Monday, May 31, 2010
Preached in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, 1878 - By Thomas Bradbury.
"Accepted in the Beloved."
Such precious words as these, appear too full of glorious grace for "a poor vile sinner" like me to take upon my lips. I say not this to produce effect, or to awaken any fleshly sensation in your minds, for I know that such productions last only for the moment, and pulpit effects, arising from the flesh and the devil, will perish with the experience of them. I have no desire to appear pre-eminent in sinnership, or in the experience of sin in its heinousness, but I speak thus, because God, in spite of my desires and determinations, makes me both know and feel the truthfulness of what I have declared. It is a sweet mercy to me to be enabled intelligently, and I believe spiritually, through the teaching of the Holy Ghost, to trace out a God-given and a God-wrought experience in harmony with those whom He has made conspicuous in the display of His sovereign, rich, and all-conquering grace. As I read my Bible and my Bible reads me I love this blessed reciprocity I find the longer a redeemed sinner lives, and is blessed with the company and confidence of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Revealer of the Father's secrets, the Executor of the Father's will, and the more he will want to know Him. I will tell you something more. The brighter the revelation of God's Christ to his soul, and the blacker self will be in his spiritual apprehension. The more his heart is warmed with a sense of the love of his God, and the more he will mourn because of his coldness and deadness. This is a paradox which no hypocrite or mere professor can understand for a single moment. As the child of God grows in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and he sees more of His beauty, enjoys more of His bounty, and feels more of His blessedness, the more he is brought into a true conception of what he is in himself as a wretched, ruined, undeserving, and hell-deserving sinner. See! Left to himself, all that he can do is to disbelieve every word of God's Book. Left to himself, though he takes up the hymn book and with his lips joins in singing these precious hymns, yet his heart is cold and listless, over which he mourns and weeps. He meets with God's dear people and he judges himself the vilest of them all. He meets with the children of the devil, and though his own heart shows him the wickedness of every one of them, yet he hates to be found amongst them. But amongst them he must be found, for to shun them altogether, "then must he needs go out of the world." (1 Cor. 5:10) The wheat will grow amongst the tares, and the tares amongst the wheat, but there is no spiritual association. Business and other matters necessitate the meeting of the children of God and the children of the devil, but the heaven-born one quits the other's company as quickly as possible, not because he thinks himself better than they, for he judges his wretched nature to be a thousand times worse. Yes, he discovers in himself a concentration of all the sins of all the people in the universe, and he discovers something else a heart, yearning, longing, panting and desiring after communion with a glorious God, and fellowship with a precious Christ. He would embrace God's Christ with warmth of love hitherto unknown, and he would remain in the heart-reviving embrace of the arms of everlasting love. It is no mean privilege to be brought into such as experience as this. When it is developed in the heart and understanding by the grace and indwelling of God the ever-blessed Spirit, Christ is exalted and self is ignored and excluded.
This we see in the experience of the apostle Paul. When he was confronted by those who called in question his apostleship, he could say, "In nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing." (2 Cor. 12:11) That appears to be high ground for Paul to take; but it was not a whit too high for God to give him, and what God had given, he had a right to maintain. For personal position and official importance the Spirit-taught child of God cares little, while the mere professor will aim for them with all his might. Perhaps the people of God sometimes put too low an estimate on the gifts of His providence, and hold them with too loose a hand: but for a man to aspire to a pulpit and make himself a king in it is purely absurd. A king! A poor wretched pauper to be a king in a pulpit? A man who has a true conception of himself in the light of infinite excellency, and who measures himself according to the infinite perfections of his Lord and Master, will seek, not his own glory, but God's; not his own exaltation, but Christ's; not his own honour, but the Spirit's. The true estimate which the God-sent minister has of himself is that of Paul, "though I be nothing." The apostle desired to be nothing before the Church except as he stood in the person of Christ. This he would not let go at the beck of Satan or the taunts of his blood, hence he said, "I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." (2 Cor. 11:5) But listen! "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle." (1 Cor. 15:9) That is growing; but it downward in self-esteem. See how he continues in his growth. Eph. 3:8: "less than the least of all saints." That is a blessed position for a poor child to be brought to. I know and feel it in my inmost soul this morning. Now turn to 1 Tim, 1:15: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."
This reminds me of a dear old gentleman in Lancashire, concerning whose religion my now glorified friend, the late rector of Openshaw, had misgivings. One day the two were brought together. Mr. Parks seized an opportunity to test him. He said, "Well, Mr. Evans, surrounded as you are with blessings and luxuries, surely you can have no anxieties, cares, or perplexities." A tear started to the dear old gentleman's eyes, and in accents which evidenced deep inward emotion, he said, "Oh, Mr. Parks, don't talk like that! All this without Christ would be eternal ruin to me; but a crust with Christ would be the delight of my heart." A religion like that will do wont it? Just think about it. I must not go any further with these preliminaries, but, in humble dependence upon the guidance and grace of God the Holy Ghost, seek for mutual comfort, edification, and establishment in the deep things of God, from this glorious declaration of His most Holy Word, "Accepted in the Beloved."
I. THE PERSON "The Beloved."
II. THE POSITION "In the Beloved."
III. THE PERFECTION "Accepted in the Beloved."
I. THE PERSON "The Beloved." In this precious title we have more than I shall be able to get through this morning, or able to talk about while I remain among you. If all the world could not contain the books that should be written concerning Jesus, (John 21:25) how on earth can any poor pulpit pigmy think of exhausting a theme so great, glorious, and vast, as this of "the Beloved?" We hear of exhaustive preachers, but you may rest assured that the patience of the hearers is exhausted and not the fullness of the theme. I love to deal out clean provender to clean beasts who chew the cud, and "inly ruminate" the glorious truths which God has spoken concerning His own loved Zion as seen by Him "accepted in the Beloved." In the contemplation of this precious portion our minds are lost in wonder, love, and praise. "THE BELOVED!" Who is He? The Beloved is God's most glorious Christ. The Beloved is our own Brother born for adversity. The Beloved is the Friend of sensible, saved, and eternally-loved sinners. The Beloved is the Husband, Provider, Preserver, and Protector of His bride, the Church. He has been graciously pleased to manifest Himself to us as our Friend, and to reveal to us the covenant necessity that He must show Himself friendly to us. Again and again has He shown His friendship and love. When we were convinced by His holy law that without a perfect righteousness we must be for ever undone, He revealed Himself to us as the Righteousness of God in the perfection of His obedience to that law for us. When we were ready to perish, and as poor hell-deserving wretches we dreaded the just wrath and indignation of a sin-hating God. He showed Himself friendly in revealing to us His marvellous condescension in coming down to endure the doom and suffer the death we so richly deserved. He showed Himself friendly in sending His good Spirit to teach, guide, comfort, and establish us in the faith of God's elect, and reveal to us a perfect Saviour who saves us from all our transgressions, sins, and iniquities. Sins past, sins present, and sins to come. Sins committed with greediness previous to His revelation in me. Sins of ingratitude and rebellion since He made Himself known to me as my own God and Saviour. Sins against His agony and bloody sweat. Sins against His blessed Spirit. Sins against the blessed privilege He has thrust upon me to declare His glorious salvation and His loving sympathy with the tried and exercised hearts of His afflicted brethren. Though such a sinner, yet saved experimentally a thousand times over, and here this morning to confess myself a greater sinner than ever, yet able to look up with a little confidence and thank God for putting me among such children as Mary Magdalene, that walking hell out of which Christ cast seven devils, and dear old Peter who denied Him and followed Him afar off, and that is all that I can do if He leaves me to myself for a single moment. But, blessed be His holy name, He knows that I do follow Him, and that there are those now within these walls who follow Him at a distance with whose exercised spirits He has the tenderest sympathy. Our Jesus has not only saved us from sins that are past, but He has pledged Himself to save us from sins present and from sins to come. A pious objector to God's covenant and salvation will say, "What! do you mean that in the face of grace so bountiful and love so divine you have a license to sin? Get thee behind me, Satan. If I must have the desire of my heart, I would never commit another sin. But the purposes of JEHOVAH must be fulfilled, and His designs of grace must be accomplished, therefore the devil, who can only go the length of his tether, will tempt me, and I shall sin. In all this God's Christ will be exalted and the Father glorified. The sovereignty of His grace will be manifested in my deliverance from every sin, and in my presentation before the throne of His glory without failure, fault, or flaw by Christ, with Christ, and in Christ. What think ye of such a Gospel as this? "Oh! there is too much sovereignty in it," cries Mr. Mongrel Calvinist. "There is too much of man's sin and God's free-grace, which makes God the author of sin," screams old Lady Legality. Well, let them cry and scream as they will, if the testimony from this pulpit should prove the means in the hands of God of sweeping away the whole congregation, I say, let the spirit of the testimony be intensified and that precious fact be reiterated to the praise of the glory of His grace,
"Though sinning, yet free from all sin."
"The Beloved." Who is He? The Beloved of the Father. Turn to John 17:24. There you see Him standing on high ground. As the Father's righteous Servant, the Steward of His bounties, and the Mediator of the covenant, He renders an account of His faithful service, and demands the reward due to the same. He says, "Father, I will." This is not simply a plea but a demand, a command.
"For all that come to God by Him
Salvation He demands;
Points to their names upon His breast,
And spreads His wounded hands."
There is the demand of the all-preveiling Intercessor to His ever-loving Father. "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." (John 17:24) The Beloved of the Father before all worlds. Between the Father and the Son in their perfect oneness in Godhead there was mutual and ineffable love, but the love of the Father was revealed to Him, as the Head and Representative of grace, when He was appointed as the great and glorious Head of the Church, the Surety of the covenant and the Saviour of His people. Turn with me to that precious testimony concerning Him in Proverbs 8:22-31. Christ, as the Wisdom of God, here speaks: "The LORD possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, or ever the earth was. Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and My delights were with the sons of men." Where is the habitable part of God's earth? St. Peter's at Rome? St. Paul's Cathedral? Your pretty tabernacles? Your beautiful parish churches? No! The hungering, thirsting, longing, panting child of God may seek Him in these and never find Him in one of them. Where, then, is the habitable part of God's earth? Long before the world began, infinite and eternal delight was in these spots. See Isaiah 57:15: "For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit." Look again at Isaiah 66:2: "To this man" to this piece of earth, elect of God and redeemed by blood "will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." Jehovah's joy and delight was in His Christ, and Jesus' delight was in His people before the world began. The habitable part of Jehovah's earth is the heart of His elect. In this we see something of what that means, "In whom ye are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph. 2:22)
"The Beloved." The Father proclaims Him so. See Isaiah 42:1: "Behold." Something wonderful is coming. "Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect." God's elect! Put the capital E to that name and there you see God's Christ.
"'Christ be My First Elect,' He said,
Then close our souls in Christ our Head,
Before He gave the mountains birth,
Or laid foundations for the earth."
Christ the Head of His elect brethren by Divine appointment and covenant engagement. He is the Head, we are the members. He is the Saviour, we are the saved. He is the Elect Brother, we are the elect brethren in union with Him, according to that precious chapter, Heb. 2:11: "For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." What does this mean? All of one family. "Therefore He is not ashamed to call them brethren." Christ, God's First Elect, not ashamed of, but identified with, the whole election of grace, and God the Father eternally delighting in them. "Mine Elect in whom My soul delighteth." This is Christ the Beloved of the Father. Turn now to Matt. 3:17: "And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" or, "in whom My soul delighteth." Turn to Matt. 17:5, where you have narrated that amidst the raptures of Tabor's mount, when Christ was transfigured before His disciples, "Behold a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." Hear Him, the Beloved of the Father, the Proclaimer of His truth, the Revealer of His will, the Prophet of the Church. But let us look at this a little closer. Beloved of the Father! In what? 1. In the worth of His person. 2. In the work of His hands. 3. In the words of His mouth.
1. In the worth of His person. See John 3:35: "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand." All spiritual blessings, all covenant mercies, every needful grace, and all Divine consolations given into the hand of a precious Christ by the Father and wholly on the ground of the Father's love to the Son. Thus invested with all authority the Beloved could say, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18) And, "As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." (John 17:2) Oh, what a glorious Christ! All things in His hands are right. All the elect in His hands are secure. All blessings in His hands are inalienable. All things in heaven, in earth, and in hell are for the display of His glory, and, whether for the pain or for the pleasure of His people, they work together for good to them. He is not only the Beloved of the Father in the worth and beauty of His Person, 2. but also in the work of His hands. See John 8:29: "And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone: for I do always those things that please Him." Always, from Bethlehem to Calvary. In every thought of His heart, in every look of His eye, in every word of His tongue, in every action of His body, the Father was well pleased. This you see in Isaiah 42:21: "The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness sake." 3. He is the Beloved of the Father in the words of His mouth. Look at that precious testimony in John 11:42: "And I knew that Thou hearest Me always." Hearest with approbation, appreciation, and untold delight. Christ beloved in covenant, beloved because of the worth of His Person, beloved because of the work of His hands, beloved because of the words of His mouth, beloved because of the sweetness and power of His intercession on the behalf of His poor dumb children. Now He is exalted with great triumph into His Father's kingdom where He stands the one Object of the Father's delight and the adoring gratitude of all the glorified ones there.
"The Beloved." The Father's delight and affection in His Son is communicated to every member of the one body by the gracious will of God the ever-blessed Spirit, therefore the Father's Beloved is the Beloved of the Spirit. None can fully comprehend the love the blessed Spirit has in the Christ of God. Oh, my dear friends, ofttimes have I told you that we fall very far short of a just and true appreciation of the love of the Holy Ghost! Would that we could sing every moment that precious verse which God sent home to my heart in my prayer this morning:
"And Thou, eternal Spirit vast,
What love can Thine transcend?
Since Thou Thy lot with me hath cast,
Indwelling God and Friend!"
How is it that the Holy Ghost can make this vile body His dwelling-place, or take up His abode with any poor and undone sinner in this assembly? It is not simply because of the ineffable delight and love that the Father has in His Son, but because of the love that the Spirit also has in Him, therefore He must love all in union with Him. At your leisure, read over John 14,15, and 16., where you will see the promises of Christ that the Holy Ghost should be sent down from the bright heights of glory into dark dungeons, filthy holes, pits of corruption, wretched dens, and find out the most wretched of Adam's race such as depraved Rahab, filthy David, blood-thirsty Manasseh, the devil-possessed Magdalene, ay, and to hell-deserving me. Don't some of you find a vibration in your hearts and a quivering response And to me? Look at that precious testimony in Rom. 15:30: "The love of the Spirit." The Spirit loves God's Christ and reveals Him in the experience of the saints. He delights to glorify Him and give Him the pre-eminence over all things in the hearts of His people.
"The Beloved." Here we come a little closer home. He is the Beloved of souls in experimental union with Him. Why do they love Him? His love to them was uninfluenced; their love to Him was influenced by His. "We love Him, because He first love us." (1 John 4:19) When His love is revealed in me by the grace and indwelling of God the Holy Ghost, I cannot help myself, but am compelled to say with Peter, "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee." (John 21:17) And I cannot help but write bitter things against myself, because my love to Him is so feeble and faint, and I think of Him so little. I can sing indeed and in truth:
"Dear Lord! and shall I ever live
At this poor dying rate
My love so faint, so cold to Thee,
And Thine to me so great?"
Why do we love Him? Ask the Psalmist. See Psalm 116:1: "I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications." And at verse 7, he says, "The Lord hath dealt bountifully with me." Then, if we love the Lord because He hath dealt bountifully with us, we love Him because of His covenant love in Christ Jesus and His blessing us with all spiritual blessings in Him according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." (Eph. 1:3,4) What marvellous provision! What an unspeakable mercy to be brought into His house of wine, and, though "a poor vile sinner," to stand under the banner of everlasting love, without spot, flaw, wrinkle, or any such thing. Here I love Him "because He hath heard my voice and my supplications." The supplications which have gone forth in sighs, groans, and longings for the revelation of His own rich grace, for the experience of that covenant mercy which flows through the wounds, blood, and righteousness of my matchless and adorable Lord. But let us look at this love as revealed in New Testament Scripture. You remember that precious scene described in John 21:15-17. Here we see Peter who followed his Master afar off, Peter whom Jesus caused to be mentioned by name to the women after His resurrection. "But go your way, tell His disciples, and Peter." Peter who lied, and cursed, and swore. Now you are going too far, says Mr. Precise. Am I? Not one step further than God has graciously revealed in His Word, and if you dare to find fault with Him, then fire as many shafts at me as you like, for they wont hurt me at all. In the scene before us Jesus is represented as speaking to poor wavering Peter. He addresses him as Simon, for whensoever the Lord spoke a word of loving correction to him He invariably addressed him by his old name, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee." The same question is repeated. I love to have a repetition of such questions from Him to my heart. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?" The same answer. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved." This does not mean that he was vexed with the threefold question, but grieved with himself. He remembered his threefold denial. He remembered the sorrows of his Master's heart when they were fast asleep in dark Gethsemane, and when they all forsook Him and fled. "He said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee." Before the display of the rare beauties and rich graces of the Bridegroom, the adoring bride cries out, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend." (Songs 5:16) He was loved by the saints in Old Testament times. He was loved by the confessors and martyrs who suffered for His name. Ay, and He is loved this morning by His scattered and peeled ones, His tempted and tried followers who write many bitter things against themselves, but who have not one hard thought of Him. He is loved by the poor in spirit who have no stock of grace to boast of. He is loved by those who mourn over sin and after Him. He is loved by those who hunger and thirst increasingly for sweet fellowship, blessed association, and hallowed communion with Him. What think ye of such a Beloved as this? He will soon "come to be glorified fully in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." (2 Thess. 1:10) We will now consider
II. THE POSITION "In the Beloved." I love that little word with a big meaning, "in." The Scriptures abound with this expression, which shows forth the eternal, indissoluble, unchanging union existing between Christ and His people. "In Christ." How are they in Him? In Him by the purpose, goodwill, and pleasure of the Father. In Him by covenant decrees. In Him by eternal predestination. In Him by sovereign election. In Him by spiritual regeneration. In Him by gracious preservation and everlasting glorification. "In Him." See what metaphors abound. Living stones in a spiritual building can never perish or pass away, because the strength and eternity of the Foundation is communicated to the building. Christ imparts to all His members the durability and permanency only to be found in Him. Fruitful branches in the True Vine cannot decay and die because of their union to their Living Root, Christ Jesus, who says to every mourner over its own barrenness: "From Me is thy fruit found." (Hosea 14:8) Members of the one body cannot perish because of their oneness with their ever-living and sympathizing Head. All strength, sympathy, comfort, and consolation flows from this great and glorious Head to every member of His body, the Church. But this is not all. Look at Israel in Goshen, under the shelter and security of the sprinkled blood. Here I wish to give you a hint again. You will hear persons talking sometimes of trusting in the blood, but you cannot find a sentence in all God's Book, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, about trusting in the blood. What then are we to trust in? Trust in a living, glorified, and reigning Christ, every drop of whose precious blood was shed for His people. It is trust in a living Person. It is trust in an infallible Prophet. It is trust in a prevailing Priest. It is trust in a reigning King. It is trust in the Beloved. Look! The angel was to pass through the land of Egypt for the destruction of the firstborn, and to prove to the Egyptians that all their strength and beauty was in the hands of Israel's God. The Israelites were in their houses. The blood of the lamb was sprinkled upon the lintel and doorposts of their houses; but we find nothing about faith in the blood. God speaks, "When I see the blood I will pass over you." (Exod. 12:13) Mark you this! "When I see the blood," not when you see feel, or believe in it. Did He not pass over you through the whole dark season of your unregeneracy? It was then by the blood of the covenant sprinkled before the ark and the mercy-seat He manifested His care and concern over you. It was then, long before I knew Him,
"Determin'd to save, He watch'd o'er my path
When, Satan's blind slave, I sported with death."
And while He cut down thousands on the right hand and on the left, who went post haste to hell, yet I, who deserved that doom as much as they, am here to testify of His preserving love, and to sound aloud the precious fact that "He saw the blood and passed over me." "As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver it, and passing over He will preserve it." (Isa. 31:5)
When Noah had finished building the ark, God said unto him, "Come thou and all thine house into the ark; for thee have I seem righteous before Me in this generation." (Gen. 7:1) Mark that word "Come." Noah must enter the ark with God, and God must enter with Noah. These two friends could not be parted. When Noah and his God were in the ark together, "the Lord shut him in," and shut the world out. Judgment came. The waters of the deluge drowned the world, but only beat upon the ark, which was a glorious type of God's Christ, His own Beloved, in whom the whole election of grace abides for ever safe. Look again at Lot. God said to him, "Haste thee, escape thither, for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither." (Gen. 19:22) To little Zoar lingering Lot was led by His covenant God, and when safely sheltered in it the fire of heaven descended and consumed the guilty cities of the plain.
Look at God's testimony concerning the position of the saint as given in this first of Ephesians. "In Christ," as God's eternally-loved ones. Blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. (verse 3) Chosen in Him. (verse 4) Predestinated in Him. (verse 5) Accepted in Him. (verse 6) Redeemed in Him. (verse 7) And inheritance in Him. (verse 11) "In Him!" When?
"Hail, sacred union, firm and strong!
How great the grace, how sweet the song!
That rebel worms should ever be
One with Incarnate Deity.
One in the tomb, one when He rose;
One when He triumph'd o'er His foes;
One when in heaven He took His seat,
While seraphs sang all hell's defeat."
See! In Him, when He was a little babe at Bethlehem. Oh, what a mercy to know that all my necessities, when I hung a poor weakling upon my mother's breast, were met and answered in the infant child Jesus. In Him, when He was a boy at Nazareth. Oftentimes I think of the days of my boyhood, especially when singing those precious words of Addison:
"When in the slippery paths of youth
With heedless steps I ran,
Thine arm unseen conveyed me safe,
And brought me up to man."
But the steps of the youthful Jesus were not heedless, He was ever diligent in His Father's business, and all this, with the spotlessness of His sinless life, was set down to my account. See! In Him when He was incarnate. In Him when He was circumcised. In Him when He was baptized. In Him when He was crucified. In Him in His resurrection. In Him when He ascended with great triumph into His glory-home up yonder. In Him loved with an everlasting love. In Him saved with an everlasting salvation. In Christ as Christ is. "Herein is love with us made perfect." (1 John 4:17) The perfection of love is seen in the incarnation of God's Beloved, and known in the revelation of Him in our hearts. God's Christ in us is God's love to us, and gives us boldness in the day of judgment. When Satan, the world, and an evil heart judges, "there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, (Rom. 8:1) for as He is so are they in this world." He is away from all sin, and danger, and death; "so are we." Can you believe it? When you can, it is a time of rejoicing. When you cannot, it is a time of hope. Blessed truth. "He performeth all things for me." (Ps. 57:2)
III. THE PERFECTION "Accepted in the Beloved." What is it to be accepted? It is to be received with approval and bound to the Receiver. As I look at myself I feel that my due desert is rejection; but as I am blessed with spiritual and reviving views of the Father's Beloved, the Spirit's Beloved, the saint's Beloved, and the contrite sinner's Beloved, I rejoice in being accepted in Him. Accepted in the person, righteousness, and satisfaction of Jesus Christ. Accepted as He sings for me when my heart is too sorrowful to sing. Accepted as He prays for me, when I know not how to pray, or what to pray for as I ought.
"My prayer His prayer to God for me."
Look at this precious word, "accepted," in its fullness of grace and truth. The simple meaning of the word is, "graced in the Beloved." Every grace treasured up in a precious Christ for us. The grace of election, redemption, regeneration, faith, repentance, introduction, and presentation, all in the Beloved. Do I say, "I am black?" He says, "Thou art comely." (Songs 1:5) Do I confess my vileness? He says, "Thou art all fair, My love, there is no spot in thee." (Songs 4:7) Do I mourn my imperfections? He says, "Thou art perfect in Christ Jesus." Do I weep over my faults? He says, "Without fault before the throne of God." (Rev. 14:5) Though I say, I am unholy and full of blame, He assures me that He chose me before the foundation of the world that I should be holy and without blame before Him. Was I an enemy in my mind by wicked works? He says, "Thou art reconciled to Me in the body of My dear Son's flesh, and He presents thee to Me, holy in My election, unblameable in His perfection, and unreproveable by the sweet witnessing and gracious indwelling of My blessed Spirit."
May He add His blessing for His name's sake. Amen.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Preached in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, 1878 - By Thomas Bradbury
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour: that He by the grace of God should taste death for everyman."
THE design and determination of the Holy Ghost in this very precious epistle is the exaltation and glorification of Jesus Christ, and the ignoring of everything short of Him, in the matter of His people's salvation and everlasting security. I have endeavoured many times to explain this to you, showing that in every chapter there is a revelation of some excellent thing, which Satan is sure to make use of to draw away the mind of the child of God from the one Object of his faith, and hope, and love a precious Christ. In chapter 1, the angels are revealed as visitors for a little while, ministering to the wants and necessities of the heirs of salvation, according to that supply of grace committed unto them by God for the time being. Angels perform His bidding and pass away. Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Melchisedec, priests, sacrifices, ordinances, and ceremonies, all of Divine appointment, pass away at the approach of the Great Reformer. See Hebrews 9:10: "Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation," or, until the Great Reformer came. When it pleases God to bless the souls of His people with the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Reformer, in the perfections of His priesthood, they experience sweet freedom from all other bonds, and cry, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee." (Ps. 73:25) Christ is the one Object of their soul's affection, and all else is fleeting, fading, perishing.
This fact is revealed in the chapter, a portion of which I have read for our mediation. Before dwelling upon the precious truths therein contained, we will look at a few important and instructive points which appear in the chapter, humbling to the preacher as well as the hearer. Look at verse 1: "Therefore." Because of the immutability of Christ as set forth in the latter part of the first chapter, under that grand and illustrious title which displays the perfections and glory of His salvation "THE SAME." "Thou are THE SAME." The Immutable Saviour. The Unchangeable Friend. Whose grace and goodness are without variableness or shadow of turning. It matters not what our changes may be, we may sorrow and mourn over filth and guilt contracted afresh, and for the application of the precious atoning blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; but toward us He is ever THE SAME. When we wander from Him in thought, purpose, imagination, or desire, we cannot truly get away from Him, for He is ever THE SAME. "Emmanuel, God with us." Our wretched natures will manifest their rebelliousness, and our perverse wills their restlessness, but He is ever THE SAME. We may doubt and fear, and be more unbelieving than the devils, for they believe and tremble, but, "If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself." (2 Tim. 2:13) We may be, and are, forgetful of Him, but He is ever mindful of us, of His covenant engagements, and of the precious promises which the Father treasured up in Him for us. "Therefore," with an unchanging Saviour, and the sweet enjoyment of the ministry of elect angels expressed in this hymn:
"Angels unseen around the saints
Their guardian pinions spread,
To cheer the spirit when it faints,
And raise the drooping head"
"we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip," or, as it reads in the margin, "run out as leaking vessels." There is no superfluous injunction in God's blessed Book. Paul, and those to whom he wrote, knew something of this leaking business; and not they alone, but all the tried and tempted children of God in this dispensation of grace are painfully conscious of this infirmity. One moment encouraged with bright and blessed views of Divine truth, the next depressed with a sense of forgetfulness and want. I myself, at the bottom of the pulpit stairs enjoying life, light, and liberty in the mysteries of redeeming love, but in the pulpit, dead, dark, and dreary a leaking vessel. You in the pews who listen to the declaration of rich and glorious grace, whose hearts melt with a view of a precious Christ in His sufferings for you, before you leave your seats you are like that described in Hosea 6:4, "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud and as the early dew it goeth away." Goodness! had Ephraim any? Not by nature, but by gracious imputation and importation he had. This goodness is rendered in the margin, mercy or kindness. The goodness, mercy, and kindness which God made over to him, he often felt his lack. And so do we. There is another fact I wish you to notice. The apostle Paul aspired not to a pinnacle of apostolic superiority. He magnified not himself because of his office. He did not lecture the people, saying, "You ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which you have heard," but he finds himself one with them in their forgetfulness, short-sightedness, and leaking state. He said, "We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." Can it be possible that there is within these walls a single soul blessed with the faintest apprehensions of Divine love, life, light, and liberty, who cannot look this portion in the face and take it home to himself? He who knows the most, feels he ought to know more, not simply of the things which he has read, but the things which he has been taught from the lips of Christ.
Look at verse 3: "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" I recollect reading a sermon preached by a bishop from that text. Either the text was too big for the bishop, or the bishop was too big for the text. He spoke of this great salvation as for everybody, and tried to coax the dead, neglectful sinners of his congregation to accept it, and threatened them with damnation for their persistent negligence. Poor bishop! See! It is the fashion in all Arminian workshops and free-will assemblies for the preacher to stand upon the elevated ground of personal holiness, and to address his auditory as far beneath him; and especially when he is addressing those who are not what he is pleased to style believers, doesn't he give it them for neglecting that salvation through accepting which he has compelled God Almighty to be obligated to him? This is not the case in Grove chapel, for if there is one spot in it where the concentration of every sin is to be found, surely that spot is the pulpit. Look at that personal pronoun "we." Paul, and every Pauline preacher commissioned to declare God's mind and will to the elect of God throughout the world, stands on an equality with them, and says, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" "So great salvation!" How great? So great that it brought from heaven the great and eternal God, removed the great barriers of sin, condemnation, and death from between God and His elect people, gave a great and glorious righteousness to a great multitude of Adam's lost race, and enriches with great grace every poor sinner brought by the Holy Ghost into fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Its greatness will be truly known when great sinners, saved from great sins, shall stand before the throne, singing, "Salvation to God that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." (Rev. 7:10) It is a salvation revealed in a living, glorified Man, who is also the Mighty God a salvation brought home to the hearts of God's children by the exceeding greatness of His mighty power. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Escape what? Some would say, How shall we escape the wrath of God and the damnation of hell? I say nothing of the kind. We who have this salvation are saved from hell, and exempt from the wrath of God. But, if we neglect this great salvation, how shall we escape the certain consequences of our neglect, such as leanness, deadness, dreariness, and distress of soul? But look at this great salvation as possessed by those who are interested in it. "Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him." A salvation spoken by the Lord to the heart and confirmed by Him there. "God also bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will!" The Holy Ghost witnessing to the truth and reality of this salvation. Free-will has no place here, for it is wholly according to JEHOVAH'S own will.
I wish you to notice also the New Testament quotations from the Old. Many of these throw wonderful light upon the Old Testament Scriptures where they occur. Read verse 6: "But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the Son of man, that Thou visitest Him?" What Man is this? Who is this Son of man? Are we to understand this of man in general, man in union with Adam? No. But to the Man Christ Jesus and to man in Christ. Here the Spirit of God by the Psalmist directs the attention of God's Christ. Struck with the force of Divine revelation, and the blessed opening of JEHOVAH'S covenant love, he exclaims, "What is man?" The Man in covenant, crucifixion, communication, and communion. The Man from Bethlehem's manger to Calvary's cross. "And the Son of man, that Thou visitest Him?" Mark this! God dealt with the Man Christ Jesus during His sojourn here upon earth as He dealt with the man Adam before his fall. God was a Visitor in Eden. Christ when on earth sometimes felt the absence of His Father-God, hence the doleful cry from His exercised heart, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46) In wonder, love, and praise, the question is asked, "What is man?" Man humbled to the dust, to degradation, and to death; but now exalted far above all blessing and praise. "Thou art mindful of Him," and of all that Thou didst give to Him. "Thou visitest Him," and wilt visit with His salvation every soul in union with Him. "Thou madest Him a little lower than," or, as it reads in the margin, "a little while inferior to the angels, Thou crownedst Him with glory and honour, and didst set Him over the works of Thy hands: Thou hast put all things under His feet." Infidel philosophers, and some who are looked upon as religious philosophers, see in this Psalm nothing more than the superiority of man over the brute creation. They speak of the dignity, the reasoning powers, the brilliant intellect, the wondrous skill, and the scientific appliances by which lordly man subdues the inferior animals to his will. When man can tame and manage himself, then, perhaps, we may believe these would-be philosophers. We have no need to go to the brute creation for the exhibition of brute force. We see it in the name of Jesus, but it is not our JESUS. Under "The holy standard of the cross," crimes the most accursed, and atrocities the most fiendish are perpetrated. When I look around me, I am amazed at the effrontery of Non-conforming and Ritualistic hypocrites who are calling to prayer, that God may bless the holy Russian, and damn the cursed Turk. With such I feel perfectly horrified. If we look around, in every direction we see man's will asserting itself in opposition to the purpose of JEHOVAH. Might, no right, is the order of the day. Where, then, is man's superiority? Only in man's delusions and vain notions. We turn away from this painful theme and look at the truth as opened up by the blessed Spirit. Here we see Him whom our souls love reigning over all things in heaven, in earth, and in all deep places. We see, too, that the apostle's mind was deeply exercised in this matter. He speaks as an honest man, as a man who knows something of conflict with Satan, self, and sin, for in the last clause of verse 8 we have this confession from the depths of a God-wrought experience: "But now we see not yet all things put under Him." From these words, many who profess to be wonderfully wise in the Scriptures of truth, would have us believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is not King as yet, but only Prophet and Priest. But God's declaration is that He is His anointed King upon Zion, the hill of His holiness, that He is set at God's right hand, "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and hath put all things to the Church." (Eph. 1:20-22) Peter also declares, "Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God, angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject unto Him." (1 Peter 3:22) This is blessedly true; but as we look around us and see the sin and disorder which reign on every hand, we say with Paul, "But now we see not yet all things put under Him." Blessed be God, our ignorance and fears alter not the fact that Jesus is King over all in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, "and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11)
"But we see Jesus." The moment precious faith obtains a view of Him whom our souls truly love, all things are subject to Him. All terrestrial things are beneath the notice and attention of the child of God, who finds in the midst of shaken and perishing things a kingdom which cannot be moved; who discovers in the midst of poverty the unsearchable riches of Christ. We will look at this precious portion according to that order and arrangement in which it has pleased the Holy Ghost to give it to us. How do we see Jesus this morning? Have we any such view of Him as that which ravished the heart of the bride and described by her in Solomon's Song 5:10-16? Here she beholds Him in the beauty of His person, His unspeakable excellences, His unchanging affection, the stability of His appointments, the glory of His salvation, and cries out in spiritual admiration and adoring gratitude, "This is My Beloved, and this is My Friend." But some of you have come within these walls this morning, burdened and oppressed with sin, groaning under Satan's temptations and accusations, and, like Job, longing to know where you might find Him, desiring to come even to His seat, to fill your mouth with arguments, and order your cause before Him. You long to see Him as your Sin-bearer, carrying all your sins, past, present, and to come, into the land of never-ending forgetfulness. You long to see Him travelling in the greatness of His strength, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save you. You are on the look out to behold Him as the mighty Conqueror over sin, death, hell, and the grave, entering into heaven's highest glory, and standing in the presence of God for you, as your Intercessor, Advocate, and Great High Priest. Does sin trouble you? Are your transgressions a load? Is iniquity your daily annoyance? How blessed it is to see Jesus before the Father's throne making intercession for transgressors not for those who pride themselves in their very proper and precise mode of living, who trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others. Have you transgressed this morning? I have. Transgression is seen on everything I do. But what a mercy it is to know that we have an Intercessor in heaven for all such. Is your case hard and desperate? See! "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous." (1 John 2:1) Look at that! It is not if any man pray, or if any man believe, or if any man repent, for sometimes these very men to whom Jesus is an Advocate can neither pray, believe nor repent. They cannot command a hope or a desire, and yet they feel themselves raised up to a little hope in God's mercy, and bless Him for a desire to fear His name." (Neh. 1:11) These would rather write bitter things against themselves than lay claim to that which belongs not experimentally and spiritually to them. Blessed words! "If any man sin." Sin through the felt want of hope. Sin, for want of faith. Sin, for want of love. Sin, for want of prayer. I want to pray, but I don't know how. I want to sing, but my heart is cold and dead. Blessed be God for that word, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous."
"But we see Jesus." Read Exodus 28:30-38. There you see Aaron, the high priest, a type of our blessed Lord and Master, the great King-Priest of His Church, "bearing the judgment of the children of Israel upon His heart before the LORD continually," and also bearing the "iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts, that they may be accepted before the LORD." O my dear friends, it is a sweet interest in this alone that brings me into this pulpit. It is encouraging to know that the iniquity of my preaching, the iniquity of my praying, the iniquity of my most hallowed moments is all borne before God upon the head and the heart of my Great High Priest. In the sweet consciousness of this I can sigh out sometimes,
"Not on me, Lord, not one me.
I am all iniquity;
Look on Thine Anointed One,
Who before Thy glorious throne
On His breast bears my poor name.
All my load of sin and shame
Look on Him, my Surety."
When sorrow and sadness swell and surge as the sea, and when inbred corruptions seethe up within, unknown to all but myself and Him, then I delight to see Him, and then I can sing in plaintive strains
"When doubts and fears prevailing rise.
And fainting hope almost expires,
Jesus, to Thee I lift mine eyes,
To Thee I breathe my soul's desires."
In every time of trial and trouble we sigh to see Jesus, and, blessed be His holy name, He has promised, and bound Himself by the most solemn pledges, that we shall see Him in the set time of favour, the time appointed by the Father. O, what a mercy it is to know, that a sight of Jesus depends not upon the clear sight of these poor fading eyes; but that when flesh and heart fail, when these eyeballs are glazed in death, and this stammering tongue is paralysed in the throes of dissolution, then with the eyes of faith, with the eye of our spiritual understanding, with the eye of fond affection, we shall see Him, and our spirits shall cry, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." (Isa. 25:9) "But we see Jesus" as our Prophet and patient Leader, as our Priest and gracious Saviour, and as our King reigning over all things for His Father's glory and for our eternal good.
Without any wish or desire to enter into what might be considered a controversial exposition of the text, let us, in humble dependence upon the guidance of God the ever-blessed Spirit, seek to understand rightly that which appears difficult, but which is indeed full of blessing and rich consolation to the tempted and tried in the Lord's family. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels." Here we see God's discriminating and distinguishing sovereignty. Angels created, some elect and some, who fell from their high estate, reprobate, and are reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day. Covenant love has no respect to fallen angels and provides no salvation for them. Covenant love has respect to the elect sons and daughters of Adam, whom it raises to higher dignities than those possessed by Adam ere he fell, and to higher glories than those possessed by elect angels who never fell. To this end, according to covenant arrangement, Jesus was made "a little lower than the angels." "He humbled Himself." This is more than we can do. Those persons among the Papists, Ritualists, or Arminians, who profess to do so by their fastings, are only lifted up to a higher degree of pride by their fleshly endeavours. But Jesus humbled Himself, and made Himself of no reputation. He could do that, and as He reveals Himself to you and to me in His lowliness and humility, we are humbled to the dust, and crown Him Lord of all. I know it is so in my own soul's experience, therefore I speak. Are we like Him? According to the company we keep, so in a measure will be our spirit and deportment. As we are blessed with His company who visited us in great humility, as He walks and talks with us by the way, and blesses us with His gracious communications, so we find our spirits blend with His. It matters not with whom we come in contact, if His presence be not there, the time is a weariness and a waste. The company of Jesus we love, and those who bring Him not with them are irksome companions to us.
"But we see Jesus" a lowly Babe, an obedient Man, a faithful Servant, a dying Substitute, a sinless Saviour. "Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth." (Phil. 2:6-11) Yes, angels, men, devils, and lost spirits all bowing in submission to the all-powerful name of Jesus, some in awe and adoration, and others with hatred and enmity to Him. In the contemplation of so vast a subject our souls are lost in love and praise. Jesus humbled. Jesus exalted. Jesus an infant, a weakling on His mother's bosom. Jesus a despised and persecuted child.
"A Pilgrim through this lonely world
The blessed Jesus pass'd;
A Mourner all His life was He,
A dying Lamb at last."
Every step of His journey, though He was a lowly Man, yet He was God Most High. As the God-Man He rendered perfect obedience to His Father's righteous law, and gave unquestionable satisfaction to outraged justice. He wrought full salvation, and eternal redemption, for His Church and people, and now as their Head and Representative He stands before the face of the Father, possessing a place for them there, and securing a safe conduct and a glorious convoy for every eternally-loved one. What think ye of such a Jesus as this? He, "who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour." Who crowned Him? The Father crowned Him with glory and honour when He presented to Him His perfect work of salvation. The angelic Throng crowned Him with glory and honour as they beheld Him at the Head of His redeemed company. The glorified ones before His throne cast their crowns at His feet and crown Him with glory and honour. Every elect, redeemed, and regenerate sinner crowns Him with glory and honour. In no part of salvation's work does a truly-taught child of God take any honour to himself, but gives all honour and glory to the worthy Lamb. Blessings for ever rest upon His holy name, He appears in the midst of the throne as a Lamb that had been slain. In this we see true lowliness, gentleness, meekness, tenderness, and love. But see! It is "in the midst of the throne." In this we see sovereignty, royalty, excellency, and power. A sovereign Lamb. One who reigns by gentleness, and rules by love.
"But we see Jesus." Here I wish you to notice the peculiar construction of the text
1.Jesus was made a little lower than the angels.
2.He suffered death.
3.He was crowned with glory and honour.
4."That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
Mark! This tasting death was a consequence, not a cause, of His exaltation and coronation. Does this tasting death mean that He suffered death upon Calvary's tree? No. For according to the construction He must suffer death again. But this can never be. There is a marvellous beauty and rich consolation here to the living children of God. Were the sufferings and agonies of Jesus in Gethsemane and on Calvary a mere tasting? See Matt. 26:42, "He went away again the second time, saying, O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done." He tasted the vinegar, but "He would not drink." (Matt. 27:34) But the cup which His Father gave Him He drank to the very dregs. "Taste death." Do you think that refers to His death, or to the death which shall be experienced by all the members of His Church who are not caught up to meet Him in the air? I unhesitatingly answer, the latter. Our nature hates the thought of death. See! "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin." (Rom. 5:12) "The wages of sin is death." (Rom. 6:23) Spiritual death, which is alienation from the life of God. (Eph. 4:18) Natural death, the separation of soul and body. (Gen. 3:19) Eternal death, which all those out of the Lord Jesus Christ must experience. Not only these, but there is spiritual death experienced again and again by those who have passed from death unto life. Listen to the confessions of Paul, who knew that he lived in Christ, and that Christ lived in him. 1 Cor. 15:31, "I die daily." 2 Cor. 1:9, "But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead." 2 Cor. 4:10-12, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then, death worketh in us, but life in you." 2 Cor. 11:23, "In deaths oft." Oh, how we experience spiritual deadness; but He, who spake for the comfort and consolation of His mourning ones at Bethany, has left us this precious promise: "I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." (John 11:25) Look at that! A dead believer "though he were dead." Dead in feelings, dead in his experience to joy, peace, and consolation, "yet shall he live," and that by the resurrection power of the gracious Sympathizer. In all these seasons the presence of the Abolisher of death is sweet and precious.
But let us look at death temporal as experienced by all those who shall pass from grace to glory previous to Christ's coming to meet His living ones in the air. For some years the thought of death has had no terrors for me; I have ofttimes foolishly desired it. Now, don't go away and say that I have been presuming, for this I do not. I cannot tell how it will be with me in respect to this before tomorrow's dawn. Some may boast of their freedom from the fear of death; but if the monster death were to put in an appearance, where would these boasters be? But it is a blessing, indeed, to be delivered from the fear of death by the death of Jesus Christ our Lord. Death! What is it? It is the offspring of sin. What is sin? Sin is the transgression of the law. Death is an awful monster, and sin is its sting. See 1 Cor. 15:56, "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law." By the death of Jesus sin was put away. By the resurrection of Jesus death was overcome. By the righteousness of Jesus the law was magnified. By the intercession of Jesus death is abolished in experience of the child of God, and life and immortality are brought to light through the Gospel. Death is now part of his possessions, as we wee in the inventory of the Christian's goods in 1 Cor. 3:22. One has beautifully described death as "Eternity's birthday." A birthday indeed, on which the heir of God enters into a life of unceasing, unspeakable joy, bliss, and blessedness. Another has described death as the old grim visaged porter standing at the portals of eternity. The wayworn pilgrim nearing his journey's end contemplates the appearance of death with anxiety and concern, and in some cases with terror and dismay. But as the weary traveller approaches the dreaded spot, the old porter's face beams with smiles, and he hands the tried one into the presence-chamber of the King, to be for ever shut in with Him, far away from all sin, sorrow, anxiety, and care.
"That He should taste death." What is meant by tasting death? See Phil. 1:21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Gainsome, sweet, savoury. The sweets of redeeming, dying love, cast into that bitter cup, renders it palatable, and takes away all its bitterness. Turn to Job 6:6, "Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?" Death is unsavoury indeed, but let the Lord cast the salt of the covenant into the white of that egg and it is immediately tasty, sweet, savoury, and palatable to the dying saint. At such a moment the experience of Asaph, as recorded in Ps. 73:26, is known and felt: "My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." It is blessed to know that, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." (Ps. 116:15) But this portion says, "that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." "Every man." Who are they? Not all the children of Adam; but the many sons He brings to glory all the sanctified with Him in covenant, all His redeemed brethren, all the ransomed Church of God, all the children that God gave to Him. See the context. Are we among them?
Some of us here know that on Monday last dear old Sarah Shelley, an old member of this Church, was committed to the dust in Forest-hill Cemetery, in sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection. No question about that. She was confined to her room in the Camberwell Aged Pilgrims' Asylum for many a long day. I never entered her room but I was humbled to the dust, and found that it was my wisdom to keep my lips closed, and listen to the pouring out of her soul's artless confidence in the God of her salvation. Jesus was very precious to her. She saw Him with the eye of fond affection, and waited almost impatiently for Him to come and take her to Himself. When the summons came, the Master found His loved one ready to go home.
Last Sunday morning, dear old Sarah Watts, another inmate of the Asylum, and member of this Church, worshipped with us here. I noticed the intensity of feeling pictured on her anxious countenance as she listened to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. Monday morning, she was stricken down. Tuesday morning, she was summoned home. Friday afternoon, her mortal part was committed to the silent grave. This morning she worships with the glorified within the inner shine.
Last Friday morning, a good man, though he did not think he was, Mr. James Cunliffe, of Handforth, near Manchester, was taken home. He was one of the best and nearest friends I ever possessed. In the Lord I knew him well, and am thankful to God that I was privileged with his company and his confidence. He knew well the plague of his own heart, the perversity of his nature, and the preciousness of Christ. Many times have I witnessed the joy of his heart beaming in his face and bursting from his lips and eyes, as he listened to the glorious truths of God's covenant salvation from these poor stammering lips of mine. He loved God's Christ. He loved God's truth. He loved God's people. He was a firm abider by the stuff, and many a sorrowing spirit was cheered by his unostentatious benevolence. A letter I received yesterday morning from one of his sons concluded with these words: "His end was perfect peace." Blessed exchange. Time for eternity. Grace for glory. May the Weeping One of Bethany bless his dear widow, who is an heir, together with him, of the grace of life, and all the bereaved ones with his His own sweet sympathy.
It is our lot this morning to thank and praise JEHOVAH'S holy name, because it has pleased Him to translate our dear departed friends from these lower scenes of night to take their place amongst heaven's aristocracy. The portals of glory have opened for them, and their precious Saviour is seen in all His blessedness and beauty. In the contemplation of these unspeakable glories, my longing spirit sings
"There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heavenly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast."
May the Lord add his blessing. Amen.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Preached in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, 1877 - By Thomas Bradbury
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not."
(1 John 3:1)
The theme upon which John was never weary to meditate and to proclaim was LOVE. We find it in each of his writings. His Gospel, sent out by the inspiration of God the covenant Three-in-One. Love is here declared in that glorious harmony existing in the Three Persons of the One glorious Godhead. In chapter 3., verse 16, we read--"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Which world did God love? Chapter 1., verse 10, reveals the fact, which carnal reason is determined not to understand. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." See! In this verse we have the word "world" three times, and each has a different meaning. "He was in the world;" He trod this earth of ours. "And the world was made by Him;" all created things are the production of His hand. "And the world knew Him not;" the greater portion of mankind, not everybody, because there was a few waiting for the consolation of Israel, a few on the look-out for the Redeemer who should come. He came to His own possessions, but His own brethren after the flesh received Him not; while His brethren after the Spirit received Him, and thus were manifested as the sons of God. (John 1:11,12) "God so loved the world." Did God love the reprobate mass that hated His Son, cast Him out, crucified Him, and threw their vile aspersions into His face? These persons loved by Him? O, yes, say some; the Saviour says, "God so loved the world." The world of the Father's love is the world of the Son's love and salvation. See John 4:42, "We have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." The Saviour of that world loved by the Father with an everlasting love. Turn to John 16:8. Speaking of the Spirit of truth, Jesus said, "And when He is come, He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on me." This cannot mean the whole mass of mankind, for common sense would show that such are not convinced of sin because of unbelief. But we who are convinced by the indwelling power of God the ever-blessed Spirit mourn because of our unbelief. We find that with the faith of the operation of God, the faith of God's elect, the faith that overcometh the world, we are still unbelieving. We are convinced of sin, but still we feel and know that the world has been overcome, and will be overcome again and again. The world overcome yesterday may overcome us today. Such will be the conflict to the end of our brief existence here upon earth. The world loved by the Father in election, is loved by the Son in redemption, is loved by the Spirit in regeneration, and will be loved by the covenant Three-in-One throughout eternity.
Love is the theme of John's Gospel. "The Father loveth the Son." (chap. 5:20) "Now Jesus loved Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus." (chap. 11:5) "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." (chap.13:1) "If a man love Me he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (chap. 14:23) "As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you; continue ye in My love." (chap. 15:9) "For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God." (chap. 16:27) "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee; but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (chap. 17:24-26) Here we see the love of the covenant Three to all the election of grace, and the love of the election of grace to an eternally-loving God. Now look at John's first epistle. Each chapter sounds forth the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." (chap. 3:1-14) "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. We love Him because He first loved us." (chap. 4:7,19) Look at his second epistle: "The elder into the elect lady and her children whom I love in the truth." (Verse 1) Read his third epistle: The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth." (Verse 1) Come to the book of the Revelation, (1:5,6) "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
What kind of love is this? Mark you! It is not a mere spasmodic feeling or mawkish sentimentality. It is not that figment with which Satan lulls to sleep unstable souls, which men call "universal charity." John knew nothing of this, for with all the love that God had bestowed upon him, he expressed a spirit of intense hatred to Satan, to Satan's brood, and to Satan's lies. The love which God shed abroad in John's heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him was of that sterling nature which caused him to look at facts, not fancies, and speak of them just as he found them, without any human gloss, false charity, or foolish yielding to men's notions for the sake of peace at any price. See! He declared the love of God as revealed in the everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, not in His own words, but in those of God's giving, ever separating between the precious and the vile, the elect and the reprobate, the redeemed and the unredeemed, the regenerate and the unregenerate. Does he write to one whom he loved in the truth? He styles her "the elect lady." You may rely upon this, she was no Arminian. Writes he concerning the two seeds? He says, "In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil." (1 John 3:10) The language is plain--nothing dark or ambiguous here--no necessity for any explanation whatever--"the children of God, and the children of the devil." The children of the devil are manifest by their professed love to everybody, which is rank hypocrisy. The children of God are manifest by their love to God and to one another. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." (1 John 3:14) These love those who are loved by the same Father, saved by the same Saviour, quickened by the same Spirit, and enjoy the same privileges which were secured to them in their great Head and Surety before the worlds were framed. The love of which John writes is not a wanton or adulterous love flying about from one object to another, but a love fixed on the persons of God's eternally loved ones, not for anything in them naturally, but because of the revelation of God's Christ in them, and the manifestation of God's sovereign mercy to them. Wherever this is experienced there is humility--no presumption or vain boasting--no taking possession of that which the child of God is not entitled to--no parading of an experience which God has not bestowed, conveyed, and applied by the power of His indwelling Spirit.
This brings to my mind a little melting of heart I experienced last Thursday afternoon, in the tent at the Camberwell Aged Pilgrims' Asylum. I thank God I was there, with all the rubbish the children of God are called upon to bear from liberal, large-hearted, broad-gauge Christians. While I was there, a man whose name I know not, but whose face I often-times see here, came to me and said, "I was down at Grays the other day, and, while reading a sermon of yours, a man asked me if that was one of Mr. Bradbury's sermons, when, upon my answering in the affirmative, he began to open up to me the experience of his heart. He said, 'The last time I spent a few days in London I went to Grove Chapel. After nine years of despair and almost of desperation, I sat in darkness and doubt listening to that dear man preach, or rather to God's gracious testimony to my soul through him. I walked out of Grove Chapel a free man in Christ. My chains were broken, my burden was gone, and the sweetness of that liberty I have not lost to this day.'" In listening to this my heart was melted, and my eyes moistened with tears of God's own giving. Such precious testimonies to the love and grace of God do not inflate God's ministers with vain conceit, or set them on the stilts of pride and presumption. They humble the soul to the dust, and bring forth cries and sighs for the ears of Him who hears in secret and rewards openly. Yes, and I believe that in Grove Chapel He will do it yet. Lord, send forth Thy light and Thy truth, that Thy poor prisoners yet in the dark may be made manifest. Send forth Thy love, that the enmity in the hearts of many of Thy eternally-loved ones may be slain. Send forth Thy life, that elect ones dead in trespasses and sins may hear the voice of Incarnate Love, and live before Him. This is the burden of the Word of the Lord in this exercised spirit of mine. Let us now, in humble dependence upon the guidance and grace of God the ever-blessed Spirit, look at the portion which I have read for our instruction, comfort, and edification. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not."
We will consider it in the following order:--
I. The call to attention--"Behold!"
II. The Father's love--"What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us."
III. The consequence of love bestowed--"That we should be called sons of God."
IV. Its effect upon the world--"Therefore the world knoweth us not."
V. The secret of the world's ignorance--"Because it knew Him not."
I. The call to attention--"Behold!" In dwelling upon these particulars, may God enable us to pick up a few crumbs, and discover here and there a ray of His own sunshine that our hearts may rejoice and be glad in Him. One has well said, that when the word "Behold" stands at the door of any portion of God's Word, we may expect to find something wonderful within. Mark well a few portions of God's most Holy Word, to which I direct your prayerful attention. The first (Isaiah 7:14) expresses wonder and admiration: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Behold, admire, and adore the riches of Divine grace, love, and mercy in the provision of a Saviour, in the person of the Incarnate God. "Behold!" It is a Scriptural exclamation denoting joy and gladness, as you find in Matt. 21:5. "Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." Here we see cause for joy and gladness to those who saw in the Despised and Rejected of men, their King and their God. "Behold" is also a sign or token of obedience, as you see in the case of Ahimelech in 1 Sam. 22:12, or as you will find in a passage more familiar to you, recorded in Isaiah 6:8. "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I;" or, as you read in the margin, "Behold Me." An expression of willing obedience. "Behold" is a word of solemn affirmation. Turn with me to Gen. 28:15, and read how God positively affirms to Jacob: "Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." "Behold" is a call to observation and consideration. See John 1:29. "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." "Behold" also denotes certainty, as seen in the declaration of the angel to Zacharias. (Luke 1:20) "And, behold, thou shalt be dumb." Look then at the word "Behold" in the light of each of these Scriptural significations. First--Admiration. Is there not something that fills my heart with wonder and admiration when I am brought to see, and know, and feel the everlasting, unchanging, spontaneous, uninfluenced, inexhaustible love of JEHOVAH? This fills all heaven with rapture, the whole Church with praise, and all hell with dismay. Second--Joy and gladness. What is it that fills the heart of elect and redeemed sinners with joy and gladness? Is it not the communication of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? See Rom. 5:5. "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." Third--Obedience. The apostle calls it the obedience of faith. The moment I experience the faith of the Son of God in me, I find that that faith works by love. Where God-begotten faith exists, there love also dwells in sweetest harmony. There may be faith in deep mysteries, marvellous truths, sound doctrine, and concerning God in creation, providence, and sovereignty over all things, where there is not one particle of love. You see this in the case of Balaam, who prophesied most wondrous truth, yet was bound to confess, "I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not nigh." (Num. 24:17) You see it in the case of devils. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19) This is more than thousands of professing Christians do. They believe, but they have no cause to tremble. They believe, and are full of joy and cheerfulness all the day long. But listen--
"Devils believe and tremble too,
But devils cannot love."
Oh no! It is the revelation of Incarnate Love in our hearts that begets willing and eager obedience to His gracious commands. Fourth--Affirmation. JEHOVAH has sworn to love with an everlasting love the objects of His choice, and they are brought in His own time to observe, consider, and understand the certainty of those things written in their hearts by the Spirit of love. Now let us notice,
II. The Father's love--"What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." Who are the parties meant by that word "us?" We, who have seen That which was from the beginning. We, who have spiritually handled a precious Christ. We, who have fellowship with the Father as His own children. We, who are saved by Jesus alone. We, who are anointed in Christ. We, who bow in loving obedience to our Sovereign and Lord. We, who have been taught to wait in the dark and to walk in the light. If we walk in the dark, we are liable to stumble: "but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) We, little children, young men, fathers, who sometimes sigh and mourn over our manifold sins, and at other times rejoice to know that we have an Advocate before the throne of God, who will carry to a successful issue all heavenly and gracious things concerning us. We, who are the children of God, not the children of the devil. What occasion have we to boast in this matter? None whatever, for "we were by nature the children of the devil? No, look at that expression in its connection, and read it carefully. Eph. 2:2,3. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience," or, disobedient children. "Among whom also, we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Or, we were wrathful children by nature, and disobedient ones too. This wrathful disposition exists where there is apparent meekness, gentleness, and amiability. The application of God's righteous law, by the power of the Holy Ghost, reveals the wrath and enmity of wretched human nature. See Rom. 4:15. "The law worketh wrath." Where? In that heart, where, previous to the application of the law, quietness and peace reigned. Mark you this! A polished exterior, a plausible address, smooth words, and honeyed expressions flow from hearts which are wholly enmity against God. Augustine, bishop of Hippo (not the Italian monk, whom Gregory sent over here to papalize this country), has a beautiful illustration of Rom. 7:9, "When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." He says, "Before the commandment came, I lay like a piece of quick-lime, calm quiet, still, free from motion or disturbance; but the moment God's law came, like rain upon the lime, my calmness, quietness, and stillness disappeared, and all was commotion, disturbance, and strife." Such is the effect of the operation of God's law upon a quickened sinner's soul. The children are thus brought to see their true state before Him; and in the light of His glory, which shines in the person of Jesus Christ, they find nothing in themselves, but bitterness, enmity, and opposition to God, to God's truth, and to God's people. Only evil, and always evil, is the Divine judgment on human nature. Only enmity, and always enmity, is God's description of the natural state and condition of all His children. But let us away from this.
"What manner of love the Father bestowed upon us." Look at that word "bestowed." Freely given, conveyed, and applied without money and without price. What manner of love is this? Angels can never experience it; none but favoured redeemed, and saved sinners, those concerning whom one so correctly says,
"And only man is vile;"
yes, vile men, wretched sinners, enemies to God, aliens from His home, and strangers to His life, are brought to experience and enjoy the love of the eternal and unchanging God. Well may we have a note of admiration at the commencement of this precious portion: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us."
1. SPONTANEOUS LOVE. Here we see it in its spring or source. Love is of God, for God is love. Wherever true love exists, it is from God alone, because it exists in its purity alone in God. As I have endeavoured to point out to you the human heart is full of wrath, enmity, hatred, and malice, so, if I am a partaker of Divine love, it must come down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17) Spontaneous love! It springs up and flows forth of itself to its objects independently of any extraneous influence. From the heart of JEHOVAH it flows to an innumerable company of Adam's lost race, and, like a mighty river with its many streams, brings life, and joy, and refreshment wherever it comes. Here we may notice the difference existing between the love of God and those affections of His which flow to His poor children in their varied spots of want and necessity just as fully, freely, and liberally. See! There is a difference between love and grace--between love and mercy--between love and compassion--between love and pity--between love and patience. What difference can there be say you? See! Mercy has respect to misery. Misery calls for His mercy. Grace always has respect to unworthiness. A sense of unworthiness is a cry for His grace. Compassion has respect to necessity. The child's necessity calls forth the compassion of the parent. Pity has respect to helplessness and infirmity. The helplessness of the loved one is an irresistible appeal to the pity of the one who loves. Patience has respect to obstinacy, provocation, stubbornness, and rebelliousness, and these as they exist in us are so many calls upon the patience and long-suffering of our God. But when we come to contemplate His love we are lost in wonder and adoration. What has the love of a covenant God respect to? It has respect to what He was in Himself to His covenant people before the worlds were framed. Look at this: "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:16) The first display of this love was in the setting up of Christ as the Head of His mystical body, the Husband of His bride, the Surety of His covenant people, and their Preserver and Upholder before any of them had an actual existence, or Satan had wrought his hellish work of sin and death upon the sons and daughters of men.
"Thus in His eyes she ever stood
From wrinkle and from blemish free;
Loved with the dateless love of God,
And blest by the Great Sacred Three."
In Christ He sees Himself and His people eternally one. In the glass of His decrees He sees Christ and His Church eternally united in all the perfections of Deity, and shining in all the glorious splendors of Godhead. The love of His heart is ineffable, and can only be poured forth upon, and shed abroad in the hearts of, the recipients thereof in grace, mercy, compassion, pity, and patience during their sojourn in these wilds of sin and sorrow.
2. ETERNAL LOVE. Dear old John Kent sweetly sings:--
"'Twas with an everlasting love
That God His own elect embrac'd,
Before He made the worlds above,
On earth on her huge columns plac'd."
Love eternal is JEHOVAH Himself, the Great I AM. Self-existence is love. I AM LOVE. As is His life, so is His love, without beginning, without end. To the sorrowing soul of His exercised prophet He sweetly whispered, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) To such a communication the adoring response from every heart melted into nothingness under its power is, Amen, Lord, Amen.
3. UNINFLUENCED LOVE.
"What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
'Twas 'Even so, Father!' I ever must sing,
Because it seemed good in Thy sight."
You see I have learned that verse at last. That God's love is uninfluenced is evident from the fact that the only reason Jesus could find was, "For so it seemed good in Thy sight." (Matt. 11:26) What was there in me to call forth any expression of "love so great, so full, so free?" Nothing. I was a wrathful child. I was a wayward child. I was a rebellious child, determined to be damned, and bent upon my own destruction. Not one redeeming feature or compensating quality could be found, but everything to call forth the everlasting condemnation and vengeance of JEHOVAH in the darkest spot in hell. Yet, in the face of all this, He has given me to experience a little of His love in my heart. Look at John 15:25, where you find a quotation from Psalms 35:19, 69:4, and 109:3: "They hated Me without a cause." Jesus could say, "The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me." There was no fault, failure, or flaw in our precious Lord for Satan to work upon. I stated last Friday evening to those who love to come to our prayer meeting, that some one well described the human heart as a tinder-box, and human nature as the tinder, waiting for the devil's spark of temptation; but I find my wretched nature more like gunpowder, for the moment Satan's spark is applied I find my nature worse than his. I recollect hearing the late rector of Openshaw say, "The devil never committed adultery, the devil never got drunk, and many of you cannot say so much for yourselves." The carnal mind continues in one continuous course of enmity and opposition to the sovereign love and grace of a covenant God in Christ; and as there is no cause to be found in Christ for the world's hatred, so there can be found no cause in us why He should love us with a love so great. I can look up with a little confidence and say, Lord, Thou hast warmed my heart with Thy love, but it is without a cause in myself; there was nothing in me to merit it, but everything to deserve Thy eternal wrath against me. Why me, Lord? Why me? But look still further.
4. INFINITE LOVE. What do we mean by that? It is love that knows no bounds or constraint concerning those who are the objects thereof. It matters not what may be the want, necessity, sin, or guilt of the child of God, infinite love is ever ready with both relief and remedy. Great fears and little faith are never disdained by love Divine. This love is so infinite in its nature, manifestation, and communication, that it meets not only the deep necessities of the heart, but the weak faith and fainting hope of despised and hidden ones. It delights in the long loud chorus of everlasting praise in the halls of the glorified, while it is ever ready to minister to the sigh and cry which arises from the anxious spirit of the weakest child in the chosen family. Infinite love put a period to the sinful course of that devil of a man, Manasseh, slew his enmity, and brought him to the feet of his covenant God; and it is the same love that takes the babe from its mother's womb into the very bosom of its God. Still further we search and find it,
5. IMMUTABLE LOVE. Unchangeable! Unvariable!
"Mine is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above,
Deeper than the depths beneath,
Free and faithful, strong as death."
Look at those two precious chapters, Jer. 31, and Ezek. 16. I do love them. God appears to weeping, complaining Jeremiah and says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) Now look at the glorious declaration at the end of that chapter which reminds me so much of Romans 8: "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the Lord of hosts is His name. If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me for ever. Thus saith the Lord, If heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord." (Jer. 31:35-37) Look at Ezek. 16., where God's extraordinary love to Jerusalem is shown in the first fourteen verses. Then look at the rest of the chapter up to the sixtieth verse, where sin, adultery, idolatry, and every abomination abounds. Does this turn him from His love? Never. Read from the sixtieth verse to the end, and you will see that JEHOVAH rests in His love. Blessed be His name,
"Zion's Friend in nothing alters,
Though all others may and do;
His is love that never falters,
Always to its object true:
Crowned with mercies ever new."
6.INEXHAUSTIBLE LOVE. It is the fountain from whence Abel drank of its rich and blessed streams; the fountain from whence flowed the waters of life, light, cleansing, and salvation to the poor, despised harlot, Rahab, whom your circumspect, consistent, pious, and proper professors will not deign to touch with the end of their pretty fingers. Yet, she fell into the bosom of everlasting love, and there she is today. It is the same love that gently stopped the blaspheming and reviling lips of the poor thief as he beheld in the person of his dying companion, INCARNATE LOVE. It is the love which has saved, succoured, and sustained the whole election of grace up to this very moment without diminution. See! Yonder sun pours its bright beams of fructifying power upon this earth of ours and shines as brightly now as it did the first moment when God created it. Yonder clouds still drop their fatness at His command, and will till time shall be no more. These are faint illustrations to show forth the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is an all-fullness which neither sin, death, or hell, nor all combined can ever decrease or diminish.
"His love no end or measure knows,
No change can turn its course,
eternally the same its flows,
From one eternal source."
7. INVINCIBLE LOVE. Before the force of this love all obstacles are swept away, all hindrances are driven from the way of access to the presence of our God and Father. Love humbles our pride, purges away our sins, subdues our will, melts our hard hearts, sweetens our cup, conquers death, triumphs over hell; and when we murmur and repine, and find fault with His providence, we hear the rumbling of its chariot wheels as it hastens over the mountains of doubt and fear, and ere we are aware He is here. His kiss of fond affection assures us of an abiding place in the very heart of a covenant God. O how blessed it is to be brought into the enjoyment of such love. Electing love in covenant. Incarnate love in Bethlehem. Redeeming love on Calvary. Interceding love before the throne. Preserving love all the way through the wilderness. Sustaining love in weariness. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." Now notice,
III. The consequence of love bestowed--"That we should be called the sons of God." Called! By whom are we called? By the Father in His voice of pure electing love. By the Son in every act of His redeeming work. By the Spirit as He bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. Called into His family, to His house, to His table, to His rest, to His glory, and to Himself. O what a precious call! By it the children feel and know they have a right, a privilege, and a title sealed with blood to enter into their Father's house, where they hear the sweet commanding voice of the King, their Elder Brother, saying, "Eat, O friends, drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved." (Songs 5:1) As pardoned, justified, and accepted sons, we share with Him His reign and His reproach; for we must experience the call in,
IV. Its effect upon the world--"Therefore the world knoweth us not." The world knows nothing of the calling and privileges of the children of God, and is a stranger--in fact, an alien--and an enemy to the language of Canaan. This language is sometimes expressed in sighs and tears, and sometimes we can neither sigh, nor cry, and all the evidence of life we have is a little breathing for life. By these things men live, and the realization thereof produces the fear of God's own giving, which in His eyes and ears, is most eloquent and preveiling. The world knows nothing of sonship, hence it looks upon all those who glory in God's regenerating and adopting love as so many fools and fanatics. The cheerful religious world counts the true-born children as mournful, morose, bitter, and uncharitable. Well, thank God we can, in the spirit of Him who the world hates, cheerfully bear all this. We now glance briefly at,
V. The secret of the world's ignorance--"Because it knew Him not." "The world by wisdom knows not God" the Father in His electing love, while of God's Wisdom it is said, "Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:8,14) "The world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not; but, blessed be His holy name, we know Him by the Spirit which He has given unto us, and we grieve because we do not know and love Him more.
May He add His blessing. Amen.
Preached in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, 1898 - By Thomas Bradbury.
"Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge. That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth, that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?"
I WAS much struck with the saying of a learned man a day or two ago, that the Book of Proverbs is well adapted to young and untutored minds. In thinking over it, God, in His gracious goodness, has led my mind counter to it altogether, in the contemplation of the fact that God's Book from the first word of Genesis to the last word of Revelation is a sealed Book to old and young to the learned and unlearned, until opened up to the spiritual understanding by the Holy Ghost. I might multiply portions of Holy Scripture in proof of this, but I forbear. Isaiah declared it. (Chapter 29:11,12) Ezekiel confessed it. (Chapter 3:4,7) And in Revelation 5, we see how John learned afresh that none can understand the mind of God recorded in His Book, but by the sovereign will and good pleasure of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Who alone has authority to break the seals and explain the mysteries hidden therein to whom He will. You notice the same in these oft-repeated words of our blessed Lord and Master, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." (Matt. 11:25-27) Then He calls upon the spiritually labouring and heavy laden to enjoy that rest which He alone can give, and which they must find in the precious revelation He gives of Himself to their souls as their Surety, Head, and Husband.
Our spiritual ignorance, and the willingness and determination of Christ to teach His loved ones are set before us throughout the whole compass of Divine revelation. These are seen all through the Book of Proverbs. None but Jesus can explain the mysteries, remove the difficulties, solve the problems, or expound the parables given to us in this interesting book. Notice at the commencement, Christ appears to the spiritual mind. "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels; (Prov. 1:5) to understand a proverb, and the interpretation;" look in the margin, "an eloquent speech." This is the speech of Him Whose lips are full of grace for all those whom He brings into fellowship with His Father, Himself, and His Blessed Spirit. "The words of the wise, and their dark sayings." To the world this Book is full of dark sayings, and to the living child of God they are all dark and meaningless only as the Spirit of promise leads the mind to Christ set forth therein in the freeness of His salvation and the fullness of His succour, solace and sympathy.
Now notice the context preceding the words of our text. At the seventeenth verse we read, "Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise." This is a command to the high and the haughty, the proud and the presumptuous, the self-willed and unbelieving, whom God will make willing in the day of His power, bring under the reign of His grace, and make subject to the teaching of His Most Holy Word. "And apply thine heart unto My knowledge." God's knowledge. Not only the knowledge which He communicates to us, but that which He has concerning each and every one of us. When we are brought to apply our hearts unto wisdom we manifest a spirit of willingness to sit at the feet of Jesus and to be guided solely by His instruction. God's perfect knowledge of me was the very first truth which exercised my young mind and all from the pages of Divine inspiration. The very thought that God was always with me saw every thing I did knew every thing I thought marked every thing I felt noticed every movement of my mind filled my soul with terror and my face with confusion, and made me think, even as a little child, that at the winding up of all my affairs there would be nothing but hell for me. The world looked upon me as a "little innocent child," but I know I was a sinner deserving wrath, death, and hell. Look at that third verse of the fifteenth chapter, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." By this I was confident that He could see no good in me. Paul's experience was that of my young heart, "For I knew that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not." (Rom. 7:18) I tried to be good, and to banish all that was evil from my thoughts; but I was left to the experience of the very opposite, and there I was kept for many a long year. God could see me as I was in myself a sinful creature. A creature full of sin, according to my standing in Adam the First, deserving nothing but His eternal wrath and indignation. But there He left me not. He would teach me something of His knowledge of me in my grace-oneness with Him in the Son of His love. I was sinful, polluted, vile, when He brought me to the footstool of sovereign mercy, to the feet of a precious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who alone could wash away all my sin, and clothe me in His pure, white, spotless robe of righteousness. And this He was graciously pleased to do. I like that scripture in Isaiah 53:11, "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My Righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities." This is something worth thinking about. Not my short-sighted knowledge of Him, but His perfect knowledge of me in all my sin, helplessness and shame, and as I stand in Him, my Surety, "justified from all things from which I could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:39)
"For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee;" or, as you read in the margin, "in thy belly." That is, in thy affections. You remember the Master's words in John 7:38, "He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." This is life and love flowing from the heart of every living child of God. Look at those words "If thou keep them within thee," that sounds like a condition. Well, there is a state and condition also. You can find many "ifs" in the writings of the apostle Paul. See Col. 1:23, "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel." This being the case with us we are blest with the proof that we are amongst the number of those who are presented by Christ the Father holy, unblameable, and unreproveable in His sight. But is not this state conditional? Not at all. Except as an eight days clock runs eight days, its running eight days does not make it an eight days clock, but is evidence of the fact, to any who may be unbelieving in the matter. So to the tried and tempted, doubting and fearing children of the living God, there is many a sweet and blessed "if," not conditional, but evidential. So in the portion before us, "If thou keep them within thee." Look at this blessed truth as stated in 1 Peter 1:23, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." Abideth where? Wherever it is communicated by the Holy Ghost in the person over whom the Word of God has asserted and exercised its sovereignty and authority. "They shall withal be fitted in thy lips." There is but One Who can fit the words of grace in the lips of redeemed sinners, and that is "THE ABIDING COMFORTER."
"That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day "in the set time of favour, the time of the Father's appointing "even to thee," whose name is in the Book of life. To all such the blessings of the covenant, and the secrets of the kingdom are communicated by the Faithful Trustee the Lord Jesus Christ. He it is Who has the words of eternal life for His wanting disciples He alone has the eloquent speech for His tempted brethren "Grace is poured into His lips" (Ps. 45:2)"Never man spake like this Man." When He commands He secures willing obedience. We meet with His commands all through this Blessed Book. Moses wrote them David sang them Solomon taught them Ezekiel gloried in them. The Evangelists were full of them Paul delighted in them. Listen to His command to John, "What thou seest, write in a book." (Rev. 1:11) By Divine command the writers wrote, and it is with the writings in THE BOOK that we have to do every day of our lives, and especially today. In the words of my text God speaks to us personally, and it is for each of us to pay attention to His bidding. Has God ever spoken to your heart by the things that are written? Has Christ endeared Himself to you by the Scriptures of truth? Listen
"Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge?" Now Christ by His Spirit has written to us, or He has not written to us. What is our estimate of the Holy Writings? What estimate do we put upon the mind, will, purpose, and pleasure of God as revealed therein? Well, if you ask me what estimate I put upon the Sacred Scriptures, I answer in the spirit of the words of dear old George Smith, of Barrow Hill, when I asked him what he was reading, he answered, "Th' yed Book in aw th' wold" (The head Book in all the world). That ignorant old man was wiser than the learned old man at Rome. He knew the meaning of the Psalmist's words, "Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy Name." (Ps. 138:2) Dear old George could see no book raised to the same height of grandeur and glory as that of the Scriptures of truth. This is the Book for you and for me. In it we are asked many searching and salutary questions. Christ asks, "Have not I written to thee?" We may well ask, Has the Father spoken to me? Has Jesus said ought to me? Has the Holy Ghost said anything to me concerning my salvation? And all from Holy Scripture? To sound, spiritual, experimental Protestants, Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation, succour, safety, security, and gracious guidance to eternal glory. Everything necessary for the knowledge of salvation is contained in the Book of Divine inspiration. God has given the gracious command that His Holy Book shall be preserved to the church. Papists and Puseyites would have us believe that the church of their vain imaginations is the preserver and keeper of Holy Writ. Do not believe them. God is the Preserver of His own Book to His own people. Priests, so-called, are the jailers of the Bible, and would keep it shut up from the people for whom it was designed. Princes, prophets, priests and people in Old Testament times, would have made short work with the Roll of the Book if they could have done so; but they could not. Jehoiakim would mutilate the Roll with his penknife and cast it into the fire; but God would have it written again, "and there were added besides unto them many like words." (Jer. 36)
In the dark ages the Scriptures of truth were zealously guarded from the people, and the people were deluded with the vain notion that none but the learned could understand the Scriptures and expound them. This is contrary altogether to the mind and will of God. Circulate the Scriptures, say I. "Search the Scriptures," says Jesus Christ. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak, not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isa. 8:20) What is the law? It is the declaration of God's sovereignty in the Scriptures of truth. What is the testimony? It is the truth of God sealed home to the heart by the Spirit of truth. Notice how our blessed Lord put honour upon the Old Testament Scriptures in all His ministrations here upon earth. Though He was Wisdom Incarnate He would say nothing and do nothing but by the clear warrant of the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets. See how He carries this truth out of this world to the depths of hell, as set forth in that solemn and awful parable of the rich man and Lazarus recorded in the sixteenth of Luke. The rich man lifting up his eyes in hell desires Abraham to send Lazarus to his father's house to testify to his five brethren, to testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment." Mark well Abraham's answer "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." This man had been a despiser of God's word and was destroyed, yet in his destruction he was a despiser still. Listen to his "Nay" to God's "Yea." "Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they well repent." I once heard a preacher say, "There are no Arminians in hell." I did not believe him. This is a case in point. Hell is an everlasting Nay to God's unchanging YEA. Arminianism is man's will at the instigation of Satan opposed to the will and word of God. See how Christ's teaching is against all Papists and Scripture detractors "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." You have evidence of the truth of this in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Though the power of Christ in calling Lazarus from death and the grave was so apparent, yet the chief priests and Pharisees were such idiots I speak advisedly their carnal enmity and folly were such as to cause them to compass the death of Him Who had showed to them that the issues from death belonged to Him. He had given them proof positive that He was eternal life, and that the communication of it to whom He would was His prerogative. "It is written" was simply and purely the will of the Father to Him.
"What saith the Scripture?" (Rom. 4:3) was Paul's motto in all his ministerial labours and utterances. Mark well the list of quotations given in Romans 3. Go through the whole epistle and take away all the quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures, and you will have a very little epistle left to you. His preachings and writings evince his delight in the Scriptures of truth. He styles them "Lively Oracles." (Rom. 3:2) He gives them divine attributes. Sovereignty in Rom. 9:17, "For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh." Patience and comfort in Rom. 15:4, "We through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Omniscience and prescience in Gal. 3:8, "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith." Authority in Gal. 3:22, "The Scripture hath concluded all under sin." Now notice Paul's words to his son Timothy in 2 Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:14-17, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them." Of whom? Of Father, Son, and Spirit through the teaching of Paul. (Chap. 1:13) "And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures "through the teaching of his grandmother and mother (chap. 1:5) "which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
Peter was thoroughly one with Paul in his estimate of the Scriptures of truth. See 1 Peter 1:10-12, "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you." Those three words, that should come are added. Read the words without them. "Who prophesied of the grace unto you." All the prophecies of grace in the Old Testament Scriptures are intended in the purpose of God for certain persons, and in the time appointed those very persons must be brought into the possession and enjoyment of the same by the teaching and guidance of the Spirit of truth. "Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." Here we see that the prophets had not a full grasp of the truths communicated through them by the Holy Ghost: therefore they searched. What did they search? The Scriptures of truth. Here we are led to look at 2 Peter 1:16-21, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His Majesty. For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount." I once thought I should like to have been there, that truth might have been more confirmed in my mind than I felt it to be. But that fallacy was exploded by these very words of Peter: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy." More sure than what? Than Christ's bodily presence transfigured before our natural eyes, or the sound of the Father's voice in our natural ears. "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed." The priest and the Papist do not talk or write thus. The pretended successors of Peter are opposed altogether to this apostolic counsel, "Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place until the day dawn, and the Daystar arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation." What does that mean? It means that the writers of God's word did not communicate their own private thoughts, but the thoughts, purpose and pleasure of God. They wrote and spoke of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, not according to their own natural mind, but by the Spirit of Christ Who was in them for that very purpose. We are apt to lose sight of the fact that the Scriptures are composed of God's words, "As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began." (Luke 1:70) Many prophets. One mouth. The Scriptures are not written by one man, are not of any private or special interpretation. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man." The Holy Writings came not by one manlike the Koran by Mahomet, or the Book of Mormon by Joe Smith; "but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." These holy men were of every grade of society, kings, warriors, judges, herdsmen, shepherds, lawyers, fishermen, publicans some learned, others unlearned they lived in periods remote from each other, and in circumstances and influences diverse, yet all brought together within the backs of this blessed Book in marvellous agreement in sweetest harmony.
Here, Christ speaking to His own says, "Have not I written to thee excellent things." Rabbinical lore informs us that these "excellent things" are the three divisions of holy Scripture. Others say they are the three books written by Solomon. Well, certainly these are excellent indeed, when rightly understood. In the Book of Proverbs we learn that we are sinful fools. The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us the vanity of everything apart from Christ. The Book of Solomon's Song reveals the glories of the King and the beauties of His heavenly bride. But the excellent things of the text are those of Him Whose Name is excellent in all the earth wherever a redeemed sinner is found, and to Whom the Abiding Comforter reveals the things of Christ. See how Christ as the Wisdom of God commands in Prov. 8:6, "Hear, for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things." He makes Himself known to His brethren as He appeared in the excellent glory of the covenant when He "was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was," and this excellent glory He gives to each and all of them. (John 17:22; 2 Cor. 3:18) Here we see Christ in covenant and the covenant in Christ. In every chapter of this Book of Proverbs He appears. He is the Delight of His Father in covenant; (Chap. 8:30) The Friend Who loveth at all times, and the Brother born for adversity; (Chap. 17:17) the Man that hath friends to whom He must show Himself friendly the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (Chap. 18:24) He shows Himself friendly when He gives to us as spiritual understanding and this spiritual Book, in which we learn the ten thousand excellent things of God and all by the teaching of His blessed Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:9-12) The very thought of this causes me to cry with ardent longing, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law." (Ps. 119:18) "The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." (Ps. 119:130)
"Excellent things" written to me concerning the Glorious Godhead and the sacred Manhood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The mysterious, yet substantial and enduring union of these two natures in the womb of the ever blessed Mary. "The Godhead and Manhood were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man." The two natures are perfectly distinct. Man, to obey and suffer, for God could do neither. God, to give infinite worth to every act of obedience and all the endurance of suffering He rendered to the Father as the Surety of the covenant and the Mediator of the New Testament. Infinite perfection and eternal satisfaction were seen and acknowledged by the Father in all the mediatorial works and ways of the Son for His people. In the Scriptures of truth Christ, "that Holy Thing," that super-excellent One is revealed to us, and set before the eye of the faith of God's elect by God the Eternal Spirit. Look at Him in His obedience unto death. Consider Him in His "unknown sufferings" in Gethsemane and upon curse-crowned Calvary. Mark Him well at the sepulchre, dead and buried. The stone at the door sealed, and the picked men of the Roman army determined to detain Him there. But all the armies in the world could not keep Him there. Peter's words are gloriously true, "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that He should be holden of it." (Acts 2:24) After showing Himself alive by many infallible proofs He ascended with great triumph into His kingdom and glory. From then till now, and until the last vessel of mercy is taken home, He saves to the uttermost, and ever liveth to make intercession for them that come unto God by Him. (Heb. 7:25) There He is with all the sympathy of His loving heart, and all the care and attention He can show to those whom His love and blood have saved. Are not all these excellent things? Yes indeed they are to one who knows that where sin abounds grace does much more abound that where helplessness is felt and mourned, the greater the attention of the Covenant Helper; and that the greater the experience of weakness, the sweeter the enjoyment of the impartation of divine strength. The greater the fainting the more precious the upholding. This is sure to be proved all the way home, "Sing unto the LORD; for He hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth." (Isa. 12:5)
"Excellent thing in counsels and knowledge." What counsels? "Counsels of old, faithfulness and truth." (Isa. 25:1) Look at this "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." (Isa. 46:10) Mark well! "There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless, the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand." (Prov. 19:21) What a blessed privilege it is to be able to trace up every thing concerning us to God's eternal counsels, and to His everlasting purpose of grace. We cannot dwell too long upon that word "knowledge." I lingered over it this morning, when reading Hosea 6:3, "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD." Mark. The word "if" is in italics, and really ought not to be there. "Then shall we know," when the experience described in the preceding context is wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, when sin has become exceeding sinful, and everything apart from Christ is vanity and folly, "Then shall we know," and knowing, we shall "follow on to know the LORD." It is blessed to know that God has made ample provision for the spiritual education of His people in His covenant of grace and salvation. This saving knowledge is secured to us in Christ, according to His words to the Father in John 17:3, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent." This is known by the Scriptures of truth "These things have I written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the Name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:13) Look at the twentieth verse, "The Son of God hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true." It is by the Unction from the Holy One that we know all things. (1 John 2:20) It is thus we are brought by these excellent things in counsels and knowledge into a right apprehension of God's will concerning us as His children in Christ Jesus.
Look still further "That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth." There is no uncertainty in the words of truth. There is much uncertainty in the words of sinful mortals; aye, and also in those of experienced saints. "For ever, O LORD, Thy word is settled in heaven." (Ps. 119:89) Listen to the teaching of the Master, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63) Well may we cry with Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Notice this declaration of Jesus, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:35) Every word of purpose or of promise that has passed the lips of Incarnate Wisdom must be accomplished in the heart's experience of His redeemed through all generations and to eternal ages. Now I would have you notice the reason given in the text for these communications "That thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee." Mistakes are often made in hurrying to answer objectors and opposers. These should be met as far as possible in the language of Zion in the clear words of Holy Scripture, and never for the purpose of displaying our fancied cleverness: for, "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him." (Prov. 18:13) It is well to keep free from association with those in error respecting the Godhead of the Three Persons in the Undivided Trinity, and in reference to our everlasting salvation by Jesus Christ and the security from error He has made ours in the revelation of Himself by the Spirit of truth. But objectors and enemies to God's truth are sure to assail us; yet He Who has guided us into the Way of truth, and kept us therein, will see to it that the right word for the decisive answer will not be wanting in the time of our necessity. Lister! "Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." (1 Pet. 3:15)
The Blessed Spirit of truth by the Words of truth brings us through Christ, Who is THE TRUTH, into the enjoyment of the God of truth, and into the knowledge of the Truth which makes us free from legal bondage separates from evil (John 17:17)purifies the heart from error (1 Pet. 1:22)graciously preserves (Ps. 40:11)firmly establishes (2 Pet. 1:12)eternally triumphs. (2 Cor. 13:8) After a season of conflict the weeping prophet could say to his God, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by Thy Name, O LORD God of hosts." (Jer. 15:16)
The Lord so bless us, for His own Name's sake. Amen.