Monday, November 16, 2009
THE BURDENED SOUL SUSTAINED
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!