Wednesday, November 11, 2009
GOD'S GREAT GIFT AND SURE TOKEN
Preached in London on Lord's day morning and evening, December 25th, 1842 - By John Warburton.
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
What a blessed and precious truth this is for you who can do nothing, think nothing, desire nothing, and have nothing that is good except what God gives! What a mercy it is that you have nothing to do! "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all; how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" So you see it is all couched in it, all is tied in it, all is fastened in it, and all is complete in it.
By the help of God, we shall notice:
I. The characters who are mentioned as, "us all."
II. The apostle tells us here that, "God spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all."
III. He tells us that with Him He freely gives us, "all things."
I. With respect to the persons included in the words, "us all," it is very evident that the apostle does not mean all Adam's posterity. It is very evident that all Adam's posterity have not all good things given to them. There are tens of thousands who are ignorant of God, who go on to fill up the measure of their iniquity, and who will be damned at last for their sin. The Lord has described the persons contained in this word, "us." He has set them forth in the Scriptures as His own nation, His people, His kingdom, His inheritance. Thus David says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD," (Ps. 33:12). There is a nation which God owns as His nation, and of which He is King and Lord. "I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion," (Ps. 2:6). How striking is that petition of David, "Remember me, O LORD, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people; O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thy inheritance," (Ps: 106:4,5). I do not think that David meant literally the kingdom of Israel; but God's peculiar people amongst them, a spiritual nation. The apostle Peter completely opens this up; as the mouth of God he says, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light," (1 Pet. 2:9).
Those mentioned by the apostle as, "us," are set forth as an holy nation. Not holy in their fallen nature; for there are no people on the face of the earth who are so sensible of their unworthiness as His holy nation. There are no people on the earth who groan, being burdened, as do this holy nation. None have such a hateful sense of their unworthiness, of their unholiness. Their cry is, from the crown of our head to the sole of our foot, we are nothing, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. We are altogether as an unclean thing. But they are an holy nation in the Lord. They are perfect through His comeliness, which He has put upon them.
What a blessed book is the Bible, when the Comforter who has sweetly penned it, opens it up to our souls, and blesses us, the, "us," of our text, with a sweet faith and an understanding heart, and leads us into the holiness of Christ, the perfection of beauty! Here Christ's people are all holy; here they stand as perfect as their God. "I in them, and thou in me; that we may be perfect in one," (John 17:23). This nation is a holy nation internally, in their hearts; not internally as to their fleshly natures. O no! I have been in the way six or seven and forty years. I thought I should get better as I proceeded. I wanted to live in peace more; I wanted to feel my mind more with God; I wanted to have the world more under my feet; I wanted to feel this cursed troop of iniquity put down and weakened. Instead of that, I think it gets, to my feelings, stronger and stronger. So that when I come to feel at times the depravity that is within, I stagger and say, "Can ever God dwell in such a heart as this?" But if there was not a holy kingdom in the heart, we should never come to hate this unholiness; neither I, nor you. Come, if your heart is, to your feeling, as black as the devil can make it; if it is rambling, at times, upon every forbidden object, and you grieve at it, and it is a burden to you, and you want God to deliver you from it, there is holiness in your heart, a holy kingdom of righteousness. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh;" and these two opposites cause that you cannot do the things that you would, (Gal. 5:17). But this holy nation has holy desires of living to God to His glory; so they are a holy nation. This is true of all contained in this word, "us."
The apostle says the Lord's people are a peculiar people. They are a nation with which no other nation is to be compared of all the nations on the face of the earth. They have a peculiar language. No nation is like them. They are loved with a peculiar love that has no beginning and no end. It has height; but there is no top to be found to it. It is a depth; but it has no bottom. When the child of God, one of these, "us," is sometimes sinking into such depths that he feels he must give all up; when he sinks, and sinks, and is afraid he is going into despair, it is not so; he is only sinking into the love that is beneath. He drops into the everlasting arms; and love raises him up, and gives him such a sweet testimony of everlasting mercy, that he hears the words: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3). Is not this love very peculiar? And has it not very peculiar effects when the soul feels it? He loves his God; he loves the ways of God; he loves the truth of God; he loves the people of God; he loves all that is of God; and he loves everything that is to the honour of God. So peculiar is this love, when this holy nation feels it, that it can bear any calumny, any insult, any reproach that can be offered. When love is treated with contempt, it returns kindness, and thus heaps fire upon the heads of the adversaries. It is such a peculiar love that no one can understand it but these who are here styled, "us;" these alone. If you have ever had a taste of it, ever had a sweet drop of it, it will bear you through every storm.
Sometimes God describes these persons. It is always best to have God's description. There is no need of a fine language of flesh and blood to set forth Scripture, for it sets itself forth. I have heard persons sometimes attempt to make a text of Scripture shine by their paraphrasing it; but, it is God's Word which makes us to shine, and God will have the honour and glory of opening it up Himself. The Lord has set forth these, "us," as His city. We say of such a person naturally that he is a citizen of such a city, as distinguished from others. We ask a man, Where do you come from? and he replies, "I am a citizen of such a city, there I was born, and there I dwell." Now, God tells us He has chosen Jerusalem the city of truth. God said of literal Jerusalem, the city in the land of Judaea, that it was the place where His name should be. "Jerusalem is a city compacted together, whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord." This was the case literally with the Jews. At stated times in the year they traveled up to Jerusalem from every part for their yearly feasts. God says in reference to these, the, "us," of our text: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people....Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her." Do not mutter; do not come as if you had nothing of importance to speak about to Jerusalem; "cry unto her;" and tell her, "that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received at the LORD'S hand double for all her sins," (Isa. 40:1,2). Now, what city was that which David spoke of when he said, "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God?" (Ps. 46:4) And again, he says, "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God;" (Ps. 87:3) Isaiah refers to the same when he says, "And they shall call them the holy people, The redeemed of the LORD; and thou shalt be called, Sought out, a city not forsaken," (Isa. 62:12). The Lord Jesus tells us His people are a city set on a hill, which cannot be hid (Matt. 5:14); and the apostle opens it up, and sweetly clenches the grand truth that these, "us," are God's city, when he says that they are, "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God," (Eph. 2:19).
So these blessed ones are citizens of God's city, fellow-citizens with the household of faith, citizens of the city where God the King reigns and rules. Aye, and what an immutable city it is! All the arts of the devil can never overthrow it, for God has walled it round with salvation. Its foundation is immutable; it is fixed upon a rock. The King eternal, immortal, invisible (1 Tim. 1:17), with all His glory, dwells in this city, and protects it on the right hand and on the left. What a mercy it is that you and I are amongst its citizens!
But again. God has described these included in this little word, "us," as His household; that is, as His own children. Here the word, "us," will particularly apply to a family. All the family were conceived in and brought forth out of one womb, that of the eternal covenant; and what a sweet and precious view this gives of this word, "us." The babes, the children, the young men, and the grown-up in the family, they are all contained in it. I am often brought into the spot of a little babe, when I cannot, dare not, say, "Father." But the little babes do belong to the family. If they cannot talk they can cry. When babes are cold or hungry, or in pain, they will cry; and when the parents hear them cry, everything must be put on one side to attend to them, to find out what is the matter. Though the child cannot say Father, yet it belongs to the, "us;" it is one of the family, and its complaint will be heard.
There may be some little babe here today. Let me ask you, would you not think those strange sorts of beings who would turn a baby out of doors merely because it could not talk? If you can only cry to God to save, confessing that you are a poor sinner, and cannot save yourself; if you can only cry to God to support you because you cannot support yourself; if you can only cry to God to lift up the light of His countenance upon you because you cannot live without it; He will own you by and by. It is God who must help the stammerer to speak plainly. No one can come and loose their tongues and teach them to cry, 'My Lord and my God,' but Himself. Poor Thomas! What a striking proof did he afford of this, when he told the disciples that he would not believe except he should see the print of the nails, and thrust his fingers into the Lord's side. Jesus came into the midst of them, and said to Thomas, "Come, Thomas, reach hither thy hand. Here are My hands, Thomas, and here is My side. Here is the place where the spear entered; come, try it, Thomas." "My Lord," exclaimed Thomas, "and my God!" (John 20:26-28). O! my friends, when the anointing, the holy unction comes in upon the soul, with what plainness of speech does the soul express itself!
These contained in this word, "us," are God's household. They are all born of God; they all live at the same table of God; they are all taught the same language; they are all clothed with the same clothing; they are all brought to have the same feelings; and all have the same teachings from God, and as a family they know each other's language. Thus the apostle tells us that they are of the household of God. And Isaiah says. "All thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children," (Isa. 54:13). Hereby they know each other. I do not say they are never deceived; but they know each other's language, and there is something of such a nature in it that if they have never seen each other's faces before, they can talk about the things of God to each other's hearts. They are of the same family, and talk about the same things.
II. But let us notice, in the second place, the kindness of God in freely giving His beloved Son for us. "He spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all! (Rom. 8:32). What grace, what boundless love, what mysteries of immortal glory are wrapped up in this gift! Can we wonder at the angelic host singing so melodiously in the air, that they astonished the shepherds with their grand music? I have thought sometimes I should have liked to have been there, to have heard it. But there will be still grander music, in heaven by and by. We are to sing with golden harps. Perhaps you say you cannot sing at all. Ah! If you can sing in your heart of the riches of God's grace, to the riches of His honour, you will sing upon a golden harp to the honour of the riches of His grace. The angels cry out in their song, "Glory to God in the highest." What is the highest? Why, was it not a great height to sing the glory of God in creation? The glory of God in stretching out the heavens as a curtain, in fixing the sun as the grand bridegroom in it; in planting the stars in their glorious lustre; the ten thousand million worlds which exceed all human knowledge to comprehend? Is not this the highest? O no! What then? Is not this glory to God in the highest, that God should speak particles of dust into man, that He should join particles of dust into a machine with eyes, nose, ears, hands, fingers, legs, and veins, so that it baffles the greatest men to open its deep mysteries? Was not this the highest praise of God? David praised God for this when he said, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made; and that my soul knoweth right well," (Ps. 139:14). But the angels sang glory to God in the highest; the top, the grand immortal top of all glories, that are worthy of the glory of a God, even, "peace on earth, and good will towards men," (Lk. 2:14). Why, how can that be? In this Babe of Bethlehem which was laid in the manger was the Mighty God, equal with the Father. Oh! My friends, what a glory! What immortal grandeur and glory was wrapped up in this Babe! The infant who was carried by His mother as a babe, and swaddled and nursed, had the whole creation at His own disposal.
Here is the grand display of glory. In giving up His best beloved Son, every perfection of the divine nature meets and is glorified. We who are included in this word, "us," are saved with an everlasting salvation. Sin was completely abolished, and put an end to; the devil was conquered; death subdued; every particular of God's grand perfection shining with unsullied glory. It is, "glory to God in the highest," aye, and, "peace on earth and goodwill to men." What an immortal and blessed song it appears when we come to look at the grand work which He who was equal with the Father had to do, and for which He was given!
"He spared not his own Son." He spared him not? He inflicted all the punishment, the penalties, the wrath, the vengeance that was due to us upon Him, that we might be saved with an everlasting salvation. Here is the grand immortal glory; that as the Bondsman, though equal with the Father, and the brightness of the Father's glory, He suffered for our sins, as the apostle says, according to the Scriptures; and He sat down at the right hand of the Father, full of majesty and glory.
"He that spared not his own Son." If you come to look at Gethsemane's garden, He was not spared. There He was in an agony. He sweat great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Not for His own sin, my friends; but for the sins of His people, which the Father had willingly put upon Him, and the Son had willingly received. Blessed be His holy Name! He suffered the just for the unjust, and brought in an everlasting righteousness, wherein His church is complete for evermore in Him.
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all," so that the blessed ones He died for might be sheltered in Him, and delivered out of every probability and possibility of damnation, and brought him to God with joy and peace, and glorify Him for the riches of His grace. The apostle Paul says, "I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received, how that Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." Now, the apostle does not like some, refer men to this man's opinion, and that man's opinion; but he says, "I delivered unto you first of all that which I received." What was received? Why, the truth of the atonement, of the death of Christ, and His completely finished work. "I received." How received? Why, he tells us when he is giving an account of the state he had formerly been in, of what a persecutor or the church of God he had been, how he hated the Lord Jesus Christ, how holy he thought he was. He says he had letters from the chief priests to go to Damascus, and there to bring judgment on all those that called on the name of the Lord Jesus. But as he came near Damascus, we read, suddenly there shined a light round about him, a light from heaven; and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" He then tells us he was struck blind, and led into the city, and for three days and three nights he neither ate nor drank. Then God appears unto Ananias in a vision, and tells him to go to one of his poor servants, Saul of Tarsus, for says God, "Behold, he prayeth." Poor Ananias! He was flesh, and like us all, and he said, "Lord, I have heard that this man is an enemy, that he is persecuting Thy people, and that he has come here to take us all to prison." He was therefore afraid to go; but the Lord said unto him, "Go thy way; for his is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles." So Ananias goes, full of joy and full of peace; and, entering into the house, says, "Brother Saul," Brother! See how the feeling comes home, that he is one of the, "us," of our text. "God sends me to thee with a message. God has a work for thee to do." Divine power entered into the heart of Saul; he received the blood of Christ into his conscience. He had the testimony, not only in the Scriptures, but in his own heart. Then he arose from the earth, and ate and drank, and was baptized in the name of Christ.
So, the apostle Paul went to others with a message he had received when he testified of the sufferings of Christ, and that they had accomplished their grand end; that He gave Himself for us, died for us, and wrought out for us complete redemption. He did not go with the message without having the preciousness of it in his heart. What a difference there is between a man hearing of these things, and knowing them by experience! A man may bring forward text after text in support of his views, and the people may remain as cold as winter, his words having no more power on the people's hearts than they have upon the pews in which they are sitting. But it is very different if a man has been where Paul was, three days, and three nights, as it were, in the belly of hell. "Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men. He could testify that Christ had completed His grand work, for he had the testimony of it in his heart.
The apostle says, "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Christ was not spared. He completed redemption; He suffered the just for the unjust; brought in eternal peace, and entered into the inheritance; and sits at the right hand of the Father. "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." What a mercy it is that we have a high priest who has entered into the heavens, who needs not, like the high priests of old, to offer his incense again and again; but has for ever put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself! And bless His dear name, He shall come the second time without sin unto salvation, and they that look for Him will surely come to enter into the sweetness and into the glory of His salvation.
Can a child of God be too much here? Says some soul, I only want to be once. If God would but indulge me once with a testimony that Christ died for me, I should be satisfied. You would be satisfied while God blessed you with the enjoyment of it; but when the enjoyment left you, and the devil came, and the storms rose up, you would want it again; and when you had it twice, you would want it a third time. I do really think I have had tokens of it hundreds of times within these forty years; and I confess to you I am as anxious for it as ever. I can never lose the feelings of Jonah when he said, "Yet will I look again unto thy holy temple." It is "once again," whenever the Lord's presence is withdrawn. Whenever we come into darkness and clouds, and temptations and fears, and deaths, it is, "Once again lift up the light of Thy countenance. Once again let me have the blessed knowledge that Thou hast died for me, and that Thy finished work is mine. Will God bless my soul with another testimony of it? O, that I may once again have the enjoyment of it in my heart!"
III. We are now to take notice of what the apostle next says, "How shall he not with him also freely give us all things." This naturally implies that as God has given His beloved Son to be the Bondsman, Head, King, and Brother, all things which are for the glory of God and the good of His people are centered in Christ. Yes, it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell with Him. But I apprehend that we are not to understand that by the all things being freely given unto them, His people will have all the things which they want. The children of God want things which God never gives them and never will give them. Moses wanted to go into the land of Canaan, and it appears that he had often requested that God would let him go into that godly land; but the Lord said to him, "Speak no more unto me of this matter." God would not give way to Moses' wants; but He blessed him with a sight of the land from off mount Pisgah. We find the prophet Samuel, that blessed man of God who was preserved so faithful, honest, and upright, we find that he, too, had wants which God wound not grant. He wanted Saul to be continued king, and wrestled and cried to the Lord, as it would seem, from his very heart; but it was not under the influence of the Spirit of God, it sprang from a natural, fleshly wish that Saul might be continued king. Whatever is desired of God under the influence of the Spirit of God will be granted; but the Spirit of God knows the mind of God, and His influences are always consistent with the will of God. The Lord said unto Samuel, "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?" (1 Sam. 16:1).
Have you never wanted things which you have been denied? I have, many scores of times; for I have tried with all my might to persuade God to give me such and such things; but there are many things which I have wanted that I have never had to this day; but I never was denied the one thing needful.
The, "all things," which shall be freely given with Christ, are the things which are really needful, and which are beneficial and profitable, for the honour of God, and for our real good. Every temporal blessing that is really needful will be given. All our fleshly strivings, all our cuttings, and all our carvings, all our frettings and all our murmurings at our position in providence, never alter God's decrees, never move His statutes. There is neither adding to nor diminishing those things in providence which God has fixed for the good of His people and for His own glory. "Take no thought," said Christ, "for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." "Behold the fowls of the air." Look at those creatures; they are fed, they are provided for. "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things," (Matt. 6:32).
There may be a child of God in His presence this evening who is straitened in providence, and reason cannot comprehend what will be the end of it; but it shakes you to the very center. You see no prospect whatever that you will be brought through, or that you will have bread to eat and raiment to put on. Where are you looking for a prospect? Where are your eyes fixed? Say you, "I am looking to my circumstances; I am looking at the means I have, and to see how it will be possible for me to get through." I thought you were not looking at the right place. Why, the wise man's eyes are in his head. What a fool you must be to be looking at the clouds, looking at this and that prospect. Has not God said that your bread shall be given you and your water shall be sure? Has not God said that He will bring the blind by a way that they knew not, and make crooked things straight, and rough places plain; that these things He will do for them, and not forsake them? God help you to come to Him and remind Him of His promise. He will not be offended with you. He says, "Let us plead together....that thou mayest be justified." It is God's blessed will that you should have every temporal blessing which it is needful for you to possess. Hear what God says by the apostle: "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's," (1 Cor. 3:21-23). So that every blessing, every shilling, every deliverance, every support, every mercy in providence. Whether it is for the body or the soul, is all yours; Christ is yours and you are His. Every blessing is in the Head for the use of the body, and all shall be communicated and given as we go on, agreeable to the will and word of God.
All things in providence are freely given by God, but how few there are who thank Him for His free gifts in providence! There are thousands and tens of thousands who are burning incense to their own net, and sacrificing to their own drag; ascribing it to their own diligence, wisdom, and wonderful abilities which they have above other people who are tried and upset. Who has given this wisdom, and these abilities? Why, it is God who has given them; and the children of God who are under the influence of the Holy Spirit can bless Him and thank Him for what He has given them, for the use of their senses, and for the provision which He has enabled them to make for their families. They have nothing to glory in, for it is all the free gift of God, and communicated by His sovereign will; but none know this but those who are taught of the Lord. No one can enter into this spiritually, nor be brought to thank God for it, nor be led with gratitude and thanksgiving to desire that whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we may do all to the glory of God, but such as have God dwelling in them, and teaching and instructing them.
Prayer is another thing, which is freely given of God. It is the will and pleasure of the Lord that His people should be obedient to Him. It is not those who are only hearers of the word, but those who are doers of it that are accepted of God. It is not a man talking about the word and constantly hearing it with his ears, but it is the souls that are doers of the word; Christ said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21). It is God's pleasure that His people should be obedient, and it is His pleasure to give them this obedience; for there is no spiritual obedience but what is God's gift: flesh and blood cannot produce one atom of spirituality; it is not in its nature; flesh is flesh, and spirit is spirit. Therefore, the breath of prayer is all the inditing, operating, drawing, gift, and communication of the Holy Ghost, excluding entirely every other object. How few there are who believe this! Look at the thousands of professors of religion to go to prayer; there are no difficulties in their way. But one half of the prayers of professors of religion consist in telling God what He is (God knows what He is without their telling Him), speaking of His glory in His works, and spreading out their natural talents and abilities. Why, there is not a breath of spirituality in one out of twenty of them. The apostle says, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered," (Rom. 8:26).
God tells us prayer is a grace which comes from Himself: "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications," (Zech. 12:10). The house of David and God's spiritual Jerusalem can no more pour out their hearts unto God than they can create a world, till the Spirit of supplication is poured into their souls. O my friends, how can they, when their hearts are as hard as the nether millstone? Sometimes a child of God tries with all his might to come to the Lord in prayer to pour out his soul for the necessities which he feels he needs and to find his heart opened up to God; but he cannot get it, he cannot work it, he cannot produce it; he is so shut up in his soul that he cannot bring a single word feelingly out of his heart. Here is a proof that prayer is the gift of God.
It is God's pleasure that His people should pray for the blessings which He has promised them. Not that their prayers procure these blessings as a merit. No; but the Lord says, "I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them;" and again: "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." "Watch and pray." The apostle says, "Pray without ceasing." Now this is a gift. The Lord does not require this of flesh and blood; He does not require it out of that from which it is impossible to bring it; but, in order that His child may act consistently with His blessed word and that they may have the sweetness of it in the way that He has appointed, God pours into their hearts the grace of supplication. He brings them into such troubles, and such straits, and into such a spot that the children of God can no more desist from praying to God than they can desist from drawing breath from moment to moment. When a soul is hedged in on the right hand and on the left, when all appearance of deliverance is gone, when difficulties arise, and he sinks into deep waters where there is no standing, then prayer will come forth! That is just the time to wrestle with God and to prove Him a prayer-hearing and answering God.
This was the case with Jacob. He divided his company, when he heard of Esau coming to meet him with four hundred men. When he had separated the flocks and the herds, and all the company, he retired to be alone with the Lord, and wrestled with a man till break of day, even the God Man, Christ Jesus the Lord. O what a wrestling prayer was that! God has promised that He will hear and answer the supplications of His people that come up to Him in the time of distress when every other help is gone; and the Spirit of supplication wrestles with God upon the ground of His promise. The angel said to Jacob, "Let me go, for the day breaketh;" and Jacob said, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." O the blessed, sweet gift of the Spirit of God in giving this wrestling supplication to the soul!
I have had this wrestling at times, in reference to particular things, in such a way that I have felt as though my heart would break if God did not grant me my request. Yea, I told him so at one time, when I had been praying for weeks and weeks on account of my dear wife having fits. Through weakness of body and through wants and necessities she was afflicted with fits very severely. O the distraction that it brought into my mind! I went to the Lord again and again and again, and told Him that He could take them away; it was for Him to say the word; but none of my prayers seemed to be answered. Sometimes I had a hope that God would answer them, but when my wife had another fit, then the thought would come into my mind, "Where now are your prayers? You see plainly enough that there is either no God, or else your prayers are not the prayers of God's people; for instead of the disease abating, it increases;" and this sunk me down to the ground. Coming from a prayer-meeting one evening at about ten or eleven o'clock, I went into a large field. It was as dark as it could be. I went into the middle of the field where I thought no one would hear me, and fell down upon the ground with my burden, and there wrestled with God, and said, "Lord, Thou hast said; 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find. Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee.' I have called upon thee, and poured out my soul before thee." There I lay at the footstool of God. It appeared at last as if the Lord were going away, and I said, "O Lord, if it is Thy sovereign will, I can die upon this spot. If it is Thy will to take me, here I am; but to deny me my request is cutting my soul worse than death itself." I could take no denial; and at last the Lord whispered, "Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." I cried, and wept, and said, "Lord, then my poor dear wife shall have no more fits." He answered me with the words: "It is done as thou hast requested." I got up, leaped, praised, and thanked the Lord as a prayer-hearing and answering God. I was as sure in my soul that God had heard and answered me as I had ever felt in my life, and came home praising and thanking the Lord. My dear wife did not then know God; but He brought her to a knowledge of His truth some years after. When I reached home the poor thing was quite distracted to know what had become of me, for it was very late; and indeed I almost wonder that I got home at all, for when God answers the petitions of His people and gives them to feel the sweetness of His presence, it is no wonder if body and soul are transported with the glory, My wife said, "Dear me, I thought something had happened to you." I said, "And so there has, but bless the Lord, it is my God that has answered my prayer; I tell you what, you will never have any more fits." She said, "O I should be glad if that would be the case, but I am afraid it never will." "You will never have another fit," I replied, "for God has told me so." Eight and thirty years have passed by, and she has never had one to this day.
May God bless you with a spirit of prayer and of supplication. Cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils. Tell the Lord your distresses, burdens, and griefs, for He alone can help and deliver; He will never turn a deaf ear to the cry of His afflicted people; He will prove a prayer-hearing and answering God. This is the gift of God, the gift of the Holy Ghost.
But again, another precious thing which is freely given to these us in Christ, is hope. What is to be done without hope? Why, in temporal things nothing can be done without hope. Wherever hope is gone there is nothing but destruction. Wherever hope appears to be cut off there is nothing but the invisible power of God can keep the man from sinking into black despair. It is the pleasure of God that His people should hope in Him. He has never deceived them; He has never done anything contrary to His blessed promise. He says, "Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and plenteous redemption." People say, "What an easy thing is that! Dear me, (say they), a man may lift up his head in hope; he ought not to be discouraged and despair. Hope in the mercy of God. Lift up your heart to the Lord and hang upon Him. Be cheerful; all will be well." God teaches His people that hope is a gift of the Spirit, a grace of the Spirit, and communicated by the Spirit, sweetly brought into the heart and exercised by the influence and operation of the Spirit. God teaches His children that they can no more raise their hearts to hope in times of trouble and in deep distress, than they can create a world; and therefore there are times and seasons when they cry out, "My hope and my strength is perished from the Lord;" yes, like Job they sometimes say, that their hope is removed like a tree.
Hope in God! One half of the professing world hope in themselves. Because they do their duty, are just and upright men, walk circumspectly, are charitable in their minds, and feel a disposition to do good to their fellow creatures: this is what they hope in, not in the mercy of God. Such characters as these know no need of the mercy of God, they have never been afraid of their deplorable and wretched state as sinners by nature, and therefore their hope is the hope of the hypocrite, and it will perish when they come into storms. But the hope which props up the Lord's people brings them to hang upon the promises, and to expect the precious truths of God to be communicated. It is a grace of the Holy Ghost, not the work of the flesh nor the product of human wisdom. All the experience which God's saints ever had cannot work up hope. If God withdraws His presence, withholds His communications, and leaves a Jeremiah to the devil and his own heart, it will sink him. I believe that the fruit of the Spirit of God dwelling in the heart will never be destroyed; but often when a child of God feels none of these in exercise, he begins to fear that he has not the grace of the Spirit, nor a grain of real hope in his heart. When he comes into these spots he knows that hope is the gift of God, and how his soul begs the Lord that He will bless him with a little hope, if it is but the least glimpse of hope to raise up his soul.
What a striking display has God given that it is not the work of man, but His own sovereign work to bring into exercise where Peter says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Pet. 1:3). Why, the Lord can do it in a moment; in the twinkling of an eye He can bring a precious promise into the heart, saying, "Fear not." Then hope rises up and sweetly cheers the soul, and says, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him." When this blessed hope rises up, it encourages the soul to wait quietly for the salvation of God. Now this is freely given, and God will give it. A child of God is now sunk into the borders of despair and despondency, but God begets him again to a lively hope, raises him out of his misery, and brings him to hang upon a promise keeping God. What a precious blessing is hope! How many times have I been propped up in dark, cloudy days and nights with the hope that God would bring me through, and a sweet assurance that His promise would hold fast for ever; for hope always speaks well of God, and encourages the heart to wait and watch for His promise, and not to dictate to Him when or in what way it shall come. Hope induces the soul to hang upon God, assured that His promise will be fulfilled in His own good time.
Another thing which God gives to His children is faith to trust Him and to believe in Him. He has never deceived His children yet; He has never been worse than His promise, but has ever appeared and provided for them both in providence and grace; for He has ever maintained His faithfullness. There is no ground for distrust in the promises of God; but it is not possible for flesh and blood to trust in Him. People who have abundance of prosperity and everything doing well with them, talk about trusting and leaving it with God. Why, they are looking and trusting to their prosperity, not to the Lord who sent it; they are trusting to what they have to lean upon, and to the nest which they have got in providence. To trust in God is to leave every other object but God Himself; it is taking body and soul, temporal and spiritual, and rolling it into His hands. When the soul is in the blessed exercise of faith, it looks not to flesh and blood, but eyes the promise, the power, the faithfullness, the immutability of God; and when thus trusting, the man can say from his heart, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines....and there shall be no herd in the stalls;" though everything should be completely dried up to flesh and blood, "yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation," (Hab. 3:17).
It is pleasing to God for His people to trust in Him; for faith is the gift of the Holy Spirit; and whatever is of the Holy Spirit is agreeable to the will of God. Faith is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. The child of God finds he cannot trust God for a single moment, except as the Lord gives him faith, and leads him to trust in Him; for he finds daily that it is not of works, but the free, sovereign gift of God. The Lord communicates it in the time of need. If there is any self righteous Pharisee here, he will never come again to hear old John. "Why," he will say, "this fellow does not let us have a bit, nor a rag, nor a tag." I tell you what, my friends, my rags and tags are all burnt up and gone to rack and ruin. I have not a bit of spirituality from day to day, but what is given to me by the Spirit of God. I find that I have no more power to believe now than ever I had; that I am no more able to bring up faith than I ever was. Nay, I think I am more tormented with unbelief now than ever I was in my life. Not in providential things, for God has brought me out of those great straits and difficulties, doubts and miseries which I once had; but the devil still gives me a shake now and then. O believer! If the Lord were to leave me in the devil's hands I should be as miserable in temporal things as I ever was in my life.
One day, about a month ago, I seemed to have a little boasting in my feelings I thought, "What a wonderful thing that now for two or three years I have had no conflict about temporal things." Then it came into my mind, "Suppose you were to be visited with a paralytic stroke; suppose your speech were to go and you could not preach; your people are all very poor, they could not keep you; then what would you do?" I said, "Well, I don't know." "Well then, suppose your people could not hear you preach, and that your preaching went all to rack and ruin, and was as dry as an old dry chip that has been baked in the oven; and your people would not hear you any longer." Thus the devil reasoned with me, till by-and-by I came to the Union Workhouse, and I began to tremble, for I thought I could never abide the Union, I could not bear to think of that. Upon the back of this a poor fellow came begging. He told me in conversation that he had been a minister preaching in such a place, but his infirmities were such he could preach no longer. That he had had something resembling a paralytic stroke I could tell by his talk; therefore he could not preach, and was obliged to go about for a little help. I gave the poor fellow something, for I thought if I should come into the same condition, it would be very acceptable to me. Here I sunk fathoms, until God came again and said, "Did ever I prove a barren wilderness unto you? Since I sent you out without a purse or scrip, have you lacked anything to the present moment?" I said, "No, Lord." And He said, "The cattle upon a thousand hills are mine, and the earth is mine, and the fullness thereof." Faith came into my soul, and I laid hold of the promises of God, feeling assured that my bread and my water should be given me, and that the Lord would feed me all my journey through. And this I found to be a gift, a sovereign gift; aye, and I blessed God for the gift. I did not bless old John, poor old wretch; but blessed God who had communicated it.
Love is another thing which is needful for God's children. What is religion without love? God tells us to love one another; and what is so pleasant, cheerful, and delightful as love? It is a blessing that makes rich, and adds no sorrow with it. But are there not times and seasons, when you cannot feel a grain of love, and when you feel no more love to God than to a beast, and no love to His people, nor to His Word? Yea, do you not find sometimes, to your grief and sorrow, that it is with reluctance that you even read the Word of God? Instead of feeling love to God and to His people, do you not find yourself sometimes hating, abusing, and treating God with contempt? Do you not find this rising up in your heart, and has not your soul sometimes been sunk fathoms with feelings of dreadful enmity and hatred in your heart against a good and gracious God? Has it not made you shudder? It has made me shudder a thousand times. I have felt such enmity rising up in my heart, that sometimes I have feared and believed that I was an apostate, and that God had given me up to a reprobate mind, for I thought a Christian never could feel such enmity rising up in his heart against God. I did not love this enmity; it was a grief to me, and my soul sank with sorrow under it; but I could not see that it was love to God in my heart which brought me to hate it. I wanted love shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost to put these things under my feet.
But there is no getting love; it is a self moving thing. The love of God moves, how it will and when it will; no man cultivates it. I have often heard people talk about cultivating the love of God. Why, is love barren? Does it want cultivating? Does it want to be improved? I can understand what it is for love to cultivate my soul and make it fruitful; but how I am to cultivate love, I neither know nor want to know. What I want is to have the love of God shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost. Hear what Paul says, "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ," (2 Thess. 3:5). How can the Christian direct himself? How can he bring himself to this grand blessing? It is love which must come to him, if he is to feel its power in his heart. What a rich blessing it is when God communicates love to us! What a fruitful thing it is in the heart! How sweet and how blessed it makes the man in his temper, in his disposition, and in everything connected with him.
The Lord will give love in His own time, for it is the gift of God; it is not of works, but the sovereign gift of the Holy Spirit, and He will have the glory of it.
The Lord's people need wisdom, and this is God's gift. "Why," (say you), "you will make all to be the gift of God." I will. God will have it so, He has brought my soul to see that it is so. There is not a single blessing which is not the gift of God. Repentance, faith, hope, patience, humility, every one of these is the gift of God and communicated in His own time. He has blessed you and me with the communication of them to the present day.
There is one gift more, which God will give to those of us for who Christ died and rose again for their justification, entered into glory, and took possession of the inheritance. The Lord will give them the kingdom. He will give them immortal rest, and take them to be for ever with Him, to be like Him and see Him as He is. There is no uncertainty here. God shall give it to them; it is His free, sovereign gift. It is their Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom. There is not one soul of the many millions for whom the Redeemer died, whom the Father has loved, and the Holy Spirit called, who shall not have this gift. They shall enter through much tribulation into the kingdom of God. Yes, they shall do it, they must do it, and (I would speak it with reverence), it is at the peril of Deity that they should not do it. How? His faithfulness would be proved nothing but falsehood, His omnipotence would be proved weakness, His omniscience would be proved ignorance, His justice would be sullied, His grand, immortal Deity would be upset. God has pledged His oath, yea, sworn by two immutable things, that they shall have strong consolation who have fled to Jesus for refuge. God has sworn that He will not lie unto Jacob, and He will not be a perjured Being. It is a disgrace to a human being to be perjured, to take an oath, and say, "In the sight of God so and so is truth," and then turn his back upon his oath! A perjured man is an awful character; and will God be perjured? O no. Poor soul, with all your difficulties, even though you are but as smoking flax, you shall come to the kingdom. If you are but a particle of dust in Zion's building, you are safe, the top-stone will cover you sweetly in, and you shall shout, "Grace, grace, unto it!" If you are but a lamb, you shall be carried in His bosom, and safely arrive home at last. And O, what a transporting eternity! There will be no jangling there; there will be no prejudice there one against another; there will be no backbiting there; there will be no telling tales there.
I used, in my younger days, to be so touchy, when anybody said anything about me. I have now found that the best way of matching all those who say disrespectful things, and have tales to tell, is to take no notice of them, but to live down scandal. This is the best kind of revenge. The best way is to act honestly in the sight of God, and to live down, like a Christian, every evil report. Let your tongues be still, and your mouths shut, and let your conduct make it manifest that the fear of God is in your hearts: "By their fruits ye shall know them." I hope the Lord will preserve you that are amongst these, "us all," wherever you are, that you may be enabled to walk circumspectly, and to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; and the glory shall be His for ever and ever.
What a sweet home it will be, where there shall be no sin, no guile, no hypocrisy, no fiery darts of the devil, no hidings of God's face, no dead, stupid heart, no family trials, no afflictions, no distress; but we shall be for ever in the presence of our covenant God, to behold His glory, to be like Him, to see Him as He is, and never, never to sin against Him to all eternity. It is the very element of the people of God to be where there is no sin; as the Psalmist said, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." Here will be the perfect satisfaction of the soul, a satisfaction which shall never end, but shall be eternal. The children of God shall have this as surely as God has promised it.