Sunday, August 29, 2010
Preached in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, 1877 - By Thomas Bradbury.
"So the Spirit took me up."
Concerning God in revelation as well as in providence the words of Cowper are strikingly true,
"Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain."
Without God's Spirit, God's Book is a perfect blank; without God's power, God's revelation of Himself is a perfect paradox. With the anointing, witness, and sealing of His blessed Spirit, all is plain and clear; and blessed with His presence and power, we may well sing, and sing intelligently too, the last verse of that precious hymn which has thrilled through many hearts since first it appeared in our new hymn book,
"And Thou eternal Spirit vast,
What love can Thine transcend?
Since Thou Thy lot with me has cast,
Indwelling God and Friend."
It was not only necessary for God to give a gracious revelation of Himself in His own Book, the sacred Scriptures, but these writings must be breathed upon. See!
"The Spirit breathes upon the Word,
And brings the truth to sight."
This is according to the testimony given by Him through Paul to Timothy, "All Scripture is given by inspiration (God-breathed) of God, and is profitable." (2 Tim. 3:16) No Scripture but that which is God-breathed to thee and to me, in thee and in me, is truly profitable. This leads to the person of Jesus, exalts Him in our affections, and gives us a sense of our own helplessness and ignorance--therefore the necessity of a Teacher, a Teacher sent from God, a Teacher who is God, God the ever-blessed Spirit. Blessed with such a Teacher, we are led into a precious knowledge of Jesus our Husband, Head, and Saviour, and into experimental relationship with His Father and ours. We honour, adore, and praise the Eternal Spirit for His marvellous condescension in not only taking notice of poor, weak worms of the earth such as we feel ourselves to be, but in making these bodies of ours--which are styled in Phil. 3:21, "vile"--or, as it might be rendered, "this body of humiliation"--His abode. O, it is wonderful to think that God the Father in His design of love and mercy should choose Himself an innumerable company of Adam's lost race on whom He would lavish all the love of His heart, and all the glories and honours of His kingdom. It is wonderful that God the Son should come to these lower scenes of night, and identify Himself with rebellious worms--bear their sins in His own body to the tree, all their sins--past, present, and to come; this is love indeed. But when we come to contemplate that grand, vast, and glorious new covenant design, that God the Holy Ghost, who hates and abhors the very mention of sin, should come and make our sinful bodies His abode, that in them He should prepare Himself a habitation in which to testify of Jesus' love, magnify the Father's grace, and abide until the last sigh escapes the quivering lips, and the ransomed spirit scars aloft to its native home, and to the bosom of its God.
The love of the Spirit is marvellous indeed. And yet it is wonderful to think that in this so-called Christian country--a country teeming with Bibles from John O' Groats to Land's End, a country abounding with so-called Christian temples--there is very little known of the person, power, and preciousness of the Holy Ghost. We can see lots of temples, but where is the glory? We can hear of many preachers, but where is the power? We have plenty of form, but where is the Spirit? We hear much of God, but where is His sovereignty? Let me ask you--you who have been brought by the Holy Ghost to experience something of what you are in yourselves--wretched, corrupt, vile, and hell-deserving; you who have been sickened with the world through the revelation of Jesus' beauty, blessedness, and bounty; you who have wept in spirit with your suffering Lord in the depths of Gethsemane; you who have ascended the heights of Calvary and beheld Incarnate Love bleeding and dying for you; you who have been brought by Him into His banqueting house, to look up and see the banner of everlasting love; as you pass on from place to place, hoping to meet with those who love and fear Him, what meets your gaze? Ichabod in the pulpit, Ichabod in the pew, Ichabod upon almost everything bearing the name of religion. Why is this? In tracing matters up to their original source, we can sing with the redeemed Atheist.
"Up to the Father's high decree
Each act in time I trace;
Up to the glorious Sovereign Three,
Almighty Fount of grace."
We bow our heads, and our hearts are melted in true worship and adoration before the revelation of His glorious sovereignty. He does as He will with thee and with me; as we see in 1 Cor. 4:7, "Who maketh thee to differ?" or, as you read in the margin, "Who distinguisheth thee?" O what distinguishing grace is experienced when God the ever-blessed Spirit testifies to our hearts of the love, blood, beauty, and bounty of Jesus, the blessings of our Father's house and kingdom, and the glorious prospect before us, when, divested of the burden of the flesh, and for ever done with sins, doubts, fears, anxieties, cares, and tears, we shall see Him in His own glory-home, and love Him and adore Him with unsinning hearts for ever.
Look for a moment at that glorious doxology which is chanted or read in every place of worship in connection with the Establishment: "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost: as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen." "Glory be to the Father." "What for? Well, we can answer. For His pure electing love. To whom? To the elect. Wait a moment, my friend. This is it: "Glory be to the Father" for His electing love to me. "Glory be to the Son." What for? For His redeeming love. To whom? Everybody? Lay that on one side. To the elect? Come a little closer home. Christ's redemption is not only particular, but personal, for which every child of God blesses and praises Him in His glorious sanctuary. "Glory be to the Holy Ghost." Why? Because of His regenerating, comforting, confirming, and sealing favour. "As it was in the beginning;" before the world was; "is now, and ever shall be." What shall ever be? Glory to the Eternal Three. Not glory to One at the expense of the other. Not glory to Two and One forgotten, but glory be to the covenant Three-in-One-JEHOVAH, who has secured the everlasting salvation and glorification of that innumerable company whom He in the riches of His grace styles "His own elect;" "My redeemed;" "The living in Jerusalem." It is our mercy in Grove Chapel to worship the covenant Three, and to hold, maintain, and confess in the spirit, if not in the words of one of the creeds of England's Church: "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who, with the Father and the Son together, is worshipped and glorified." It is ours to worship Him; it is ours to glorify Him, for He glorifies not Himself; He speaks not of Himself, but He speaks of God's Christ; and as He glorifies God's Christ in our heart's experience, we cannot help but praise and adore Him for the rich revelation of God's everlasting covenant of grace, and also to pray to Him to make to our waiting hearts further discoveries of the Three-in-One-JEHOVAH as all our salvation and all our desire. These preliminary remarks have been called forth through my seeing and enjoying the glorious harmony of Godhead as set forth in the precious verse in which our text appears. Now, in humble and pure dependence upon the guidance, grace, and goodness of God the Holy Ghost, let us seek a Father's blessing in meditating thereon. We notice:
I. THE SPIRIT'S PERSONALITY AND WORK--"The Spirit."
II. EZEKIEL'S CHARACTER AND PRIVILEGE--"So the Spirit took me up."
I. THE SPIRIT'S PERSONALITY AND WORK--"The Spirit." Turn with me to Gen. 1:1,2, where you find the personality of the Spirit of God and His work in creation. But first of all, mark well the language of inspiration in this record of creation's work, and see if you cannot notice some analogy between it and the new creation in your own experience. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Mark! God is the Creator. "And the earth was without form and void." God created chaos, God created confusion. "And darkness was upon the face of the deep." Look at yourselves in the first throes and anxieties of regeneration. What do you experience? "Without form and void." Where are you? In darkness and the deep. What deep? Is it not the deep of Divine mystery opened by the Holy Ghost to your wondering and astonished gaze? You see yourselves sinners in the sight of a just and holy God. Sinners in thought, purpose, imagination, and desire, and wonder what must be the issue of it all. Will it be death? See! "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." He is a life-breathing, light-giving, and love-inspiring Spirit. In the new creation there are feelings, hopes, anxieties, cares, and doubts which were never experienced before. Before the Holy Ghost brooded over you and in you, you had no thoughts after God, no desire for His company, no longing for fellowship with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, no wish to be reckoned one with His despised yet highly-honoured people, no inclination to be found in His courts seeking His face in the midst of His worshipping children. Such is the case of all by nature. But where are you now? Ready to say to any favoured sinner who will deign to speak to you,
"Tell Him when you see His face,
I long to see Him too."
"And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." This really means, "And the Spirit of God brooded over chao." Why? For the formation of that which was formless. For the perfecting of that which was unperfect. For the production of order out of disorder. You see something of this in Isaiah 43:1, "But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel." He does not say, that created thee, O Israel; but, "that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel." That word formed may be very well rendered "fashioned, or perfected." Brought from ugliness to beauty, from confusion to order, from darkness to light, from the experience of death to the enjoyment of life. Look through the Scriptures and there you see the Holy Ghost revealed as a true, proper, and real Person, and not as you may ofttimes hear Him spoken of from the pulpit and in prayer meetings from the lips of those from whom we might expect something better and clearer, as a mere influence. I hear sometimes persons praying for the influence of the Holy Ghost. I recollect the time when I used these words, but I knew not for what I asked. Such a prayer expressed not the depths of my need, nor the height of blessing which God reveals in the hearts of His children. What is the desire of the living in Jerusalem? That which is expressed in the last line of the verse before quoted,
"Indwelling God and Friend."
It is the indwelling of God the Holy Ghost, not His influence, that living souls desire. Influences will never satisfy the regenerate children of God.
Throughout the sacred Scriptures we have His personality set before us. Not only in creation, but in communication and communion. Every communication of grace from JEHOVAH, the Fountain Head of all blessing, is by the adorable Spirit. Look at Matthew 28:19. Here we find the baptizing of the nations was to be in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Here we have a question: If the Lord Jesus Christ commanded the ordinance of baptism to be administered in the name of the Divine Three, how is it that we have not a solitary instance recorded in "The Acts of the Apostles" of their so doing, but always in the name of the Lord Jesus? There is a reason; may God enable you to seek it out. See! Whatever others may in their honest convictions maintain, I believe that this refers to the teaching, making disciples, or Christians, of all the nations of the saved, (Rev. 21:24; 22:2) and the baptism of them by the Holy Ghost into the Father's electing love, the Son's redeeming grace, and the Spirit's regenerating favour. Look again at the apostolic benediction: (2 Cor. 13:14) "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Again: (Col. 2:2, "That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ." It does not say, "The mystery of the Father, and of Christ, and of God," but "the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ." Paul, by Divine inspiration, names the Holy Ghost first, and does not style Him the Holy Ghost, the Spirit, or the Comforter, but God. To Paul the Holy Ghost was God; God, as much as the Father; God, as much as the Son; God, in His eternal oneness with the Father and the Son. The Holy Ghost is God.
I wish you to notice another portion of God's Word. See Isaiah 48:16. Who is the speaker? The prophet? No. The Father? No. The Spirit? No. It is the Son. The Lord Jesus Christ is the speaker. At ver. 12 and 13, He says, "Hearken unto Me, O Jacob and Israel, My called; I am He; I am the First, I also am the Last. My hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together." Who can this be but JEHOVAH-JESUS, the Creator and Upholder of all things. He speaks in ver. 16: "Come ye near unto Me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I; and now the Lord GOD and His Spirit hath sent Me." JEHOVAH-JESUS, the Creator and Upholder of all things, positively declares that the Father and the Spirit sent Him, commissioned Him, qualified Him to the accomplishment of salvation, the bringing in of everlasting righteousness, and the safe conduct to eternal glory of all those who in the covenant of grace were committed to His care and keeping. Passages might be multiplied which clearly reveal the distinct personality of the Holy Ghost, and yet His undivided, co-equal, and co-eternal oneness with the Father and the Son, but time forbids.
Mark this well. No act in creation, no act in redemption, no act in regeneration, no act in providence, can be performed without Him. Not one. None in creation? No. If you will turn to Psalm 33:6, you will see how the glorious Trinity is revealed in the work of creation: "By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the Breath of His mouth." You may legitimately read this, "by the Spirit of His mouth." Now come to the New Testament. In John 3:8, we read: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit." The same word is given all through the New Testament for wind and Spirit. If you will look into the Popish version of the Bible, you will see this verse rendered, as the Papists do not believe: "The Spirit breatheth where He will." There is no figure of speech in the Popish rendering of this passage, but a plain, unmistakable declaration of the Spirit's sovereignty. "The Spirit breatheth where He will." He adores one part of creation with beauty, and leaves another part in dreariness and desolation. In the manifestation of the new creation, He breathes and communicates eternal life to whom He will. Not to one pew, but to one person in the pew, while the others are left in a dead profession. He enters an establishment, workshop, office, or house, where two are working or waiting; He takes one and reveals to him the wonders of electing and redeeming love; He leaves the other in the darkness of ignorance, to the silence of eternal despair. He enters a chamber where a husband and wife are in one bed; one, by the Spirit's sovereign grace and power, is lifted out of self into Christ, and rises to life and joys eternal, while the other--Oh! painful and piercing declaration, but marvellous truth--the other sinks down into everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. Friend! thou who art sitting at ease in that pew, in reference to these things, where art thou? In regard to the Spirit's indwelling and teaching, where art thou? In respect to His communications, and to thy standing as a poor lost son or daughter of Adam, where art thou? As to the Spirit's manifestation of Jesus' salvation, Jesus' righteousness, Jesus' intercession, and Jesus' glory in prospect, where art thou? These are solemn questions; may the blessed Spirit graciously answer them for thee and in thee.
It is a rich and precious privilege for me to know the Holy Ghost as a distinct Person and a glorious Sovereign. Creation, redemption, and providence without Him are blanks indeed. Now look at that portion which I quoted before in Isaiah 48:16, "And now the Lord God and His Spirit hath sent Me." Just couple this with Isaiah 61:1, the portion read by our Lord in the synagogue of Nazareth: "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD hath anointed Me to preach good tidings to the meek." Now look at this portion as our Lord read it, and as the Spirit records it in Luke 4:18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor." Not only anointed by the Father with the Holy Ghost, but anointed by the Holy Ghost. This is revealed in the Person and work of Jesus from the vigin's womb to the virgin tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, in which never man lay. Come with me to Luke 1:35, where we find the record of that which is stated in the chaste and guarded language of England's Te Deum: "When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man, Thou didst not abhor the virgin's womb." Just think, that the Spirit of purity, the Spirit of holiness should descend to such a marvellous depth as this. Read the communication of the angel to Mary: "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." By the direct operation of God the Holy Ghost, the sinless, spotless, immaculate, and impeccable humanity of our blessed Lord and Saviour was produced. See! "And the Child grew, and waxed strong in Spirit." (Luke 2:40)
Turn to Matt. 3, where we behold Him ascending the banks of the Jordan after His baptism, and receiving His commission openly before all the people. The voice from the excellent glory declares, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." And, blessed be His holy name, He is well pleased with all those whom He sees in Him. With the voice there was the Holy Ghost descending upon Him in a bodily shape like a dove. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed with the devil, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38) Look at the commencement of His doing good publicly. "Then," at the very moment of His anointing; "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." (Matt. 4:1) He was led up, not down. All the way through His humiliation and temptation was upward, not downward, though Satan would have us believe it was so. Excelsior was the inscription upon the banner of Incarnate Love, the true meaning of which is, the highest. The Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness. Is that a fact? Yes, for no act in redemption or in the accomplishment of the glorious righteousness for His people was performed independently of the Spirit of the living God. O wonderful leading! O marvellous grace of the Holy Ghost to lead a precious Christ into all the wilderness wanderings and temptations of His people, knowing that they would be brought to experience the perplexities of many a wilderness down here. "To be tempted of the devil." "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." "For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted." (Heb. 4:15; 2:18)
Did He cast out devils and heal sinners who were oppressed by them? Read for yourselves Matt. 12, Mark 3, and Luke 11, and you will see that by the Spirit of God He cast them out. Do you glory in the fact that by Christ's one offering you are perfected for ever? Turn with me to Heb. 9:14, where you read that this was all through the eternal Spirit: "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" The blood of Christ was shed and the sacred humanity of Jesus was offered up to His Father for His people through the grace and power of His co-equal, God the Holy Ghost. Was Jesus raised from the dead? It was by the quickening power of the Spirit. See Rom. 1:4, "And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." When He ascended on high, led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, His first bestowal of them was when He poured out the Holy Ghost upon three thousand on the day of Pentecost. Blessed be His holy name, the Holy Ghost is seen and acknowledged by elect, redeemed, and regenerate souls in every point and in every particular of the redeeming work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now notice how He is revealed in the work of regeneration. It is necessary for our peace and confidence that we should have right views and conceptions upon this matter. What is regeneration? Not the remodeling of the old nature. Not the beautifying of the old man. Not the adorning of religious human nature. Not the rectifying or renovation of the flesh. Oh, no! But an eternal, irreversible act of JEHOVAH, never to be repeated or abolished. It is the bestowal of a new heart, the communication of a new life, the imparting of a new nature. It is the implantation of something mysterious to those who possess the same. Peter speaks of the saints being "partakers of the Divine nature." (2 Pet. 1:4) Paul writes of it thus: "Christ in you the Hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) This reminds me of the saying of a poor creature once to me, and I believe there is more pure, Scriptural, and spiritual Divinity in what some poor, illiterate creatures say than there is in what may so-called free-grace preachers can declare in a twelvemonth. She said, "The new birth to me is nothing more and nothing less than the bringing forth of a precious Christ in my heart's affections." Do you want anything more than that? Will anything short of it satisfy the cravings of that spiritual appetite created within you by God the ever-blessed Spirit? You answer unhesitatingly, No! You may depend upon, if Christ is formed and brought forth in you the Hope of glory, it will be accompanied with many pangs, much wrestling and struggling, and fierce opposition from the flesh, caused by the intense hatred of Satan to the Christ of God.
Mark! In the work of regeneration the Holy Ghost is the active Person and gracious Performer. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6) "It is the Spirit that quickeneth." (John 6:63) "The Holy Ghost shall teach you all things." (John 14:26) "He shall testify of Me." (John 15:26) See how the Lord Jesus describes His work in John 16:7-15. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you. And when He is come He will reprove (margin--convince) the world of sin." What world? That which the Father loves and the Son saves. (John 3:16; 4:42) "He will convince the world of sin." That is chaos in the new creation. "And of righteousness, and of judgment." Is this the judgment to come? No, not at all, though I have often heard this portion misquoted, especially in prayer meetings. Even at these meetings I have been astonished to hear so much unscriptural language. Persons pray thus, O send thy Spirit to convince of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment to come. I do not desire to be convinced of the judgment to come, for such is not according to the teaching of our blessed Lord and Master. He said, "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." In the atoning death of the Surety of the everlasting covenant and the Representative of God's elect, Satan was judged, and his designs against the Church rendered ineffectual. In the righteousness of Christ, or in Christ our Righteousness, all elect sinners are judged, and JEHOVAH'S judgment is, Everlasting acquittance and clearance from sin and from all Satan's accusations. With the knowledge of this, through the teaching of the Holy Ghost, the darkness is past and the True Light now shineth.
What know we of the blessed Spirit as the Convincer of sin, the Convincer of righteousness, and the Convincer of judgment? "Of sin, because they believe not on Me." God's living children ofttimes mourn over the accursed sin of unbelief. Here is a Bible full of promises, the Bible full of blessings, the Bible full of consolations; yet, left to ourselves, what are we? Weak and helpless, not able to claim a single promise, blessing, or consolation. Ah, my dear friend, thou who art in darkness, distress, and doubt through manifold temptations; thou who through the fear of God in thee, the honesty of thy new nature, and the teaching of the blessed Spirit, cannot appropriate a single promise and say it is thine, remember this: "He shall convince of sin, because they believe not on Me. Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more." Because He completed His work of obedience and sacrifice, being faithful to Him that appointed Him. "Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." All the sins of all God's people put away for ever, an end made of them--thrown into the depths of the sea of eternal oblivion--cast behind God's back--God's children do not want to see His back, and He is determined they shall see His face. See! Clouds and darkness are round about Him, and if we enter into His sacred presence to partake of the blessings of covenant grace and mercy, we must pass through the cloud. Do you not remember Luke 9:34, when the three favoured disciples on Tabor's mount saw the glory of Jesus? But, "while He thus spake, there came a cloud and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered the cloud." So do I, and I am not the only one within these walls tonight who fears on entering any dark or gloomy spot in the pathway of tribulation. It would be an awful sign if we knew nothing of the fear peculiar to the experiences of God's living children. Yet this is their security and confidence--regeneration by the Spirit, restoration by the Spirit, confirmation by the Spirit, and sealing by the Spirit unto the day of redemption. O what mercy to poor, lost, and ruined sinners! Is it not astonishing that so much ignorance preveils in reference to the personality and work of God the Holy Ghost? Passage after passage of God's Word come crowding into my mind which would still further prove His person, power, and preciousness as displayed and experienced throughout the whole scheme of redeeming love and favour. Let us now notice,
II. EZEKIEL'S CHARACTER AND PRIVILEGE--"So the Spirit took me us." Turn to chap. 1:3. The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest. Ezekiel was a legally qualified priest and prophet of the LORD to communicate the LORD'S mind and will; yet, though so highly honoured he felt his daily need of the Spirit's restoring and reviving power. "The Spirit took me up." This language is proof positive that he was down. Are you always up, rejoicing on the mount of covenant favour, and feeding amid the fat pastures of God's Israel? Are you always rejoicing in the assurance of His love? You know very well you are not, neither do you want a minister in the pulpit who professes such high favours. "Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God." (Psalm 55:19) But with the godly it is not so. As in creation and providence, so in grace; He sends darkness and it is night wherein the beasts of the forest do prowl for their prey. He sends His stormy wind from His fists and the spiritual mariners in the deep sea of vital experience "mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths, their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end." (Ps. 107:26,27) Then look at the creeping things in this deep sea. Pride, deceit, conceit, selfishness, hatred, malice, uncharitableness. When left without the special grace and favour of God the ever-blessed Spirit, pride, self-will, and self-assertion are sure to abound. Ezekiel was down in a great deep when the Spirit of God first moved over the deep of conviction and soul trouble, the deep discovered by the revelation of JEHOVAH'S fiery law to his heart. David speaks of this in Psalm 40:2, "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Look again at Psalm 61:2, "From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I."
"So the Spirit took me up." He gave Ezekiel a clean lift out of himself, out of his rebelliousness, out of his hot anger, out of his self-will, and commissioned him to go forth and prophesy to the children of the captivity. Look at chapter 3:14, how the Spirit deals so graciously with His ill-tempered prophet: "So the Spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit (margin--hot anger) but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me." Ezekiel was determined not to go, God was determined that Ezekiel should go. A Stronger than the strong was found with and in him, and He must do His bidding. When the Spirit comes with His gracious communications to the heart of one of God's children, rise that child must and enter into the experimental possession of the bounties and blessings which He graciously gives. And does not the Spirit favour us with many a gracious lift? Sometimes our hearts are as heavy as lead, our spirits are sad and sorrowful, but ere we are aware, the blessed Spirit, without a word from the pulpit, gives us a heart-melting view of our best Friend. Then our spirits glow with gratitude, our eyes overflow with tears, and we find it.
"Sweet to lie passive in His hands,
And know no will but His."
Yes, and as we have listened to the outpouring of the burdened heart from the pulpit, declaring the grace and glory of Jesus, tracing out the footsteps of the flock, and describing that very experience wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, we have been lifted up out of darkness into light, out of bondage into liberty, out of condemnation into justification, out of wretched self into a glorious Christ. "Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." (2 Cor. 5:5) "He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:6) Blessed Spirit! Gracious lift! Glorious ascent!
Yet the morrow with its cares and anxieties will be dreaded, the temptations of the path experienced, and tribulations of the journey homeward encountered; but God knows all about them, and faithful to His promise, will remain our God and Guide for ever and ever.
May God the Holy Ghost seal us and bless us, for Christ's sake. Amen.
Preached in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, 1899 - By Thomas Bradbury.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosover believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
THESE are the words of Incarnate Wisdom. They are words of love flowing of life spoken by Him Who declared Himself to be "the Resurrection and the Life," and gave His message to the liberated disciples, as "all the words of this life." (Acts 5:20)
Spiritual and eternal life are richly enjoyed by them. They are words of salvation such as those spoken by Peter to the house of Cornelius. See Acts 11:14, "Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." Such words as those spoken of by Jesus to His Father in John 17:8, "For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I come out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me." And you may rest assured that the sinner who has ears to hear, and for whom the Master has a God-provided message, will know something about it. He will know something concerning himself as a guilty sinner before God, and will not find fault with Him for drawing a faithful description of himself as a guilty wretch deserving eternal condemnation, and as too filthy to associate with the holy. I speak not in exaggerated terms, for I might refer you to many Scriptures which you would rather I did not.
But it is ours to dwell upon themes which may tell for our spiritual instruction, for our growth in grace, and for our establishment in the things of God. It is well worth while noticing the diversified truths with which this narrative abounds. My mind goes back a long way this morning. I remember some forty-one or forty-two years ago being interested in this very chapter. God brought home truths to my mind then, which have undergone no change and have received no gloss or adornment, but remain unchanged where God was pleased to locate them, as I believe, in a spiritual and enlightened understanding.
"There was a man of the Pharisees." Who were they? Who are they nowadays? I will tell you. They are to be found in profusion among all shades of religious opinion, and in all denominations. They abound in every place where the church is lifted up at the expense of Christ where rites and ceremonies, and so called good works are the prevailing characteristics. But the works of such are not good in God's esteem. The Pharisees prided themselves in being righteous because of their fleshly performances and outward walk, while they despised others. A graphic description is given of them in Luke 18:9-14, in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee could talk of what he had done. The publican could confess that he had sinned. The Pharisee boasts to set himself off before his fellows. The publican confesses himself a sinner to humble himself before his God. Here we have "a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus." Nicodemus! Look at the meaning of that name Innocent blood. No doubt when Nicodemus's mother saw him at first she would think him a non-such the finest baby out. And his father with admiring looks would say, "Ah, there is none of the corrupt blood of the Gentiles in the veins of my little son. I will give him a name corresponding with his nature Innocent blood!" But with all this traditional boasting the father was one in nature with his child and the child with the father. Here you have them, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Ps. 51:5) You see, in the name of this man there was a religious lie. I use great plainness of speech because I want you to understand me not to misunderstand me for a moment. Yes, there was a rabbinical falsehood upon the very face of the name Innocent blood. Nicodemus was "a ruler of the Jews." One of the Seventy composing the great council of the Jewish nation the Sanhedrim. "The same came to Jesus by night." There is something very pleasing in the reception Jesus gave to him. He came by night for fear of the Jews, lest they should see him and put him out of the synagogue, as we gather from subsequent portions of the gospel. He came to Jesus. That was enough. What matters it when a man comes to Jesus if felt necessity brings him? He may come like the younger or the elder brother laden with sin or reeking with fleshly piety but he comes to learn that the blood of Jesus is efficacious in both cases to cleanse away everything offensive to God's pure eyes. It is not, Have I come to Jesus aright? It is, Have I come to Jesus at all? Has Jesus a place in my heart, and have I a place in His heart of love? It matters not whether I come with strong faith or weak faith with hope bright or dim with love exuberant or love languishing. It is not my coming but His receiving that is the confidence and joy of my heart.
Nicodemus said unto Him, "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God." He addressed the Lord according to his station and profession. He had received lessons in etiquette and a few in flattery also. But the Lord took no notice of flattering compliments. This reminds me of dear old John Franks, who on one occasion turned to me with this loving rebuke, "O my brother, there are neither compliments nor excuses in the kingdom." And there art not. Now notice our Lord's answer, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee." Did you ever turn over that expression in your mind? It is equivalent to the "Thus saith the LORD" of the Old Testament Scriptures, and to the "What saith the Scripture?" of the New. It is Christ's affirmation. It is something more. It is Christ with that authority which ever characterized Him, speaking on oath in the presence of His Father, and that to one whom He was bent upon teaching. He says, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Born again! The margin reads, "Born from above." Not born from below. Here we see where the mistake of the Christian world exists. This is the rock upon which religious confederacies and ecclesiastical systems make shipwreck of God's truth. They begin at the wrong end altogether. They begin down here. Christ begins with His own up yonder. He begins where the Father was in the beginning with Him. He begins up yonder where the affection of the regenerate is fixed. He begins where His all prevalent intercession ascends to the Father, and from whence He sends the Blessed Spirit with His incorruptible seed to the hearts of elect vessels of mercy, there to germinate and bring forth fruit to His honour and glory. Are we the spiritually begotten sons and daughters of the Father? Listen! "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for" (1 Peter 1:3,4) all God's kept ones.
If not born from above, we cannot see we cannot understand we know nothing at all about the kingdom of God. A man may be a bishop on the bench, a great one in the church, a wise philosopher, but if not born again, with all his knowledge and prestige, he is but a dead dog. He may dress himself up in gaudy attire and strut like a stage player before the gaze of wondering mortals, but what is he in the estimation of God? A mass of corruption-a garnished sepulchre. And that is true of each of us only as God is pleased to enrich us with the heavenly treasure of His grace in these poor earthen vessels. Nicodemus did not see the kingdom of God, and gave sad evidence of his blindness. "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" Nicodemus was thinking and speaking naturally. Christ was teaching spiritually. Nicodemus was dwelling upon earthly things. Christ was inculcating heavenly things which Nicodemus would shortly understand. "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Here I would again ask you to notice the difference in the meanings of the two expressions by Matthew and John. Matthew uses the term, "the kingdom of heaven." John says, "the kingdom of God." Matthew's kingdom of heaven is likened to a net cast into the sea bringing forth bad as well as good fish, to be separated eventually. It is likened to a field in which grew both wheat and tares. The kingdom of heaven aspect is the church mixed up with, and more or less influenced by, the world. But the kingdom of God aspect is, a clean lift above the world. Here we have to do spiritually with God. While others are busy with religion, morality and a thousand things which must perish with the using, here we have to do with God Himself on spiritual ground, by spiritual means in His own hands His own Word communicated by a Spiritual Teacher, the Holy Ghost.
"Born of water." Which water? If you know anything of the spirituality of the Saviour's teaching you will see that it is eternally opposed to the blasphemous figment taught at St. Paul's, and delighted in by the old impostor at Rome baptismal regeneration. I look upon a person as very far gone from the right use of his judgment, and gone altogether from the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus recorded in the Scriptures of truth, who believes in regeneration by baptism. To me it is arrant folly and profanity. The beautiful babes born again by baptism fill our slums with bullies and blackguards and the dens of infamy with harlots and hags. Sacramental grace! Away with it! It savours more of hell than heaven. With it I may be damned; but with the grace brought home to me by the "pure river of water of life, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb," damnation is an utter impossibility. Now look at the word again, "Except a man be born of water." First, except a man be born out of and separated from the filthy water of corrupt humanity from the wicked who are like the troubled sea, casting up mire and dirt he cannot see or enter intelligently into the kingdom of God. Second, when we are born from above, through, by, or of, the water of God's providing the water of life the water of eternal truth, we are the children of God. Turn to John 13:10, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all." They had all been washed with the water in the basin, yet were they not all clean. No. There was a devil in that little company. See John 6:70, "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil." That is shocking! say you. No, not when you understand it rightly. Why did He choose a devil? To do a devil's work. Look at John 13:30, "He then having received the sop, went immediately out: and it was night." Then came the hour of the world's deep gloom, and the power of darkness. Jesus was then left alone with His loved ones all of a piece. Then could he breathe freely and say without restraint, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him." Now go through that chapter revealing union, the 14th, to that of communion and fruit bearing, the 15th, and you will hear Jesus saying to His own, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." There is no spiritual cleansing but through the word. Listen to Peter, whom deluded papists say was the first pope. If he lived now, they certainly would not have him. Listen! "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit." (1 Pet. 1:22) There is no other way of purifying the soul, but that of obedience to "the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren." Let us read on "see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently, being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." (1 Pet. 1:23) This is as clear as light. Yet, to those who have eyes to see. But what about those who have not eyes to see? Well, their eyes are blinded and they cannot see. The man who is not born of the Word and Spirit of God cannot enter into the kingdom of God. It cannot be done. The kingdom of God is spiritual he is carnal. The kingdom of God is heavenly he is earthly. Listen! "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation," or "with outward show." "The kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20,21) The kingdom of God is possessed, "not by army, nor by power, but by My Spirit, said the Lord of hosts." (Zech. 4:6) "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For He that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men." (Rom. 14:17,18)
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Only those born of the Spirit through the communication of the incorruptible seed of the kingdom can enter intelligently, feelingly, and experimentally into the inward and spiritual kingdom of God, or spiritually understand His teaching. "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." Look at that word, "must." It is not, Will you be born again? nor, Ye ought to be born again. There is nothing of that kind here. No uncertainty in the Saviour's teaching. All is certain and sure. "Ye must be born again," and Nicodemus was born again. In a subsequent portion of this gospel you will find that many of the chief rulers believed on Him, whom, no doubt, Nicodemus represented, but who would not accompany Him, being frightened lest they should be cast out of the synagogue. Though they were afraid to acknowledge Jesus, He was not afraid to acknowledge them and bring them into the blessed realization and understanding of the Father's mind and will concerning them.
"The wind bloweth where it listeth" "The Spirit breatheth where He will" "and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." The wind is a conductor of sound. So the Holy Ghost is the Conductor of the joyful sound of the gospel to the ears and heart of the redeemed sinner for whom it was designed in the eternal counsels. "Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" Here was a professed and authorised teacher of the law an expounder of God's word, yet ignorant of its spirituality and meaning. His mind was wholly absorbed with fleshly, earthly things. He could see no heavenly truth in earthly illustrations.
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen; and ye receive not Our witness." Who are the speakers? O, say some, Jesus and those whom He sent forth to preach His truth. No. Do not you rest satisfied with that. The Speakers are the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Turn to Matthew 11:25-27, "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: neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." "We speak." The Father speaks the Son speaks the Holy Ghost speaks; but who can understand them? "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. 2:14) These Divine and Heavenly Speakers are discovered in Gen. 1:26, "And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." Again we hear them in Gen. 3:22, "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of Us." In Isa. 6:8, faith hears Them and bows adoringly before Him "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" This is Jehovah Trinity-in-Unity and Unity-in-Trinity. We have this clearly revealed in Isa. 48:16, "And now the Lord God and His Spirit hath sent Me." These are the Speakers Who teach to profit. Hearken unto them all ye who have ears to hear.
"If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?" If I have condescended to the level of your weak capacities, for the purpose of explaining to you the mysteries of the kingdom of God by figures and illustrations of an earthly nature, and ye understand Me not, how can ye believe if I present truth to you in its absolute and heavenly purity? How? Such would be an impossibility. How condescending was Jesus to employ earthly metaphors to illustrate spiritual and heavenly realities, and impart them to the beclouded mind of the learned ruler of the Jews. "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man Which is in heaven." Does not that seem wonderful? The Son of man in heaven? Why He was there and then on earth talking to Nicodemus, and yet He declared Himself to be "the Son of Man Which is in heaven." How are we to understand this? Very many in endeavouring to explain the matter only make confusion all the more confused. They say He speaks here of His divine nature which was in heaven. Why, His divine nature was, and is, everywhere. His human nature as He appeared as the Son of man was there with Nicodemus, and nowhere else. Here He speaks of Himself as God-Man the Father's Righteous Servant the Father's Loving Son in heaven. "'Tis home where the heart is." Have you a home of happiness and comfort, where loved ones dwell who are ever in your heart? Then, distance can only make that home dearer then ever, and your loved ones still nearer to your heart. Then, the spot of your location is not home to you. This was the case with Jesus. His heart was at home with the Father. His whole soul's delight was in the Father and the accomplishment of His will, and the delight of the Father was in the Son while obedient to His will down here. What a blessed view we have of the delight of the Father in the Son, and the delight of the Son in the Father in that precious hymn we sand this morning,
"Lov'd with love which knows no measure,
Save the Father's love to Thee,
Blessed Lord, our hearts would treasure
All the Father's thoughts of Thee.
All His joy, His rest, His pleasure
All His deepest heart's delight
Lord, Thy heart alone can measure
What Thou art in His pure sight."
Now we come to the type of the brazen serpent, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This brings us to the words of our text
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
So far we are confronted by two truths which Nicodemus and those who were religiously one with him did not understand. The first declares that a man must be born again or he cannot have a right apprehension of divine truth, or the enjoyment of salvation by Jesus Christ. The second is revealed in the text, that salvation and the love of God were not privileges confined to the Jewish people. The middle wall of partition must be broken down, that in Christ Jesus there should be neither Jew nor Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, male nor female. (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11) Do you think that a godly wife enjoying her place and position here will be loud in her demands for women's rights? Can you imagine that a man who is spiritually one with Jesus Christ, and heir together with his wife of the grace of life, will be asserting his right to his position as one of the lords of creation? Nothing of the kind! On gospel ground we know nothing of separating influences, "for we are all one in Christ Jesus," (Gal. 3:28) and "there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him." (Rom. 10:12) It is not male nor female, it is not Jew and Gentile, it is not Barbarian or Scythian, it is not bond or free we know of no national or political distinction or difference on new covenant ground, "for ye are all one in Christ Jesus," (Gal. 3:28) and Christ Jesus to everyone of us is "ALL IN ALL."
Now we are brought face to face with a remarkable expression "the world." Marvellous capital is made out of it in all Arminian synagogues. There is an infatuated misapprehension of the term and a besotted determination to give it a meaning never intended by God. I remember preaching for a man a few years ago, when, after the service, he gave me a taste of that tart and temper strangely characterizing the tribe of Universal Lovers. With imperious meekness he said, "We have no right to limit the atonement, for 'God so loved the world.'" I quietly answered, "None but ungodly minds would attempt to limit the Holy One of Israel; but when He limits the atonement by His purpose of grace, none have a right to interfere with His purpose or limitation."
"What though all the world resist Him!
God will realise His plan."
"God so loved the world." From these words the disciples of Wesley and all the Arminians and Universalists in the land tell us that God loves everybody. If such be the case then God belies Himself. God loves everybody! That sounds strange in the face of David's utterance in Ps. 7:11, "God is angry with the wicked every day." What do you think of this? "The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever." (Mal. 1:4) Come to Rom. 9:13, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Is that love to everybody? Is love to all mankind found in these divine statements? Look at that wonderful declaration in Ps. 37:22, "For such as be blessed of Him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of Him shall be cut off." now the desire of our hearts is to have a right understanding of this controverted term, "the world." Jesus was conversing with a Jew, and one of the highest order, whose prejudices were deeply rooted and soon fiercely roused against even a thought of God's favour crossing the separating line between them and the Gentiles. This is evidenced by the fury of the Jewish mob when Paul declared to them the command he had received from his Master, "Depart; for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." (Acts 22:21) They saw not the goings forth of God's love beyond the boundaries of Israel to seek and to save certain objects of His electing love in Old Testament times, who were not the seed of Abraham after the flesh; but were really so after the Spirit. They were objects of His everlasting love, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and proved to be His children by regeneration, preservation, and gracious provision. He circumcised their hearts and thus cut them off from the world around them, and brought them into the world of his love. Jesus had come to teach Nicodemus the folly of limiting the Holy One of Israel, or restricting His operations in grace to man's weak stretch of mind. God will have His own out of every kingdom, country, clime and tongue of this sinful globe; not from the narrow bounds of Israel, but from every spot where "Sovereign grace o'er sin abounding" seeks, and saves, and claims its own.
That is the world of His love. In the face of all this we are told that God loves everybody. The thing is absurd and contrary to His Blessed Word. Let us seek for the expression "the world," and test it by the infallible touchstone of eternal Truth. Wherever it is found it must be always governed by the spirit and subject of its context. We must never allow a word to govern a subject; but the subject must always govern the word, and the context must rule over any expression appearing in connection with it. Many moved with unscriptural zeal and fleshly determination, desiring to have none left outside the pale of God's grace, will have "the world" to mean the whole race of mankind. Will this bear the test of Holy Scripture? Let us see. Turn to John 1:10, where we shall find "the world" has three different meanings, "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew him not." 1st. It means He trod this earth of ours. 2nd. It means that He created all things. 3rd. It means the ungodly Jews who hated Him, In this short verse "the world" has three different significations. There is no mistake concerning that. Come with me to John 15:17,18; "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Six times in these two verses "the world" means haters of Christ. Turn to John 17:9, "I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine." That cannot be the world of the Father's love or Christ certainly would not exclude it from His intercession. Then we read in Rom. 1:8, "your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world" the Roman Empire. In Rom. 5:12 it means all the descendants of Adam who are naturally involved in the power and guilt of sin." "As by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin." Again, we find that "the world" simply means the Gentiles as we read in Rom. 11:12, "Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world."
Now look at 1 Cor. 7:31, and you will see that "the world" means the provision God has made for the sustenance and preservation of His creatures "And they that use this world as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away." We cannot pass by that awfully perverted portion, 2 Cor. 5:19, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." This is the world of the Father's love. The world to which trespasses are not imputed. The world of Jesus' care and attention. The world of the Spirit's gracious life and light. The world which ever lives in God's heart, and in which He will live for ever and ever. See also John 12:19, "the world is gone after Him." Now we know very well that the great mass of the people never did and never will go after Him. Mark well 1 John 2:1,2; "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous: and He is the Propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." John, a Jew rejoiced with those who were one with him, in the Gentiles participating in the same privileges. All the Gentiles? That never has been, nor ever will be: but all elect Jews and Gentiles who find in Christ Jesus the Righteous their covering from wrath and salvation from sin. This is not true of all mankind. See 1 John 5:19, "the whole world lieth in wickedness" in the Wicked One. Did John lie in the Wicked One? No he lay in the bosom of the Righteous One. Did his little children who were cleansed from all sin in the precious blood of Christ lie in wickedness? No they lay secure in their All-sufficient Covering and Hiding Place. See! The whole world in the Righteous One The whole world in the Wicked One. The children of God and the children of the devil. (1 John 3:10)
Again we see the world associated with hatred and opposition to God. Does God love everybody? Does the world mean everybody? See 1 John 2:15, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." Again I ask, Does the word "world" mean everybody? Then God commands us here not to love everybody; in other words, not to love anybody. This is a pretty state of affairs to be brought into! Read the Scriptures and test their words as you would those of any other book, and you will be constrained to a just conclusion in reference to the world of the Father's love. "God so loved the world." "So." Beyond all human thought or comprehension. Nothing but that Love can work the faith to grasp and hold the gift bestowed and secured by Himself His Son and eternal Life in Him.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Sermon preached by J.K. Popham at Galeed, Brighton - 1910
“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we,
being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were
(1 Peter 2:24)
This most glorious doctrine of the atonement the apostle utters almost in the same breath in which he has set forth Christ as an example to suffering believers. They were not to be surprised that they suffered; they were not to be restive, and proud, and unsubmissive in and under their sufferings; and the reason for their submission to, their patient endurance of, suffering, to which they are exhorted, is that Christ has left them “an example,” that they should follow His steps; that He should be to them that great One who, though just, suffered for the unjust, and in that He was patient; “who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not,” but committed His persecutors as well as Himself unto God that judgeth righteously.
It were well for us in any case of suffering to have set before us from time to time, by the Spirit, so illustrious, so beautiful, so wonderful an example as here.
Suffering Christians, look not at second causes.
One says, “Look not at the stone that is flung at you, but at the hand which throws it.” That hand is God’s; that is, there is nothing done without Him. Job had no eye to the second causes for a time, in all his great sorrows; the One he saw was God: “The Lord gave” – that mostmen in the enjoyment of their possessions will readily own; but you, if you suffer loss, will need Job’s faith to say with him, “and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
And having set before them this great example of patient suffering, the apostle then goes on to enunciate the greatest doctrine that the Scripture reveals; namely, that God in our nature, Jesus Christ, suffered for our sins: “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” – the tree here being an outward sign of His inward, intense sufferings, sufferings beyond our conception as to their intensity and awfulness, and the terrible nature of them. For they were not merely what men inflicted, but above and beyond all that men inflicted, they were the sufferings set out by the prophet Isaiah when he says, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief.”
Also by the prophet Zechariah, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd.”
The Holy Spirit in this verse, then, sets before us first of all the Person of Christ; secondly, what He did: “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree”; and thirdly, the end He had in view, what He accomplished, and what is the result; namely, “that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes” – the stripes which His Father inflicted on Him – “ye were healed.”
I. We have, first, the Person of Christ, a real Man, very God, yet one Person.
A real Man born miraculously of the virgin; almighty God sighing human breath!
Sent forth by the Father, He having become in the covenant His Father’s Servant: “Behold My Servant.” The Father “in the fulness of time” sent Him forth, “made of a woman, made under the law.” And mind, it is of vital importance to notice this, that He was “made under the law,” else His Father could not have justly inflicted upon Him the curse of the law.
But He was made under it, subject to it; and God the Father laid with His own hand on His beloved Son in our nature all the sins of all the election of grace – a load intolerable to any other shoulder, and the curse due to all those sins – a death, indeed, that only Immanuel could endure.
We may believe many doctrines, but this of the Person of Christ, dear friends, is the first in importance. That believer whose faith is again and again drawn to, and gazes on the Person of Christ has somewhat of the hymn wrought in him:
“We first after Jesus reach,
And richly grasp the whole.”
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” In the fulness of time He sent Him forth; He was “manifested to take away our sins.” Whoso confesseth that Jesus is the Son of God, is born of God.
“This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
And what is that?
Why, to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. See if your faith more regards Him than many other things. See if you are more anxious to find whether you know Him than whether you have some comfortable feelings. Comfortable feelings are most beautiful and pleasant if they are rightly founded. See if you are more anxious to know the Person of Christ than anything else. If you can first reach after Him, you will find in Him everything that the soul can need in this life; namely, pardon of sins, justification, sanctification, strength, perseverance, wisdom and all good things; and hereafter, bliss.
It must be right to be after this most of all; for it has “pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.” All the fulness of humanity in its pure state dwells in this blessed One; all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in this blessed One.
Look at this, dear friends; and may the Lord grant, whatever you are ignorant of, you may not be ignorant of this Person. You need His humanity – no salvation apart from that; you need His eternal Deity – no salvation without that.
The humanity is needed because we are men; who but a man could atone for men?
What nature could take the curse due to men but the same as their own?
So Christ is a real Man; as we are men, so is He; not only was He. He has been a Man ever since that wondrous day when His coming was gloriously announced, though His birth was so mean – announced by a multitude of the heavenly host, singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
He only could be a Substitute for men who is a man. Were it possible that an angel could bear suffering in the place of another, it could only be for another angel.
Therefore whatever you do, you who are concerned, may this be set on your hearts by the Holy Ghost, to seek to know this very Man, the very Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. What He did.
Here we have Him before us in a particular regard: “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.”
Why did He bear them?
First, because He loved the people. “Yea, He loved the people.” The greatest act of love that a man can show to another is to lay down his life for him. So says Christ, who makes no mis-statements, no mistakes:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
What heart can conceive that flame of love that was in the almighty God, the second Person in the Trinity, the Son of God, who covenanted to become a Man, that He might die for the men given to Him by His Father before the world began?
“Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me.” Such was His love for them that although He knew it would cost Him a life of obedience, of death – death not so much by the hands of man as by His Father’s own sword – yet He withheld not, but said, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God.” It was a self-emptying love that our Lord Jesus had for His people: He “made Himself,” as Paul says to the Philippians, “of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant.”
O we love the brightness of the sun, but there is a shining glory in the love of Christ which, as it falls on the eye of faith, is brighter, inconceivably, infinitely brighter, attracts more, affects more deeply, and does more wonders, than ever the created sun, that so delights and refreshes us, can do. Men weep when they find this in their hearts, they wonder when they feel it, they dissolve under its power, they are delivered from sin by it, they love holiness under its influence, they follow God as it draws them, they are drawn with “the bands of love,” the love of Christ. We sing sometimes (would that we could all honestly say it):
“O love divine, how sweet thou art!
When shall I find my willing heart
All taken up by thee?”
You know, some of you, if you spoke the truth, you would not dare to say that before God tonight.
What did He do?
Bare our sins.
Because He loved us.
Why did He do it?
Because He would have those whom He loved with Himself.
But how could they be with Him?
They are not fit; in their birth they are sinners; in their lives they are sinners; they are not fit. No, but He said, “Therefore I will take all their unfitness away; it shall be no more theirs but Mine; I will take it on Me.”
And His Father said, “I will lay it on Thee,” and He took it; as you read in the Corinthians of the Father and the Son:
“He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.”
The imputation of sin to Christ is the most mysterious act of God.
And therefore, one may say, the awakening of the sword of divine justice against Christ is not only mysterious, but it is most glorious.
Now you cannot properly, scripturally imagine that mercy in all its tenderness, and at the same time truth, pure, naked, eternal truth, should come to a sinner and bless a sinner without the intervention of the Mediator, or that a sinner should find not only peace, but righteousness, without any satisfaction made to the law.
This you cannot scripturally show, imagine or understand. But there is a Man in whom all these meet gloriously:
“Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.” (Psalm 85:10-11)
O wondrous meeting-place, wondrous meeting!
God’s truth not threatening, God’s mercy for sinners, who deserve the truth of the threatening, revealed to sinners – these two meeting in the Man Christ Jesus!
Righteousness that must exact of the debtor the utmost farthing, and peace that never can smile on a rebel, these meeting in the Man Christ Jesus!
Perhaps one says, “But what is that to me?”
Well, sinner, it is this to thee, if thou art going to heaven, that through meeting in Christ they can meet in thy soul, can meet in thy conscience, can make thee a blessed creature, fit for God’s presence. I wish we all longed for God’s presence. It would argue that we knew something of Him, and that, too, in that Man Christ Jesus in whom His presence can be enjoyed in absolute consistency with holiness and righteousness.
“Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.”
That is why He did it, that sinners and God should come together; that mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, should meet together, and embrace each other, first in Him and then in them; that is, in their experience.
Look at what He did. He...
“Bore all incarnate God could bear,
With strength enough, but none to spare.”
Almighty God sighing!
Almighty God, a poor, broken-hearted Man, whom no man pitied, who looked for some to take pity, and found none; whose fury therefore upheld Him (Psalm 69:20; Isaiah 63:5).
He went through the great business. What was exacted of Him He rendered full payment of; what was due to sin He received into His heart and bosom – the execution of divine justice, the wrath and curse of the broken law.
And this because the Father put sin upon Him, had in a mysterious way “made Him to be sin for us.”
He did none. No guile was found in His mouth because there was none in His heart, none in His human nature, which was perfect.
Yet God the Father dealt with Him as if He were a sinner, as if He had done the things upon which God’s vengeance was poured, as if He had contracted the debts of unfulfilled commandments – dealt with Him as a sinner, and would have Him also work out a righteousness as if He needed it for His own justification.
Let this be the search of thy life, O sinner: did Jesus bear thy sins?
Better this than be searching the stars, and making investigations in the bowels of the earth, useful as that may be among men; better this than all other things, to search if the Lord will show thee the marvellous sight of His only-begotten Son bowed beneath the load of thy sins.
“His own self” – unassisted. Angels were not there to assist Him in this tremendous work, or minister to Him when He was faint. Angels ministered to Him in the wilderness and in Gethsemane, but He bore the load alone, and of the people there was none with Him. He trod the winepress alone.
What became of sin when Christ died?
We read He made an end of it, “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
This for our instruction is set out in type under the old dispensation (Leviticus 16).
Two goats were selected, one for the Lord for a sin-offering, and the other for the scapegoat. The scapegoat had the sins of the people confessed over his head, and then by a fit man was led into the wilderness, into a land not inhabited, not to be brought back. And it is written of the sins of the Lord’s Israel that they are “cast into the depths of the sea”; no one is able to bring them back in point of condemnation before God. That is to say, justice, infinite justice, is satisfied; law, exacting law, is amply satisfied; holiness, inflexible, is satisfied; fallen men, sinners, are rendered fit to be the guests of God.
That is what Jesus did with sin. And if the Holy Ghost causes you to believe and receive it, O sin-afflicted sinner, it will make heaven on earth, even in your heart. It will be such a heaven as no earthly misery can destroy for the time. It will make such peace in your conscience as no accusing devil for the time can disturb. Such is this great work of Christ. Sin is removed; it is made an end of.
Then it is declared that He brought in “everlasting righteousness”
(Daniel 9:24). We had a righteousness in creation which was not everlasting. In our natural head, Adam, we were put in the garden as free to stand and free to fall.
Human freedom God gave us, and we sold it for the forbidden fruit. We shall never get it back, except we get it in Jesus Christ, where it is immutable. All your talk about human freedom is nothing but a figment, a deception of your heart. You sold your freedom, gave it up; sold your birthright, and despised God’s goodness in it; and you will never get it back, I tell you, unless you get it back in Jesus Christ and in another fashion, by a divine gift of sovereign grace.
But when Christ takes away a man’s sin, He takes away all that legally binds him; and now the day is come when (to go back to another type, Leviticus 14:7) the poor creature, hitherto bound, shall have his pinions touched with blood, and be loosed, and shall fly free in the air, fly to his God by faith, and at last fly to heaven freed from the trammels of his sins, and all those evils which are in his members to affect and afflict him as long as he is here.
This brings me to:
III. The end Christ had in view when He bore our sins, suffered for our sins; namely, “That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.”
Why, brethren, the death of Christ was vicarious; it was for others, and it was so for others that they should live, they must live.
O grace, how great, how effectual!
O grace, how thou didst bury all the sin of the church!
When Jesus Christ on Calvary’s accursed tree said, “It is finished,” heaven was pleased, Jesus was blest, no more under the curse; angels looked on, the Father was satisfied, the Spirit was satisfied, justice satisfied, holiness satisfied, mercy had free vent, love had made an opening through which she could flow as through a channel, a mighty river, into the hearts of sinners, making them live as it touched them (Ezekiel 47:9).
It is wonderful what this death of Jesus accomplished. Men live who see Him die; they are happy that see Him dying for them.
This river is a “river of water of life,” and is known to be that. Wilderness though you may feel to be, arid desert, deathy in your own gravelike, deathlike heart, this pure “river of water of life” will conquer your death. Ah, it was this death of Christ that opened the way to heaven for poor sinners.
Think of that closed up Garden of Eden, kept now by a flaming sword turning every way.
No way back by that!
As if the Lord said, “You have broken My law; I cannot think of permitting you to try to mend it.” That is not the way to please God. You may object, “That should not be said”; but why should it not? Why should I not say it? Say you, “Is it not right that a man should endeavour to keep the law?”
It depends upon why he tries to keep it. Suppose he should try to keep it in order to obtain eternal life. I say, if there be such a person here, that is the greatest act of rebellion you can ever be guilty of. Your best deeds with such a view are but high rebellion against the blessed God, whose glorious gospel declares that there is but one gate and way of eternal life.
“As Thou,” Christ says to His Father in John’s gospel, “as Thou hast given Him” (the Son of Man) “power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.”
What, then, is the greatest act of obedience that a sinner can ever be enabled to, which shall most not only benefit him, but glorify God?
This, to “believe on Him whom He hath sent” (John 6:29).
The greatest stumblingblock our proud, haughty nature can have is that truth. No wonder one who was rich should go away offended. No wonder others should say, because His teaching was so contrary to nature, that He had a devil and was mad; for He went close to them, and quite crossed their best convictions, their highest ambitions, and all legal efforts, and said they were all nothing but rebellion against God.
The only way to life is this, that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree.
Would that God would thoroughly gospel us by revealing this in our hearts with power!
It would take away (as to the dominion of it) that legal spirit that so barrenises us by setting us to work in order to obtain blessings in a way that God has not ordained to bestow them. He, “His own self bare our sins,” paid our debts, received into His heart the penalty due to us, “in His own body on the tree.”
Fix not your gaze on the tree, that literal tree, or on that transaction which was opened to the eyes of all within the place. Fix not your gaze there, and think not that any natural sympathy that may be excited in your minds by some recital of the crucifixion is of a spiritual kind. I can understand how people may almost hear the thud of that accursed tree, as it was dropped into the hole made for it. One can imagine the awful, the exquisite agony of that sacred body that was stretched upon it.
One can understand a sensitive nature weeping at the thought of an innocent and just Man being thus treated, and one can imagine that a person may weep thus who is at the same time dead in trespasses and sins. But may the Lord carry us through this external part, to see that awful pain of His soul, to perceive what His holy nature must have felt when it had sin lying on it, when the iniquities of His people met on Him; for so the word is in Isaiah 53:6, the Lord causing them “to meet on Him.”
May we see by faith how He sank, and what He felt when He said, “All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me”; when He said, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” If aught will make us weep with an evangelical repentance, make us weep bitter sweet tears before the Lord, it is the sight by faith of what Jesus Christ suffered in His soul for our sins.
Now let me again say, the greatest search you can ever be engaged in is to search whether this was for you.
Do not take it for granted.
The Spirit of God bears witness in the hearts of His people that the Son of God loved them and gave Himself for them; as says the apostle, He “loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
And the search of faith, the look of faith, faith’s exercise, labour and longing attended by love in the heart of a believer, will be this way: “O tell me, make me know that my iniquities met on Thee; that all the blackness, and guilt, and death of my sin Thou hast borne; that Thou didst take into Thy holy soul the dreadful curse due to me; that when the Father called upon the sword of inflexible justice that was made bright to be bathed in Thy blood, that then I was upon Thy heart, that my sins were there.”
That is the greatest thing you can be after. The Lord cause you to be after it. Religion is very easy, but this labour is very hard, yet it is attended with the most beautiful and wonderful results; for the Lord sooner or later says, “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” “Canst thou not be happy without Me? I am thine, I am thy God.”
Dost thou need pardon?
“The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”
Art thou a Peter?
The Lord will look and smile upon thee. Well, whatever a man is, if his heart be drawn this way, he will get all he wants; peace here, glory hereafter.
“That we, being dead to sins.”
How are we dead to sins?
Can you reckon yourselves to be dead to sins when they live in you, when often they seem to predominate, when some sins may, as you may feel, be paramount?
Can you in these cases reckon yourselves to be dead to them?
Yes, by faith; not otherwise. If you can say, “Now by His death I am freed; I am freed from the law; I am delivered from its curse; there is now no claim remaining on me; justice brings nothing against me,” that is being dead to sins in the gospel sense first of all.
And until faith receives assurance, there is no settled peace in the conscience. Put your foot, as it may seem to you, one day on the neck of some of your sins, keep your foot there for a few hours, and if you build a hope of heaven on that, you will find very likely that those very sins have, ere you were aware, wriggled from under your foot, serpent-like, and are round your neck threatening your life. He who builds a hope of heaven on anything short of the death of Christ will find that his hope, even if it has some things of a right nature, has got some things about it, and has acted in some way, that will not be honoured of God.
But then there is a being dead to sins experimentally, pleasantly, and very sweetly, as when one can say, “Now I am crucified to the world by the cross of Christ, and by it the world is crucified to me,” when he can really say,
“Let worldly minds the world pursue,
It has no charms for me;
Once I admired its trifles too,
But grace has set me free!”
Hence the apostle says, “Our conversation” – not our lip talk, but our whole life and course – “is in heaven.”
Why is it there?
Because our Friend, our Redeemer is there. Our God, our Lord, the Object of our
faith, He whom we worship, He on whom love fixes itself, about whom faith entwines itself, into whom hope casts an anchor, He is there. Hence people can say today, sometimes, what David said in his day and of himself:
“Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.”
“That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.”
It is as if He should say, and indeed He did say it to the Romans, that we should live unto God. To live unto God is to have Him for our great end. There are many ends that men have, but there is one ultimate end that God gives His saints. It is proper we should have various ends. Nothing is more proper than that the husband’s end should be the happiness and well-being of his wife and family; and the wife’s end, the comfort of her husband. Nothing is more proper for a child (and do listen to me, children) than that he should honour and obey his parents. These ends, and others, we ought to have; the Scripture enjoins them. It is a shame for a professor to talk of religion without having these in some measure before him.
But there is an end beyond them all, a blessed end. God is that end, that we should live unto Him. You can live unto God when you are eating your bread, if you have grace; you are taught to do it:
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.... Whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”
If we half believed it, we should often be different persons from what we are, as to our conduct.
“By whose stripes ye were healed.”
Have you been sore?
Are you sore?
Did you ever know that scripture, “My sore ran in the night, and ceased not”; or that scripture, “O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed”?
“I have sinned.”
When did you sin?
“When did I not sin?” you may say.
When did you sin?
When you thought that foolish thought, when you uttered that idle word, cast that unlawful look.
When did you sin?
When you knelt down, and your eyes were about your house or planting your garden or in your business, then you sinned.
When you did lawful things, but did them improperly.
If you say, “I have sinned,” the Lord looks for such as you; He looks for people who confess their sins, they are so few – few in this chapel perhaps. They are so scarce and rare in these days. “If any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not,” then He will say, “Deliver him ... I have found a ransom.” So may the Lord heal us.
“By whose stripes,” sufferings, sorrow, grief, shame, death, “by whose stripes ye were healed.”
And how are we healed?
O, when the blood is on your conscience, you have not a sore left, not a sore.
What about the idle words, the evil thought, the unlawful look?
The guilt is gone.
How sweet this is!
“I am sorry,” the sinner says; “I am more sorry now I am forgiven than I ever was before.”
Everyone knows that who knows what pardon is. Everyone who knows what pardon is can say he loves this repentance.
“By whose stripes ye were healed.”
Now may the Lord heal you who are sore and sick by these wondrous stripes of Jesus Christ; and should He do it, then you would say, “Now, Lord, if shame is on my name, if persecution is my lot, if trouble comes to me in my circumstances, do grant I may follow Thy steps, who hast set me an example of patient suffering.”
Monday, August 09, 2010
This is the name which is above every name, the name that is so precious to every sinner saved by grace. The reason for its preciousness is because of its blessed suitability to meet our need as lost, ruined sinners.
We have to say:
"Here's my claim, and here alone;
None a Saviour more can need;
Deeds of righteousness I've none;
No, not one good work to plead."
We are not fond of acrostics, but we remember an old preacher describing the name of Jesus: "J-E-S-U-S: Jesus Exactly Suits Us Sinners."
The name of Jesus means the Saviour. It was given to the eternal Son of God on His coming into the world of sin and sorrow.
"Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."
So the name Jesus has a blessed relationship with us as sinners.
Clearly does the Word of God reveal that Jesus is the only Saviour.
"Neither is there salvation in any other."
One of Satan's deceptions today is the popular teaching that there are many ways of salvation, and all lead to heaven. This is a subtle attack on the truth.
At one time it was, "You are wrong!" but now it is, "You are right but ... so are many other religions also!"
But there will always be something exclusive in real religion, for "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
This is revealed to every grace-taught soul.
Jesus is an almighty Saviour, "able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him."
What a view that is of the triumphant Saviour (Isaiah 63:1), coming forth from Edom (the land of the enemy), with dyed garments from Bozrah (its chief city), "mighty to save"!
The two vital lessons the Holy Spirit teaches a sinner are his inability to save himself, and the gracious ability of the Lord Jesus.
So the Word speaks of "a Saviour, and a great one" (Isaiah 19:20). If a child wrote that, no doubt the teacher would correct it and say, "Just write, 'A great Saviour'"; but here is Holy Ghost emphasis: "a Saviour, and a great one."
This name, the name of Jesus, is exceedingly attractive to living souls. We believe this is one point that unites the whole family of God; they can all say, "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds!"
Some cannot speak much, but their desires and affections are drawn out when Jesus is exalted in the gospel. They can all feelingly say, "The desire of our soul is to Thy name, and to the remembrance of Thee." They can sympathise with the old Welsh woman who walked miles each Lord's day over the mountains to the house of God.
Her neighbours remonstrated with her about the foolishness of this. She could only understand Welsh and the minister could only speak English, and yet wind, rain and snow could not keep her away.
"Ah!" she said. "I can understand one word, the word 'Jesus,' and the minister mentions it so much. It is worth going to hear that!"
In the Song of Solomon the name of Jesus is described as "ointment poured forth" - precious, fragrant, refreshing. Never shall we forget hearing a sermon, at the opening of a new chapel, on the text:
"And maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place."
To the wicked the name of Jesus is as "the savour of death unto death." We understand this to mean that if beautifully smelling roses were placed in a room where a dead man lay, their fragrance would mean nothing to him. So when Jesus is exalted in the gospel, there is no sweet fragrance in His name to those that are dead in sin - "the savour of death unto death."
How grace makes a difference!
"The vital savour of His name
Restores our fainting breath;
Believing, we rejoice in Him,
The Antidote of death."
The name of Jesus is a worthy name, "that worthy name by the which ye are called."
Where the fear of God is in exercise, there is a dread lest we should be left to dishonour that name that means so much to us. We can bear hearing our own name evilly spoken of, but O the grief when the Lord's name is blasphemed!
The name of Jesus is the sinner's only plea, and he needs no other. It is an all-prevailing plea: "For Jesus' sake." It is our only plea in prayer, the ground upon which our prayers are answered.
That is why often such poor prayers are so blessedly answered. It is "for Jesus' sake." It is also our only plea for acceptance with God.
How can I, a guilty sinner, be accepted by a holy God?
This is the vital question.
And there is a blessed answer:
"These He accepts for Jesus' sake,
And views them righteous in His Son."
Finally, Jesus is the ground and foundation of our hope. We have no other. Our only hope is in the name of Jesus - that is, His precious name signifying all that He is, all that He has done, all that
He still does, exalted in heaven.
"Then let the name of Jesus be
To us supremely dear;
Our only, all-prevailing plea.
For all our hope is there."
Our prayer often is that our unworthy names might be written on the Saviour's heart. "Set me as a seal upon Thine heart." And His worthy name is written upon the sinner's heart. It was said that cruel Queen Mary died with the word CALAIS written on her heart - she was so distressed about its loss to the French. The child of God dies with the name JESUS written upon his heart.
By B.A. Ramsbottom
Thursday, August 05, 2010
A Study of Galatians 4:1-7
"Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant..."
We know that when we were in the world, we had no motion towards God, but did, as the apostle says, work all uncleannes with greediness.
There was no difference between us and others; we were the servants of the devil, led captive by him at his will.
But now "heirs."
What is that?
We havy tasted of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, and shall have the inheritance.
Before, we were under bondage to sin in all shapes, and could not deliver ourselves.
But God "sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law."
We cannot redeem ourselves. "The wages of sin is death" eternal.
Nothing but Christ's fulfilling the law for us can save us even from the condemnation of a vain thought.
But now, "Thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
And how do you know this? O Why, "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father!"
But then may we not lose this privilege of being sons?
May we not have it to-day, and then God leave us in death?
Now this is what I want you especially to lay to heart, that if you have ever been enabled by the Holy Spirit to call God Father, it is for ever. Ye are no more servants, but sons, and heirs of God. This is a most sacred truth; therefore do you hold it fast. I never heard anyone in a meek and quiet spirit go out against this truth, as if God would change. God bears the sweetest witness on my heart to the truth of this, and therefore do you beware to hold it fast. For it is a doctrine not leading to licentiousness, but to the sweetest humility. Look through the whole Word of God, and see if you can find that one, having received the Spirit of adoption, can ever be left of God.
But how is this doctrine guarded?
God knows how to guard it, and to punish sin in His children, without taking away the Spirit of adoption.
See His word to Adam, "In the sweat of thy face shall thou eat bread, till thou nreturn unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
And David, "The sword shall never depart from thine house" (2 Samuel 12:10).
And Hezekiah, "All these shall go into captivity" (2 Kings 20:17).
But God did not take away the Spirit of adoption. And this is a truth.
We may fall into decay, and be entangled in the spirit of the world, and backslide in many ways from God; but He will never forsake His people. This I have found. Let the place I have been in be ever so despairing, God has brought me up again out of it, as in my late trouble.
A morning reading by James Bourne - 1838.