eyes of many a child of God, in whom is continually fulfilled the experience of the words– "Who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." But how often have these waters only been terrible in prospect, in anticipation. How different has been the reality. When he comes down to the river's bank and his feet dip in these waters, and it appears as though they would rise higher and higher, the Lord suddenly appears in his power and presence, and then the water sinks. He speaks a word of peace to his soul upon a dying bed– reveals Christ in his love and grace and blood– removes those doubts, fears, and disturbing thoughts which have perplexed him for years, and brings into his heart a holy calm, a sweet peace, assuring him that all is well with him both for time and eternity. Has he not then the fulfillment of the promise– "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you?"
Or there may be another saint of God plunged very deeply into and almost sunk under temporal troubles– who is afflicted in body, or distressed in circumstances almost beyond endurance, or bereaved of the tenderest object of his heart's affections, or passing through trials which almost madden him, and under which he is in daily fear of losing his very reason. In these waters, the Lord has promised to be with him; and how often he fulfils this gracious promise. He applies some word to his soul, or supports him by his felt presence, or enables him to look up and believe that "all these afflictions are but for a moment," and are "working for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." And thus he is sustained as he passes through the waters.
It is as if the Lord went through the waters with him step by step, and kept putting his hand under his head, or laid his everlasting arms beneath his shoulders. When he can feel this divine support he can lean upon the Lord, for he is manifestly supporting him. Is not this as if the Lord were whispering all the time into his soul– "Fear not; I have redeemed you; you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. The waters are deep, but they shall not overflow you." Now as the soul is passing through these waters and finds the Lord's gracious support, then it feels that so long as the Lord supports, it cannot sink or be overwhelmed; for his power is so great, his love so strong, his presence so sweet, and his promises so sure, that the waters lose all their terror.
And so through the rivers– "they shall not overflow you." The Lord says to them– "Thus far shall you go, and here shall your proud waves be stayed." As he held back the Red Sea that Israel might have its waters as a wall on their right hand and on their left; as he cut off the waters of Jordan which came down from above, that they stood upon a heap when the soles of the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in its brim (Josh. 3:15, 16); so as the saint of God passes through the rivers which lie between him and the heavenly Canaan, God, by his power and grace, prevents them from overflowing his soul. They may rise very high; dark may the flood appear, deep the stream, and rapid the current; but there is a restraint put upon them by the Almighty hand of God, that however "the waters thereof roar and be troubled," the soul shall not be drowned in or overwhelmed by them.
It is only as we are brought into great and overwhelming trials that we are enabled to realize the sweetness of these promises. We may look at them at a distance and believe them to be true; or we may witness their fulfillment in others; but we must be brought into personal afflictions, and not only see the waters spread before our eyes, but they must come nearer and nearer, until we cry, "Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul" (Psalm. 69:1), that we may prove how faithful the Lord is to his word of promise. When, then, these waters gradually approach, or suddenly rush in, we look round and find that none can help us. Our dearest friends can do us no good. They may see us in great family troubles; or mourning under the most heart-rending bereavements; or stretched upon a bed of languishing and pain. They may pity our sufferings; but they cannot relieve them. Religious friends and spiritual ministers may visit us in great depths of mental distress; may see our conscience bleeding under the wounds inflicted by the chastening and rebuking hand of God. They may pity and try to comfort us, but all their words fall short; or, like Job's friends, they may sit wondering and stupefied, unable to speak a word, as doubting our case, distrusting our religion, or feeling unable to judge how the scale will turn. Then the soul possessed of life divine is obliged to go to the Lord, and look unto him and to him alone; as David, as Jonah, as Hezekiah, as Jeremiah, as Habakkuk, as Micah, and many other a saint of God has done, and again and again will do.
David beautifully describes the experience of the soul thus taught and led, thus afflicted and delivered– "The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death itself stared me in the face. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears." (Psalm 18:5, 6.) Then what follows? "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters." "He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me because he delighted in me." (Psalm 16:19.) May we experience this sweet deliverance when we shall be called to pass through the rivers which still lie between us and Canaan! At the bare prospect, as the river in the dim distance rolls on before our eyes, and we see that we must cross it– and, alas! there is neither bridge nor ferry, we may shrink with dismay. As a parent may come in and see his darling child stricken with mortal disease, and in the killing prospect of the dreadful issue, may cry out with torn heart– "I can never bear to see that child stretched before my eyes a pale and motionless corpse;" or as a husband, when his beloved wife, about to be a mother, sinks in nature's trying hour, stands trembling and appalled at the dreadful anticipation, so the very sight of these rivers, so deep and overwhelming, has filled many a child of God with terror and amazement. How deeply, then, he needs the application and the fulfillment of the promise; and that the Lord Himself should whisper into his soul– "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you."
It is almost as if the Lord said– "Here are waters, and you must pass through them; they are not to be evaded, for they lie before you in the road whereby you must pass. Here are rivers, and there is no bridge over them– you must go through them. But," says the Lord, "I will not leave you to go through them alone, for they would drown you. I will go with you, and in passing through them I will take care so to restrain them that they shall not overflow you." Thus, the more the soul knows of the trials and temptations, the troubles and afflictions of the way, and the more deep and bitter its experience of their magnitude, the more it proportionally knows, and the more it wonders at and admires the exceeding riches of his grace. Nor is there any other way whereby the Lord's pity and compassion– for "the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy," (James 5:11,) can be experimentally realized, or his power and faithfulness manifestly be made known.
Nor is he less gracious or less faithful as regards the FURNACE. "When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned." What! a miracle like this? Shall it be with the believing soul as it was with the three children, who were cast literally into a burning fiery furnace, and yet the Son of God was so with them in it that the very smell of fire had not passed upon their garments? Can the child of grace walk in the midst of the fires and not be burned? Yes, he can, because God has promised it. His gracious command to his people is, "therefore glorify the Lord in the fires." (Isaiah. 24:15.) But how can they glorify him in the fires if the fire consume them?
Thus he can walk through the fire of the law, and yet not be burned up by it; because Jesus has fulfilled the law, and has therefore taken away its damning penalty. It may blaze upon him, but it cannot consume him, for Christ has redeemed him from its curse, being made a curse for us. (Gal. 3:13.) He may feel the heat, but he cannot be destroyed by the flame; for that, so to speak, spent and burnt itself out when it exhausted its fury against the pure and sacred humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So with the fire of temptation. He may have to walk through it. Many vile and wicked lusts may strive for the mastery; a thousand sins may be tempting and engaging his carnal mind; and they may partly win the day– may partly gain upon him, so that he may feel or fear their burning heat. But he shall not be burned up by them; they shall not destroy body and soul; the Lord will keep the flame of lust, rebellion, and infidelity from consuming him utterly.
Satan, too, may cast his fiery darts; but the Lord will take care that they shall not destroy any one of his redeemed ones. They may set on fire the hay, wood, and stubble of the carnal mind; but they cannot destroy the gold, silver, and precious stones of the new man of grace. They may burn up a fleshly religion and consume the filthy rags of a more Pharisaic righteousness; but they cannot injure one member of the new man; they cannot touch any one part of God's gracious work upon the heart, or destroy anything that he has wrought in the soul by his own Spirit or his own power.
Bear in mind that there are two things essentially indestructible– the finished work of the Son of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. But both these works meet with all the opposition of earth and hell, and are borne, amid sighs and groans, sufferings and sorrows, to their triumphant outcome.
But the Lord further adds– "Neither shall the flame kindle upon you;" that is, so as to burn and destroy you. You may have had many fiery darts from Satan; but have they not all passed away, and you are still unharmed? You may have had many workings of wickedness in your wretched nature, many deep and foul corruptions oozing forth, but God did not permit them to break out so as to destroy body and soul. You may have many rivers still to ford, many furnaces still to endure; but the Lord having redeemed you, called you, and taken possession of you by his Spirit and grace, will be with you to the end, to bring you safe through every flood and fire, and set you before his face in glory.
Now the great thing is to have some evidence in our own conscience that the Lord has engaged to do these things for us. What we want is, to have some clear and sure proof that the promise is for us– to have some testimony that the Lord, by his Spirit and grace, has wrought that work of grace upon our souls which gives us a manifested interest in every promise made to Jacob and Israel. Now this we may know in some measure by comparing what we are and have as the work of God's hands, with what God has laid down in the words before us. He tells us that he has created, redeemed, and taken possession of Jacob and Israel. Has he created, redeemed, called, and taken possession of us? Have we any sweet persuasion or gracious confidence in our souls that the Lord has created us to his own honor and praise? Has he given us any testimony that he has redeemed us by the blood of his dear Son? Has he made us feel the bondage and slavery of sin, and given us to know anything of the value of the atonement, whereby alone we can be feelingly and experimentally redeemed from it? Have we any evidence that he has called us by his grace, put his fear in our hearts; and quickened us into spiritual life? Have we any testimony that he has taken possession of our breast by manifesting himself to our soul, revealing himself, and fixing our heart wholly and solely upon his blessed Majesty?
We must have some evidence in our heart that we have experienced these things before we can realize our interest in promises like these. But if he has wrought anything such as I have described in our soul, we may still expect to pass through waters and through rivers, to walk through fire and through flame; but we may also expect, as we pass through them, that the Lord will fulfill his gracious word, and that what he has said of promised help, support, and deliverance he will never leave void of full accomplishment.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, on January 31, 1864, by J. C. Philpot
"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God– therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not."
(1 John 3:1)
I think we may see four distinguishing features in our text–
First, the wondrous love of God– "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us."
Secondly, the amazing blessings and privileges of God's people– "that we should be called the sons of God."
Thirdly, the gross ignorance of the world– "therefore the world knows us not."
Fourthly, the explanation of the mystery– because it knew him not."
I. The wondrous LOVE of God– "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us." Our text commences with a "Behold." Let us not pass by this; for is it not as if John would summon us to behold a wondrous sight? Is it not as if he would call up our sleeping graces and animate every faculty of our renewed mind, to gaze upon the stupendous miracle which he sets before our eyes? "Behold, what manner of love!" This call upon us to come and look seems to remind us of the various appearances of God in the Old Testament, when he suddenly and unexpectedly manifested himself as a God of love or power; as, for instance, when he appeared to Abraham in a vision of the night with those gracious words– "Fear not, Abram– I am your shield and exceeding great reward." (Gen. 15:1.) It may also remind us of the wondrous appearance of the Lord to Moses when he was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, in the desert, when "the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush;" and as he drew near to behold the marvelous sight, God spoke to him out of the burning bush– wondrous type of the ever-blazing Deity of our gracious Lord, and yet of his pure, unconsumed humanity in the most intimate union with it!
This call of "Behold" seems to remind us also of Ezekiel, when sitting "among the captives by the river of Chebar, when suddenly the heavens were opened and he saw visions of God." (Ezek. 1:1.) May it not also call to our mind the vision of Isaiah, when he saw "the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple?" (Isaiah. 6:1), or of Daniel, solitary and mourning by the river Hiddekel, when lifting up his eyes "he looked and beheld a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz?" (Dan. 10:5.) It may also serve to remind us of John himself when in the Isle of Patmos he heard a great voice, and turned and saw one like unto the Son of Man in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. (Rev. 1:10, 13.) As all these appearances were unexpected displays of the Lord in his grace and in his glory, so when holy John says in our text "Behold," it is as if he would rouse up our sleeping graces and bid us behold with eyes of faith and affection a stupendous sight not less marvelous than these appearances of God in the days of old.
Now what is this stupendous sight which John bids us here behold? "What manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us." It is not merely what love, but what "manner" of love. Thus he would bid us contemplate the love of God under that particular form and in that peculiar manner in which God has revealed and made it known to the sons of men. In pursuance, then, of this godly counsel, I think we may contemplate this love under these three points of view–
1. In its nature.
2. In its manifestation.
3. And in its communication.
A. Look, then, first, at the love of God in its NATURE– what it is in itself, as a pure Fountain, distinct from its streams and effects; and I think we shall see certain peculiar features stamped upon it as such, enabling us to say, "Behold what manner of love."
1. First, it was self-originating. Love, if we have any to the Lord and to his people– is God's gift and grace. It does not dwell naturally in our hearts, but its source and spring are from above; but love in the bosom of God dwells in him as one of his glorious, underived perfections. It gushes, therefore, freely out of his bosom, as a river springs out of a mountainside, without any call from earth, without any invitation from man. Whence come three of our noblest rivers– the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Danube? All spring from the bosom of the same mighty Alps, a few leagues only from each other, whence they flow each in its own direction to gladden and fertilize every land to which they come. So the love of God to his people gushes forth from his own bosom unsought, unasked, undeserved, but carrying a blessing wherever it flows.
2. It was also eternal. No change can take place in the mind of God. No new plans, no fresh purposes, no unthought-of schemes can enter the mind of him who is One eternal NOW– the great self-existent I AM. His love, therefore, like himself, must be equally eternal. It had no beginning, as he had no beginning; and it will have no end, as he had no end. Well may we pause before so stupendous a sight, as Moses at the burning bush, and gather up every faculty of our soul to listen to the words with solemn admiration which he spoke by his prophet– "The Lord has appeared of old unto me, saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love– therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you." (Jer. 31:3.) If, then, you are asked, Why is God's love eternal? all you can answer is, Because it is the love of God who is eternal. And if you are farther asked, "How do you know that God has from all eternity loved you?" all you can reply is, "Because with loving kindness he has drawn me." This is the solution to the question whether in doctrine or experience; we can give no other.
3. But being eternal it must be infinite, for God is infinite; and as he is love in name and nature, his love must be the same as all his other gracious and glorious perfections, all of which like himself are infinite. But what a wondrous mercy it is for the Church of God that his love is thus infinite. To see this point more plainly, look at two other perfections of God in their infinity– his wisdom and his power. First look at his wisdom, and see how it is displayed on every side in creation. See in what infinite wisdom the Lord has ordained and arranged everything in the visible creation, adapting each part to the other with all the perfection and finish of an exquisite machine. The sun moving in its daily orbit; the moon walking in her midnight brightness; the succession of seasons; the multiplicity of animals upon the face of the earth; each one of them a miracle in its formation, propagation, and provision– what proofs before our eyes do all these daily wonders afford us of the infinite wisdom of God. And do they not also give us equal proofs of his infinite power?
If, then, his wisdom and his power are thus shown to be infinite, is it not equally true of his love? Now the peculiar blessedness of this love as being infinite is that as such it includes all the saints of God in one universal embrace. It is like his wisdom and his power in nature. In creation, there is nothing too great and nothing too small to display the infinite wisdom and power of God. There is as much wisdom and power in the creation of the stinger of a bee as of the trunk of an elephant; in the making of the sting of a wasp as of the claw of a tiger; in the formation of the eye to see the light of the sun as in the formation of the sun to give light to the eye. Now what is true in creation is true in grace; what is true of God's wisdom and power is true of his love. Do but apply this.
You may think yourself too insignificant a creature or too sinful a wretch for God's love to embrace. But as his love is infinite, it embraces with equal strength all the elect of Christ; and if you are so blessed and favored as to be among the number of those whom God from all eternity has loved, his love reaches down to you who are less than the least of all saints as much as his wisdom and his power to the smallest of his creatures.
4. But being infinite, this love is also inexhaustible; and this is another blessed object of contemplation in looking at "the manner" of God's love. We would soon have drained it dry, were it not an inexhaustible fountain. Look at the millions of God's redeemed family, whether glorified spirits in heaven or still sojourning upon earth, or still to be born in the process of time. How inexhaustibly the love of God has been flowing forth for ages to every one of those countless millions. As an emblem of this inexhaustible love, look at the sun; think of the ages for which it has shone unexhausted and inexhaustible; consider the millions and millions of beams which it has cast upon the earth; the thousands of crops which it has ripened, the millions of fruit it has brought to perfection; and yet it shines still. It shines to day as it shone 6,000 years ago; and it will not cease to shine until he who made it what it is bids it cease to be.
So with the love of God– it has shone into the hearts of millions; it has been the spring of all their happiness and the source of all their fruitfulness; their joy in life, their support in death, their bliss in eternity. Their sins have not worn it out, nor their backslidings exhausted it; for its very nature is to be unexhausted, inexhaustible.
5. It is, therefore, unchangeable. God does not love today and hate tomorrow. His own words are– "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Mal. 3:6.) It is most contrary to the revelation which God has given of himself in the Scripture as "resting in his love" (Zeph. 3:17); as "being of one mind and none can turn him" (Job. 23:13); as "one with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17)– to think that after he has once fixed his love upon any of his people, he should repent of that love and take it away from them as being unworthy of it. "The gifts and calling of God," we are expressly told, "are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29); that is, God never repents of the gifts of his love and grace, and the calling which is the fruit of them. Did not the Lord know from all eternity what his people would be? Did he not know that, as Moses said to the children of Israel, they would be "a stiff-necked people," provoking him continually to his face? And yet he says of them– "If heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord." (Jer. 31:37.) The immutability of his love is the foundation of all our hope; for we well know if our sins and backslidings could turn this love away we would soon sink to rise no more. But this is the consolation of the family of God, that his love is as immutable as his own eternal essence. Thus far then have I endeavored to describe the nature of God's love; but O, how weakly and imperfectly have I set it forth!
I now, then, pass on to consider the two other peculiar features of this love, that is, its manifestation and its communication; and I think I shall do this best by coming at once to the second branch of my subject in which they more conspicuously appear:
II. The amazing BLESSINGS and PRIVILEGES of God's people in being called the sons of God.
A. Manifestation. God loved his people from all eternity, but he loved them only in Christ. This must ever be borne in mind, or we shall make sad mistakes in this important matter. If God loved you, it is not because he saw anything in you to love. He does not only love you as the mere creature of his hand, for that you share in common with your fellow men; for you must bear in mind that there is a love which God bears to the creatures of his hand distinct from his love in grace. We therefore read– "He loves the stranger in giving him food and clothing." (Deut. 10:18.)
But the love which he has to your soul, whereby he means to make you a partaker of his eternal glory, is not the love which he has to you as the creature of his hand, but the love he has to you as a member of the mystical body of Christ. This is what I mean by the love of God in its manifestation. The apostle therefore says– "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
If, therefore, sometimes you stand astonished at the love of God, or have ever been incredulous that the love of God should be fixed upon you, as feeling your utter insignificance as well as miserable sinfulness and vileness, you must consider why it is that God has loved you or any other of the human race– it is in his dear Son. It is in his Son that he chose the Church; in his Son that he blessed her with all spiritual blessings; in his Son that he accepted her as without spot or blemish, for she is "accepted in the Beloved." Is not this the clear, indubitable language of the apostle? "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ– according as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love– to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved." (Eph. 1:3, 4, 6.) The Church never was separated in the mind of God from her covenant Head, for she is "his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." (Eph. 1:23.)
The love, therefore, which God has to his dear Son reaches and is extended unto all the members of his mystical body. This is blessedly intimated in the intercessory prayer of our Lord– "I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me" (John 17:23); and again– "And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it– that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26.) The apostle, therefore, says, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;) and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus– that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:4-7.) Is God "rich in mercy?" It is "in Christ Jesus." Is the love with which he loved us great? It is so only in Christ Jesus. When we were dead in sins, did he quicken us? It was "together with Christ." Did he raise us up together and make us sit together in heavenly places? It is "in Christ Jesus." Will he show "in the ages to come the exceeding riches of his grace?" It will be "in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Christ, then, in his Person and work is the manifestation of the love of God– the consecrated channel through which it flows, and by which it is bounded.
Now this brings us to a very important feature in the love of God as thus manifested in the Person and work of his dear Son, which is REDEMPTION. This is a point which it deeply concerns us experimentally and savingly to know, for it meets us in our lost ruined condition as sinners; and it is as being in this case that the love of God is specially manifested. You know that in Adam we all sinned and fell from our native purity and innocency. The image of God in which we were created was utterly defaced; we became alienated from the life of God, and sank down before him dead in trespasses and sins. There was a need, therefore, of redemption from this state of alienation and death, guilt and condemnation, and all the other dreadful consequences of the Adam fall. Here love was so singularly manifested. The fall did not forfeit sonship, but it forfeited the image of God; it did not blot the names of the elect out of the Book of Life, but it blotted them all over with the mud and mire of sin; it did not destroy the union which the people of God had with Christ their covenant Head, but it sank the members of his mystical body into a pit of sin and misery, out of which nothing but the incarnation of the Son of God and the propitiation he made by his blood shedding and death could lift them out. It did not remove or impair the love of God towards the Church of Christ, for that was antecedent to the fall, but it made redemption necessary for its manifestation. It enhanced it, made it more signal and glorious, and displayed in all its luster the nature of that love which is as strong as death, which many waters of sin could not quench nor all the floods of evil drown. Whatever God was to man, whatever man was to God, sin had come in and separated between them. Sin is so dreadful an evil; it is so loathsome to the eyes of infinite Purity, such an insult to his divine Majesty, such treason to his authority, such a violation of his justice, that whatever the love of God might be to man it could not flow down to him while this barrier stood in the way. It must then be removed, or God and man be ever separate. But none could remove this barrier except God's dear Son, and he only by his mediation and death. Hence the necessity and nature of redemption by the blood shedding of Jesus.
To us, then, as sinners there is no manifestation of the love of God but in the Person and work of his dear Son, for in him there is redemption, and in no other. The apostle therefore says– "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. 1:7.) But what is the result of this work of redeeming blood? That by it poor guilty sinners obtain the pardon of all their sins; and their sins being pardoned and put away, they obtain access unto God. They are thus reconciled and brought near to their heavenly Father; for sin being removed by the sacrifice and blood shedding of Christ, there is now no longer a barrier between God and them.
Now to obtain a sense of this pardon in his own soul every child of God is made to sigh and cry mightily with prayers and supplications before the throne of grace. He is thus taught the value and blessedness of atoning blood; and as the sufferings, blood shedding, and death of the Lord Jesus are more and more revealed to his heart, the more simply and unreservedly does he look to the blood of the Lamb to purge his conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Thus the very weight of sin on his conscience makes him enter all the more feelingly and experimentally into the nature of redemption; and it becomes more opened to his view that by his precious blood-shedding and death Jesus redeemed unto God all who believe in his name, put away their sins, and forever blotted them out. He sees that he silenced the curse of the law by himself being made a curse for us; that he appeased the anger of God due to our transgressions, and fully satisfied the claims of justice, which otherwise would have dragged us to her dreadful bar, and hurled us for our offences into a deserved hell. A sight and sense of our danger much open the ear to receive instruction; and thus as the work of redemption is more plainly discovered to our spiritual view, and faith is raised up and drawn forth to believe more personally and experimentally what is thus revealed, we get clearer, more abiding, and soul-transforming views of the love of God in Christ.
Despair on the one side, and self-righteousness on the other, get a deadly wound from a believing sight of the cross; and the soul rejoices in a crucified Christ with trembling. Well may John then say– "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us." How wondrous in its nature; how gracious in its manifestation; how blessed in its communication. This last is the point to which we are now come, and which I shall attempt to open.
B. Whatever be the nature of the love of God, in all its self-originating, infinite, inexhaustible, and immutable character; or whatever grace there is in its manifestation in the Person and work of his dear Son, it is only by its communication to our soul that we come to any personal experience of it. It is therefore with this as with all other precious truths of the gospel. Though they are all contained in the Person and work of the Son of God; though they are most blessed realities as unfolded in the word of his grace, there must be a communication of them to our souls that we may believe them, feel their power, and walk in the sweet enjoyment of them.
1. Here, then, we are at once brought to the first work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart in regeneration, to make us sons of God by a new and spiritual birth. "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us." This is the love of God in its first communication, for it is bestowed upon us as an act of sovereign grace to make and manifest us to be the sons of God. And do we not see all the three Persons of the Godhead in the manner of this love? In the manner of its nature, we see the Father; in the manner of its manifestation, we see the Son; in the manner of its communication, we see the Holy Spirit; and each and all of these three Persons of the Godhead engaged in the bestowing of this love on the members of the mystical body of Jesus. But the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, in regeneration, is to manifest us sons of God by making us partakers of a new birth.
2. But this is not enough. There must be the spirit of adoption, breathed into our soul by the same Holy Spirit, before we can claim the sweet relationship, for we are sons before we know it, before we feel, or believe, or enjoy it. As the apostle says, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Gal. 4:6.) This is the Spirit's witness– "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." (Rom. 8:16.) This, therefore, is the greatest and most blessed communication of the love of God, for it is then shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit. It is what few enjoy in its full communication, and they only at special seasons; but some measure of it is necessary before we can see our sonship clearly, or believe in our heart that God is our Father.
III. But the contemplation of this love in its nature, manifestation, and communication may, with the Lord's help and blessing, lead us more clearly to see the amazing BLESSINGS and PRIVILEGES which God has conferred upon his people in bestowing upon them this love. John calls upon us to admire it– "Behold, what manner of love;" as if he would hold it up for our special view and spiritual contemplation, that we might be engaged thereby to meditate more deeply upon it, and seek for a more believing and experimental reception of its beauty and blessedness into our inmost spirit. What, then, are some of these amazing blessings and privileges?
1. The first and the foundation of the whole is to be "called the sons of God." "Called" but by whom? By man? That will little profit us– for many have called themselves and called others sons of God whom the Lord never authorized, whose claim and whose call he never ratified. Some through presumption, and others through ignorance, lay their claim upon God as their Father whom he will never own as his children, but rather say, "Depart from me; I never knew you." But if God call you his son then "all things are yours, for you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Look then next at some of these blessings and privileges of sonship thus bestowed.
2. If you are a son, you are a pardoned son. Christ has borne your sins in his own body on the tree. He has washed you in the fountain of his precious blood, obeyed the law which you have broken, wrought out a robe of righteousness which is freely imputed to you, and in which you stand complete before God.
3. As another blessing and privilege of a son of God, he has access to his Father's house. The child, you know, as one of his privileges, enjoys a free entry into his father's house; he does not knock at the door as a stranger, but opens the latch as one of the family. He knows he is welcome there, and that his parents miss him if he does not fill up his place in the house among the other children. So it is with the child of God– he has free access to his Father's house. He does not stand outside as a stranger, or come in as an occasional and not always acceptable visitor, but enters in with the familiarity of a child. But what mean I by his "Father's house?" Do I mean merely what is so commonly called "the house of God"– the place where prayer is used to be made, the tabernacles below where he sometimes manifests his presence and his power? This is indeed a privilege, and should be a highly valued one; but the house which I mean is the inner sanctuary of the Lord's presence– that sacred spot of which David speaks– "he that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm. 91:1); that habitation of which Moses wrote– "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations" (Psalm. 90:1); that holy and heavenly abode which the Lord promised by the prophet– "I will be to them a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come." (Ezek. 11:16.) Access to God in our troubles, a refuge in his bosom from every storm– this is the special privilege of a child. To such he speaks in those gracious words– "Come, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you– hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." (Isaiah. 26:20.)
4. The son has also a seat at the Father's table. Whatever the food be, be it little or much, be it dainty or crude, the child has a place at his father's table. So it is with these sons of God. God has richly supplied his table with every gospel delicacy– there is bread made from the very finest of the wheat– "the living bread which came down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die;" there is honey out of the rock; there is the choicest and sweetest milk to feed the babe; there is strong meat to nourish the man. There is not a single delicacy that can tempt the feeblest appetite, nor the most solid food that can gratify the most insatiable hunger, which God has not spread upon his heavenly table. The sweet promises, the encouraging invitations, the glorious truths, the holy precepts, the solemn ordinances, and, what crowns all, gives life to all, and is the sum and substance of all– the flesh and blood of his dear Son, are the provisions with which God has abundantly blessed Zion. And he who has spread the banquet says, "Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine which I have mingled." (Prov. 9:5.) No, Jesus himself proclaims from the head of the table, "Eat, O friends; drink, yes, drink abundantly, O beloved." The child comes as a child; he finds the table spread for him without his care or forethought, without his labor or expense. O how sweet it is when in this childlike spirit we can sit down and eat of heavenly food; when without fear, bondage, or unbelief; without darkness, barrenness and death, we can take up the word of life, and, mixing faith with what we read, sometimes drink the milk, sometimes eat the solid meat, sometimes take a sip of gospel wine, or taste of the honey out of the rock. This spiritual appetite for spiritual food; this sitting under the shadow of Jesus with great delight, and finding his fruit sweet to our taste (Song. 2:3), is a sure testimony of our adoption into the family of God.
5. Another privilege of a son is to be an heir. "And if children then heirs– heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." Our sonship does not end with this life, but abides forever and ever. This indeed is the peculiar blessedness of being a child of God, that death, which puts a final extinguisher on all the hopes and happiness of the children of men, gives him the fulfillment of all his hopes and the consummation of all his happiness; for it places him in possession of "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for those who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." (1 Pet.1:4, 5.) In this life we have sometimes sips and tastes of sonship, feeble indeed and interrupted, so that it is with us as Mr. Deer speaks– "Though you here receive but little, scarce enough for the proof of your proper title;" yet are they so far pledges of an inheritance to come.
But this life is only an introduction to a better. In this life we are but children, heirs indeed, but heirs in their minority; but in the life to come, if indeed we are what we profess to be, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, we shall be put into full possession of the eternal inheritance. And what is this? Nothing less than God himself. "Heirs of God," says the apostle. For as the Lord said to Abraham, "I am your shield and exceeding great reward;" as he said to the Levites, "I am their inheritance," so God himself is the inheritance of his people; yes, he himself in all his glorious perfections. All the love of God, the goodness of God, the holiness of God, all his happiness, bliss, and blessedness, all his might, majesty, and glory, as shining forth in the Person of his dear Son in all the blaze of one eternal, unclouded day– this is the saint's inheritance. Let us not then be weary in well doing; nor faint and tire in running the race set before us, with this prize in view; but press on by faith and prayer to win this eternal and glorious crown.
6. But I must add one more privilege of sonship, and that is obedience. If we are children of God, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, it is our privilege to be obedient to the will of our heavenly Father; and that from the heart. It is one of our richest mercies and noblest privileges to render to him, not eye service, the miserable bondage of the slave, but that free obedience which is due to him as Parent from a child. You know the difference between the cheerful obedience of an affectionate daughter or a dutiful son, and the forced obedience of a wretched drudge. One is spontaneous, hearty, affectionate, free, and is accepted as such; the other is extorted by fear, or given with an eye to the wages. Obedience to the precepts of the gospel, doing the will of God from the heart, living to his honor and glory, walking daily in the fear of the Lord, loving his people and seeking their good, and manifesting the power of vital godliness by a meek, quiet, holy life and conversation, are so many blessed marks and evidences of an adoption into the family of God.
7. A daily cross, a path of trial and tribulation, a chastening rod for going astray, a furnace of affliction, purging away the dross and tin, and its fruits, as producing true humility of mind, brokenness of heart, contrition of spirit, and tenderness of conscience, with much self-loathing and self-abhorrence, godly sorrow for sin, and earnest desires for close and holy communion with God– these are other privileges of sonship, not indeed much prized or coveted by the professors of our day, but blessed marks of a heavenly birth.
In looking at these privileges and comparing your experience with them, you will probably find some to encourage and others to discourage you. We would not be deceived; we would be honest to God and to our own consciences; and as we cannot take to ourselves what the Lord does not give, and our evidences are often obscured or out of sight, the seasons are many when we cannot rise up into the sweet enjoyment of our adoption into the living family.
III. But I pass on to the third point which I proposed for our consideration, the gross ignorance of the world as to who or what these sons of God are– "Therefore the world knows us not."
What is meant by "the world" here? All who are not partakers of the grace of God, all who are in their natural state of unregeneracy and death. Some of these belong to the openly profane, others to the professing world. But it is true of each of these worlds that the real character and condition, the state and standing, the joys and sorrows, mercies and miseries, trials and deliverances, hopes and fears, afflictions and consolations of the sons of God are entirely hidden from their eyes. But we shall see this more clearly by entering a little more fully into what is thus hidden from the world's knowledge and observation.
1. It does not know that they are SONS OF GOD. It does not know what manner of love God has bestowed on them, that they should be called his sons. It believes that God loves all men alike– that any one can be a child of God who will; that God offers himself as a Father to all without any exception, and that those who like to embrace this offer become his children at once. They have no idea that God bestows his love upon particular people, and calls them his sons. Nothing more moves their indignation than that a few poor, ignorant, despised people should dare to believe and call themselves the sons of God; as if such a favor peculiarly belonged to them, and to them only. How can therefore the world know them if it begin with denying their heavenly sonship?
2. It does not know their BLESSINGS. Being ignorant of spiritual things, having no apprehension or comprehension of divine realities, it cannot and therefore does not know those rich, those peculiar blessings with which God has blessed his people in heavenly paces in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 1:3.) It knows not, for instance, what it is to be blessed with a sense of God's presence, with a manifestation of his love, with a revelation of his mercy, with a discovery of the Person and work, grace and glory of his dear Son. Nor has it any acquaintance with those special favors that the Lord's people are so earnestly coveting, if they are not in present enjoyment of them. It knows nothing of the breathing of a living soul after God's presence; of its panting after him as the heart pants after the water-brooks; of its longings to see his power and glory, so as it has seen him in the sanctuary. And as it knows nothing of spiritual prayer and supplication, so it knows nothing of gracious answers. It knows nothing therefore of the joys of pardoned sin; of the shedding abroad of the love of God in the heart by the Holy Spirit; of a deliverance from the curse of the law, the guilt and sting of sin, and the fear of death. It knows nothing of the sweet opening up of the Scriptures of truth with power to the soul; of the application of the promises to the wearied spirit; of access to God in secret supplication through his dear Son; or, in a time of special trial and temptation, obtaining a testimony that the request is heard and registered, and will in due time be granted. It knows nothing of any softening, melting, or moving of the heart under the preached word; of any entrance by faith into the glorious mysteries of the gospel, so as to experience their transforming efficacy, and feel their subduing, sanctifying power and influence. These blessings, and many others– in fact, all the spiritual blessings with which God has blessed his people, the world knows not; therefore it knows us not.
3. Nor does the world know the motives and feelings which guide and actuate the sons of God. It views them as a set of gloomy, morose, melancholy beings, whose tempers are soured by false and exaggerated views of religion; who have pored over the thoughts of hell and heaven until some have frightened themselves into despair, and others have puffed up their vain minds with an imaginary conceit of their being especial favorites of the Almighty. "They are really," it says, "no better than other folks, if so good; but they have such contracted minds, are so obstinate and bigoted with their poor, narrow, prejudiced views, that wherever they come they bring disturbance and confusion."
But why this harsh judgment? Because it knows nothing of the spiritual feelings which actuate the child of grace, making him act so differently from the world which thus condemns him; such as the fear of God in his heart, "as a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death;" such as the holy reverence that he feels towards the name of the Most High, as deeply impressed upon his spirit; such as the dread of offending the Majesty of heaven by indulging in pleasures which the world calls harmless, but which he knows from the testimony of the word and from his own experience to be fraught with peril to the soul. It knows nothing of what it is to worship God in spirit and in truth; and therefore cannot understand why we separate ourselves from all false worship, and will not mingle spiritual service with natural devotion, or join hand in hand with those who serve God with their lips and Satan with their lives.
It cannot understand our sight and sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and that is the reason why we will not run riot with them in the same course of ungodliness. It does not know with what a solemn weight eternal things rest upon our minds; and that that is the cause why we cannot join with them in pursuing so eagerly the things of the world, and living for time as they do, instead of living for eternity. Being unable to enter into the spiritual motives and gracious feelings which actuate a living soul and the movements of divine life continually stirring in a Christian breast, they naturally judge us from their own point of view, and condemn what they cannot understand.
You may place two men upon a mountain top, with a vast and beautiful view before them. One man, dull and melancholic, without one spark of taste for beauty of scenery, resembles a Frenchman of whom I have read, who, when crossing the Alps, shut his eyes and sat shuddering in the carriage, for he could not bear to look upon those dreadful precipices and horrid icy peaks which rose in their silent majesty all around him. O no; he would sooner have been shut up in a miserable café in Paris than have had all this glorious mountain scenery before his eyes. How impossible for him to understand the feelings of his fellow traveler, some romantic Englishman, who is scarcely able to breathe for very delight and ecstasy.
In a similar way, worldly men can no more understand why we can take pleasure in hearing a long sermon, or reading the word of God, or being upon our knees in secret prayer, or feeling holy delight in the service of the Almighty, than this poor Frenchman could understand the beauty of the Alps, or that any one could take a delight in looking at lake and mountain, wild gorge or rushing waterfall, which made him shiver all over. You may place a horse and a man upon the same hill; while the man would be looking at the woods and fields and streams, or, if a Christian man, engaged in prayer and supplication to his divine Maker, the horse would be feeding upon the grass at his feet. So if men cannot enter into the divine feelings of the saints of God, need we wonder that they despise and condemn what they know not? The horse, if it could reason, would say, "What a fool my master is! How he is staring and gaping about! Why does he not sit down and open his basket of provisions, for I know he has it with him, for I carried it, and feed as I do?" So the worldling says, "These poor stupid people, how they are spending their time in going to chapel, and reading the Bible in their gloomy, melancholy way. Religion is all very well; and we ought all to be religious before we die; but they make so much of it. Why don't they enjoy more of life? Why don't they amuse themselves more with its innocent, harmless pleasures; be more gay, cheerful, and sociable, and take more interest in those things which so interest us?"
The reason why the world thus wonders at us is because it knows us not, and therefore cannot understand that we have sublimer feelings, nobler pleasures, and more substantial delights than ever entered the soul of a worldling.
IV. But we now come to the EXPLANATION of the mystery. We need not wonder at the gross ignorance of the world, and that it knows us not, for our text declares, "it knew him not."
The word "him" evidently points to the Lord Jesus Christ; for when he was in the world, the world knew him not. But we may take the word as applicable also to the Father, for the Father is spoken of in the text– "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us." What does the world know of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? Has it any fear of his great and glorious name? Has it any faith in him? any love to him? any desire to please him? any dread of displeasing him? Has it any knowledge of the justice of God in condemning, any acquaintance with his mercy in forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin? We know, from the testimony of Scripture and from daily observation, that while men are dead in sin, with a veil of unbelief spread over their heart, they do not, indeed cannot, know God; for to know him is a new Covenant blessing– "They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them" (Jer. 31:34); and it is also eternal life, for "This is life eternal, that they might know you, the only true God." (John 17:3.) They may indeed "profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." (Titus 1:16.) Need we wonder, then, that it knows us not, if it knows him not?
Neither did the world know the blessed Lord when he sojourned here below as the very image of the Father. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." They despised his word; they rejected his message; and hated both him and the Father who sent him. They crowned his brow with a crown of thorns, they struck him and buffeted him, and did not spare to spit in his face; they took him beyond the precincts of Jerusalem to the common and abhorred place of execution, and there they nailed him as a malefactor to the accursed tree. And why? Because they knew him not. As the apostle says– "Which none of the princes of this world knew– for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:8.)
If that, then, was the way in which the world treated God's only begotten Son when he came into it; if the only reception which it gave to the Lord of life and glory was to put him out of the way as an abhorred malefactor, need we wonder if the world that knew him not knows us not? If we are followers of Christ and believers in the Son of God; if we have his mind and image, walk in his footsteps, and are made like unto him by regenerating grace, need we wonder if the world is as ignorant of us as it was of him? Are we to be known and our Master unknown? Are we to be honored, and our Lord despised? Are we to be applauded, and our King contemned? Are we to be loved, and our Redeemer abhorred? Is the world to treat us better than it treated Christ?
But you will say, "This is taking high ground." It is; but can we take lower if we take any at all? We are either children of God, or we are not. If we are, the world knows us not; if we are not, the world knows us and all about us. Some of you, with all your profession, are in that spot. The world knows you; for you are one with it in walk and spirit. It knows, therefore, all about you. Your inward character is not concealed from its keen, observing eyes. The world knows ungodliness, but it does not know godliness; it knows superstition, but, not worshiping God in the spirit; it knows unbelief, but not faith; despondency, but not a good hope through grace; worldly pleasures, but not rejoicing in Christ Jesus; self-confidence, but not having no confidence in the flesh. It knows the love of sin, but not the love of holiness; the fear which has torment, but not the love which casts it out; the stings and lashes of a guilty conscience, but not the blood of sprinkling to cleanse and heal it.
The world, then, will see all through you if you are imbued with its spirit; but if you have the Spirit of Christ, it knows you not because it knew him not. No, the more you are conformed to the image of Christ, the more you manifest your sonship by your obedience, the more separated you are from the world, the less will it understand you. If we kept closer to the Lord and walked more in holy obedience to the precepts of the gospel, we would be more misunderstood than even we now are. It is our worldly conformity that makes the world so well to understand many of our movements and actions. But if our movements were more according to the mind of Christ; if we walked more as the Lord walked here below, we would leave the world in greater ignorance of us than we leave it now; for the hidden springs of our life would be more out of its sight, our testimony against it more decided, and our separation from it more complete.
I have laid before you this morning the wondrous love of God. Have you ever felt it? I have brought before you the peculiar blessings and privileges of the sons of God. Have you ever enjoyed them? I have shown you why the world knows them not. Do you feel that you have in your bosom something the world knows not, but which separates you in heart and spirit from it? And I have brought before you the solution of the mystery, and that it is because the world knows neither the Father nor the Son. Do you feel that you have that knowledge of the only true God and of Jesus Christ whom he has sent, which is eternal life? May he, if it be his sacred will, give us to know more of his stupendous love; to feel more our saving interest therein; may he warm our hearts more with his dissolving beams, and bring our life more under its constraining efficacy!