Saturday, November 28, 2009
Error has always assailed the glorious Person of Christ, either in His Godhead or in His sacred humanity. Our churches came into existence as a separate body through a holy jealousy to defend the sacred doctrine of Christ’s eternal Sonship in His divine nature, when some Baptists were denying this.
Christ is true Almighty God, the Son of the Father in truth and love, the second glorious Person in the Godhead. It is because of who He is that there is value in the work He performed.
In His incarnation the Son of God took our nature, without sin, a true human body and a true human soul into lasting union with His divine nature. He is “Man to suffer, God to save.”
“Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.”
(1 Timothy 3:16)
It is vital that we believe in the true Godhead and true humanity of the Lord Jesus:
“Could we His Person learn to prize,
We more should prize His grace.”
And O to see the wonders of His matchless condescension and love in being “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death”!
This is the Rock foundation on which the church is built.
By B.A. Ramsbottom
The purpose of Christ’s coming into this world was to save His people from their sins. For this it was essential that He must die in the sinner’s place, bearing his sin and bearing it away.
“By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
There was no other way. But O the wisdom of God in devising salvation’s plan in which, through the sacrifice of Jesus, “He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26)
The resurrection is the outward evidence that the one sacrifice has been accepted.
These vital truths we must contend for and never deviate from them.
“Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.”
By B.A. Ramsbottom
Divine justice demands a righteousness which the sinner cannot bring. In mercy Christ has wrought out a perfect righteousness, in obedience to the law, with which His Father is satisfied.
“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.”
“As by one man’s disobedience (Adam) many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One (Christ) shall many be made righteous.”
This is the glorious truth of justification by the imputed righteousness of Jesus.
And what a beauty there is in this to a sinner who feels he has none of his own. It is then that the statement that “doctrine is heaven” is truly understood.
By faith the redeemed sinner sings:
“What wondrous love, what mysteries,
In this appointment shine!
My breaches of the law are His,
And His obedience mine.”
By B.A. Ramsbottom
Friday, November 20, 2009
Preached at Zoar Chapel, London, on July 16, 1843, by J. C. Philpot
"Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple."
It is a great mercy for God's people that the account which the Holy Spirit has given of the saints in the Scripture is very different from the opinions which men form of them by nature. If we attend to the conceptions that the human heart naturally forms of saints, we would believe them to be a kind of intermediate being between us and angels, far removed from all the frailties, sins and imperfections of humanity, never overtaken by slips and falls, but continually walking in the "beauty of holiness".
But God has not recorded such imaginary saints in the Scriptures; and to beat down these foolish ideas, he has given us an account of the drunkenness of Noah, the incest of Lot, the unbelief of Abraham, the peevishness of Moses, the adultery of David, the idolatry of Solomon, the pride of Hezekiah, the cowardice of Mark, and the cursing and swearing of Peter.
But why has the Holy Spirit left on record these sins and slips of the saints? I believe chiefly for three reasons. First, that it might teach us that they were saved by grace as poor, lost, and ruined sinners, in the same way as we hope to be saved. Secondly, that their slips and falls might be so many beacons and warnings, to guard the people of God against being overtaken by the same sins, as the Apostle speaks, "All these things happened to them for examples, and are written for our admonition" 1Co 10:11. And thirdly, that the people of God, should they be overtaken by sin, might not be cast into despair; but that from seeing recorded in the Scripture the slips and failings of the saints of old, they might be lifted up from their despondency, and brought once more to hope in the Lord.
Of all the recorded prophets, Jonah perhaps stumbles us naturally the most. His disobedient, rebellious conduct before the Lord so signally chastised him; and his impetuous language after he had received such a chastisement, and such a deliverance, when he said, "I do well to be angry, even unto death," have often stumbled those who know neither the depths of the human heart, nor the heights of God's super-abounding grace! And yet, I believe, there are many of God's family, who have felt comforted and encouraged, not only by Jonah's rebellious conduct, but also by his perverse and unbecoming words. Not that they dare justify the one, nor approve of the other; but those who really know themselves, and have a deep sense of their baseness and abominable vileness before God, are sometimes enabled to derive a little sweetness from seeing to what lengths God's people who are evidently his saints, and even his inspired prophets, have been permitted to go.
I need hardly, perhaps, remind you, that the words of the text were uttered by Jonah when he was in the whale's belly. It was there he spoke them in the bitterness of his soul; it was there that these words of sad despondency, and yet of strong faith, burst from his lips, "Then I said, I am cast out of your sight, yet I will look again toward your holy temple!"
But before we enter upon the words of the text, it may be desirable to trace out a few of the steps by which Jonah came into this spot--and then we shall, if the Lord enable us, see something not merely of the perverseness of a saint of God when left to himself, but we shall also perceive something of the exercises of godly fear in the midst of that perverseness.
We read Jonah 1:1-2, "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah, the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness is come up before me."
The Lord here gave Jonah a certain command. What that particular command was, does not very much concern us at present--suffice it to say, that it was contrary to Jonah's fleshly feelings, thwarted his natural inclinations, and was a burden laid upon him heavier than he could bear. What was the effect, then, of this command on Jonah? He disobeyed it. God did not supply him with strength to obey it; it was the Lord's will at that time to teach him another lesson; therefore he withheld from him the strength by which alone he could comply with his command. And that strength being withheld, disobedience was the inevitable consequence. But how did this disobedience work? "Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa" Jonah 1:3. Now in this very rising up of Jonah to flee from "the presence of the Lord", we see, as I have before hinted, the workings of godly fear in the midst of his perversity and rebelliousness.
What is implied here by the expression, "the presence of the Lord"? It does not mean the universal presence of God, whereby he sees all things in heaven and earth. Jonah knew well that he could not escape from that, for "if he ascended up to heaven, God was there; if he made his bed in hell, he was there also" Psalm 139:8. But by "the presence of the Lord" here must be intended his manifested presence, such as is made known in the assemblies of the saints, and which at that period was manifested at Jerusalem and in the temple.
Often, then, in experience, the first step which a child of God takes, when he cannot, through the perversity of the flesh, obey God's commands, is to withdraw himself from "the presence of the Lord". He shuns and forsakes the places where it is conspicuously manifested, his raw and tender conscience being unable to bear it. He withdraws himself, for instance, from a heart-searching ministry; from any deep or close experimental preaching, such as may lash his conscience; from the company of God's deeply taught and exercised people; from those who are walking in the light, life, and fear of the Lord. The manifestations of God's power and presence in them is a continual reproof to him; it rebukes his carnality, and checks his worldly plans. He cannot bear the lashes of conviction which this "presence of the Lord" produces, and yet is unable to walk in the path which conscience points out. He withdraws himself, therefore, from the cause of these stings and reproaches, and flees away from this continual source of guilt and condemnation.
But in the midst of all this inconsistency we see marks of life. Hypocrites living in sin can sit under the most heart-searching ministry; they can rest satisfied and contented under the most experimental preaching--their conscience is seared; and, therefore, the sharpest rebukes, and the keenest reproofs cannot touch them. Thus the very withdrawing of Jonah from "the presence of the Lord", instead of being a mark against him, is rather a mark for him, as it showed that his conscience was not seared as with a hot iron, but that it was still tender in God's fear.
After Jonah then had thus withdrawn himself, as much as he could, from those things which wounded and lashed him, he goes down to Joppa; and finding "a ship going to Tarshish, he pays the fare thereof, to go with them unto Tarshish, from the presence of the Lord" Jonah 1:3. Thus a backslider buries himself in the world, as soon as he gets away from everything that stings and pierces his conscience.
But did the Lord leave Jonah there, and let him fulfill his intentions? No! "The Lord sent out a great wind, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was likely to be broken." Here was the beginning of Jonah's chastisement, the commencement of the Lord's visibly taking notice of his disobedience. But what effect does it produce on Jonah? Apparently none whatever; he is stupefied. Having withdrawn himself from "the presence of the Lord", his conscience, though not dead, is become to a certain extent callous. The very storm that frightened the superstitious mariners, and made every man cry unto his god, did not alarm him. He was gone to sleep. He did not perceive, and therefore did not tremble at, the first manifestations of God's wrath.
Thus a living soul, when he gets into a backsliding state, and withdraws himself from an experimental ministry and the company of God's family becomes to a certain degree "hardened through the deceitfulness of sin". So that when God sends affliction, and deals out troubles, he at first often does not feel it; like Jonah, he is asleep, and the conscience is callous.
What a strange thing, that the very mariners, who worshiped false gods, and had no religion but a few superstitious ideas, should be more alarmed at the tempest, than the prophet of God himself! So, when our hearts begin to grow hard, and the conscience has lost its former tenderness in God's fear, the very things that frighten others seem to have no effect on us. The judgments of God and the manifestations of his anger, which terrify even those who make no profession of religion, pass us by unfelt, and leave us unmoved.
But time, I see, will scarcely permit me to run through all the steps which eventually brought Jonah into the whale's belly; yet one thing I must just touch on, and that is, the effect which was produced on his conscience, when at length it was effectually aroused. God would not allow him to continue sleeping on; he causes the storm to become heavier, and the ship-master awakes him out of his sleep. And when they proceeded to cast lots, "to know for whose cause the evil had come upon them", "the lot fell upon Jonah".
God's finger singled him out from all the rest. And now, when his conscience is awakened by this distinct pointing of him out, and the wrath of God is flashing into his soul, he is penetrated through and through with a sense of his disobedience, and he feels the hand of God to be gone out against him. And then what follows? Doubt, despair, and overwhelming despondency. "Take me up," he says, "and cast me forth into the sea". I have sinned against God! Cast me out, "for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you".
And when with much reluctance they had taken him up, and cast him into the sea, God did not leave him there, for he "had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah--and he was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights". But in this dreadful spot, the very "belly of hell", as he calls it, Jonah begins to come to himself. His disobedience, and the consequence of it, the anger of God, were so opened up to his soul, "when the depth closed him round about", that he was overwhelmed with distress.
In Jonah's state, temporal and spiritual, we see marks, not merely of his being a child of God, but of God's merciful dealings toward him, in not allowing him to do what he pleased; he would not allow him to "go down to Tarshish", to bury himself in the world, and forsake vital godliness. Nor will God allow any of us, whose hearts he has touched by his fear, to do so. We may lay down our plans, and say, "we will do this, or that thing"; but God will disappoint every plan we make, which will not be for our spiritual good, and for his eternal glory.
When every proposed plan, then, is disappointed, and the frown of God is sensibly felt in the conscience, the soul sinks into distress and despondency; and then is the time when the Lord begins to show forth the power of his mighty arm, and to work according to his own eternal purpose.
Without further preface, then, we come to the words of the text, breathed forth by Jonah, when he was in that dreadful and distressed condition--"Then he said, I am cast out of your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple."
We may observe here two leading features–
I. Jonah's despondency– "I am cast out of your sight;"
II. Jonah's faith, working in the midst, and in spite of his despondency– "Yet I will look again toward your holy temple."
I. Jonah's DESPONDENCY. "Then I said, I am cast out of your sight." What do these words imply? What is it to be "cast out of God's sight"? They imply a deep feeling of being cast out from the manifestation of God's presence to the soul. And thus poor Jonah, when he spoke these words, uttered them in the very bitterness of his heart; he felt that he was cast out of God's gracious presence.
But he must have known something experimentally of the sweetness of God's manifested presence; he must have tasted that heaven was in it, and that all his happiness centered there. He must have enjoyed this in order to know if God's presence were not felt in the soul, there was but one barren scene of gloom and death; and that to be "cast out of his sight", was the commencement of hell upon earth.
Now here a living soul differs from all others, whether dead in sin, or dead in a religious profession. The persuasion that in God alone is true happiness; the feeling of misery and dissatisfaction with everything else but the Lord, and everything short of his manifested presence, is that which stamps the reality of the life of God in a man's soul. Mere professors of religion feel no misery, dissatisfaction, or wretchedness, if God does not shine upon them. So long as the world smiles, and they have all that heart can wish, so long as they are buoyed up by the hypocrite's hope, and lulled asleep by the soft breezes of flattery, they are well satisfied to sail down the stream of a dead profession.
But it is not so with the living soul; he is at times panting after the smiles of God; he is thirsting after his manifested presence; he feels dissatisfied with the world, and all that it presents, if he cannot find the Lord, and does not enjoy the light of his countenance. Where this is experienced, it stamps a man as having the grace of God in his heart. And thus Jonah, having tasted the sweetness, and realized the blessedness of the manifested presence of the Lord, when cast out of his sight, cried as if "out of the belly of hell".
And do not all God's people feel a measure of this when sunk deep in distress and despondency? It is not indeed always the fear of the pains of hell, of its sulphurous flames, and ever-burning fire– though these may have their solemn weight and power– but to be banished from the presence of God, in which their soul desires to find eternal bliss and joy, never to behold his glory, or be swallowed up in the everlasting contemplation and boundless enjoyment of his presence; it is in this that much of the anguish of the distressed soul consists. It is not so much the fear of punishment, or the mere pangs of slavish dread, but the feelings of a child banished from his Father's house.
To be cast then out of God's sight, implies the being banished--I do not mean eternally, but in experimental soul feeling, from the manifested presence and enjoyment of God.
But what are the prominent feelings in being thus "cast out"?
1. That of guilt. The God-taught soul knows the Lord's pure eyes cannot look on sin, and that he cannot behold iniquity but with abhorrence. Therefore "to be cast out of God's sight", implies a burden of guilt lying on the conscience; that our sins are so numerous, our backslidings so aggravated, our iniquities so dreadful, that we dare not come into the presence of him whose holy and pure eyes cannot look on us with acceptance.
2. Another prominent feeling is, that of filthiness. When the Lord by his blessed Spirit opens up the depths of a man's corrupt heart, and takes away the veil of self-delusion that is spread over it by nature, he covers him with shame and confusion of face, and makes him feel that he is too black and filthy, too vile and polluted to be admitted into his sacred presence. Thus we feel "cast out", as being too filthy to come into God's sanctuary.
3. Another prominent feeling is that of misery and wretchedness. When Jonah uttered these words, he spoke them in the anguish of his soul. Perhaps there is no feeling more bitter for a living soul to experience than to be "cast out of God's sight". If we are in trouble, and the Lord is by our side, he makes trouble light. If we are passing through heavy scenes of tribulation, and the Lord sensibly lays his everlasting arms underneath the soul, he bears it up. If the body is afflicted, if all things appear to be against us in providence, if there be family trials and sorrows, if the Lord be but present, if he but supports the soul, and speaks comfort to the heart, all these things can be borne; "for the spirit of a man can sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear"?
But when, in addition to all the afflictions and troubles of this mortal life, God himself seems to frown on the soul, when he appears to take no notice of it, and neither to hear nor answer its prayers; and when, instead of pouring oil and wine into the bleeding wounds, it seems as though he were rather pouring into them venom and poison, this is indeed to be experimentally "cast out of God's sight".
4. But another prominent feeling, is that of most complete helplessness. What a different thing it was for Jonah to withdraw himself from the Lord's presence, and for God to withdraw his presence from Jonah. He easily enough withdrew himself from the Lord, but when he would come back, and return to his former position--when he would gladly once more bask in the Lord's smiles; when he would once more cry from the bottom of his heart "my Father"; when he would once more enjoy the tokens of adopting love; when he would once more look upon the canceling of his sins, and the blotting out of his transgressions; when he would once more creep into the very bosom of a covenant God, alas, there was no approach. His helplessness, impotency, and inability blocked up the way; and the Lord not drawing, but rather repelling him, every approach served only to drive him farther and farther back.
Thus, these four prominent feelings, guilt, filth, wretchedness, and helplessness, were all at work together in Jonah's troubled mind; so that when he spoke these words he uttered them full of anguish of spirit. And that which he doubtless felt to be the bitterest ingredient of all, was, the conviction of that great truth which the Lord afterwards spoke by Jeremiah, "Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God?" Jeremiah 2:17
Whatever exercises the soul may have to pass through; whatever afflictions may be heaped on our head; whatever trouble the mind may be in, we must come to this--that we must justify the Lord in all his dealings with us, and say to him, "We have deserved all this, and ten thousand times more." We dare not charge God with iniquity, and say to him, "We have not merited this at your hands." And this is the bitterness to the child of God, that he knows whatever he suffers, he has justly and richly merited it all.
And now, my friends, have you ever felt this soul bitterness, and known what it is to be experimentally "cast out of God's sight"? Is this the most painful feeling that you have ever passed through? Did your natural afflictions ever equal the sorrow you have felt from this? Did temporal trials ever weigh so heavily in the balance? Whatever worldly afflictions and troubles a man may pass through--I believe this firmly in my conscience--that they are nothing compared to spiritual trials. I have passed through my share of natural trouble, but I never found any natural trouble like spiritual trouble. Spiritual sorrows, temptations, and exercises so outweigh natural troubles, that they are not to be compared with each other.
Now if you have been companions with Jonah in his despondency, you will be able to look at–
II. Jonah's FAITH. "Yet I will look again toward your holy temple." Jonah 2:4
I think the case of Jonah approaches as near to suicide as any instance in the Scriptures. Jonah, it is true, did not throw himself overboard; but he said, "Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea." He was preserved, miraculously preserved, from the damning sin of suicide. But he seems to me to have sunk into as much despondency of mind, as if he had actually leaped from the bow of the ship into the boiling waves; the difference is, he permitted himself to be thrown in by the hands of others--and God miraculously preserved him; with these two points of difference only did he escape the fatal sin of self-murder.
But in the midst of all his despondency, we find he had faith living and working in his heart--as Deer says, "It lives and labors under load; though damped, it never dies."
This blessed grace of faith was not merely alive, but lively in the midst of all the burdens and exercises that lay upon it; and it was in the exercise of this living faith that he said "Yet will I look again toward your holy temple."
God's holy temple was at Jerusalem; and this temple was typical, as I observed before on a recent occasion, of the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not, then, to the literal temple that Jonah looked. The building of stone could not profit him, as he lay in "the belly of hell", but he looked beyond the temple to what the temple represented. He looked through the natural building to that which it symbolized. His faith turned toward the human nature of the Lord Jesus, which was to be in due time united, indissolubly united to the Godhead, so as to form one glorious Person, "Immanuel, God with us;" the Mediator, the only Mediator between God and man.
But how did the temple represent the human nature of the Lord Jesus? First, in it God dwelt. As the Lord said, "Whoever shall swear by the temple swears by it, and by Him who dwells therein" Matthew 23:21. It was in the temple that God dwelt, in the cloud on the mercy-seat; and so in the human nature of Jesus Christ, which is spotless and holy, does God dwell, "for in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily". And secondly, everything in the temple was connected with, and had relation to the Lord Jesus, as Mediator between God and man. The mercy-seat, sprinkled once a year with atoning blood, the holy of holies, the bronze altar on which the sacrifices were continually offered, and in a word, everything connected with the temple, had a spiritual and typical reference to the Lord of life and glory.
Jonah then, in "looking toward the holy temple", looked to all that the temple represented and symbolized. Thus, in the midst of all the sinking of his soul, and the distress of his mind, he cast a despairing yet believing look, for we may conjoin the two apparently contradictory expressions, towards God's holy temple--the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, in order to do this, the eyes of his understanding must have been spiritually enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Faith must have been given to him by God himself to look toward this only Mediator; the efficacy of his atoning blood must have been seen and felt; the glory of his justifying righteousness must have been beheld; the dignity and beauty of his Person must have been divinely realized and not only must faith have flowed out toward him, but hope must have anchored on him, and love been firmly fixed upon him.
And thus, however low Jonah sank in trouble, he lost not his acquaintance with divine teachings. Did he go to Joppa? He did not lose them there. Did he fall asleep in the hold of the ship? He did not lose them there. Did the storm rage, the winds blow, and was Jonah cast into the billows? He did not lose his faith there; yes, when he was come into the very "belly of hell", he did not lose it even there. The Lord had given him living faith; and he who first kindled the divine spark in his soul, kept it secretly alive, brought it forth into fresh exercise, and never let the holy flame expire. This living faith keeps the soul from utter despair, however low it may sink in distress and trouble. Faith, hope, and love, formerly kindled and realized in the soul, held it up from utterly sinking in the deep waters. And thus, in the midst of the soul's despondency, and of its sharpest exercises, there is often a blessed "Yet I will look again toward your holy temple."
Now this word "again", shows that Jonah had looked there before; that it was not the first time his eye had been fixed by faith on the Person and work of the Mediator; and that it was not the first time his soul had received benefit from Jesus' blessed mediation.
But what is contained in the expression "look"? There are various kinds of looking. There is, for instance, the look of mere speculation; but that will not profit us. There is the looking by the eye of sense, as the Jews, who crucified Jesus, looked on his bleeding and agonized body; but that look did not profit their souls. There is the looking on him as revealed in the letter of God's word, a seeing the name of Jesus in the Scripture, and a reading of many texts that speak of the efficacy of his atoning blood and righteousness; but that will not profit us. All this is merely a looking after the flesh; but the Apostle says, "though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more". But the looking that profits the soul, that saves it, delivers it, and brings it out of every hole into which it may be sunk, is the look by faith.
But Jonah's look was not exactly that– it was indeed a believing look; but it was rather a longing, lingering, and almost despairing glance, that did not bring him out of the distress into which he was sunk, nor relieve him from the despondency with which he was overwhelmed. It was as though he would take one last look, as though he could not entirely sink into despair; and as if one look more would keep him from being entirely swallowed up, from being altogether a castaway. It was not then such a confident look as could deliver him out of "the belly of hell"; it was but just sufficient to bring into his heart a little support, and to keep hope and love alive in his soul.
Now, I believe many of God's people are just in that state; they have not sufficient faith to bring them out of their trouble; the Lord does not sufficiently make known the riches of his grace to burst asunder every chain and fetter in which they are entangled. He does not see good to break the neck of every temptation, and bring the soul out of the despondency in which it is lying; but he gives just sufficient faith to preserve alive his own work in the soul, and thus keeps it looking again and again toward "his holy temple". By this look, strength indeed is imparted to support the soul, yet not sufficient completely to deliver it out of the exercises, temptations, and distresses that it may be burdened with.
Now "a full soul" who knows nothing of this inward experience, will not value such a look as this. To be kept on a low diet cannot suit those who would turn away from every table not spread with delicacies--and so the idea of being preserved barely alive will not suit those who know nothing of vital godliness. But when a soul is really taught the grand difference there is between faith and presumption; and the eternal and dreadful distinction between what a man can do for himself, and what God does in and for him; when it feels the amazing difference between what comes from God as a free gift, and what is stolen by the pilfering hands of the creature--then it begins to find that the communication of God's mercy and grace is not a thing constantly enjoyed in everyday profusion; that the table is not daily loaded with luxuries, but that the soul is kept alive from day to day, and preserved from actual starvation only by those crumbs and drops that God may be pleased to bless it with.
And, my friends, nothing but passing through a measure of soul exercises, temptations, and trials, will teach a man this lesson. There is no means so effectual naturally to teach a man what good food is, as to put him for some time on a starving system--to keep him on a low diet, to shut him up for awhile in a prison, or confine him within the walls of a workhouse. And so, spiritual hunger makes a man value gospel food, when he receives it as an answer to his prayers. When one is kept on short allowance; when God will not smile on the soul when we desire it; when he will not apply his promises when we want them; when one gets only a little here and a little there according to the Scripture definition, "line upon line, and precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little", I say, when a man is brought to this point, he begins to value and enjoy those things which before he thought little of.
Nothing, I believe, can really comfort a God-taught soul, but the consolations that God alone can bless him with; the only food that can really satisfy a living man, is the bread of life that the Holy Spirit from time to time brings down into his heart; and his heart can only be established and kept at anchor, just as the Lord is pleased from time to time to favor him with testimonies. And these realities are very rare, while counterfeits abound. False Christs, notional religion, carnal security, may be had at every shop, and be picked up in every street; but real testimonies from God, gracious smiles of his favor, gospel food brought down from heaven, you may depend upon it, my friends, that those who know these things experimentally, will say that they are very rare indeed. It is only occasionally that the Lord bestows these favors; it is only when we have been long toiling, and can catch nothing, that we are enabled to cast our net on the right side of the ship.
And the Lord's people learn two things in this school– their own wretchedness without them, and the rarity and infrequency of them. They are unable to procure them for themselves; and yet they are unable to live comfortably and die happily without them. Thus they are brought to see that much that passes for religion is not true religion at all; that much that goes for true evidences and real hopes is nothing but lying refuges; that much is palmed upon men for the teaching of the Spirit which is nothing but delusion; that vital godliness is very rare; that there are very few people spiritually taught of God; that there are very few ministers who really preach the truth; and that Satan is thus daily deceiving thousands, and tens of thousands.
A living soul, however weak and feeble in himself, cannot be satisfied, except with God's own testimony to his heart. He cannot take up with a religion in the flesh; he cannot rest on the opinions of men, nor be long deceived by Satan's delusions. There is a principle of divine discernment in a God-taught soul. However carnal he may be, however buried in the world, he cannot rest long contented without God's blessing. If the Lord does not communicate some token and blessed testimony to his soul, he can have no solid happiness.
It is this conviction working underground, that mars all his fleshly consolation. It is this secret gnawing of conscience in a living soul that makes it dissatisfied with a religion that satisfies thousands. If his conscience is alive in God's fear, he knows he cannot deceive God, however he may deceive himself. He knows that there will be a solemn day of reckoning, that all shall stand before that great tribunal. He would rather, therefore, suffer a thousand hells here, than go to hell at last.
May we not be deceived then, for a deceived wretch is worse than any wretch. May we not be deluded by the devil, or our own hearts. And if we are brought into simplicity and godly sincerity, we never shall be deceived; God himself will not allow it; for the work of God in a man's heart will teach him the wretched deceitfulness of everything in the creature.
And this work God keeps alive in his soul, so that however low he may sink, however he may be exercised, whatever doubts and fears he may be plunged into, he will look again towards God's temple. He cannot give it up; he cannot cast away his hope, nor throw aside his profession. He holds on, and struggles and stumbles through all to "the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul". And when the Lord, by his Spirit, lifts him out of his despondency and trouble, and brings him out of this trying path, he will see that it has been a safe path, and that the Lord has led him in it ultimately to make him a partaker of everlasting bliss!
Preached at Zoar Chapel, London, on July 28, 1846, by J. C. Philpot
"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.
They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God."
The time and circumstances under which this Psalm was written we may fairly gather from the internal evidences of the Psalm itself. First, then, this Psalm was composed while "the ark of God dwelt within curtains," and therefore while the tabernacle was yet standing, before Solomon's temple was erected. This we gather from verse 1—"How amiable are your tabernacles," (or tents) "O Lord Almighty!" Secondly, it was written after the ark of God had been brought to Mount Zion, the city of David, of which we have a full account given us in 2 Samuel 6; this we gather from the 7th verse, "They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appears before God." Thirdly, the Psalm was composed during the time of David's flight from Jerusalem—for it is the language of one who was sighing after the courts of the Lord, and yet was debarred from approaching them. By this internal evidence, therefore, the time is strictly fixed to the flight and exile of David from Jerusalem on account of Absalom's rebellion.
David, then, in his exile, was mourning after the blessings and privileges of those true believers who were going up to the house of the Lord, according to his command, to worship at Jerusalem. We cannot enter into the feelings of a true Israelite upon these occasions. The Lord has ordained that three times in the year all their males should appear before him. They came up from different parts of the land, according to this command; and there, from time to time, the Lord met with and blessed their souls. There they had a glimpse of the glory of the Lord dwelling between the cherubim; there they had their prayers answered, and their souls refreshed; and there they beheld, typically and figuratively foreshadowed, "the true tabernacle," the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, "which God pitched, and not man."
But David was debarred from going up to the house of the Lord. He was sitting solitary, and mourning, not only on account of the deep mortification of being driven from his throne, but also at not being able to come before the Lord, as in times of old. He envied therefore the very sparrow and the swallow that could fly through the air, and take up their happy abode beneath those altars which his soul so longed to approach. And doubtless, there was one feeling which pressed very hard on David's soul—that his sins had driven him into exile. The finger of scorn throughout Israel was pointed at him as an open adulterer and convicted murderer. Thus, he had not only the melancholy feeling of being debarred from approaching God's sanctuary; but this feeling was deeply increased by the guilt and shame that he had brought upon his own head.
Now while he was thus solitarily musing upon these pilgrims going upward to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in his earthly courts in Zion, his soul seems to have fallen into a train of holy and spiritual meditation. This earthly pilgrimage foreshadowed to him the pilgrimage of a saint heavenward; and thus, viewing all the circumstances of their journey, his thoughts turned upon what this pilgrimage spiritually typified; and he breaks out into this blessing upon God's worshiping people —"Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they will still be praising you."
But are these the only persons blessed? No. He adds "Blessed is the man whose strength is in you;" who has something more than the mere outward privilege of drawing near these courts; whose inward strength is in God, and who draws his supplies out of his fullness of grace and mercy. "Blessed is the man," he further adds, "in whose heart," that is, in whose experience, through divine teaching and divine testimony, "are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well."
In considering the words of the text this evening, I shall view them as the Holy Spirit has given us the spiritual clue to their import. There is a true spiritualization of God's word, and there is a false spiritualization of it. Some men can see deep mysteries in the "nine-and-twenty knives" that came from Babylon; in the oak beneath which Deborah was buried; and I dare say, some would find unfathomable depths in "Appii Forum, and the Three Taverns." (Acts 28:15.) But we cannot build up a spiritual interpretation except the Holy Spirit has laid a foundation, nor track out a path unless he has given us a clue. But as the blessed Spirit, by the mouth and pen of David, has here given us a spiritual clue, we may follow these pilgrims in their journey up to the earthly Jerusalem, and see in it a lively representation of the true pilgrims journeying to heaven, their happy home.
We will then, as the Lord may enable, endeavor severally to unfold the distinct clauses of our text. Observe, then,
I. The BLESSING that David pronounces upon the man whose strength is in God. "Blessed is the man whose strength is in you." But where shall we find that man? Where are we to look for him? In what corner does he dwell? I am bold to say, that no man ever had his strength in God until he had lost all his own. I am bold to say, from Scripture and from experience, that no man ever felt or ever knew, spiritually and experimentally, what it was to put his trust and confidence in God, who had not been thoroughly weaned and emptied from putting all trust and confidence in himself. Therefore, when David pronounces this spiritual blessing, "Blessed is the man whose strength is in you," his eye was fixed upon a certain gracious character, one who had been deeply emptied, one whose strength had been turned into weakness, his wisdom into folly, and his loveliness into corruption. How are you, how am I, to put our trust in an invisible God? Can I see him? And can I put my trust in an invisible being? It is impossible, unless I have faith to see God, who is invisible.
Two distinct things must therefore meet in my heart, under the Spirit's secret operations, before I can come in for any share of this blessing. I must, first, by a work of grace upon my soul be weakened; as we read, "He weakened my strength in the way." "He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help." I must be weakened by being experimentally taught that all my natural strength in divine things is but impotency and helplessness. And how can I learn this, but through a series of trials? I must have temptations; and find my strength against these temptations utterly powerless. I must have trials; and find these trials so great, that my own strength is insufficient to bear them. I must have a discovery of God's majesty, purity, and holiness, that all my strength may wither at the glance of the eye of God in my conscience. I must sink down into creature ruin, hopelessness, and helplessness, before I can ever give up the fancied idea of strength in myself. Man is born an independent creature. It is the very breath of a natural man. "Independence" was once my boasted motto. It suits the proud heart to rest upon itself. And our rebellious nature will always rest upon self, until self has received its death-blow from the slaughter-weapon that the man clothed with linen carries in his hand. (Ezek. 9.)
Now this in most cases will take a series of trials to produce. We are not stripped in a day; we are not emptied in a day; we are not ruined and brought to beggary and rags in a day. Many of the Lord's people are years learning that they have nothing and are nothing. They have to pass through trial after trial, temptation after temptation, affliction after affliction, before they learn the secret of creature weakness, creature helplessness, and creature hopelessness.
But there is another requisite. It is not sufficient for me to know my poverty, my ruin, my wretchedness; I must have something more than this revealed in my heart. I must have another lesson unfolded to my soul by the power of God the Spirit. I must learn this sacred truth, "I have laid help upon One that is mighty." I must be taught to say, "God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." I must know what the Lord Jesus so sweetly unfolded to the Apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9.)
Have you found out these two things in your heart? How many years have some here made a profession, have come to hear the truth preached, have approved of the testimony of God's servants, and have read the writings of gracious men! But have you learned these two lessons yet? first, creature weakness, helplessness, and hopelessness; to sink down into your miserable self; to be filled with confusion; to have nothing in yourselves but rags and ruin? And then, has the Spirit opened up, brought down into your heart, and unfolded to your soul that precious Mediator between God and man, "the Hope of Israel," the blessed Jesus, whose strength is made perfect in weakness, that on him you may lean, in him you may trust, and upon whom you may rely to bring you safely through all? If you have learned experimentally in your conscience those two lessons—creature weakness and Creator might—the helplessness of man and the power of God—then you come in for the blessing, "Blessed is the man whose strength is in you."
II. "In whose heart are the ways of them, who passes through the valley of Baca, make it a well." David casts a glimpse here at those pilgrims who were traveling their upward journey to worship God in Zion. He marks their road, and takes occasion to spiritualize it; for he says, "in whose heart," in whose experience, in whose soul, "are the ways" of these pilgrims Zionward.
What are these "ways?" It is this, that "passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a well." This valley of Baca appears to have been a very perilous pass, through which pilgrims journeyed toward Jerusalem—and on account of the difficulties, dangers, and sufferings that they met with, it was named "the valley of Baca," or 'the valley of weeping,' 'the valley of tears.'
And is not this very emblematical and figurative of the valley of tears through which God's people journey in their course heavenward? There are many circumstances which draw tears from their weeping eyes. Depend upon it, if, in the course of your profession, you have never known anything of this valley of Baca, you have mistaken the road; you are not traveling through the true valley to reach Zion; you are taking another route which leads not heavenward, but to eternal destruction.
Many are the circumstances in providence that draw tears from the eyes, and cause poignant sorrow to be felt in the heart of the true child of God. Men naturally have many sorrows in their course through life. But the Lord's people seem to have a double portion allotted to them. They have the cares of life like their fellow-mortals; they have sources of temporal sorrow in common with their fellow-sinners. But, in addition to these providential afflictions, they have that which is peculiar to themselves—spiritual grief, burdens, and sorrows. Some of the Lord's people are deeply sunk in poverty; others, have an almost daily cross from a suffering and weakly tabernacle; others, have to endure persecutions, and to receive many severe blows from sinners and severer from saints; others, have family afflictions; others are mourning over their blighted schemes, and the disappointment of all their temporal expectations.
But, added to these temporal trials that the Lord's people have to pass through in common with their fellow-men, they have spiritual trials that far outweigh any of a temporal nature. Sharp and cutting temptations; the workings of a heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; the hidings of the Lord's countenance; the doubts and alarms that work in their minds whether their feet are upon the rock; the fear of death, and the prospect of eternity; the harassing darts of the Wicked One; inward guilt and grief on account of an idolatrous, adulterous, and backsliding nature—these are but a small portion of those sorrows that draw tears from the true pilgrim's eye. It is indeed a valley of tears for the Lord's family, a "valley of Baca," which they have to pass through to reach the heavenly Zion.
But the Psalmist says, "Blessed is the man in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well." Here is the distinctive character of the true pilgrim. Not that he is journeying merely through the "valley of Baca;" not that his eyes are drowned in tears; not that his heart is filled with sorrows; not that his soul is cut with temptations; not that his mind is tried by suffering. But this is his distinctive feature—he "makes it a well." This the ungodly know nothing of; this the professing world, for the most part, are entirely unacquainted with; but this is the "secret which no fowl knows, and which the vulture's eye has not seen."
One feature of the "valley of Baca" was, that the burning sun above, and the parched ground beneath, at the time of year when the pilgrims traveled, made the whole valley arid and dry. But "they made it a well." There were wells dug in this valley of Baca for the pilgrims to slake their thirst at. And David, looking at these wells dug for the pilgrims, applies them spiritually to the refreshment that the Lord's people meet with in their course Zionward.
"Make it a well;" that is, there are from time to time sweet refreshments in this valley of tears; there are bubblings up of divine consolation; there are fountains of living waters, streams of heavenly pleasures. And when the sun-burnt, weary pilgrims, all parched and dry, are journeying through this valley, and their tongues cleave to the roof of their mouths with thirst, the Lord from time to time opens up in this valley a well; as we read, Isa. 41:17, 18, "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water."
Some manifestation of his gracious presence, some promise coming with power to the soul, some testimony of saving interest in the love and blood of Jesus, some smile from his countenance, some word from his lips, some encouraging testimony that the feet are upon the Rock, is given. This is a well at which his thirst is slaked; his parched tongue no longer cleaves to his palate; he drinks of the water that bubbles up from the thirsty soil to refresh the weary Pilgrim.
By this you may know whether you are a pilgrim Zionward. You all find this fallen world a valley of tears; you have burdens, sorrows, and afflictions of various kinds. But have you nothing more? If there be nothing more, are you a pilgrim? This is their distinctive feature—they "make it a well." What! no refreshments from the divine presence? no sweet encouragements from time to time in prayer? no blessing under the preached word? no melting of heart from a sense of the Lord's kindness to your soul? no glimpses and glances of a precious Jesus? no bubblings up of life and feeling to soften a hard heart? It will not do to call yourself a pilgrim merely because you have trials, and are journeying through a valley of tears. We must have something more than this to prove that we are pilgrims; we must have wells—"a well of water," as the Lord speaks, "springing up into everlasting life"—divine refreshments, gracious manifestations, heavenly testimonies—something from God that comforts, that blesses, that waters the soul, and makes it like a watered garden.
And is it not the valley of tears—the dry, the parched, the arid, the sun-burnt valley—that makes the well so acceptable? I remember a friend of mine telling me, that once journeying through one of the deserts in Asia, they came to a well; and the disappointment of the company when they found the well was dry, he said, no language could depict; their grief and trouble when, after hours of traveling, they came at night to encamp by the well, and found that the sun had dried it up, were indeed most acute. As therefore, none but pilgrims through the dry and parched valley could adequately feel the sweetness of the natural well; so none but spiritual pilgrims, afflicted, exercised, and harassed, can feel the sweetness of the "pure water of life" that the Lord at times refreshes the soul with.
When David therefore blesses the pilgrims, he does not bless them on account of their traveling through the "valley of Baca;" he does not bless them for the tears that fall from their eyes, for the sorrows that fill their hearts, for the afflictions and perplexities that they are tried with; but because they make it a well. Because it is not all darkness, but there is sometimes a ray of light; because it is not all despondency, but sometimes beams of hope; because it is not all unbelief, but sometimes the actings of faith; because it is not all temptations, trials, and afflictions, but sometimes the sweet refreshings and revivings of God's gracious presence.
III. "The rain also fills the pools." It appears that there were "pools," or tanks, which were built for the use of the pilgrims as they journeyed through this valley. The wells of springing water were not their only resource; lest they should fail, there were tanks or pools constructed; and these derived their supplies of water from the rain that fell into them. And may we not give this a spiritual interpretation? I think we justly may, without violating the mind and meaning of the Spirit. These pools, then, seem to represent what are called the means of grace, the ordinances of the Lord's house, and those various helps that God himself has appointed; but which are in themselves as desolate and dry as the pool or tank, and need the rain of heaven to fill them with sweet and refreshing water for the use of the weary pilgrims.
1. For instance—prayer and supplication, waiting upon the Lord, going to his footstool, begging him to appear on our behalf—this is a pool which the Lord has appointed. "Call unto me; I will answer you." "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." "For all these things will I be enquired of by the house of Israel, that I may do it." "If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and upbraids not, and it shall be given him." Here are pools; but do we not need the rain to fill them? What is prayer, unless the Lord inspires the petition? What is prayer, unless the Lord give an answer?
I remember, many years ago, seeing in Canterbury Cathedral, the shrine of Thomas a Beckett; and—would you believe it?—the pavement is actually worn into hollows by the pilgrims who used to kneel there in the superstitious days of Popery. How many true prayers were offered at that idolatrous shrine? Prayers! Abominations in the sight of a holy God! Yet they could wear the pavement hollow with their knees. But have not you and I offered prayers equally unacceptable to the Lord God of hosts as the prayers that were offered at the shrine of Thomas a Beckett? Yes, thousands. But when "the rain fills the pools," it is different. When the Lord draws, the soul runs; when the Lord inspires, the soul breathes; when the Lord smiles, the soul melts; when the Lord invites, the soul follows; when he says, "Call unto me," we come, beg, and pray. When "the rain fills the pools," we are like Hannah of old, who when she had poured out her heart before the Lord, and got the answer of peace from Eli's mouth, went her way and was no more sad; she had drunk a draught of the pool.
2. Are not God's promises pools? How they are strewed up and down God's word, like the pools or tanks in "the valley of Baca!" But have you not sometimes come to the promises, and found them as dry as the brooks spoken of in the 6th chapter of Job, which so disappointed the companies of Sheba. I read the promises—can they refresh my soul? I may come to the pool; but if the pool is dry, will coming to the dry pool refresh my parched palate? No. The rain must fill it. When the rain has filled the pool, I can then bow down, and slake my thirst. The rain of God's grace, and the dew of heaven, must drop into the promise, and fill the pool that you and I may come to it, feel a sweetness in it, and have our souls refreshed and strengthened by it.
3. And is not preaching a pool? Has not God appointed "by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe?" But have not you and I often found it a dry pool? How many sermons have you heard during the past year that really blessed, comforted, and strengthened your soul? Has one in ten, one in twenty, one in a hundred, really brought a blessing into your heart by the power of God? How often these pools are dry! I find them so; you find them so, who know the difference between letter and spirit, between "bodily exercise which profits little," and the power of vital godliness that is profitable unto all things. The Lord will teach his people this; and he will teach it his ministers also. They may construct a pool—in their parlours at home they may build a very pretty tank; it may be divided and sub-divided; a cell here, and a compartment there—and they may come with their pools to chapel; but unless the rain fills it from above, all their ingenuity will be thrown away, and they had better have left it high and dry at home.
4. Are not the ordinances of God's house pools? And have we not had continual experience how barren, how dry these pools sometimes are? Have we not sometimes sat at the table of the Lord, and blasphemous thoughts, filthy imaginations, horrible workings filled our minds? Have we not felt carnality, deadness, bondage, darkness? no rain filling the pool? And have we not looked upon the baptismal pool, and though filled with rain from the roof, it never profited unless the rain from heaven filled the spiritual ordinance, as well as the rain from above has filled the natural baptistery.
So we might travel through the various means of grace which God has spoken of in his word; and we would find alike in all, that unless God fills the pools, they cannot slake our spiritual thirst.
But this is the blessedness of the pilgrims, that the rain does sometimes fill the pools. It is not with them all deadness in prayer, all coldness in reading, or all darkness in hearing. There are sometimes heavenly manifestations, diving refreshments, and breakings in of the Lord's presence and favor; this is the rain filling the pools. And when the rain fills the pools, then it is, and then only, that they afford any life or feeling to our souls.
IV. "They go from strength to strength." It is in the margin, "from company to company." I rather think, that the meaning implied is, "they go from resting place to resting place." There were certain fixed spots where the whole company rested at night; as we read, when the infant Jesus tarried in Jerusalem, his parents knew it not—they supposed that he was "in the company;" that is, had gone on with the traveling pilgrims—but when night came, and they looked for him, he was not there. (Luke 2:44.)
These resting places were certain spots where the caravan of the traveling pilgrims rested at night; by these successive stoppings their strength was restored, and they were enabled to bear the long journey, rising in the morning refreshed with their night's rest.
The Psalmist viewing it spiritually, says, "They go from strength to strength." At each resting place they received fresh strength to pursue their journey onward. And is not this true in grace? There are resting places in the divine life, spots of rest, where the true pilgrims renew their strength. For instance; every manifestation of the Lord is a communication of divine strength, a recruiting place, where the soul renews its strength to travel onward. Every promise that comes with sweet power is another halting place where the traveler may rest. Every discovery of saving interest in Christ; every glimpse of the grace and glory of Jesus; every word from the Lord's lips; every smile from the Lord's face; every token for good; everything that encourages, supports, blesses, and comforts the soul, enabling it to go onwards towards its heavenly home—is a resting place, where the pilgrim rests, and where he renews his weary limbs.
And where can we rest, except where God rests? But does not God "rest in his love?" And can we rest anywhere short of God's love shed abroad in our heart? Does not God rest in his dear Son? Did not this voice come from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased?" All the satisfaction of God centers in Jesus; all the delight of the Father rests in the Son of his love. "Behold my servant; whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights!" (Isa. 42:1.) Can we then rest anywhere but where God rests? Is it not spiritually with us as with the Israelites of old? When the cloud tarried, they tarried; when the cloud went, they went; when the cloud moved onward they followed it; and when the cloud stopped, they halted, and rested beneath its shadow.
What rest can I have in my troubles, afflictions, exercises, and temptations? Can I rest in them? I might just as well think of trying to rest myself on the bottom of the Thames; I might just as well try to lie down on some deep marsh, and there recline my weary bones. As to resting on doubts and fears, trials and temptations, griefs and sorrows, exercises and perplexities, the troubled bosom of the sea is as much a bed for the storm-tossed mariner, as exercises and troubles are for the weary pilgrim. I cannot, I must not rest short of that rest which "remains for the people of God." What is that? Christ—the true Sabbath. I can only rest in his finished work, in his atoning blood, in his dying love, in his imputed righteousness. He, and he only, can be the rest of my restless soul. And when I can do that, I am like the weary caravan of pilgrims traveling Zionward; they halted for the night; they sweetly slept, for the shadow of God's everlasting love was over them; and thus they recruited their strength for the next day's journey.
But mark, they were not always resting. They had alternate jouneyings by day, and restings by night; the thorns of the valley often lacerated their tender feet; the burning sun beat upon their aching heads; the wild beasts of the valley howled and shrieked through the bushes; banditti perhaps hovered upon the rocks, waiting to cut off a straggling passenger; the trackless wilderness was behind, the wild desert before, and Zion to them at a boundless distance. Yet on they journeyed, and never went back. They had a certain goal in view—Zion, Zion, their eyes were fixed upon—and the thought of reaching this cheered them as they went on.
Is it not so with spiritual pilgrims? Is it always rest with you? Are you always satisfied that you are a child of God? Are you always certain that heaven is your home? Can you always rest in God's love to your soul? Can you always find Christ precious to your heart? I cannot; if you can. We have to journey onward; another day of sorrow, another day of trial, another day of temptation, another day of exercise—each day bringing a new trial. Yet we journey onward; not driven from truth, not driven from Zion, not driven from God, not driven from Jesus—onward, onward, onward we go; our faces set Zionward, our backs towards the world. These poor weary pilgrims would often march staggering and fainting under their burdens, burnt by the rays of the sun, scarcely able to move one foot before another. But the resting place is reached; the signal is given; once more they rest, and their strength is restored.
It is so spiritually. God gives a little rest to the soul; some manifestation, some evidence, some testimony; a word, a look, a smile, a glimpse, a glance. "They go from strength to strength." Is not this strength? There is no other. "Blessed is the man whose strength is in you." Therefore it is "from strength to strength." It must be God's strength he goes forward in, not his own. If it were his own, he would not come under the blessing; "whose strength is in you." If he could rest when he would, eat when he would, drink when he would, he would not need the Lord to be the "strength of his heart and his portion forever." This puts sweetness into the pilgrimage—"they go from strength to strength," from halting place to halting place, from refreshment to refreshment. For it was at these resting places the wells were dug; at these pools they tarried for the night, and sometimes found them filled with the rain of heaven. Thus they not only rested their weary limbs upon the desert, but they slaked their thirst at the well, or pool, and ate of the palm that overshadowed their head.
And is it not so spiritually? Where we rest, there we find water, refreshment, and strength. We do not find the pool when we are journeying onward; but when we are weary, exhausted, and faint, the Lord opens rivers in the wilderness, and waters in the desert; and when we come there, we are allowed to tarry for a night, as the children of Israel encamped by the waters of Elim.
V. And then, what comes as the glorious CONSEQUENCE? O sweet winding-up of this heavenly subject! O blessed crown that the Lord puts upon it all! "Every one of them in Zion appears before God." None perished by the way, none were devoured by the wild beasts, none cut off by the wandering banditti, none fainted on the road; some perhaps, straggling in the rear, and others coming in late and lagged. But when the company is counted, none are missing; old men and young children, tender women and stout youth—all the company of the pilgrim caravan—when they are counted, one by one, all answer to their names. "Every one of them in Zion appears before God."
And is not this true spiritually of God's own family? What did the Lord say? "Those you gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition." And when he presents his innumerable host of redeemed souls before the throne of the Almighty, will not this be the language of his lips to his Father? "Behold me, and the children whom you have given me." "Yours they were; for all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them." And will not this be the theme of every spiritual pilgrim?—"Kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time." As the Lord is true, no spiritual pilgrim will ever fall and die in the valley of Baca.
Some may fear that through temptation, their strong passions or boiling lusts will one day break out and destroy them. No, not if they are pilgrims. "Every one of them in Zion appears before God." Others may think they never shall have a testimony; they never shall read their name clearly in the Book of Life; the Lord will never appear in their heart or bless their soul; they never shall be able to say, "Abba, Father." If Jesus is theirs, they shall.
But are they spiritual pilgrims? Do they find it a valley of tears? Are their faces Zionward? Have they come out of the world? Do they sometimes find a well in the valley of Baca? And does the rain fill the pools? And have they ever had strength made perfect in weakness? Then every one of them will appear before God in Zion. Blessed end! Sweet accomplishment of the pilgrim's hopes, desires, and expectations! The crowning blessing of all that God has to bestow! "Every one of them appears before God," washed in the Savior's blood, clothed in the Redeemer's righteousness, adorned with all the graces of the Spirit, and made fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.
No weeping then! The valley of Baca is passed, and tears wiped from off all faces. No thorns to lacerate the weary feet there; no prowling wild beasts to seize the unwary traveler there; no roving banditti to surprise stragglers there; no doubts and fears and cutting sorrows to grieve, perplex, and burden them there. Safe in Zion, safe in the Redeemer's bosom, safe in their Husband's arms, safe before the throne, every one of them appears before God in glory.
Pilgrim of Zion, take a glimpse at your spiritual life. Do see if you can find the features of the spiritual pilgrimage in it. How does it begin? "Blessed is the man whose strength is in you." Is your strength in God? Have you learned your weakness, feebleness, helplessness, hopelessness, and been enabled to cast anchor within the veil, and lean your weary soul upon the strength of Jesus? You are a blessed man; you have set out Zionward; your feet are in the road that leads to glory.
How have you found the road? Very easy to your feet? A green, grassy, flowery garden? a smooth meadow, with primroses and violets in the hedges, and you every now and then sitting on a stile, inhaling the breath of the May morn? or sometimes reclining on the grass, listening to the nightingale? This is not the way to heaven; you have mistaken the road. The way to heaven is through "the valley of Baca!" the valley of tears—a dry, parched, and burnt up valley, with thorns lacerating the traveler's feet; the wild beasts lurking in the dens; and Satan and his host, as armed prowlers, seeking to destroy. Depend upon it, if we find the way very smooth, very easy, very pleasing, and very agreeable, we have made a great mistake; we have not got into the right road yet. God bring those in the road who are his people, that have at present mistaken it! But you, traveler and pilgrim Zionward, have you not found it a valley of tears, have you not had cutting things in providence, heavy trials, harassing temptations, fiery darts, persecutions, sufferings from men, and above all from yourselves?
But have you not sometimes found a WELL open? Have you not sometimes found the Lord to be, what he says he is, "a Fountain of living waters?" And have you not sometimes come to the blessed Jesus all dry, all parched, all languid, and all sinking; and found some glimpses, glances, and testimonies? These have refreshed, strengthened, comforted, and blessed you. Then you are a pilgrim! though you have found the way that leads to Zion a valley of tears; yet in that tearful valley you have every now and then found a well. Then you are a pilgrim! Let the devil, let unbelief, let men, let persecutors, let the world, let your heart say to the contrary, God has blessed you in his word as a spiritual pilgrim.
And have you not found also that RAIN has filled the pools? It has not been always dry with you; it has not been always a barren land; there has been a melting, a softening, a breaking down, a something that has watered your heart; you have felt blessed from time to time under the preaching of the truth, in reading the word, in secret prayer, in the pouring out of your soul before God. You are a pilgrim!—another mark for you! And have you not sometimes found strength? You have had temptations, but you have had strength to bear them; you have had trials, but you have had grace to endure them; you have had persecutions, but you have had support under them; you have had heart-rending afflictions, but the Lord has not allowed you to be destroyed by them; there has been some secret strength communicated to your soul; you have leaned upon an unseen arm, and have found support in invisible realities. Another mark that you are a pilgrim!
And then, sweetest, crowning mercy, that "every one"—(O what there is in these words? doubting, fearing, tried, tempted, distressed, exercised, and sorrowing pilgrim)—"every one of them in Zion appears before God." So that when the Redeemer counts his sheep, and they shall again pass under the hand of him who counts them, not one of the ransomed will be missing, but all will be present to sing forever the glory and praise of God!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
Before we begin our study on the remnant, I would like to define a few terms in our text:
1) "remnant": means a small group within a group. As we study this doctrine we will see it's meaning in the scriptures. The scriptures teach that at any given time in history: there are very few people elect in comparison to the mass multitudes who are reprobate and will face eternal damnation.
2) "election of grace": is the doctrine that God has a people He chose in Christ before creation (Ephesians 1:4), and Jesus came and died for their sins establishing righteousness for them only (Isaiah 53:11), and the Holy Spirit will come to each one of these elect with the true gospel and they will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE for ALL their salvation (John 6:37). It's God's election, and it's all by His grace.
So our text Romans 11:5, "Even so at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace": is teaching that at any time in history, there are few people saved, and the majority of mankind are unbelievers and under the wrath of God; and that this salvation is all of God's grace in Christ.
The Lord was asked: "Lord, are there few that be saved?" (Luke 13:23). The Biblical answer is yes. It is true that the Bible teaches that the elect in heaven will be a number that no man can number:
"After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb (Christ), clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."
Praise God it is a great number; but in comparison to all who have lived in history, it is a remnant (a small group within the whole group). This is what we will now look at through scriptural history - because over a billion people on earth profess to be Christians; yet the Biblical teaching is that there is only a remnant of mankind that at any time in history is Christian.
We will begin with Noah's time in history.
As Noah existed on the earth, the Bible teaches that the earth was full of people. Read for yourself in Genesis chapter 5 the generations of Adam. We read also in Genesis 6:1.
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them.
When God brought Noah unto the earth it was populated with people. Noah was called: "a preacher of righteousness" (II Peter 2:5).
Noah preached the gospel to an earth full of sinners.
How many were elect?
Only 8 people were, inclucing Noah (I Peter 3:20). God saved only 8 in the ark out of mankind; the ark being a type of Christ.
Next we look at the time of Elijah the prophet: the time of the Kings: Elijah speaks:
Lord, they (Israel - the professing people of God in Elijah's day) have killed thy prophets, and digging down thy altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
But what sayeth the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
In Elijah's day the earth was full of people, yet how many were elect?
7,000 people. (The historical account of this is in I Kings 19;9-18).
Next: in the prophet Isaiah's day. Read Isaiah chapter one. Here God is addressing those who professed the true religion - Israel of the Old Testament. God reveals in the first chapter of Isaiah that their worship of Him was false. Yet God had a remnant:
Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
Now remember, during this time, God allowed all other nations of the earth to be without even the preaching of the gospel; it was confined to Israel. And in Israel there was only a "very small remnant".
Israel was the center of the worship of God; yet even among them there was only a remnant:
"Esaias (Isaiah) also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved".
(Romans 9:27; with the historical passage being Isaiah 10:20-23).
Go to the seashore, or see the seashore in your mind, and all the grains of sand on the beach; then hear God say only a remnant of them are my people. Now remember that God here is speaking of the religious Jews here - not the whole world. The rest of the world was left out of even the eternal preaching of the gospel.
We now will look at the time when Christ walked the earth. Christ said that among Christendom (those that profess Christ) there will be very few saved:
Enter ye in at the strait gate (salvation conditioned on Christ alone): for wide is the gate, and broad is the way (false religion within professing Christendom and all unbelievers), that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because stait is the gate (salvation conditioned on Christ ALONE), and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Within professing Christendom, many are lost and few are saved.
Many (compared to the remnant) who profess Christ will be damned.
The Lord Jesus said:
Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but He that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.
Many who profess Christ on the day of judgement will be damned.
Because they will plead their works as their righteousness before God, even giving God the credit ("in thy name").
God tells us in the passage what the remnant will do: verse 21: "he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven".
What is the Father's will here?
"..This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him (Christ) whom He hath sent."
The remnant will come to believe in Christ ALONE for ALL of salvation, apart from their works.
The Lord Jesus said:
For many are called, but few are chosen.
Many hear the true gospel, but out of that group, few (remnant) are chosen by God to believe it. Now Christ here is speaking of those who have heard the true gospel: salvation conditioned on Christ ALONE. He is not speaking of the rest of mankind, and the false gospels of so called Christendom.
Now we come to our day. The true gospel being preached in congregations is rare. There are few (remnant) gospel congregations. The majority of Christendom (those who profess Christ) do not even have the gospel. They believe in a gospel of works.
Roman Catholicism is not ashamed to openly teach salvation by Christ + works.
Arminianism is the prominent teaching in Christendom today: that Christ died for everyone, saving no one; and your salvation is actually based on your decision, an altar call, being baptized, "I let Jesus into my heart"; or whatever man dreams up. But this is all works of the sinner and not the gospel.
In our day, just like in every day in history, our text is true:
Even at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
All of the remnant will hear the true gospel, and repent (totally change their thinking and turn from their false god), and believe on Christ ALONE for ALL their salvation.
But there is only a remnant.
But God's remnant will rejoice to hear the Savior say:
Fear not, little flock (the remnant elect): for it is the Father's good pleasure to give (in the election of grace) you the kingdom (salvation)
By Craig Miklosik
Monday, November 16, 2009
Preached at East Street Chapel, Walworth, on April 25th, 1848 - By John Kershaw
"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee; He will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
With the help of the Lord we will first notice the exhortation and the promise connected with it. We are exhorted to "Cast our burden upon the Lord;" and the promise stands for our encouragement. He shall sustain us. In the second place we have a solemn declaration made, "He will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
I. In the first place let us notice the exhortation, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord." This will not suit every one.
1. If we look for a moment at the careless, unthinking world, who are rolling sin and iniquity under their tongue like a sweet morsel; who are lying down in sin and filth and wallowing therein like the sow—these are not burdened. O no; Gallio-like, they neither care for sin, their never-dying souls nor the awful realities of an opening eternity. We look at these with grief and pity but we cannot say to them, "Stand by, I am holier than thou!" Many of us can look back and say with humility, solemnity and thankfulness to God, "And such were some of us:" and we are obliged to tell the Lord, such we should have remained, living and dying and have lifted up our eyes in hell, had it not been for the riches of God's grace in stopping us in our mad career of sin and folly. "Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?" is a question that may well be asked concerning each of us who know the Lord. My friends, a consideration of these things will humble us, solemnize our minds and create in us, under the blessed influences of the Holy Spirit, thankfulness to God.
2. There are others whom the exhortation of our text will not fit, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord." Who are they? Those who have "a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof." They come and go to the means of grace; they are members of Christian societies living in every point of view what is called a pious life and pleased and delighted with themselves. Thus they wrap it up, secure with a name to live, while dead; having the mere profession without the life and power of God in the soul. Such may with propriety be considered in the devil's cradle in which immortal souls are lulled in the sleep of perdition and, if grace prevent not, will sink them to the regions of the damned; for it is not every one that saith, "Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven."
3. There are others to whom the exhortation of our text does not fit, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord." Who are they? Such as have got a sound creed—the doctrines of grace in the head? Who, like Balaam, can distinguish truth from error but they have never had the fallow ground of their hearts ploughed up; they have never been brought with godly sorrow, weeping, and supplication, to the feet of Jesus. Whatever a man knows of the letter of truth in a way of profession, if he is never brought by the power of divine grace to the footstool of mercy as a poor, guilty, broken-hearted sinner, he is but as "sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." Such a profession as this will not avail him anything in the great and solemn day of God.
But, leaving the negative side of the question, let us come more closely to our text, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved." When it pleases God, in the riches of His grace, to convince a poor soul, dead in trespasses and sins, of his lost and ruined state by nature. He quickens and makes him alive. God's religion and the soul of the poor sinner goes together. When the Lord first begins the work of grace. He in general lays some particular outward sin on the conscience of the poor sinner, of which he has been most guilty. As, for instance, Saul of Tarsus in his mad persecution of the church and people of God; and Zaccheus the publican, of his unjust and oppressive dealing. When God sends an arrow of conviction into the soul. He not only discovers to him his present sins, but He reveals to his astonished view past sins; and as Job expresses it, makes him "to possess the sins and iniquities of his youth." Present and past sins rise up to view; they stare the sinner in his face and appear in their scarlet and crimson hue, a thick, black cloud; and in the midst of their thickness and blackness an angry God is felt in a broken law. The sinner is now bowed down greatly; he feels the burden of sin in his conscience; for the Lord has laid it with a solemn weight upon his heart and it presses him down to the dust of death. He is oppressed with it; and cries out with David, "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me." (Ps. 38:4) A wounded spirit and an angry God in a broken law will bring down the loftiest looks, abase the proudest and haughtiest heart and bring the poor sinner to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ with the cry of the publican, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." Beloved, do you know anything of a burdened conscience and a wounded spirit? Have you ever had the feelings of the poet, when he said,
"Here on my heart the burden lies,
And past offences pain my eyes."
My friends, the burden of sin felt on the conscience of a poor sinner makes him to hang down his head like a bulrush. It makes him weary, heavy-laden, oppressed, and sorrowful. His former companions and relations cannot tell what is the matter with him or what to do with him; some will say, he is insane; others, that he is becoming melancholy; and a third will advise him to be taken into good company and amusements to divert and cheer him. Thus many things are done in order to heal his wounded spirit; but it is all of no avail: he will never get ease to his sorrowful soul till he is able to obey the exhortation, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved." Beloved, as sure as the poor soul is brought into these circumstances so sure will the Lord uphold, support, and sustain him, and neither men nor devils will be able to keep him from coming to the throne of grace. He will get into some private and retired corner where he may pour out his soul to God in earnest cries and supplications. Like Isaac, he will take his walk at eventide and wander solitarily in his gloom and sadness, moaning, crying, and anxiously seeking for a revelation of pardoning mercy to his wounded spirit. Strangers are ignorant of what is going on in his soul but the Lord is making him acquainted with the hidden evils of his heart. He is not merely unfolding to his view the guilt of outward sin but God is discovering to him the hidden evils that dwell and lurk within and leading him into the imagery of the hidden chambers of his soul. This makes him to cry out with David, "My wounds stink and are corrupt, because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease; and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore broken; I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart." The soul when brought here is full of doubts and fears; and nearly overwhelmed with sighs and cries before the Lord, panting for deliverance. O, my friends, if there are no cries, no pantings, no longings to the Lord, there is great reason to fear such a person has never had any true and spiritual religion. But the poor bowed down, burdened sinner groans and cries to the Lord for help and he says, "Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee."
Again, "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee." Such are not forgotten before the Lord; they are vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory and redeemed from among men by the blood of the covenant. The blessed Spirit takes possession of the heart of this poor soul and brings him to Jesus and His finished salvation. "The Lord looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death." (Ps. 102:19,20) "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their cry."
To the poor soul who is bowed down with sin outwardly and sin inwardly, who is troubled with it in the house of God and is a burden and a plague to himself; who knows not what to do, nor whither to flee and who finds refuge to fail him on every hand, the Lord says, "Come poor burdened soul, bring your hard heart, your vain thoughts to Me; keep not anything back; but confess thy sins at the footstool of My grace; tell Me all thy griefs and sorrows arising from the workings within of thy carnal and wicked heart." "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
Now I believe the exhortation to be good: it is blessed and precious. But something more is wanted in Christian experience. The soul bowed down with trials may hear these things set forth, and it may encourage him under his burdens and he may go again and again and try to cast his burden upon the Lord but he cannot. He would cast it upon, and leave it with the Lord, if he could; but he cannot. What is wanted, then, to enable him to do so? The influence of the blessed Spirit. When the Lord enables the poor sinner to come with a soft and feeling heart, with godly sorrow for sin and with tears of contrition trickling down his cheeks to the feet of Jesus, to look by precious faith to Him and to see that Jehovah the Father, against whom he has sinned, has imputed his sins to the dear Redeemer and cast them into the depths of the sea; this will sustain and support his burdened and sorrowful soul. "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa. 53:6) When this is seen by faith and felt in the soul of the burdened sinner, how it helps and sustains his spirit. He that knew no sin, (a precious Christ) "was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5:21)
As the believing soul is led by the Spirit to the dear Redeemer, to see sin imputed to Him; as he is led to the cross of Christ and beholds Jesus putting away his sins by the sacrifice of Himself, making an end of transgression, finishing sin, and bringing in everlasting righteousness—these immortal blessings are received by faith in his soul; the precious atoning blood of the Lamb is felt in his conscience and he is sustained and supported. But something yet more is experienced. What more then does he feel? The burden is removed! When John Bunyan's Pilgrim was brought to the foot of the cross and by faith beheld the dear Redeemer bearing his sins in His own body on the tree, wounded for his iniquities and made a curse for him—while he looked upon the wondrous sight, joy and peace flowed into his conscience like a river. While he was gazing upon the cross he lost his burden! His heart melted with love and tears of thanksgiving flowed down his cheeks. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee."
Nothing can support or sustain a precious soul which I have been describing but a precious Christ, the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus—the rock of our salvation. The believer's soul is sustained and supported by the person of Immanuel, the incarnate God; and when he finds he has this prop to rest upon, it feels so firm and precious to him that he sings with a glad heart,
"How can I sink with such a prop,
That bears the world, and all things up."
This is being sustained, my friends. When the sinner is led to see that his sins and iniquities are done away; that when they are sought for they shall not be found; that the curse due to sin fell upon a precious Christ; that He finished the work which the Father gave Him to do and that His precious salvation is made known to the conscience by the power of the Holy Ghost, it sustains and supports his mind. The soul bowed down with fear bursts forth and sings, "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust" (not in my own heart, nor lean to my own understanding)—"I will trust, and not be afraid" (that my sins will bring me under the curse of the law), "for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and song; he also is become my salvation." These are the things that sustain and support the child of God. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
Beloved, will anything short of a precious Christ, the incarnate God—His finished and complete salvation which is all of grace, support our souls and bear our spirits up? If it will, your heart is not right with God. The language of Paul which I am going to cite, enters into the soul of the poor sinner upon this important point: he says, "I know whom I have believed, (or trusted); and am persuaded that he (a precious Christ) is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." As if the Apostle had said, "I have been enabled through the gracious teachings of the blessed Spirit, to cast myself, with all I am, at my dear Redeemer's feet, and leave my case and soul in His precious hands. I have a blessed feeling wrought in my heart by the dear Comforter that a precious Jesus will bear me up and land me safe in immortal glory. Here is my comfort and consolation; this sustains and supports my soul." There is no comfort and consolation for a burdened soul anywhere else.
"But," says some poor child of God, "if I only knew I had an interest in a precious Christ, and that He was carrying on my cause in the high court of heaven, I should feel my mind supported and sustained amid my burdens." Well, the Lord says, (and if He should enable you to obtain a faith's view of it, it will do your soul good as it has done mine many a time), "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins." Let me ask you, poor soul, have you been taught your lost, ruined, and undone state as a sinner before God? Do you feel that you have no worth or worthiness of your own? Do you believe that Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him? The Lord enable you to look to a precious Jesus, to His atoning blood and His justifying righteousness for life and salvation. There is no righteousness but the righteousness of Immanuel, "the righteousness which is of God by faith," that will do for the burdened soul. The Lord enable you to commit your cause into His blessed hands; you can never die while Jesus lives. He says, "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." The Lord enable us to cast our burden upon Him; He will sustain us; He will never forsake us. They that trust in the Lord shall never be ashamed nor confounded world without end. O no, the Lord will take care of those who trust in His grace and hope in His mercy; and those who fear and love Him now shall in a little while dwell in His immediate presence where there is fullness of joy, and at His right hand where there are pleasures for evermore.
"Those who in the Lord confide,
And shelter in his wounded side;
Shall see the danger overpast,
Stand every storm, and live at last."
Now the children of God have many burdens and troubles to endure all the way through the wilderness. Nearly the whole of their threescore years and ten, or perhaps fourscore years, are consumed more or less in trouble and sorrow. I have known some good men greatly burdened with providential difficulties in trade; they have not known how to pay their bills, and this has been a sore burden and trial to their souls. Others, who fear the Lord, have bad and undutiful children who give them a great deal of trouble, causing them many sighs, groans, and tears. Again, the Lord's family often experience trouble in the church of God; many crooked things arise among brethren and sometimes angry words are used, which is a source of sorrow to the Lord's children and which cause them frequently to sigh and cry to the Lord. But, whatever be the burden, sorrow, or trouble that oppresses or sinks you, there is no other remedy for it than this blessed exhortation and promise, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved." We cannot extricate ourselves from our burdens and sorrows by taking anxious thought. O no; I hear the Lord saying to His dear children in all their difficulties and trials, "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." Did He not care for the prophet Elijah in the wilderness? Did He not send the ravens to feed him? Did He not care for the poor woman of Sarepta in the time of famine? The devil and unbelief said she would be sure to be starved but the Lord sent the prophet to sustain her and keep her alive. The Lord of hosts still lives! our heavenly Father knows our wants and necessities; the gold and the silver are His, and the cattle upon a thousand hills; and He has promised to satisfy all our needs out of His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Some persons are ashamed that it should ever be known they were once poor. I recollect one particular time in my own case, when I was young. I had been some time out of work, the family were without provision and I had no money to procure any. I could not see my way; darkness and clouds rested on my path; the devil and unbelief began to work and powerfully to assail me. But the Lord sustained my mind and sweetly dropped into my soul this precious portion from the prophet Habakkuk. "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." The Lord enabled me to cast myself and family into the faithful care and kindness of a God of providence and grace, and to leave myself in His blessed hands. O that we may be enabled to leave ourselves more with Him, with all our troubles and sorrows, who makes darkness light, crooked things straight, and rough places plain! When we are enabled to do so by the blessed Spirit, it brings us where the Apostle Paul was when he said, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." The Lord enable you, poor tried soul, to leave your self, your cares and your burdens at His blessed footstool. Thy God reigns as a God of providence as well as a God of grace; and He will make all your difficulties and trials work together for your good, and the honor of His great name. As you are led into these immortal truths, you are enabled to cast out the anchor of hope and to sing,
"Since all that I meet shall work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, the medicine food;
Though painful at present, 'twill cease before long,
And then, O how pleasant, the conqueror's song."
This is God's religion, my friends, and it supports the minds of His tried family and enables them to confide in Him while surrounded with difficulties and sorrows.
Are any of you burdened in reference to trade and the hardness of the times so that you do not know how to pay your way and act honestly and uprightly among men in the fear of God? The Lord enable you to bring your difficulties to Him and cast your burdens at His precious feet. He has all hearts in His hands; plead and wrestle with Him, therefore, that He would give those to whom you are indebted a merciful and kind spirit, that they may wait and have a little patience with you so that you may pay them all. Beloved, may the Lord enable you by precious faith to "cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee."
I knew a poor tried child of God in the North in these circumstances. The person to whom he owed the debt came to him and told him, unless he paid the debt in so many days he should put the bailiff in his house. The poor man thought his heart would break; but he went with his burden to the Lord and threw himself down at His blessed feet and said, 'Lord, Thou seest how I am circumstanced; this man is coming upon me with enmity in his heart because of my religion, to distress me. But Thou hast all hearts in Thy hand: and if it is for Thy honor, let him not hurt me; for I know Thou canst keep the man back.' And the Lord heard and answered the poor man's cry; for He kept the man back, induced him to wait for his money and the poor child of God was enabled to discharge the debt and pay all that he owed him. I bring this circumstance forward to encourage those of you who fear the Lord and who may be in difficulties in providence to "Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
I knew a good woman who lived to the honor of God and the glory of His name. She was well-to-do in the world. But all God's people must have a crook in the lot. She had a bad son who had caused her much sorrow of heart. He had run away and enlisted for a soldier five or six times. But one day when I called upon her she said to me, "I tell thee what, friend Kershaw, I have taken Richard to the Lord; but I cannot keep him there; I bring him back again." This is our misery, my friends; we take our burdens to the Lord, but are unable to leave them with Him. But some one will say, 'Have we not the promise in the Bible that the Lord will sustain us? Ought we not to take Him at His word?' I love my Bible and the promise too; but, my friends, I find I have to wait for the fulfillment of the promise to my soul. It is my mercy that God's promise takes hold of me and that it is not left to my taking hold of the promise. Sometimes when we go to the throne of grace burdened, we see the promise in the Bible fits our case but relief is not experienced. There is something more wanted. What is wanted? To have the precious promise dropped with power from heaven in the conscience. When the promise comes from the Lord the soul is refreshed so that it can sing with the poet,
"O! I have seen the day,
When with a single word,
God helping me to say,
My trust is in the Lord:
My soul has quelled a thousand foes,
Fearless of all that could oppose."
Thus when the promise is brought home by the blessed Remembrancer to the heart it raises up the dear child of God. When He says, "Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." And "He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee"—it encourages and refreshes the poor soul. If he is called to pass through the fires of persecution or the waters of affliction, the Lord says, "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." (Isa. 43:2) Such a precious soul as this will not have to wait upon the Lord in vain but He will arise for his help, and bring him to say to the praise and glory of His name, "This God is my God for ever and ever; he will be my guide even unto death."
O, my friends, I feel a solemn pleasure in laboring to encourage you to cast all your burdens, trials and difficulties into His blessed hands. There is no peace or rest for the heaven-born soul anywhere else. Our blessed Lord has left us this legacy and we prove its truth continually, "In the world ye shall have tribulation," but "in me ye shall have peace." (John 16:33) The Lord enable us to trust in Him at all times; He is a refuge and strength for His people in every time of trouble. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
II. "He will not suffer the righteous to be moved." Upon this I need say but little. There are none righteous in the sight of God as we stand in relation to Adam. Such a man or woman cannot be found under the canopy of heaven. "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Ps. 53:2,3) No person is righteous in God's sight, but he who stands in union to the dear Redeemer. The blessed Spirit discovers to the sinner his inward guilt and defilement; shows him that all his righteousnesses are as filthy rags; gives him to see that God's commandments are exceeding broad extending to the thoughts and intents of the heart. He reveals to him that none are righteous or accepted before God but those who are in union to a precious Christ. Every heaven-born soul, made sick of self, pants after Christ's righteousness for He is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Wherever the Lord dwells in the heart there is implanted a righteous principle within not only to hate and oppose sin in ourselves and with Job to abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes but to hate and oppose it also in others. And wherever this principle dwells there is a longing desire to be conformed to the image of Christ, to have the spirit of Christ and to serve the Lord in our day and generation and live to the praise and honor of His great name.
"He will never suffer the righteous to be moved." Now in what sense is this to be understood? If we were to endeavor to prove from this that the righteous were always in one blessed state of feeling and enjoyment and were never moved away from it, it would not stand the test; it would be neither in accordance with the word of God nor Christian experience. Were we to say that the righteous were always rejoicing in the God of their salvation, always living above doubts and fears, always enjoying the light of God's countenance, then we should say what could not be proved. It is not the province of the heaven-born soul to be always on the mount of enjoyment in this world. The days of darkness are many with God's family; but the Lord sometimes indulges His dear children with His love-tokens, with a little of His presence and to have sweet and happy enjoyment for a few moments at His footstool.
"My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this,
And sit and sing herself away,
To everlasting bliss."
When my soul was first brought here, I thought heaven was mine, a covenant God mine and that I should go to glory in silver slippers. But I have passed through many changes since; long nights and dark seasons have intervened between with scarce a glimmering ray of hope. The Psalmist says, in great enjoyment of soul, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name." And "Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong;" but in the next sentence, he says, "Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled." But he shall tell his own tale. He says, "Are his mercies clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Will he be favourable no more? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" And at times he was cast down and dejected in his feelings, the same as you and I are. "O thou afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted!" There are many changes with the children of God in this vale of tears. But however tossed with tempests, and not comforted—however wretched and miserable in ourselves, the text stands, "He will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
Now then for the true sense of the passage. The righteous shall never be moved from the love of God, from the love of a Triune Jehovah. The election of grace, as they stand in the Lord Jesus Christ can never be removed from Him, through time and all eternity. Just look for a moment where they are fixed; they center in Christ Jesus; they are chosen in Christ, loved in Christ and blessed in Christ. The Father loves them with the same love wherewith He loves Christ; and Jesus says, "Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." Now as Christ the head was never removed from the love of the Father, neither shall the members of His body be ever removed from Him;
"With Christ our Lord we share a part.
In the affections of his heart."
O what a mercy to realize this in soul experience! What a blessed standing is this! The righteous shall never be moved out of the heart of a covenant God: they stood there from eternity, are there through time, and shall continue there in eternity to come.
Again, He will never suffer the righteous to be moved from the finished salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is round the church like a brazen bulwark. The walls of salvation encompass them continually. Zion thought she should be moved; but the Lord says, "Thou shalt never be forgotten of me." What did Zion's God say, "Can a woman forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." (Isa. 49:15) I will be a wall of fire round about thee to take care of thee: thou shalt never be moved from My dying love, My justifying righteousness; never be moved from My advocacy, I will plead thy cause; never be moved from My hands and My Father's hands." O, my friends, the Lord encourage us to look to a precious Christ, to see that we are saved in Him with an everlasting salvation.
"He will never suffer the righteous to be moved" from their right and title in Christ to immortal glory from before the foundation of the world. A victor's crown of glory is in reserve for those who love and fear the Lord. Blessed be His name; the thought of this does my soul good. He says, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you: and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also." "I love you, and cannot be happy without you: I must have you to reign with Me in glory." "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."
The heaven-born soul says, "Blessed be the name of the Lord, that is just what I want; I never can be happy without it." Then shall I be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness; for in Thy presence is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore!