An Address delivered at the Annual Conference of Christians at Clifton, October 5th, 1870.
The topic suggested for consideration at this day's Conference was, - “ When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” - Luke xxi. 31; 1 Cor·. xv. 24; Rev. xi. 15.
May I be allowed to read once more the last verse of the hymn we have just sung, -
“The bride eyes not her garment, But her dear bridegroom's face; I will not gaze at glory, But on my King of grace; - Not at the crown He giveth, But on His pierced hand: The Lamb is all the glory Of Immanuel's land.”
This brings before us the subject of personal attachment to the Lord Jesus. And if I might be allowed to ask for myself one thing more than another, it is a deep, personal attachment to Jesus. And if I were to express what I most desire on behalf of all my beloved fellow-disciples, it is a deep, personal attachment to Jesus. Oh! if we all had a hundred times more of real, true deep, personal attachment to Jesus, how delighted should we be to hear of our blessed Lord, how we should long to see Him, how it would be the one thing uppermost in our hearts to say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” Beloved in Christ, let this be our prayer, that the Lord, in the riches of His grace, would bring it more habitually, more deeply, more fully before us - what this blessed One did for us, when He emptied Himself and came down to this world, and went about in the form of a servant, and laboured and toiled and suffered, and at last shed His precious blood for the remission of our sins. For the more this is present to our hearts, the more will our hearts be filled with personal attachment to that blessed One, and the more shall we long to be with Him. That blessed One who is now at the right hand of God interceding for us and who remembers all the infirmities and weaknesses which mingle with our attempts to speak for Him, to sing His praise, and to listen to what beloved brethren bring before us, will not always be at the right hand of God. After His ascension to heaven, the promise was given to the disciples: “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” Now for this blessed One, - for the personal return of this blessed One, - we have to wait. He said, before He ascended: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” We all know He did go to the Father; but He will not be satisfied till He returns to take His Church to Himself, that where He is, she may be also.
As to the time when this will take place, what can we say? If we attempt to say it will be next month, it will be next year, we should not stand on scriptural ground; for it is written, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, not the angels of heaven.” I remember well the mistake into which many fell, about the time when it pleased God first to reveal to me the truth with regard to the return of the Lord. In July, 1829, as many will remember, there was war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Many beloved brethren whose minds had just been opened to look for the return of their Lord, said, “Now is the time when Israel will be restored,” “You will see,” they said, “in a short time how all this Turkish Empire will be destroyed.” Having had my mind recently directed to the subject of our Lord's return, I fell into the same mistake as many of my older brethren. What was the result? Six weeks more, and peace was restored between Russia and the Turkish Empire; forty-one years and three months have passed since then, and the Turkish Empire still exists, and Israel has not been restored. Why do I refer to this? Not to indicate that we are not to look at the circumstances around us. It is the will of the Lord that we should do so, and not shut our eyes to what is passing around us. But this I affectionately say, that we should not be too hasty in at once forming a judgment, that because such and such an event has taken place, therefore in such and such a time it is certain the Lord Jesus will return; lest, when such and such a time shall have passed, and after all our adorable Lord has not been revealed, unbelievers should turn round and say, “The time has passed, and the Lord Jesus, of whose return you talked so much, has not come; and after all, is there anything in the truth about His return?” We should be careful not to give a handle to those who speak evil of the truth; and not lay too much stress on certain events which may not be God's instruments in ushering in the return of the Lord.
What we need is the right state of heart. We should seek to have our hearts kept practically in such a state, that in any hour of the day or night we should be willing to give up everything; and when the last trump shall sound, to say, “Oh, my blessed Jesus, for many a long day and year I have waited for Thy return, and now I am delighted to see Thee.” There should be no plans of ours regarding which we should not like to be interfered with by the coming of our Lord. If this were so, it would be a plain indication that we preferred our plans to the person of Jesus, that we were seeking our own honour and glory instead of the honour and glory of the Master. However great our work, however manifold our labours, unless we could say with all our heart, - “ Lord, if Thy name may be more magnified by my being instantly taken out of the work, or the whole being broken to pieces, let it be so,” - it would be clear that we preferred our own honour and glory to that of Jesus. In so far as we seek our own honour and glory in His work, - though in a little degree only, - just in so far are we unfitted ourselves to be His instruments in promoting the glory of His name. We must go down, down, down, deeper still, if we wish to be used by Him. We must be willing to give to God all the honour and glory; and just in the measure in which this is so, God will delight to take us up. Why? Because we are willing to give Him all the honour and glory. He cannot share it with the creature; it would be derogatory to the Godhead to do so. But if we are willing to give God all the honour and glory, what will He do? Most assuredly He will take the greatest delight in putting honour on us.
Further: if we have our plans, and on this account wish to put off the return of the Lord, it betrays a want of proper attachment to Jesus. If our affections are set on something here below, as were those of Lot's wife who looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt, it shows that something is wrong with us. Our blessed Lord referred to this, and warned His disciples of the danger of engaging their hearts too much with the pursuits of this life, - their business, their wealth, their farms, their plantations, their families or family connections, or the pursuit of anything connected with this world. I do not mean to say that it is wrong to be occupied with the affairs of this life. Far otherwise. A precious opportunity has the dear brother in Christ in that profession or at that shop to serve the Lord! A precious opportunity has the dear brother who in that counting-house seeks to bring honour to the Lord! A precious opportunity has the servant maid in the kitchen to bring honour to the Lord! A precious opportunity has the mother seeking to bring up in the fear of the Lord six, seven, or eight children! It is the will of the Lord that we should attend to these things, and at the same time that we should be waiting for His return. And notwithstanding that His return is the hope of the Church, it is the will of the Lord that we should be occupied in these things. He says Himself, “Occupy till I come;” therefore in whatever position in life we are, we are to occupy till He comes. We must not suppose, because in connection with the return of the Lord, planting and building, and marrying and giving in marriage are spoken of, therefore these things are wrong. What the Lord means is, that the ordinary affairs of life will go on up to the day of His return. The sun will rise as at other times; and, when least expected, and when things are going on perhaps as smoothly as usual, the last trump will sound, and that blessed One will be revealed. We are to attend to the things of this world, but in a right spirit, as the children of God, as strangers and pilgrims on the earth, as disciples of the Lord Jesus, as not of the world, but redeemed out of it; ever remembering what price it cost - the laying down of His life, the shedding of His precious blood for the remission of our sins. So long as what it cost to purchase us is present to the heart, we say, “Here am I, precious Lord! Thou hast bought me. Now tell me what Thou wilt have me to do, and I will do it.” The heart must be ever in this state, in order that we may be willing, gladly to labour for Him till He returns.
Now, as it is entirely unknown how soon that blessed One may return, it must not be said, - Mr. Müller has just told us that forty-one years and three months ago he first began to look for the return of the Lord, and these forty-one years and three months have passed away, and the Lord has not come, therefore we need not look for Him for another century or half a century. No! How soon, how very soon, may that blessed One be revealed from heaven! We are to be living like men and women waiting for the return of their Lord. And if the Lord yet tarry for a while, what a privilege, if life is continued to us, to have the opportunity of living for the Lord, of labouring for the Lord! And what a blessed privilege to be allowed to live and labour for the Lord! So then we are not to be cast down because the Lord has not yet come. If He comes, how glad shall we be! But if He tarries, here am I, witnessing for the Lord, and allowed to witness for Him yet for another day, another month, or another year, in this Christ-denying world, in this evil world which is lying in the wicked one. How precious! to rise in the morning to say, “Blessed Lord Jesus; the night is past; Thou hast not yet come; another day is before me; help me to be Thy witness this day; help me in word and spirit, and yet to wait for Thy return.” The day passes, and we may yet have to retire for rest. Another day comes, and in the same spirit we should go on day by day, everyone in his particular sphere doing something for Him. Are we to go to sleep if the Lord tarries, and give up the precious truth of His return? Far be it from us! Though for forty-one years and three months I have been looking for the return of the Lord, by His grace I am not tired of waiting for His return, I have not given up the truth; but my soul steadily says, This is the hope of the Church - not death, but the return of the Lord Jesus, and to wait for the same from heaven, to wait for the morning of the resurrection; because when we die, only individually we are ushered into the presence of the Lord, and we leave brethren and sisters behind - the whole Church is not gathered. Moreover, none of the saints have their glorified bodies yet, which they will have at the return of the Lord Jesus; therefore the full redemption, the redemption of the body, is not come to pass yet. We must wait for this for the return of the Lord. When our blessed Lord said, “After this manner pray ye,” He gave one petition, “Thy kingdom come,” and meant something by it. We have to wait for the kingdom to which there are frequent references in Daniel, the Revelation, the Epistles, and other portions of the Scriptures, where the glorious things connected with the return of the Lord are spoken of. But if He delays His coming, one way of glorifying Him is, by patiently waiting for His return, and each of us in the meantime in our particular sphere seeking to occupy till He comes.
Are we occupied? Are we living for the Lord? Are we labouring for the Lord? Is it our one great business of life to live for Him? How many objects have we set before us, on account of which we desire to live on earth? To please our God and Father, and to seek to imitate the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, this is the one business of life - the only one business of life. The man in trade seeking this - to bring honour to Christ! The one in a profession, or in any occupation in life, seeking to live, to labour, to bear fruit for the Lord! Is this the one business of life, beloved in Christ? Ask yourselves, What am I living for? Am I living for the Lord? Is my one great business of life to be a fruit-bearer, to live to the praise of Him who purchased us with His precious blood? Remember, these hands and feet and ears and eyes are not ours, they belong to Jesus - He bought them. Our tongue is His, and our brain is His; our time is His, all our talents are His. All He has given us belongs to Him, and at His feet we have to lay it down. And what will be the result of this? Ah! we shall have true wealth; we shall have true joy. I do not mean by this, that as soon as you get money you are to throw it out of the window; or when God gives a business, to put it all aside and say you have nothing to do with the world. The very reverse of this. We are to do all to the honour and glory of the Lord Jesus, “whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do.” This is true liberty, true joy, and true happiness. And when Jesus comes, and we are found in such a state, how delighted we shall be to see Him; and, oh! what joy to the heart of our blessed Master to find us in such a state. And then this will be for eternity. Our little brief time here will then be gone, and we shall have entered upon that period which will never come to an end. How blessed to spend one happy thousand years after the other with that precious One who laid down His life for us! Do we not long to see Him?
And now, are we all prepared to spend a happy eternity with Jesus? I trust that nineteen out of twenty here present, if not forty-nine out of fifty, are true disciples of Jesus; but I cannot help feeling, peradventure there are a few present as yet strangers to Him. Ah! let me tell you, dear friends, who are strangers to Jesus, that the blessed Jesus stands with open arms ready to receive you. Do but own before Him that you are poor miserable sinners, but trust in His atonement for the salvation of your souls, and all your sins shall be forgiven you.
Who said “A peaceful, happy man I have been these seventy years.” PHILIPPIANS IV 4-7
THESE four verses are by the Holy Ghost written to the beloved brethren and sisters in Christ here present. All of us, more or less, need the counsel, advice, exhortation, here given to us. May we seek now to listen to the voice of God the Holy Spirit in them.
“Rejoice in the Lord alway” (verse 4). This exhortation is given to believers, for none but such can rejoice in the Lord. In order to attend to it, we must first have been made to see our lost and ruined condition; we must have owned this before God, and then have put our sole trust for salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. In doing so we become justified, we are regenerated, we are forgiven, we become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; we are brought into the road to Heaven, and Heaven will be our home at last.
Entering into this, joy in the Lord commences, but only commences, because to the highest degree it can be brought only in glory. But in a little degree the joy of Heaven then commences; and the more we lay hold on what we have obtained by faith in Christ Jesus the greater will be this peace and joy in God, the greater our real, true
HAPPINESS WHILE YET IN THE BODY.
We should especially also couple with this, in order that this joy in the Lord may continue, the careful, diligent, habitual reading of the Holy Scriptures; a seeking to carry out in our life what God makes known to us in His precious Word, in order that we may attend to the second part of this exhortation – “And, again, I say, Rejoice.” This is especially to be noted: Joy commences by attending to what I have mentioned; but this joy will be continued to us, we shall be happy always if we are dwelling by faith on the work of the Lord Jesus – appropriating it to ourselves.
We know how much has been spoken of this joy in the Lord. Philippians, in particular, is full of it. We have in the beginning of chapter iii this word – “Finally, my brethren, Rejoice in the Lord.” Then it is repeated here, but with this especially weighty addition: “Rejoice in the Lord alway;” and then, as if all this were not enough, it is yet once more repeated – “And, again, I say, Rejoice.” So much stress is laid on it, because it tends so much to the glory of God to give testimony to the world that it is not a vain thing to be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to show to the world how much we obtain through this faith in Him, and also by attending to it we strengthen the hands of our fellow-believers.
“Let your moderation be known unto all men” (verse 5). Most of the beloved brethren and sisters here present know that the meaning of the word “moderation” is “yieldingness.” It does not mean that we can go too far in the things of God. This never has been the case. We cannot pray too much, trust too much, love too much, too much carry out the mind of Christ. It cannot be; but, as I said, the meaning is “yieldingness.” This is, though believers in Christ, we should not insist on our own rights, but be ready to yield to the world and to our brethren in Christ; and by manifesting this meek, this yielding spirit, we glorify God. Naturally we might be inclined to say, “If I do so, the people of the world will take great advantage of me.” This would be the case if we had no Father in Heaven who cared for us, if nor Lord Jesus Christ were our Friend and Helper. And immediately after we read: “The Lord is at hand.” Commit your matters into the hands of God, leave yourself in His hands; He will look after you, care for you, and see that the people of the world shall not overpower you and take too much advantage of you. Since you have a Father in Heaven, and the Lord Jesus Christ is your intimate Friend and Helper, it cannot be so.
Then come two other most previous verses: “Be careful for nothing” (verse 6). That, as we all know, does not mean, “Be careless and unconcerned altogether about your family affairs and business matters, and work and labour for the Lord;” but, as we again and again have heard, it means, “Be anxious about nothing.” It is the great privilege of the child of God not to be anxious. And it is possible to attain to it even in this life; yea, in the midst of great difficulties, great trials. It can be attained to, it is attained to by not a few of the children of God. And, by the grace of God, I am one of those who for many a long year have not been anxious;
FOR MORE THAN SEVENTY YEARS I HAVE NOT BEEN ANXIOUS
I have rolled my burdens on the Lord, and He has carried them for me. The result of that has been that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” has kept my heart and mind. If we are anxious, it brings about a gloomy look, and a gloomy look greatly dishonours God and greatly deters the unconverted from seeking after the Lord, for they say to themselves: “That man, that woman, is just as miserable as I am when I am in trouble.” But when they see we are in heavy trial, in heavy affliction, and yet there is found a cheerful look about us, our very look is an encouragement to the unconverted, and also strengthens the hands of our follow-believers in God. And, therefore, beloved, let us aim at this, that we be not anxious. As I stated: It is to be obtained, but we cannot obtain it by own resolutions, by our saying to ourselves – “I will go through it bravely.” We have in our weakness and helplessness to roll our burdens on God, then it is brought about that we have the peace of God.
Let me affectionately press this on the hearts of my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, for it brings about a miserable life if we carry our own trials, our own burdens. Even en the lightest trials and burdens will be found too heavy for us, if carried in our own strength, and we oblige our heavenly Father to step in and make the burden heavier. If we, in our foolishness and self-importance, try to carry the burden ourselves, then, speaking after the manner of men, the ten-pound weight will be made fifty; and if, in our high-mindedness, we try to carry that, He makes it a hundred; and if we foolishly think we can then carry the burden, it will be made still far more, so that God may make us see how weak we are, and that we cannot carry the burden ourselves.
The next thing which I desire affectionately to commend for your souls’ profit is the counsel: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know unto God” (verse 6). That means, not merely when the trial is exceedingly great, only then to pray, but about little things, the ordinary affairs of life – to bring them all before God. And the result of this is – “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Though this is a vale of tears, yet we are able thus to go cheerfully through the world. It is my habitual practice about little things, to bring them before God. I never attempt to carry any burdens myself; I roll them on God and speak to God about them. Beloved Mr Wright and myself, the first thing when we meet every morning, have prayer about the affairs of our work, and bring everything before our God; the most minute affairs we bring before God, roll them on Him, do not attempt to carry them ourselves.
ASKING FOR ORPHANS
And I give here an illustration which some may not have heard out of my mouth. When, sixty-two years ago, God particularly laid on my heart to care about destitute orphans, the first thing was to seek to ascertain the mind of God whether I should be engaged in this work, and after a great deal of prayer I came to the decision that it was the will of God. I tried my motives, and invariably came to the decision, “It is for the glory of God I seek to be engaged in this.” Then I began to pray with regard to the various matters in which I needed the help of God. I asked God for money. For a house, for helpers to take care of the children, and He gave me all these. And about all the various articles of furniture I asked God to guide and direct me, and did not think myself clever enough or wise enough to get them. Now all was ready for the orphans, and I fixed two hours when I would be in the vestry to receive applications for orphans. I sat there two hours, and not one came, so I left the vestry and walked home, and on the way I had brought to my mind this very verse, “In everything,” and I said to myself, “You have asked for money – you have obtained it; you have asked for helpers – you have obtained them; you have asked for a suitable house – you have obtained it; and while you were furnishing it you asked God, step by step, about everything, that He would guide and direct; but you never asked God for orphans.” This was not wilfully and intentionally left out, but it never came to my mind to ask for orphans. I said to myself, “There are tens of thousands of destitute orphans; there will be no difficulty in getting them,” and therefore I never prayed about it. Now I saw how sinfully I had acted about this matter, and when I came home I locked the door of my room and cast myself flat on the floor, confessing my sin, how I had not regarded the Word of God in this particular; and I lay on the floor two or three hours in confession and humiliation of myself before God. At last, after I had once more examined my heart, I came to this “It is for Thy glory, Lord, that I have begun this, and if Thou wouldst be more glorified by bringing the whole to nought, and putting me to shame before my fellow-men and fellow-believers, bring it to nought if Thou canst be more Glorified; but if it would be for Thy glory, be pleased to forgive me, and send me orphans.” And I rose cheerfully from the floor, on which I had been lying in prayer and supplication. Next morning at eleven the first orphan was applied for; before a month was over forty-two came, and since more than twelve thousand – a plain proof that there were plenty of orphans to be had.
I have given the details of this to show what we have to understand by “in everything,” bringing our matters before God, and never attempting to carry our own burdens. And I cannot tell you what a blessing this had been to me – to roll every one of my burdens on God, and never to attempt to carry them myself. I had done this before, but this little circumstance taught me the lesson so perfectly that I have never lost sight of it since.
“By prayer and supplication” (verse 6). Ordinary prayer, and oft-repeated prayer, is not enough; we must ask in the way that a beggar asks for alms, and pursues us, sometimes fifty yards, and will not let us go till he gets something given to him. In a way something like this we have to bring our matters before God in order to have the blessing.
And notice, further, this is to be done “with thanksgiving.” So to speak, we have to lay a good foundation with praise and thanksgiving, and then build on this prayer and supplication, for, whatever our position in life, however great, and varied, and manifold our trials and afflictions may be,
THERE IS ABUNDANT REASON FOR THANKSGIVING.
Why? Because our heavenly Father remains to us. Whatever is wanting, He is not taken from us; He remains to us, and our precious Lord Jesus, our heavenly Friend, remains to us, however our own friends might forsake us; however heavy, great, and varied our trials and difficulties, He remains to us, and the Holy Spirit is given to us and remains to us; our bodies are still a “temple of the Holy Ghost,” and the Word of God remains to us. Therefore we have still abundant cause for praise and thanks giving, and we should not lose sight of these blessings that remain. And what would be the result? We should be calmed, quieted down; we should say, “I shall yet be happy; my heavenly Father will not forsake me, but will help me and keep me while yet in the body near Himself.”
And, as is stated here, the result of all this will be –
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (verse 7)
“The peace of God!” – that calm, quiet, trustful state of heart which is called “the peace of God,” and which is so blessed that the greatest orator could not describe what it is except he knew it, the greatest poet in the world could not represent to us in poetry unless he knew it by experience, and the greatest painter could not represent on canvas what this peace of God is unless he knew it by happy experience. But it is to be known by every believer by the grace of God, and by the grace of God I have habitually enjoyed it for sixty years, and therefore because I know it is to be had while yet in the body, I affectionately beseech and entreat beloved brethren and sisters in Christ to aim at it, and it is to be obtained in the way that is stated before.
Then this is the precious winding-up of the matter, the fruit of all: “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The word “keep” in the original is applied literally to military power, as if by military power we are kept; and then this spiritualised means that we should be kept in Christ Jesus, our minds and our hearts happy in Christ Jesus. That is just what real, true believers especially desire, that under no circumstances they may fall or dishonour God, but that they may be kept from falling. Now, we shall not fall as long as our hearts and minds are kept in Christ Jesus (it is “through” in our version, but “in” in the original), and this as by military power. Just as a garrison is sent forth to keep a fortress against the power of the enemy, so in like manner, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the instrumentality of the peace of God that we get by attending to this exhortation, shall we be kept in Christ Jesus.
Now, is not all this most precious? And shall we not endeavour to obtain it through attending to this exhortation? Oh, it is worth while to attend to it!
If you will allow me again to refer to my own experience, I could tell you what
A PEACEFUL, HAPPY MAN I HAVE BEEN THESE SEVENTY YEARS,
And every one of my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ who have not yet habitual peace may have it too, therefore I comment so continually on this. This peace of God “which passeth all understanding” may be enjoyed not merely now and then, but month after month, year after year, and for many a long year, even as I have had it now for above seventy years. And let my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ who have not had it as an habitual gift and blessing from God, see for it and they can have it. I have not the least doubt that there are very many in our midst who like myself enjoy this peace of God, but it should not be merely a few, but everyone.
God grant that this may be the result of our mediation.
An Address on 1 Kings 9.10 'I have been very Jealous for the Lord God of Hosts'
We have especially, dear Christian friends, to notice that we are to be jealous for God; for His honour and His glory, and not for our own honour and glory; not for our own reputation and name, not for our party, our ecclesiastical position, nor even for our particular religious notions. The spirit of that holy man of God, John the Baptist, when he said, with reference to the Lord Jesus, He must increase, but I must decrease (John iii. 30), should be aimed after by us. The more we are willing, like him, to go down in our own esteem, and in seeking our own honour, the more we are fit to be used by the Lord; and He will also see to it that we are honoured by Him, because we seek to honour Him (1 Sam. ii. 30).
As in everything, so in jealousy, or zeal, for the honour of God, our adorable Lord Jesus is to us the perfect example, whom we have to set before us, and whom we have to seek to imitate. But in order to be able in any degree to imitate Him, we have,-
1. Through faith in Him to obtain spiritual life; for we are naturally dead in trespasses and sins. We have therefore, naturally, no desire whatever to seek the honour of God: yea, are unconcerned about it when He is dishonoured. But when we have become the children of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus, and are thus reconciled to God, and have our sins forgiven, we begin to seek to please God, seek to honour Him, and desire that others, too, should honour Him and please Him.
2. This zeal for God allows of an increase or a decrease in ourselves; and it will be found to increase, in the measure in which our own hearts are practically entering into the loveliness of the nature and character of God. We have therefore to seek for ourselves to become more and more convinced of the graciousness of God, of His love, His bountifulness, His kindness, His pity, His compassion, His readiness to help and bless, His patience, His faithfulness, His almighty power, His infinite wisdom; in a word, we have to seek to know God, not according to the views of men, nor even according to the notions of Christians generally, but according to the revelation He has made of Himself in the Holy Scriptures, in order to have our hearts filled with love to Him, so that we may be earnestly longing to honour Him, and seek to stir up others to honour Him.
3. Our Lord Jesus knew the Father perfectly:
He came out of His bosom. Moreover, as the perfect Man, the servant of the Father, He meditated day and night in the Holy Scriptures (Ps. cxix.). The more we, the children of God, meditate in the Holy Scriptures, the more perfectly we shall become acquainted with the true loveliness of God, and the more shall we therefore ourselves seek to please Him, and the more shall we seek to stir up others to acquaint themselves with Him, that they may please Him.
4. There never was a time when it was not true regarding the world what the Apostle John says, The whole world lieth in wickedness (1 John v. 19). Hence the deep importance that all the children of God in this godless world should seek to bring honour to God, live for God, be as lights in the world, manifest their zeal for the glory of God. In seeking to do so they may meet with many difficulties, but God will help them and strengthen them, if they pray to Him for help, and expect help from Him. They may find themselves sometimes almost alone, or quite alone, in their path in seeking to glorify God, as was the case with some men of God of old; but the more alone, the greater the importance to live for God, to seek zealously His glory, and the greater the reward of grace at last for doing so. Sometimes also it may appear as if we thus lived and laboured in vain for God; but the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures is the very reverse; for it is written, Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. xv. 58). Again, it is written, Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Gal. vi. 9).
As we are drawing nearer and nearer the close of the present dispensation, spiritual darkness, departure from the Holy Scriptures, and consequent ungodliness, we have reason to believe, will increase more and more, though coupled with a form of godliness (see 2 Tim. iii. 1-5); therefore the path of a true disciple of the Lord Jesus will become more and more difficult; but for this very reason it is of so much the more importance to live for God, to testify for God, to be unlike the world, to be transformed from it. If we desire that thus it may be with us, it is needful that we give ourselves to the prayerful reading of the Holy Scriptures with reference to ourselves. The Bible should be to us the Book of books; all other books should be esteemed little in comparison with the Bible. But if this is not the case, we shall remain babes in grace and knowledge.
And now, beloved fellow-disciples, how many of us are in heart purposed to live for God, to be zealous for God, and to be truly transformed from the world? We have but one brief life here on earth. The opportunities to witness for God by our life will soon be over; let us therefore make good use of it. Let none among us allow his life, nor even a small part of it, to be wasted, for it is given to us to be used for God, to His glory, in this godless world.
An Address on 2 Corinthians 5.7 'We walk by faith, not by sight'
As long as the child of God is in the would, he has not in actual possession what he will have when with the Lord, and especially, what he will have after the return of the Lord Jesus; he is not yet what he then will be; he does not see what he then will see. But while we are yet in weakness, whilst in the body, in comparative ignorance, and have still to contend against mighty enemies, God has been pleased to give to us a revelation of Himself in the Holy Scriptures, to be our rule of action, to comfort and encourage us, to make Himself known to us, to make the Lord Jesus known to us, to tell us of the blessedness of the world to come, to show us the way to the Father's house, and to reveal to us the vanity of all that this present world can give. This Word of God, the revelation He has made of Himself, is to be credited, to be received fully, in childlike simplicity; and, in doing so, heavenly realities become present things to us by faith. We have not to judge by feeling, by seeing, by reasoning, but by believing, viz., by exercising faith in what God says: and thus have our ways and our actions to be regulated; thus our joys and sorrows.
God is not seen by the natural eye: but we have to seek to see Him, and. to set Him before us daily, hourly, momentarily, by faith; and to bring Him and keep Him nigh to us by faith. The presence of God, the habitual presence of God, because we believe that He sees us and hears us continually, has to regulate our life. We have to live in this world as those would who exercise faith in the truth that their heavenly Father is continually their Provider, their Protector, their Helper, their Friend; that He is ever nigh to them, that He is a wall of fire round about them continually. If the child of God thus treated God, exercised faith in Him, looked upon Him practically as the living God ever near to him, how peacefully and happily would he walk through the world!
The Lord Jesus, the loving, sympathising Friend, is not seen by the natural eye; but faith says, I rest upon that word, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age]. (Matt. xxviii. 20.) And thus the heart is made happy by the belief in a present living, loving, almighty Saviour.
The Lord Jesus has not yet taken His power to Himself manifestly. He does not yet manifestly reign: but faith looks for the fulfilment of all that which is said of the return of the Lord Jesus; and therefore, though we are not yet actually with Him on the throne, reigning with Him, we believe that He will come again, and we comfort ourselves, whilst yet in the conflict, in poverty, meanness, and suffering, by the precious statements made in the Holy Scriptures regarding the time of His appearing; and we walk thus on in peace and joy, though we do not yet see His glory with the natural eye.
We are now in a body of humiliation, which is often weak, yea, sometimes in pain and suffering. The manifestation of the sons of God has not yet taken place; we are not yet in our glorious body, such a body as the Lord Jesus has had since His resurrection: but we have the promise of such a glorified body; this is revealed for us in the Holy Scriptures, and therefore, though we do not yet actually possess it, we have to lay hold on God's promise regarding this, and to walk in the faith of this promise: thus our hearts will be sustained under present weakness, pain, and suffering.
We have the promise of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away; but we have not yet entered upon the possession of this inheritance: we are poor, mean, without possession at all, it may be, so far as sight is concerned; we have, therefore, to exercise faith in this promise, to lay hold on it, to seek to enter into it, in order that we may be full of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Scriptures tell us of Satan being bound, yea, bruised under our feet; but this has not yet taken place; we are yet in the warfare, we constantly experience his power still: we have, therefore, for our comfort to lay hold on the blessing promised in this respect; and thus our hearts will be cheered and comforted.
And thus, regarding all the numberless promises which God has been pleased to make, in so far as at any time they are applicable to our position and circumstances, both with respect to temporal and. spiritual things, we have to exercise faith concerning them; and the comfort, support, and blessing intended by them to our hearts, will be enjoyed by us. For instance, the promise in Matthew vii. 7-11: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son Ôask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him? If we believe that it will be even as the Lord Jesus said, with what earnestness, perseverance, expecting faith, shall we give ourselves to prayer! Though the answer be long delayed, though, as to sight, the answer to our prayers can never be received; yet, since we believe, walk by faith, we shall continue to expect an answer to our prayers, as assuredly as our petitions are according to the mind of God, are asked in the name of the Lord Jesus, and we exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to help us.
Again, the testimony of God the Holy Ghost, in Romans-viii. 28, is: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. Now, if we lay hold on it by faith, bring to it in faith our greatest trials, difficulties, afflictions, bereavements, etc., our hearts will be comforted, we shall obtain peace to our souls. I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus for forty-four years, but I have invariably found that my greatest trials have proved my greatest blessings; they have worked for my good. But suppose we did not see this to be so, while yet in the body, we have nevertheless to exercise faith concerning what God says; we have to walk by faith, regarding that word of His, That all things work together for good to them that love God, and then will the heart be comforted and sustained.
Three years ago God allowed two most heavy trials to befall me. They continued month after month. I said to myself, This too works for my good; and I continued day by day, while the afflictions lasted, to make known my requests unto God, that He would graciously be pleased to sustain me under them, and, in His own time, deliver me out of them. There was hanging in my bed-room in a frame a text, Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it (Ps. lxxxi. 10), upon which my eyes fell as I rose in the morning; and my heart said to my heavenly Father, I do open my mouth wide; wilt Thou graciously be pleased to do according to Thy word? and wilt Thou fill it! I continued patiently, believingly, expectingly, to look to God for help, and He did deliver me out of these two most heavy afflictions, and I have thus become further acquainted with Him. All this I say for the comfort and encouragement of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ. Will you, then, the next time that you are in trial, seek to remember this for your comfort? You may not be able to see how such and such a heavy trial can work for your good; but it will most assuredly, as God has said. And if even in this life you should not see it, you will do so in the world to come; but generally we see it already in this life.
The reason why the children of God are so frequently overpowered by difficulties and trials is, because they attempt to carry their burden themselves, instead of casting it upon God, as He not only graciously allows them to do, but commands them to do; and therefore they lose the promise which is coupled with the command; they find themselves not sustained. Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee (Ps. lv. 22). This does not mean simply that we should pray to God in our trials and afflictions, but that we should exercise faith in the power and willingness of God to help us under our trials; and by this we know whether we have only used words in prayer, or whether we have, in believing prayer, exercising faith in God, spoken to Him about our trials. If the latter was the case, then, though the trial still lasts, the burden thereof is gone, because we have laid it upon God, to bear it for us; but if we have not exercised faith in God, we are still carrying the burden ourselves.
All these matters are so deeply important, because if we do not walk by faith we cannot be happy in God, and therefore cannot bear such a testimony for God as we should bear were we indeed happy. Our very countenances should testify of our peace and joy in God, in order that thus the unconverted may be stirred up to seek for themselves after that which makes the children of God so happy.
We have, then, to believe what God says. Nor must we look to our feelings, nor expect help from our natural fallen reason; nor must we be discouraged, though all appearance were against what God says; for faith begins when sight fails. As long as we can see with the natural eye, and our natural fallen reason will yet help us, faith is not needed. This is often lost sight of by the children of God; and hence they are so much discouraged, because they do not walk by sight, which was never intended for them while they are yet in the body. If there is then one thing that we need more than another, it is an increase of faith, in order that we may take right steps, surer steps, firmer steps; yea, run with alacrity in the ways of the Lord. - To the end of our course we therefore should pray, Lord, increase my faith!
A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on Sunday Evening, April 11th, 1897·
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:1-3).
BECAUSE we need again and again to be reminded of the truth contained in these verses, God directs our especial attention to this little portion by prefixing the word, "Behold!" As if He meant to say," My dear children, the whole of the revealed will of God, the whole of the Holy Scriptures, which I put into your hands, is of importance to be considered, to be pondered and to be read from time to time; but there are certain portions which, by reason of your spiritual infirmity and by reason of the difficulties in which you find ourselves spiritually whilst passing through this vale of tears, you need especially to read from time to time, you need especially to ponder from time to time; and therefore, by reason of your weakness, I direct your attention to such portions."
Now, then, let us ponder, particularly ponder, the truth contained in this little statement made in these three verses. "Behold! " "Look at it carefully, ponder it, pray over it again and again, lay it to heart yet more and more than, up to the present, you have been doing," our Father would say to us! "What manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God." That is the especial point to which, in the first place, our attention is directed. If God had forgiven us, so that punishment had not come on us on account of our numberless transgressions, and had done no more, this would have been wondrous grace; but He has done far, far, FAR more than this. And therefore it is stated, "What manner of love." The greatness of it, the exceeding greatness of it, the peculiarity of it, that not only has the Lord passed by our numberless transgressions, and forgiven everyone of them, so that we shall not be dealt with according to the thousandth part of the sins of which we have been guilty-nay, not concerning one single sin even, in action, in word, or in thought-but that He makes us His own children, takes us into the Heavenly Family. We, who are by nature rebels against Him, and despise His love, and care not in the least about Him, and manifest this entire dislike and disregard of God day by day by going our own way, doing the things which are hateful to Him-we are not only forgiven, not only shall not be punished for one single sin, out of the many ten thousands of sins of which we have been guilty, in action, or word, or thought, or feeling, or desire, or inclination, but are made His own children, taken into His family, and that not merely in name, but in reality. By the power of the Holy Spirit, through belief in the Gospel, He regenerates us, makes us a new creation in Christ, makes us His very own children. Not merely calls us so, but makes us His very own children. Gives us spiritual life, heavenly life, and thus makes us His very own children.
That is the wondrous grace which we should ponder. That is what God calls upon us to ponder, not to pass by lightly, not to think little about, but to think very, very, very much of, and never let pass out of our mind till we at last get home to glory! This is the "manner of love," the kind of love which "the rather hath bestowed upon us." O Lord! help us to ponder it a thousand times more than as yet we have pondered it. O Lord! help us, by the power of Thy Holy Spirit, to lay it to heart a thousand times more than as yet we have laid it to heart; and grant that, through the consideration of it, through praying over it, through laying it far more abundantly to heart than we have hitherto done, our hearts may be filled with love to Thee and with gratitude in a way in which as yet has not been the case! O grant it to be even so, for Jesus Christ's sake, we entreat Thee.
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us." Now, here is a good practical point "Bestowed upon us"; and to be able to say, "Bestowed upon me." That is what I, by the grace of God, am able to say. That is what, by the grace of God, many scores here present are able to say. But is everyone able to say it? This is what I desire, this is what I pray that God would grant to everyone here present, that they shall each be able to say, "Hath bestowed on me." O how happy this would make us, how heavenly-minded it would make us, how dead to the world it would make us! And in a little degree it would make us more Christ-like than as yet we have been! "Bestowed upon us." That we sinners, such as we are, rebellious sinners, as we are by nature, should be called the sons of God-more literally and correctly the children of God, for it is a blessing bestowed not merely upon male believers, but on female believers, upon all who love the Lord Jesus, and trust in Him for the salvation of their souls! Therefore, that we should be called the children of God. O precious! unspeakably blessed this, that we belong to the Heavenly Family!
By nature every one of us are just as the Jews were, to whom the Lord Jesus said on one occasion, "Your father is the devil"-"for his works you do; you act according to his mind, you act according to your father the devil." Now, this was not merely true about the Israelites, to whom the Lord was speaking; but it is true regarding us, as we are not believers in the Lord Jesus. We may call ourselves children of God, and we may call God our Father, but it is not true so long as we are not trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls; the moment, however, we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, however long, however much we have lived in sin, and however varied our sins, however great they may have been, all is forgiven, we are regenerated through the reception of the Gospel, born again, and verily then are the children of God, and belong to the Heavenly Family!
Then the Holy Ghost by the Apostle adds, "Therefore the world knows us not because it knew Him not." The children are not known because the Father is not known. As long as persons are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, they do not know the children of God as children of God! They may know their name, they may know their occupation, they may know where they live, how they are dressed, and such like things which belong to the outward man, and which belong to this present time; but, in so far as they are the children of God, those who themselves are unconverted know not the believers in Jesus, and the reason is given to us here, "Because they know not the Father" of the children. They know not God Almighty and the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore they do not really and truly know the children of God as children of God. The divine life cannot be discerned by the ungodly.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God"; "Beloved, now we are the children of God,"-for the same alteration is here to be made. "Now!" This little word, "now," is especially to be considered, to be laid hold of, and to be greatly pondered. It means this, while yet in the body-that is, while still in weakness, beset with many infirmities in many regards, and very ignorant in that state of weakness and helplessness in which to a greater or less degree are all true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ-nevertheless we are children of God; for though we are not all like John, who wrote this Epistle, or like Paul, or like Peter, yet, notwithstanding all our many infirmities and weaknesses and failures and shortcomings, as assuredly as we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls, we are already, even while yet in the body, really and truly the children of God! A precious truth is this! And on this little word, "now," we have to lay hold by faith, to ponder it in our hearts again and again and again, and not to let it go, nor to suppose that we only become children of God when we die, or when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again.
Nay, now already are we the children of God. This, as you all at once see, even the youngest of the believers, implies that we have a Father in heaven, and that this our Father in heaven is none other than God Almighty-the God who can do everything, to Whom nothing is impossible. See how precious this is. Our Father can do everything! Therefore, He is infinitely wise; He is infinitely rich, He is infinitely mighty; and His heart is full of infinite love to the weakest and feeblest of the children of God. Therefore, suppose I have pain as to the body, let me go to my Heavenly Father, and speak in all child-like simplicity about it, and ask Him, if it be for His glory and for my real good, and profit, and blessing, that He would graciously be pleased either to entirely remove or else to mitigate the pain, or, while it is necessary that it should last, that He would be pleased to sustain me under it that I may not be overcome by it, and especially that I may not fret, and complain, and murmur, but take it out of His loving hand as a blessing bestowed upon me, which in the end must prove good for me.
If we are in family trial, we should say to ourselves, "This family trial is not only very heavy for me to bear, but it will prove too much if I myself have to bear it; I will commit the matter into the hands of my Heavenly Father, and ask Him that He would be graciously pleased to remove the trial, if it be for His honour and glory and for my real blessing." He is able to do it, for He can do everything, and He has proved the depth of His love in not sparing His only-begotten Son, but delivering Him up for us all.
Then, again, persons in places, or in businesses, or carrying on a profession, find difficulties connected with their trade, connected with their business, connected with their profession. Now, the great point is not to carry the burden ourselves, but to cast it upon the Lord. He is willing to sustain us, willing to help us; and, in doing so, we pass peacefully and quietly through life, we are not inclined to fret, to complain, to murmur, and to be dissatisfied with the dealings of God with us, if we cast the burden upon Him, and not attempt to carry it ourselves!. And this is just what we should do; and this is just one of the many reasons why it is stated here by the Holy Spirit, "Now are we the children of God "-that is, while yet in the body, while yet surrounded by trial and difficulty, while yet finding that conflict is more or less our lot. O this little precious word, "NOW." It contains a vast deal of deeply instructive, instructing truth.
Again, we have now the spiritual conflict, our natural evil tendencies still are in us, though we are regenerated. The old nature is not removed; the old nature remains in us, just as it was before our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true we are regenerated, we are born again; it is true we have spiritual life-but it is also true that the old nature is not dead; the old nature still is in us, and can only be kept down by prayer and meditation and pondering the Word of God, and exercising faith continually. And therefore when trials come with regard to the old, evil, corrupt nature in us, we should spread the matter in all simplicity before God, and say, "My Heavenly Father, I have no strength in myself; but there is almighty power with Thee, and Thine heart is full of love to me, and Thou hast proved Thy wondrous love to me by bringing me to Jesus, and by giving Jesus for me, a poor, miserable, guilty sinner. Now help me in this my spiritual conflict. O let me not be overpowered by this subtlety of the devil, and on account of my spiritual weakness. O help me! help me! help me!" What shall we find? The Lord is willing to help us! The Lord is willing to help us!!
I assure my young brethren and sisters in Christ how He has helped me, now for seventy-one years and five months, times without number, and particularly at the beginning of the divine life in me. On account of the evil habits that I had contracted as an unconverted young man, the ungodly way in which I had been living up to the end of the twentieth year of my life, I found it extremely difficult, though really a child of God and though hating sin and loving holiness, to overcome those evil tendencies which I had contracted.
The appearance was, "O it will never be different, and my prayer will never be answered." But by the grace of God I have rolled my burden on Him, and come to Him again and again. Thus by little and little it came about-and it was by little and little only; it took some time-that these natural evil tendencies were overcome, and God helped me. I mention this particularly for the comfort and encouragement of young, recently converted believers in Christ not to despair, but to expect help from God, for He is able and willing to help them. Never, never, so long as we go to the Lord in our weakness and helplessness, shall we be overpowered; and just because we are the children of God now, therefore the glory will be our portion at last.
It is not that we become children of God when this life is over; nay, while we are y e body, while we are yet here on earth, while we are yet in great weakness and helplessness and great ignorance concerning many things, and while the devil has power over us, while he is not yet cast into the bottomless pit-even now we are the children of God, and shall have help from God just as we need. O how comforting is this word. Therefore let us continually ponder it, and not lose sight of it.
"Beloved now"-in weakness; "now," while the devil has yet so much power; "now," while in such great ignorance-"are we the children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be." Though we are now children of God, and, as such, have many privileges and may go continually to God for counsel, for advice, for help, for strength, for deliverance out of difficulties, for being supplied temporally and spiritually according to our need, yet with all this, great as the privileges are which already we enjoy, they are but little in comparison with what we shall have hereafter. Therefore, we have to ponder also this, that while, on one hand, this word "now" should never be lost sight of, yet on the other hand we should not forget what is written here, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." And what is it that will appear hereafter? What is it that I, poor, worthless worm that I am, shall have hereafter? What is it that I, an ignorant one, shall know hereafter? What is it that in me, a weak one, and an erring one, and a falling one, shall be found hereafter? O this is a deeply important thought. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be"-it is not yet manifested what we shall be. O how will it be as to the body? How will it be as to the soul? How will it be as to our knowledge? How will it be as to our spiritual power? How will it be as to our service for the Lord? O how will it be in every way? An eternal blessing shall be granted to us, henceforth, for ever!
"It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." When Jesus shall appear we shall be like Him-like Him as to His .glorified body, which He has had since His resurrection. Now, any of us who are often in pain as to the body, or finding their weakness and infirmity ever reminding them of their not yet being at home, and not yet having obtained the glorified body, O how precious the consideration that there is a day coming when there will not be found the least particle of uneasiness, nor of pain and suffering and weakness and helplessness, for we shall have a glorified body, exactly such a body as the Lord Jesus Christ has had since His own resurrection. A precious, bright, glorious prospect is this!
And in this body, because it will be such a body as the Lord Jesus Christ has had since His resurrection, we shall know nothing of weariness. At present, we may be able joyfully and gladly to work eight, ten, or twelve hours, sometimes fourteen, or even sixteen hours a day, but at last the weakness comes by reason of yet being in the body of humiliation, and not in the glorified body. But, then, there will be four and twenty hours' work hereafter, and the next day the same, and the next day the same; and thus seven times four and twenty hours every week the ability to work; and thirty days every month the whole day able to work. And thus it will go on, month after month, year after year, one hundred years after the other, one thousand years after the other, one million years after the other, and so throughout eternity. Work, work, work! Constant work to the glory of God in this our glorified body! O what bright, blessed, glorious prospects are these, if the heart enter into them. O how we are gladdened by the consideration of working throughout eternity for God without the least particle of weakness, weariness, and suffering!
But this is only one part of it. The other part is this. We shall be perfectly holy as the Lord Jesus Christ was during the thirty-three years and a half that He was on earth! Never a particle of wrong found in anything that He did, never a particle contrary to the mind of God in anything that He said; never a particle found in all His thoughts, in all His desires, in all His wishes, contrary to the mind of God. Perfectly in conformity to the mind of God everything was found during the whole time that the blessed Saviour was here on earth! And thus it will be with us. We weak ones, feeble ones, shall not be always weak ones, feeble ones, but holy ones, spotless ones, pure ones, lovely ones. Yes, lovely ones! O how lovely! Because the comeliness of Christ is put on us! O how precious these words are; and O, if we bore them more in mind, if we entered into them, how the heart would be full of peace and joy all the day long and every day.
Now, it is on account of this that the statement is made, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him." We shall be like Him! Notice the reason why! "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!" More correctly, "For we shall see Him even as He is." That is, we shall perfectly know the Lord Jesus Christ: in all His work and all His offices, not merely know Him as our Judge. In that way the ungodly will have to become acquainted with Him. Every human being, if they are not believers in Christ, will know Him as their Judge, but we shall know Him as our Saviour, as our Brother, as our Friend, as our Husband, as our Bridegroom.
In everyone of the offices which He sustains for the benefit of the Church of God we shall know Him; and, just in proportion as we know the Lord now, we are conformed to Him, we become more and more like Him, even while we are yet in the body. The more acquainted we are with the Lord Jesus Christ, the more are we like Him; and then in the glory we shall know perfectly that Blessed One, and we shall perfectly be like Him! What a bright and blessed prospect this is! So that not only without weakness and weariness, pain and suffering, will our service be throughout all eternity, but completely according to the mind of God, completely in the same spirit in which the Lord Jesus Christ was working while in the body here on earth! Precious, bright, glorious prospects are ours! It is just because the world is so ignorant, so completely ignorant, about all the glorious things which are the portion of the believer in Christ that they care not about the things of God; for were it known what really is the blessed position and portion of a child of God, everybody would seek to know Him, everybody would care about Him, everybody would believe on Him.
Now the last point, "And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." First of all, as to the somewhat more correct literal meaning, "Every man"-that is, "everyone"-"that hath this hope in Him." The meaning is not, "Has this hope in himself." That is not the meaning of it; but "has this hope regarding the Lord Jesus Christ," that, through faith in Him, he will be perfectly like Christ in heaven. "Everyone that hath this hope in Him, or regarding Him, purifieth himself, even as He is pure." That is, as in every way truth has the tendency to increase holiness, so here we repeat again the statement. Whosoever has this hope regarding the Lord Jesus, to be made like Him in body and soul; everyone who has this hope regarding Him purifieth himself. It has a tendency to make us increasingly holy, for just as we become acquainted with Christ, and see what God has given us in Him, the more we know of this clearly, distinctly, minutely, and the more fully is holiness increased in us, so that we shall be satisfied with nothing short of this, that we may continually become more and more Christ-like.
We do not attain to it to the full while we are in the body; yet this will be our aim more and more, more and more, more and more to be like Christ. We are not satisfied with this, that we have power over our natural, gross sins; we are not satisfied with this, but only that in spirit, in mind, more and more, we are Christ-like, gentle and loving. O how increasingly we seek to attain to this; earnestly desiring it more and more; in every way seeking to become like Christ. And though to the full it will never be attained to while in the body, yet it is impossible to say to what a degree we may, even while in the body, become Christ-like.
Now, let this be the great lesson that we learn this evening, that because we are now already children of God, blessing, wonderful blessing, is to be obtained from our Heavenly Father; and that, by reason of the prospect we have before us, it is impossible to say to what a degree we may not become Christ-like. Now, will you who are not believers in Christ always continue in the way in which you have been going on hitherto? Shall there be no alteration? If you continue on the broad way, final destruction will be your portion! Do you long to spend a happy eternity together with the Lord in heaven? O what delight it will be to many at the last to see not one of all who are present here lacking in heaven!
This is a personal interest I have in your spiritual welfare, and out of love to your soul, that I long to meet you in heaven; and O how it would increase our joy and delight in heaven at last to find not one lacking, to find that this our little meditation on the evening of the 11th of April, 1897, was not in vain. O how precious to find it thus at the last! And now, is there anyone present who says, "I will yet have the world; I will yet seek to enjoy the world?" You will not be happy by this determination; be quite sure of that. O I tried your ways for twenty years and five weeks, and all that ever I got was disappointment and increased guilt on the conscience. But when I found Jesus there came real happiness. O such happiness as I cannot describe. That was in the beginning of November, 1825, and I have felt it ever since-only with this difference, that the happiness increased more and more, more and more.
And that is what God is willing to give to you; for I suppose there is not a greater sinner here present than I was, though but twenty years of age, yet God bestowed this wondrous blessing on me; and what He did for me, and what He did for Paul, and what He did for other sinners, He is willing to do for anyone else.
Therefore, O let it be Christ whom you choose, and not the world any longer; for the world never will prove real, but, if continued in, will bring damnation, and only damnation. God grant His blessing, for Jesus Christ's sake.
Spiritual Building. A Sermon preached at Philip Street Baptist Chapel, Bedminster, Bristol, on Sunday Morning; Nov. 12th, 1893. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith."-Epistle of Jude, 20v.
IN reading this short epistle of Jude, we learn that while yet one or other of the apostles was living, a great departure from the truth, and conformity to the mind of Christ, had already begun in the Church of God, and thus ever since, more or less, it has been; yea, and at certain times an awful darkness and great departure from the truth and godliness have been found in the Church of God, but, on the other hand, there have been also in the darkest days some truly godly ones, holding fast the truth as it is in Jesus, and seeking to tread in the footsteps of their Divine Master. Now, beloved in Christ, our holy, godly aim and purpose should be this, and our earnest prayer to God that we may be strengthened for this; that we belong to the little company holding fast the truths as to a crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour, and seeking more and more to be minded like Christ, dead to all that which is sinful and hateful to God in the world, and alive to all that pleases Him and is agreeable to His mind.
Our text shows to us how it should be with us. "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith." It is on these words that I desire particularly to speak this morning. The figure used here we are all familiar with. It is taken from the erection of a building. According to the size of the building, whether it is high and large, so the foundation is laid-the foundation deep and broad, according to the size and height of the building.
Now, we all know what this signifies. The Apostle Paul tells us plainly no other foundation can be laid but Jesus Christ. What does this mean? That we cannot save ourselves, that our fellow-men cannot save us-that none but the Lord Jesus saves us, and can save us. Then how is this brought about? We have to own before God that we are sinners, and that we deserve nothing but punishment. We have to confess this openly before God, and then put our whole trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls-that is, trusting alone in the righteousness which He wrought out for poor sinners in fulfilling in their room and stead the law of God, which we had broken times without number, by our deeds, by our words, and by our thoughts, and put our whole trust in His perfect obedience unto death, the death of the cross, because when that Blessed One hung on the cross, when He shed His blood, it was for the remission of our sins. While He hung on the cross He made atonement for everyone of our sinful deeds, unholy words, ungodly thoughts, desires, purposes, and inclinations, and thus the wrath of God, the holiness of God, and the justice of God were satisfied. When He fulfilled the law, and stood in our room, He satisfied the holiness of God. When He bore the punishment while hanging on the cross in our room, He satisfied the justice of God, and every poor sinner trusting in Him alone for the salvation of the soul shall be forgiven. Before going on to our second part of the subject, I ask everyone of my beloved friends here present, "Have you ever been convinced that you are sinners needing a Saviour?" If not, ask God to have mercy on you, and to show you this. When you are convinced that you are sinners, have you confessed it before God? Have you humbled yourselves before God? Have you condemned yourselves, and passed sentence on yourselves before God? If not, ask God to help you to do so. But all this, while it is beginning in the right way, is not all.
The great point is to put our sole trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, for we can do nothing whatever in the matter of our salvation-the blessed Lord Jesus did it all. He finished the work for poor, guilty, hell-deserving sinners, as I am, and everyone of you are. The Lord Jesus fulfilled the law of God, and bore the punishment which that law demands should be inflicted on account of transgression. Either we must bear the punishment ourselves, or we must obtain a substitute. The blessed Lord Jesus voluntarily gave Himself to be our substitute, and if you put your trust in Him alone for salvation, God looks upon you as having fulfilled the law. This is the righteousness wrought out by the Lord Jesus, in our room and stead, for the greatest, the oldest, and the vilest of sinners, for if you put your trust in Him you have the substitute, Who, in your room, bore the punishment for you. How blessed to have a friend in Jesus! Do you enjoy the knowledge of the sweetness of this happiness? Without it, there is no lasting peace. The knowledge of forgiveness of sins is to be had while we are in the body. We are not to wait for it until the body is at an end. We can have it while we are alive. We should earnestly seek for it while we live. I have enjoyed for sixty-eight years the knowledge of the forgiveness of my sins, and, by the grace of God, I have not had a single minute's doubt whether my sins are forgiven or not; although a wretched, helpless sinner, all my sins are forgiven, and what God has done for me, a guilty, hell-deserving sinner, He is willing to do to everyone who seeks it in God's appointed way. Thus, owning we are sinners, and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, everyone who has done so is on the right foundation.
You all know that if a house is built, he who builds it does not simply lay the foundation, but there follows the superstructure, and adding stone to stone, and one piece of timber to another afterwards. Thus it is in the divine life. It is right to lay the proper foundation, but this is not all. Almost all persons, after they are converted, are left here for a season. Comparatively few only are in the position of the dying thief-there was nothing in him but trust in the Lord Jesus. That was the foundation laid, and the Lord Jesus said, "To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise." But almost all persons, when they are brought to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, are left in the world for the purpose of becoming better acquainted with Him, and that they may see more of the vanity of this world, and the reality of heavenly things; and especially that they may bear fruit to the honour and glory of God, that they manifest the mind of Christ, that they seek to win souls to Christ, and do their part in helping the people of God both in spiritual and temporal things. For these reasons, being left here in the world, we have to seek to make progress in the divine life, and, as the text expresses it, "to build yourselves up on your most holy faith."
Before coming to this second part of our subject, I make one remark. You note it is "building up yourselves." Naturally, we should expect it to be said, "Let your pastors build you up; let your elders, let the deacons, let the aged, experienced Christians build you up on your most holy faith."
"Building up yourselves." The responsibility is laid upon every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, that he do his part to make progress in the divine life.
Now, the great question before us is, "How is this to be done? How can we build up ourselves on our most holy faith?" Of all the Scriptures, the most blessed, precious answer to this question we find in 2 Peter i., to which we will now turn. "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ." Notice here, the apostles and every believer had the same kind of faith. The apostles had not one kind of faith, and other believers another kind of faith.
In the fifth verse we read, "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge" etc. Now, here we get the catalogue of what we have to do in these following verses-to build up ourselves in our most holy faith. If we have trust in Jesus Christ, faith in Him, the foundation is laid. Now, the next point at which we have to aim-and regarding which we have to cc give all diligence," not in a slothful way, but in "all diligence"-is to add to faith, virtue.
What have we to understand by this? The 4th chapter of Philippians, 8th verse, gives us the answer. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever thing's are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Here we see what is the first thing for any child of God, for any person brought to Jesus, where the right foundation has been laid regarding the salvation of the soul, is in order that he may be able to build up himself on his most holy faith, to aim at everything that is lovely, and bright, and pleasing in the sight of God, which implies that we avoid everything which is contrary to the mind of God-"if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Now, as we are weak in ourselves, it becomes us to call upon God to help us to attain to this. To our "virtue" we are to seek to add "knowledge." The knowledge referred to here is not the knowledge of the things and affairs of this life. I do not despise knowledge concerning the ordinary things of this life, in reference to science or languages, which may be profitable to this fife, and may be useful and proper. While I allow this, it is not the kind of knowledge referred to here, but spiritual knowledge, the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, the knowledge of the vanity of this world, and of the reality of heavenly things; the knowledge which God has given to us in the Revelation which He has been pleased to make of Himself in the Holy Scriptures. It means, carefully to read the Scriptures, diligently to read the Scriptures, with prayer to read the Scriptures, and to meditate on the Word of God. Now let me ask my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, Is this your habit? Are you habitually reading the Scriptures? There is great danger, through the multiplicity of matters, that we neglect the Word of God. There is great temptation lest through the multiplicity of books which are issued year after year from the press, we neglect the Holy Scriptures.
What will be the result of this? We shall injure ourselves spiritually, we shall not make progress in the divine life except we give ourselves carefully, habitually, diligently, and with meditation, to the reading of the Holy Scriptures. It is these means which God has specially used, and does use, for the advancement in divine life. Now as I love you, my beloved friends in Christ, and as I am come here for the purpose of leaving a blessing behind, with God's blessing, I affectionately ask you if you are lovers of the Word of God. Ask yourselves in the presence of God, "Am I a lover of the Word of God? "
For the first twenty years of my life I was not a lover of the Word of God. I neglected the Word of God. From the time when I was fourteen and a half years old until I was twenty years and five weeks old, I never read the Word of God. Then it pleased God to show me that I was a sinner, and needed a Saviour, and I saw how to put my trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation. Then I took to reading the Word of God, and I read it every day. I cannot say I was a real lover of the Word of God, but in July, 1829, four years after my conversion, I became a lover of the Word of God, and now for sixty-four years I have been a lover of the Word of God, and it is a great delight to me to have the Word of God. I cannot tell you what a blessing it is to my soul. Blessed as I have been for fifty-eight years with work, my habit is first of all to have a good meal for my soul. I come to the Word of God, I read it, I pray over it, I meditate on it, and I apply it to myself. How does this comfort you? how does it exhort you? how does it warn you? how does it reprove you? Thus I read the Scriptures, and get a blessing to my soul, and then I go to work with all my might, with earnestness, but I do not go to my work until I first have a good meal for my soul. And what has been the consequence? I am a healthy man, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. I have now entered on my eighty-ninth year. I am not cold, and dull, and lifeless, spiritually; I am a healthy man, spiritually, and the great instrument that has been used by God for this is the Word of God, which I read with delight and joy, and which I would my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ do the same. They would find the healthfulness I have had, and the continued happiness I have had, year after year, and which I have now had for sixty-eight years. There is nothing to hinder you from being happy children of God, when carefully, habitually, diligently, you read the Word of God. Now, after we have added knowledge to virtue, it is said, "and to knowledge add temperance". This does not mean merely to avoid excess in eating and drinking; all this is implied; but it means more than this. It means self-control, that is, to seek to keep more and more under, all our natural, evil tendencies, such as passion, envy, pride, the love of money, the love of dress, the love of worldly pleasures and amusements; to keep under idleness, to aim at all that which glorifies God. O, beloved in Christ, are we doing this? Are we seeking to act more and more according to this-that we have self-control over our natural tendencies? In ourselves we are perfect weakness; we cannot do it, but we can cry to God that He would help us, and strengthen us to keep down more and more these natural tendencies, for if we indulge them it will prove a stumbling block to the unconverted. If we seek to keep under self-control, we not only glorify God, but strengthen the children: of God, and remove stumbling blocks.
Then to temperance we must add patience-that grace by which we meekly, submissively, without fretting, complaining, and much less murmuring, bear the afflictions of life. One says, "I am naturally impatient, and I cannot help it." This is a mistake, my brother and sister. Being tried, immediately cry to God. He will enable thee to keep under thy impatience.
The world is looking on, and by thy impatience thou art dishonouring and weakening the hands of thy brothers and sisters in Christ, while, on the other hand, thou art glorifying God by bearing the trials and afflictions of life. "All" these "things work together for good," and out of all these difficulties and trials God will bring blessing to thy soul. By thy impatience thou art dishonouring God, and by patiently bearing the trials of life thou art glorifying God.
Then to patience we are to seek to add godliness. Godliness-that is the grace by which we do what we do, to the honour of God, in the sight of God, as looking to God for help and strength, so that, more and more, we get into this state of heart. "Whether we eat or drink, we do it to the glory of God." If we have a morsel of meat, or drink of water, we do it to the glory of God. Ah! this grace. O for this grace! It is the kind of grace that the Blessed One had, who had it for His meat and drink, to do it to the glory of His Father. Although we do not compare ourselves with Christ, as if we were anything like Him, yet what God did for Him, He is willing to do for us. He is willing to "strengthen us with might, by His Spirit in the inner man."
Then to godliness we are to add brotherly kindness-the love of the brethren, the children of God, not because they are our relatives, not to love them because they are in the same position in life, not to love them because they are of the same education, not because they are of the same church to which we belong, but to love them because they are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The more we do this, the more we glorify God. All the believers in Christ should love one another. No distinction between rich and poor, learned and illiterate, whether they belong to of the same church, or to another church-we are to love one another because we belong to Christ. Is it this after which we aim, my beloved friends? This is the very reason why I came here. I love the beloved brethren and sisters in Philip Street Baptist Chapel. I love all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, and for seventeen years, in which I was almost always travelling about in all parts of the earth-in Europe, and all over Europe repeatedly, in America, in Africa, in Asia, in India, all over India repeatedly, and in China and Japan, and in the six colonies of Australia-wherever I went I preached in the Church of England, amongst the Congregationalists, amongst the Baptists, amongst the Methodists, among all denominations, and I preached provided they loved the Lord Jesus Christ. I would not preach in Socinian chapels, lest it should be supposed I did not care about the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would not preach in the Roman Catholic churches and chapels, lest it should be supposed I was an admirer of the Pope. Wherever the foundation of our "most holy faith" was laid, there I preached.
Now, let us aim increasingly, beloved brethren, after this-that we love all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then to this brotherly kindness we should add love. To love those who do not love us, to love those who are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and our very enemies, because the more we have of this love, the more we have of God, for it is expressly said that" love is of God," and the more we are like God, the more we love.
What will be the result of all this? We see in the next two verses. "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
No one will be an idler in the Church of God who aims at thus building up himself on his most holy faith. He will care to win souls for Christ in one way of another, nor be "unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." He will live to God's honour and glory. "He that lacketh these things is blind." Spiritual dimness of sight is the result of this, if we do not seek "to build up ourselves on our most holy faith."
Again and again in our day, when persons are brought into spiritual difficulties, they know not how to act, because they have been so little acquainted with God and His ways. "They do not build up themselves." We should know how to act in difficulties, and this will be the case if we seek to build up ourselves; and if we do not know how to act in difficulties, the remedy is to aim at this-that we build up ourselves. And another boon we need continually in our day-people do not know whether their sins are forgiven or not. How comes this, if they are believers in Christ? Because they do not build up themselves in their most holy faith. They do not know how they stand before God, and that their sins are forgiven. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure." Here is another blessing-the result of building up ourselves on our most holy faith. We know we have been called out of the world, that we are on the road to heaven, and when this life is over, we shall enter into everlasting life. This is the result of building up ourselves. And another blessing will result. We are thus "kept from falling"-that is, a person who is seeking to build up himself on his most holy faith will not bring disgrace on the name of the Lord. He will not be found a drunkard, he will not abscond with large sums of money in his pocket. None of these things occur on the part of those who profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and build themselves up on their most holy faith.
And one more blessing in the next verse. "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" We should desire to enter the haven like a vessel, under full sail, enters the harbour. Do you think of this?
It has been thousands of times my prayer that my last days may be my best, and that I may, like a vessel under full sail, enter the haven. O, my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, should this not be yet the aim of all of you? Ask God to bring you to this mind, that you, in the remainder of your life, may glorify and love God, and that at last, like a vessel under full sail, you may enter the haven of eternal love and blessedness. God grant it, for Christ's sake!
The Glad Tidings A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on April 18th, 1897.
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. I Corinthians xv. 1-3.
AMONG all the other things that were wrong already in the days of the Apostles in the church at Corinth was this also: there were some there of the synagogue of Satan. Some among them disbelieved the resurrection of the body, and on this point the Apostle Paul writes, throughout the 15th chapter, and gives unto us most precious instruction regarding the resurrection.
The great point in the whole chapter in particular is this-if there be no resurrection, then the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has not been raised; if there be no resurrection, and Jesus Christ Himself has not been raised, on this account we are yet in our sins, we have not forgiveness, for there would be no such thing as proof of forgiveness had the Lord Jesus Christ not been raised from the dead. Moreover, if the Lord Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead, then I (the Apostle Paul) and my fellow-labourers are false witnesses of God, for we have testified that there is a resurrection, and that Christ was raised from the dead, when, after all, He was not raised; wherefore, the whole Gospel is no longer a Gospel. Now for this was this 15th chapter written, in which there is most precious instruction found connected with the resurrection.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you." Remark here the word "brethren," "believers in Him." Naturally looking at it, we might say "this is just in an ordinary way; no stress is to be laid on it." My own judgment is the reverse. He calls them still "brethren," and he treats them still as brethren, though they had fallen into such errors as these, and failed as to their life and deportment in various ways. Yet he calls them still "Brethren," because he hoped that by the means he was going to employ, in writing another Epistle, they would be brought out of that state. And we find how greatly this letter was blessed when we read the second epistle to the church at Corinth. Thus we have to imitate the Apostle, and on no account, because we see the manifestations of weakness, in one shape or another, on the part of the children of God, to at once put them aside and disown them as believers, as if there were no grace at all in them. For, like the Corinthians, they may come out of that state, and they may yet greatly glorify God.
"I declare unto you the Gospel," that is, the glad tidings, the most precious glad tidings. The sum and substance of this we find in the third and fourth verses, where he says: "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." He died for our sins, to make an atonement for our sins, to bear the punishment in our room and stead; and that is the great point of what is called "The Gospel," "The Glad Tidings." The Gospel does not consist in this, that someone has left to us an exceedingly large amount of property, either in the way of money or in the way of estates; or that we shall now obtain a most lucrative position and employment; or that we shall be elevated to exceeding high rank or power. That is not the Gospel. These are not the glad tidings we have to ponder. But that, wicked hell-deserving sinners though we are, God in the riches of His Grace will forgive all our numberless transgressions; God, on the ground of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, will forgive every one of our numberless transgressions, and not one single sin shall remain standing against us and do us any harm hereafter, because the Lord Jesus Christ has not merely for a thousand of our sins died and made atonement, nor merely for ten thousand of our sins, but for everyone of the sins of which we have been guilty, however many they were, however great they were; nay, in whatever variety of ways we sinned, every one of our sins has been atoned for. O what good news is this! For were there one single sin remaining standing against us, we should be shut out thereby from the presence of God, for nothing that is defiled can enter into that presence. We must be spotless, pure; perfectly spotless and perfectly pure, else we cannot be where God is; and into this state we are brought through the righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to us through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, which removes everyone of our numberless transgressions.
This, if rightly understood, if rightly entered into and apprehended, is what is called in the New Testament "The Gospel"; and we have to ask ourselves, "Is this our Gospel?" Do we trust in the Gospel? Or do we think that we must do our part, and that the Lord Jesus Christ will do His part? That we must do our part, else we cannot be saved? Nay, we must come to this, that we ourselves can do nothing; that everything was DONE by the Lord Jesus; that before He expired on the cross He exclaimed, "It is finished"-that is, everything that had to be done in the way of atonement had been accomplished by Him, and then, after He had uttered these words, He expired. This is the Gospel! Not doing one half of it, or one-eighth part of it, on our part to help the Lord Jesus Christ, so to speak! Nothing of the kind. He did everything, and except He had done everything most assuredly we must have perished.
Now of this Gospel the Apostle Paul says, "which I preached unto you." He was labouring at Corinth a year and six months (Acts xviii, 11.), and therefore again and again and again he had proclaimed these very truths, and those also of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and the resurrection of the believer; because without the resurrection there is no such thing as " the glad tidings" connected with Christ. That is the first point we have to notice. Now the second point of the Gospel is this, "Which also ye have received." Now here occurs a deeply important question, whether we have verily received these glad tidings, whether we verily rest the salvation of our souls on these glad tidings? As assuredly as we think that we have to do something ourselves for the salvation of our souls, and that the Lord Jesus Christ has not done everything that was necessary for our salvation, so assuredly are we yet in a most fatal mistake on earth.
We must come to this: that in our inmost soul we believe that Jesus Christ did everything which was necessary to make an atonement for our numberless, manifold transgressions, and that we have to do nothing but to stand in the position of beggars to receive what God gives us in Christ. And whosoever will not receive, as a poor worthless worm and as a beggar, what God gives to him, in Christ, such a one has not yet come to the state of heart that he might come to, and to which he ought to come, to have the full blessing of the Gospel. We have just to stand before God, simply receiving what He freely, in the way of grace, gives to us m Christ Jesus. We have done nothing, we are unable to do anything now, and we shall never be able hereafter to do the smallest particle, towards our salvation. Jesus did it all. Jesus finished all that was necessary to be done for the salvation of our souls.
Now, then, to receive the Gospel means in other words that we have to own that we are sinners; we have to own in prayer before God that we deserve nothing but punishment for our sins, and that we can do nothing whatever towards the salvation of our souls; but that the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished everything that was needful to be accomplished, and that we gratefully accept what God gives us in Christ. This is to receive the Gospel. Now I affectionately ask my dear Christian friends, Have we thus received the Gospel? Is this that to which we look for the salvation of our souls. You know we must own before God that we are sinners; we must confess before God in prayer that we are sinners, and simply and entirely for our salvation put our trust in Jesus, and nothing else; and in doing this we receive the Gospel, but if otherwise we have not yet received the Word.' This is the second point.
Then in the third place, the Apostle says, "Wherein ye stand." What does it mean to stand in the Gospel? It means that regarding ourselves and the Lord Jesus Christ we maintain still that we are just in such a state as we were before, and can do nothing concerning the salvation of our souls. In other words, that after ten years of conversion, or twenty years, or fifty years, and the seeking to hate sin more and more, and to love holiness more and more, we maintain still, and will maintain to the end of our life, that we are sinners; that we deserve nothing but punishment; that we cannot save ourselves, or do anything in the least for ourselves in the matter of salvation; that we depend still, as we did at the first, entirely on what the Lord Jesus Christ did and suffered in our room and stead. If this is the mind in which we are, then we stand in the Gospel; if not, we do not stand in the Gospel. We must till the end of our earthly pilgrimage remain of the same mind in which we were when first we came to Christ. Each must own, "I am a sinner; I deserve nothing but punishment. If I am saved, it must be in the way of grace, through a Substitute, Who in my room and stead fulfilled the law which I had broken times without number, and Who in my room, as Substitute, bore the punishment due to me."
If this is the state of our heart and mind, then we are standing in the Gospel; if it is otherwise, if in the least degree we take the smallest particle of credit to ourselves in the matter of salvation, we are not standing in the Gospel. A deeply important point! And it is particularly for another reason important that we have this mind. Important not merely regarding the final salvation, but regarding the present peace and joy in God, for he or she taking the least particle of credit to himself or herself in the matter of salvation loses the peace of God and real, true spiritual enjoyment, for God is determined to give all the honour and glory to His Only-begotten Son-the choicest Gift He had to bestow on poor sinners. And He will not, therefore, with a sinful human creature divide the glory of what belongs to Christ, and to Christ alone.
Now the last point. "By which also"-that is, by the Gospel-" by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." By the Gospel we are saved! Precious! O delightful news. Because it is such good news, therefore it is called the Gospel. The Gospel means "glad tidings," "good news"; and these are the glad tidings: that we are at last saved by the Gospel. In the first place, salvation consists in this-that we get a glorified body, completely free, and free for eternity from all weakness, weariness, pain, suffering, langour, sickness of any kind, and from death. No longer exposed to death. Now how pleasant is the news of this!
Then, again, as to weariness, irrespective of suffering. Children of God delight to labour for the Lord; it is an exceeding great joy to them to work six, or eight hours, in the course of the day, and some by reason of health and strength are delighted to spend ten and twelve hours in working for the Lord, and some surpass even this; but yet, however long we may be able to work while in the body here on earth, though it be sixteen or even eighteen hours, at last most assuredly there will come the weariness, the weakness, the inability to go on working any longer. But when we obtain our glorified body, when salvation comes to the full, no more of this weariness.
Yea, there will be the working four and twenty hours, day by day, throughout the whole week, seven times four and twenty hours (speaking after the manner of men) without the least weariness; and thus it will go on throughout the whole months, and throughout the whole years (speaking after the manner of men), and not a particle of weakness or weariness experienced while thus engaged for the Lord. And so it will be year after year, and one ten years after the other ten years, and one hundred years after the other hundred years, and one thousand years after the other thousand years, and never a particle of weakness or weariness experienced, when once salvation is completed and we obtain our glorious body. O how delightful is this! What glad tidings are these! And if they were held on to by faith, the heart would be full, brimful of joy!
O how delightful we should be if really and truly entering into all this; but there is something even more precious still-all this service will be joyfully rendered to the Lord, and be perfectly free from failure and shortcomings. There will not be a single particle of sin mixed up with our work and labour for the Lord. At present, while we are in the body, in this state of weakness and imperfection, with all our holy longing, with all our prayerful desire, yea, with our earnest prayers, still now and then is mingled a word which is not quite according to the mind of God; a thought which was not found in the blessed Jesus, and therefore not perfectly according to the mind of God.
But when brought to see Jesus as He is, and made like Him in body and soul, everything that we do will be perfectly Christ-like, everything that we say will be perfectly Christ-like; all that we think, that we desire, that we wish, for which we have inclination, all will be perfectly according to the mind of Christ. O what a blessed prospect is this for weak ones as we are, for erring ones as we are, for such who have their spiritual infirmities, great and many and varied, though hating sin and loving holiness. O what bright and glorious prospects are these! And all this is not merely a fancy of ours, but a reality.
We shall, verily, the weakest spiritually among us, be brought to this state of things when once salvation is complete! And this will never be altered, this will never be lost; we shall be throughout eternity in perfect, full, complete communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, and in fellowship habitually with Him-what commonly is called partnership; in complete, holy, godly partnership with Christ in every way! O how precious! Yea, in partnership with God the Father, not merely with the Lord Jesus Christ, our elder Brother. O how precious! How bright! How glorious are our prospects! And were all this known and entered into, everybody in the whole world would care about Christ; but because it is not known, and, if known, not believed, therefore the number of those who really and truly surrender the heart to. Christ is yet so small.
Now let us lay all these things to heart. Let us, if we have never yet treated them as realities, do so from this evening; from henceforth for the rest of our Jives. There is one word more. "By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." We must hold fast what was declared unto us by the Apostle; we have not to listen to false teachers, we have not to listen to those who pervert the Gospel, we have not to receive the statements of such teachers whereby the churches in the Roman province of Galatia were deluded in thinking that they must be circumcised and keep the law of God, like the Israelites did, in order to be saved. Nothing of the kind. Salvation is given to us in a way of grace, and through faith in Christ, through trusting in that which the Lord Jesus Christ has done and suffered. This is what the Apostle refers to. "If ye keep in memory what I preached unto you." Ye must hold fast the statements of the Apostles, "unless ye have believed in vain." The blessing will be lost, if we do not keep in memory the teaching of the Apostles.
Therefore, in the days in which we live, when good works are mixed up with the work of Christ, we have to be warned by all this; and, in childlike simplicity, enquire and go on enquiring what did Paul preach, what did Peter preach, what did John preach, and what did the other Apostles say. We have to find out this in the New Testament, and to hold fast to what they say. This is the way of continuing in the ways of God, and enjoying the truth of the Gospel; and therefore to be blessed with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
God grant this to all here present; and should there be one individual who is as yet looking to his or her doings for salvation, let him or her remember-I say it once more-we can alone be saved through Christ, and not anyone of us by our own doings.
Christ, the Refuge of Sinners! A Sermon preached at Kensington Baptist Chapel, Stapleton Road, Bristol, on Sunday morning, March 28th, 1897, on the occasion of the Chapel Anniversary.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. I Tim. i., 15.
IN the first part of this statement-"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners "-it is recorded that it is a "faithful saying"-not a questionable saying, or one that is exposed to the shadow of a doubt! We, who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, should make it habitually our business to show by our life and love for God that we believe implicitly in the truth of the statement that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners! Therefore, our business is to be faithful witnesses for the truth of the Gospel!
It is next stated that "it is worthy of all acceptation." It is worthy, therefore, to be received by us; it is our duty to receive this statement that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Now what do we say regarding this? Do we individually all of us set our seal to this by receiving it implicitly? There are very many here at present who do so. I question not that there are hundreds here present who do so-who have received this statement of God's Holy Spirit that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners! But my heart's desire and prayer is that everyone of you, without exception, may receive this statement. There is no other Saviour but Jesus Christ, and we must receive this truth into our hearts. There is no other way regarding the salvation of our souls but through Him! O let us lay this to heart!
And then we have to consider that "He came into the world," not that He was born into the world! This is particularly to be noticed. If it had been stated that He was born into the world, it would have been true so far as regards his human nature. Mary was His mother according to His human nature; but the divinity of our Lord Jesus is referred to here. Our Saviour was really and truly a man as much as we are; but He was really and truly God as God the Father. It would have been quite true if it had been stated that He was born into the world to save sinners. But here, however, the divinity of our Lord is pointed out to us! He is the Creator of everything that exists; the Builder, the Upholder, of everything that exists. But as the divinity of our blessed Lord is here referred to, it was necessary that He should be really and truly divine as the Father of our souls! That He should be human was necessary in order that, in our form and state, he might fulfil the law of God which we have broken times without number, and thus work out the righteousness in which we can now find ourselves, but which by nature we cannot of ourselves obtain, for we have nothing of our own. Of our own righteousness we cannot be accepted by God! In the Word of God it is compared to filthy rags. By God's love, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all those who trust in Him for salvation; and solely on the ground of the righteousness of Christ, poor sinners-old and young-male and female-rich and poor-educated or uneducated-any and everyone trusting alone in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation shall be accepted!
Now, it was necessary that he should be human in order that, as a human being, born under the law, he should fulfil the law of God which we have broken times without number, by action, by word, by thought, by feeling, by desire, by purpose, and by inclination! But the righteousness of Christ shall be put to our account-shall be reckoned to our account! We shall ourselves be considered as if we had fulfilled the law of God, if we put our trust in Christ!
Further, it was necessary that He should be really and truly human in order that our sin might be punished in the person of the substitute-that punishment might actually be borne by the person who was to be our substitute--even the Man Christ Jesus! And therefore the substitute, in order to make a real atonement for our sins; must bear this punishment in our room and stead.
But this is only one side of the truth. The other side of the truth is this: He was truly divine as the Father; and it was necessary to give value to the righteousness entrusted to Him and imputed to us, and also to give value to the atonement, that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hung upon the cross and shed His blood for the remission of our sins! A mere human being might have been crucified; but this human being would merely have been punished himself through the death of crucifixion. This, however, would not have given value to the blood that was shed. It must be the blood of the God-man, Christ Jesus! This very blood which was shed is called the "blood of God" -for He was truly God as well as man-was shed for the remission of our sins; and it was just this which gave the value to the blood, for it was to be efficacious in the salvation not merely of one sinner, nor a thousand, nor a million poor sin-sick souls; but an innumerable company were to be saved by this blood-the blood of that blessed Jesus who took our sins-my sins, your sins-upon Him. Therefore the blood, to be of value, must be the blood of the God-man, Christ Jesus! This is the valuable part-the all-important fact to be remembered by us!-Christ's blood can save us from all sin! And we can only be saved through Him who shed His precious blood for our ransom and regeneration!
And now, my dear friends, how precious is this thought! Yes, how precious! The law has been fulfilled! I am a poor, wicked, hell-deserving sinner-you, and I, too, are poor miserable sinners under the law; yet, if you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, God will accept and receive you through the righteousness of Christ which is put to your credit, reckoned to your account, imputed to you!
The Lord Jesus Christ has made an atonement for every one of our numberless transgressions, for all our sinful ways, sinful words, wicked thoughts! That blessed, precious, adorable, loving Saviour has made an atonement for every one of our sinful words as well as sinful actions! Yes! He has made an atonement! And not only was this atonement to be for every one of our sinful thoughts, unholy desires, ungodly wishes and inclinations, but the Lord Jesus Christ made the atonement to the full! And thus it comes that the poor sinner is saved! O how precious! How comforting to our sin-sick souls!
Now, the next point that we have especially to consider is this: He came into the world to save SINNERS! Yes, my dear friends, sinners! It does not say that He came into the world to save EXCELLENT people, or those who are very good, or those who are only moderate sinners! Then I must go to hell, for I was a great sinner for the first twenty years of my life. For several years I was pursuing the pleasures of the world-the vanities of the world-the vices of the world! These were what I followed! And yet I went to the University to study for a clergyman! Yes! that was the intention-to make me a clergyman. I attended the Classical Schools; and for nine years after I entered the University, and attended the examinations to become a clergyman-I say for nine years, from the time that I was ten and a half till I was nineteen and a half-and still preparing for a clergyman, I was living far from God! For six years-from the time that I was fourteen till I was twenty years of age-I never read one single chapter of the Bible-not one single verse! I read the Hebrew and the Greek New Testament, and had the Bible in my own language, but I never read it!
This was the state in which God found me! There was nothing for me but hell I-nothing but hell! I knew nothing of that wondrous cross until God opened my eyes, when I was twenty years and five months old, and showed me what a wicked young man I was, and that I was deserving of nothing but hell! But, blessed be His Name, he also showed me from this precious Book that even such a wicked, hell-deserving sinner as I was could be saved from my sins through the blood of Christ and through the atonement which had been made for poor sinners!
Now, I had not your privileges. I had never in my early life heard the Gospel till I was twenty years and five months of age! I had never heard of a real true Christian in my life! No doubt there were many; but I had never heard or seen one! And yet I was one of a number of students in the University who were preparing to become clergymen!
About this time I was led to a little prayer meeting which was held in the house of a tradesman. There were about a dozen or fifteen citizens in the room; and here I, for the first time, heard of Christ. I entered the house of this tradesman as dead in trespasses and sins, and as utterly reckless and careless of divine things as any person in existence. I came away from that little prayer meeting a happy young man-a happy believer in Christ! There were at this time twelve hundred and sixty students in the University; but only three of them were believers in Christ, and I became the fourth! This was the state of things in which I was found when I attended that little prayer meeting, and where for the first time I heard the name of Jesus! Merry company-worldly company-was all that I cared about. I met with nothing but disappointment. Instead of finding happiness in these things, I met with nothing but disappointment.
At last I thought I would travel a great deal and find if that would make me happier. God led me. I travelled for forty-three days in succession-day by day for forty-three days j and I saw some of the most beautiful scenery that is to be found under the canopy of heaven. After the lapse of several weeks, I became so sick and tired and surfeited with travelling that I could pass the most beautiful scenery without looking at it.
But three weeks after I had found Jesus in this little prayer meeting I became a truly happy man; and I have had true, real happiness now for seventy-one years and five months! This real, true happiness, my friends, I desire for everyone of you who is without it; and it is for that reason that I am standing here this morning to bear witness for the Lord Jesus Christ! How many of you have this real, true happiness which I have found in the Lord Jesus Christ?
When I carne home from that little prayer meeting --now mote than seventy years ago--l found myself lying peacefully on my bed blessing and praising God for what He had been doing for me! No believer I conversed with; no one said to me, "Now, mind! you must give up the card-table, and the theatre, and the ball-room, and all those evil ways in which you have been going on." No! but God had given me spiritual life-spiritual instincts-spiritual desires. But I said to myself on that first evening after I carne from that little prayer meeting, "I shall never go any more to the ball-room, or play cards." And I have never been to the ball-room or played cards since. The whole life became different. All at once it became different, because now I was no longer dead in trespasses and in sins. I had now obtained spiritual life, and joyfully and gladly surrendered myself to God, Who had done so much, so very much, for me. And thus I became unspeakably happy.
And I have, my dear friends, been most unspeakably happy ever since, which is now for seventy-one years and five months.
O what a glorious idea-how simple!-how precious!-that through the Gospel of glad tidings preached to us, and coming to, and trusting alone m Jesus, sinners-great sinners, old sinners-may be saved!
After the Apostle had been making this statement that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," he says "Of whom I am chief!" This is not a mere formal expression; it is what St. Paul meant; he considered himself a very great sinner-the greatest sinner: and Paul called himself the chief of sinners! This is not the only passage in which he refers to himself; but, again and again, in his Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of himself as a very great sinner.
Then comes the next verse which follows the text: "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting."
I am now ninety-one years and six months of age, with the prospect of heaven-very near heaven-very near the end of my earthly pilgrimage! Still I am able to work every day, and all the day long. I preach five or six times a week besides; and am able to do it! But although in my ninety-second year, speaking after the manner of men, there is the prospect of being taken away, yet I am unspeakably happy!
And it is unspeakably happy to be able to help one another trusting in Jesus! Never forget that Jesus came to save sinners-such a sinner as I was! But you must accept salvation in God's appointed way. It is through Jesus alone that you can be saved! If sinners in their own way seek to bring themselves to heaven, they will bring themselves to hell! hell! HELL! Yes, they will bring themselves to hell by their good works--by their own righteousness! Sinners can be alone saved by trusting in Jesus for salvation, for He is Lord!
That is, that the Lord Jesus Christ, in showing to Paul-formerly named Saul, the great persecutor-that as the Lord had saved Paul, a great sinner as He was, so our Saviour thereby showed to every sinner under heaven at any time afterwards that no one need despair of the possibility of obtaining forgiveness! This is a most vital and precious truth! "For this cause I obtained mercy!" That means, "I have obtained forgiveness, for this very cause that, in me, the greatest sinner, the chief of sinners. Jesus Christ might show those "all long-suffering.''' That means, "How much He is now suffering, because what He is ready to do for sinners is not immediately and completely taken advantage of." That certainly does not mean such as are not particularly great sinners. But that He is willing to forgive the greatest sinner. Paul was willing to become a sample-a pattern-so that not a single individual hereafter might have ground for saying, "I am too hardened a sinner! I have lived too long in sin! My sins are too great and too many to bear! I cannot expect forgiveness!" Nothing of the kind! Paul is here given as a sample-a pattern-a specimen-of what God is willing to forgive, and what the Lord Jesus Christ is willing to do in regard to any and every sinner. But that is by "simply trusting in Him" Who has paid the penalty of sin for us by the shedding of His own blood.
O, my friends, how precious! Yes, how precious! Perhaps there is one here present who says, "My mother has wept over me-begged me, with many a tear running adown her aged cheeks, to alter my course and become different; but I am a wretched, guilty sinner, and have continued in my sin up to now!" Ah, my friends! Guilty as you may be-though you could stand against the tears of your poor, dear, aged mother, who has wept over you times out of number-yet even you shall be forgiven if you seek for forgiveness through the righteousness and love of the Lord Jesus Christ!
O how precious! Yes, how precious! Saul was forgiven in order that not a single individual under heaven might say, "I am too old-too great a sinner-too hardened-my sins are too many." Nothing of the kind! If you only seek salvation through Jesus Christ, you may obtain mercy. How unspeakably precious!
This brings before us the point that whilst yet in the body we may know that we are forgiven sinners. We may know that God has forgiven us, and reconciled us to Himself. Do all here present enjoy this know ledge of the forgiveness of their sins? This is what I desire regarding every one here. I have not the shadow of a doubt that there are a vast number here present who do know and enjoy the knowledge of the forgiveness of their sins. But do you all? I have enjoyed the knowledge of the forgiveness of my sins. I have not the least doubt I am as certain that I shall go to heaven as if I were there already. But I deserve nothing but hell. I am a believer, however; and the Word of God declares that God so loved the world that He spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us, so that every believer in Him should have everlasting life-that we might go to heaven. Now, I do believe in Him. Therefore it is certain that I shall be in heaven. The Word of God declares concerning the Lord Jesus that He is the Saviour of sinners; that all who believe and trust in Him for salvation shall obtain the remission of their sins-that is, the forgiveness of their sins. The 43rd verse of the 10th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles states this emphatically: "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His Name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins. Therefore I know that my sins will be forgiven through faith in Christ; and that I shall go to heaven if I trust in the Lord Jesus!
Then, again, we may know that our sins are forgiven even whilst we are here. It is not a matter of indifference to us whether we know it or no. It is of vast importance to us that we should have knowledge of this fact even here, for there is no real state of enjoyment in God without knowing that we are accepted in Him-that our sins are blotted out by the atonement which the Lord Jesus has made for us!
And now, my dear friends, I would therefore affectionately press this point upon every one of you who are believers in Christ. If you have not the knowledge that your sins are forgiven, I would earnestly and lovingly entreat you to give yourselves no rest until you know Christ; and if you trust in Christ alone for salvation, then, according to the passage which I have just quoted, it is certain that your sins are forgiven. Therefore, we may have peace in God, and thus be strong in the Lord, for the joy of the Lord is our strength in the proportion in which we are working for, and loving and trusting in, God. We are dead to the world, and to all its evil influences, if we are thoroughly trusting in Him!
O, my dear friends, it is of the utmost importance to us to know that we are forgiven, to know that we have obtained mercy. What says the' Apostle? " Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first "-in ME, such a great sinner, the Lord Jesus might make a beginning-to show, first, the vastness of his long-suffering-the degree of his long-suffering-the extent of his patience--for all those who should hereafter believe in Him. O! what a comforting thought to a poor heavy-laden sinner! No poor sinner now need despair of salvation-of being forgiven! What a precious thought! O so precious!
Then one word more. Life everlasting! Yes! Life everlasting! An eternity of happiness! A participation in the rivers of pleasure at the right hand of God! Having been washed in the blood of Christ, we are no longer dead in trespasses and sins. We are purified from sin-spiritualized! And O, what a glorious thought: that this spiritual life in us through the gift of the Holy Ghost is everlasting! It is not fully developed yet! It will be fully developed when the Lord takes us to Himself-fully developed through the praise and honour and glory of God! O how precious is this blessing! Every one here present this morning may obtain it! Here is a specimen before you of a guilty image-forgiven, and made a happy man! I have had this happiness now for seventy-one years and five months! And what God did for me, He is willing and ready to do for any and everyone who will accept Christ. O accept Him now!
I have travelled in forty-two countries in my missionary labours; but I think I may say that of the many millions of human beings with whom I came into contact who were deserving of hell, none of them were so deserving of hell as myself-the greatest sinner! This being so, I can assure you the only way to find acceptance in Christ is to trust in Him for full, complete forgiveness all your life! To everyone of you who has not obtained these blessings of which I have been speaking, I have come here this morning as a witness for Christ, for what the blessed Lord did for me He is as willing to do for you. Trust Him; and I am sure you will be happy. Amen.
"Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." A Sermon preached at the Gospel Hall, St. Nicholas Road, Bristol, on Sunday morning, January 10th, 1897.
I am the Lord thy Cod, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.- Psalm lxxxi., 10.
THIS is a figure we all understand, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it;" that is, "Ask great blessings from Me, very great blessings, and I am ready to bestow them." O what a precious, glorious promise at the opening of the New Year, for poor weak ones, as we are. "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." The great point is to apply this to our various particular positions, and to the circumstances in which we are placed.
We often find that the hindrance to the answer of prayer lies in ourselves, because our hearts are not yet prepared for a blessing. Now, in connection with this verse, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it," I will refer, for the comfort and encouragement of beloved Christian friends, to my own experience in connection with the Orphan work, in order that you all increasingly may be comforted and encouraged to expect great things at the hands of God. It is now 68 years ago that my heart was greatly tried, when again and again I saw dear children losing both parents, and there was no one to take a real deep interest in their well-being.
I felt deeply for such bereaved children, and I said again and again to myself, "O I wish I had a little Orphan institution, into which I could take these children." But the desire remained for years only a desire, though I had much prayer in connection with it. In the November of the year 1835, a particular circumstance occurred, through the instrumentality of which I was made to know how to be able to do something for destitute orphans, and I began to pray more earnestly than ever I had done before that God would be pleased to guide and direct me whether I should make a beginning of a little Orphan institution. Thus I prayed month after month, and at last I came to the decision that I would do something in this way; and though it might have never so small a beginning, I would make a beginning.
After having come to this decision, I passed one evening-namely, on the 5th of November, 1835-reading the Scriptures, and, as my habit has been since July, 1829, going consecutively through them. That is, not picking out here and there a little portion and reading it, or a few verses here and there, or half a chapter here and there, but going on straight forward, through the whole of the Old Testament, and then through the New Testament. Then, having finished the whole of the Holy Bible, beginning again from the commencement, and so going on. This has been my habit now ever since July, 1829, and I have read four times every year through the whole Bible, with prayer and meditation, and especially with meditation in reference to myself. How does this comfort you? How does it instruct you? How does it warn you? How does it reprove and rebuke you? Thus do I read the Holy Scriptures in regard to myself.
Now, just reading through the whole Bible, I came, at that time, to this 81st Psalm and to this 10th verse, "I am Jehovah thy God, Who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." When I read this verse, I shut the Bible, went to the door of my room and locked it, and then I cast myself on the floor and began to pray. I said to my Heavenly Father, "I have only asked Thee, Heavenly Father, that Thou shouldest show me whether I shall begin the Orphan work or not. Thou hast been pleased to make that plan to me, and now 'I will open my mouth wide.' Be pleased to 'fill it.' Give me, my Heavenly Father, a suitable house to begin the work; give me suitable helpers to take care of the children; and give me a thousand pounds sterling to make a beginning.
A thousand pounds was a very great sum at that time. At the present day it is a very small sum for me, for often and often I have in one day to pay away -a thousand pounds? No, not merely a thousand, but £2,000, £3,000, in one day; yea, again and again £4,000, £5,000, and £6,000 in one day. But at that time a thousand pounds was a great sum to me. Nevertheless, I expected to get it, though I did not know how. I expected to get it from my Heavenly Father, on the ground of this promise. The next day I received a shilling from a German missionary staying in my house. I had for six months, staying with me, six missionaries, brethren and sisters, and one of these brethren gave me a shilling. Another German missionary staying in my house, out of the six, gave me another shilling. This was the first money I received in connection with the thousand pounds.
Everyone of you say, "A very little beginning;" but it was a beginning. I received also on the same day a second gift, a very large wardrobe for the house I was going to open for destitute orphans. Then I went on praying, and by little and little I received more; and very soon there was one especially remarkable answer to prayer. There was in fellowship with us a sister, a seamstress. She earned by her needle half-a-crown, or three shillings, or three-and-six; but the very utmost that now and then she earned was five shillings-never more than this. And this weakly, afflicted sister, this seamstress, sent me £100 for the Orphan work. I would not accept it. I knew not how this came about, that this poor, weakly sister, who earned so very little, should have sent me £100.
I therefore sent for her, and had an interview with her. I found that her grandfather had died, and by a legacy, in which he had left to his children and grandchildren, this money had come to her. The sum of £480 had been left to her, and out of this she would give £100 for the Orphan work. When I saw her, I said, "I cannot accept your £100, for I am afraid you have done all this in haste, and you may regret it afterwards, and that would be a sad affair. I cannot take this money." She said, "I have not done it in haste; I have well considered it; I have prayed much over it. I must entreat you to take the money. My brothers and sisters each gave to my mother £50, out of the money that they had inherited; but, as I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I gave my mother £100. Then my brothers and sisters would pay the debts of my father when he died, though they were not bound to do it; but they agreed with the creditors, the public-house keepers to whom he owed the money, for he was fond of drinking, that they would give five shillings in the pound.
"Now, though my father did not as he ought to have done, in incurring these debts at public-houses, yet he was my father, and I am a child of God, and I ought to honour my father, though he did not walk as he should have done, and I agreed with these public-house keepers that I would repay the whole of their debt. So I went and paid the fifteen shillings in the pound which my brothers and sisters had not paid. And you must take the £100. I feel so deeply interested in your purposing to open a little Orphan institution, that I would rather give the whole of the money than that it should not come to pass; and to show to you that I do it after much consideration, here is not merely the hundred pounds, but five pounds more, which I request you to give to the poor as a proof that I do this heartily, and have well considered it."
Under these circumstances, I saw how this godly sister had well weighed the matter, and I took the hundred pounds just as God's plan of giving. And thus by little and little, and with large help from some, came in the money, and I was able to open a large house in Wilson Street, in St. Paul's parish, with the extremely useful help of two sisters who gave themselves to the work, one as a teacher and the other as a seamstress. Thus I was able to fit up and furnish a house, and had a small sum in hand to make a beginning. The house was now ready, and a day was fixed when I would receive the applications for the reception of orphans. I went to the vestry. I had appointed two hours to see the relatives of destitute orphans. I sat there half-an-hour. Nobody came. I sat a whole hour. Nobody came. I sat an hour and a half. I sat two hours. Nobody came to make application for orphans, and I had to go away without one single application.
On my way home, I said to myself, "I have prayed about everything, but I have never asked God to send me orphans." For I took it for granted that there were tens, and hundreds, and thousands of orphans in England, and that the orphans would be coming in hundreds. But the Word of God says, "In everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God." I had prayed for the right house, for the right helpers, for the money; and, when I had finished the house, I prayed about the furniture, almost every article. But I had never asked God to send orphans. Well, I cast myself down on the floor before God, and confessed that I had erred in this matter, and asked His forgiveness, and asked Him if, after all, I had been deceiving myself, and that He would be more glorified by bringing the whole to nought than by my getting an Orphan institution to do so-to bring the whole thing to nought. If He could be more glorified, I should rejoice.
But I could not help thinking that it would be for the glory and honour of His Name if He brought it to pass, and I asked Him to send me orphans. The next morning, at eleven o'clock, I went again, and before one month had passed 42 orphans had applied, though the house was only large enough for 30. So God answered prayer, and the house was filled. Six months later I opened a second house for 36 children. That was filled very soon. Twelve months later I opened a third house for 30 children. That was filled, and a short time after I opened a fourth house for 30 more children. Now I had 126 orphans, with eleven helpers, who laboured among these children.
But the applications continued more and more. I therefore felt I must build a house, large enough to hold hundreds of orphans. But this would cost an immense sum of money. However, I said, "The Lord is able to give it to me," and for thirteen weeks I prayed for land. The Lord gave it me on Ashley Down. Then I continued praying for money, as I wanted to build a house for 300 orphans. By little and little it came in. I began the house. The house was finished. All was paid for, though it cost more than £15,000. Yet I had £676 over and above, after all was paid. But the house was soon filled, and the applications increased more and more.
Then I said, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" And after much prayer, it was to go on building accommodation for 700 more, that I might have 1,000 orphans under my care. Now, when I had nothing but £30 in hand, the devil said, and had it circulated, that I had £30,000 in hand. Instead of contradicting it in the newspapers, saying that it was a lie of Satan, I simply spoke to my Heavenly Father, "Lord, Thou knowest that this is a lie of Satan; confound him; Lord, confound him, and influence the hearts of Thy children to help me." So by little and little the money came in, and after a number of years there stood another house, and all paid for, and a third house for 350 more began!
That also was finished. Now I had accommodation for 1,150 orphans, and, after all was paid for, there were between two and three thousand pounds over and above in hand! But, remarkable to say, nine hundred orphans were yet waiting for admission! I had now accommodation for 1,150, but 900 were yet waiting. So I prayed, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? I do not want orphan houses, but if Thou wilt help me to go on, here is Thy servant, and Lam ready." Well, I began two houses more, each for 450, that I might be able to accommodate those 900 that were waiting, and there stood the houses after some years, erected at a cost of £60,000. Now these five houses accommodate at one time 2,050 orphans, and I have accommodation for 112 helpers and assistants as matrons, teachers, etc., for the destitute orphans. And in all God has been pleased to give me, simply in answer to prayer, £1,416,000 sterling! One million, four hundred and sixteen thousand pounds sterling, without asking a single human being!
There is none, in this whole city, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny; there is none, in the whole of England, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny; there is none under heaven, in the whole wide world, who can say that I ever asked them for a penny. To God, and to God alone, I went; and I did this because I knew ever since my conversion that one of the greatest necessities for the Church of God at large was an increase of faith. Therefore, I determined to dedicate my whole life to this one great lesson, for the Church of God to learn, and the world at large to learn: real, true, lasting dependence on God.
Thus I have now been going on for 68 years, not only regarding the work of God, but regarding my own temporal necessities and the necessities of my family, and I have laid every burden on God, and God.
again and again has helped me. He has also led me to the founding of many schools. I have had 117 schools under my direction throughout England, Scotland, India, the Straits of Malacca, British Guiana, Demerara, Essequibo, Berlice, in Spain, in France, in Italy, and in other parts of the world. And in these schools have been educated 122,000 young people. One hundred and twenty-two thousand young people; and from among them, more than 20,000 have been converted that we know of. In heaven I expect to meet more than 40,000 or 50,000; but we know that more than 20,000 were converted while they were in the schools, the masters having given reports. Sometimes fifty and sixty in half-a-year in one single school have been brought to the knowledge of the Lord, and thus has it gone on that God has abundantly blessed the work.
Then, in regard to the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, God has abundantly blessed that. Bibles in various languages to the number of 279,000 I have been enabled to circulate, and 1440,000 New Testaments, 21,000 copies of the Book of Psalms, and 222,000 other portions; and God has also abundantly blessed this part of the work, especially in Spain, in Italy, and in Ireland. Then as to missionary operations, I have been enabled to aid a large number of missionaries and helpers, and altogether I have spent £258,000 on missions alone. The matter of the circulation of tracts was also particularly laid on my heart, and God has granted me the privilege of circulating 109 millions of Scriptural books, pamphlets, and tracts-not 109 thousand, but a thousand times as much. One hundred and nine millions of books, pamphlets, and tracts, in various languages-so many that this large hall would not hold them, and 400 big cart horses would not be able to drag them away! To such an extent have tracts and books been circulated.
Thousands of souls have been brought to Jesus through the instrumentality of the four or five hundred missionaries that I have sought to assist, and as for the Orphan work, I have been enabled to receive 9,750 orphans. That may seem to you a small number in comparison with what we can have at one time in the houses. The reason is this: we have the orphan girls and boys from their earliest days, and often and often we have girls in the houses fifteen years, sixteen years, even seventeen years, and in a few instances longer than seventeen years. That is the reason why the number has been comparatively so small, though we have the accommodation of the greatest Orphan institution under heaven. There is not a second Orphan "institution in the whole wide world so large as that on Ashley Down. Out of these 9,750 orphans, between 4,000 and 5,000 have been brought to the knowledge of Jesus; more than 2,000 are already in heaven; over 2,000 are walking in various parts of the world as believers, and we have at present about 000 in the Orphan houses who are believers.
One single point more for your encouragement, and for the sake that my beloved Christian friends may be led increasingly to give themselves to prayer, especially for the conversion of sinners. When I came to Bristol, sixty-four years and seven months since, and we met for the first time in the breaking of bread at the Lord's Supper, there were seven of us. That was all "Seven of us." Since then there have been received by us, as a Church, more than 6,000 into fellowship. Let this be another encouragement to go forward. And when the branch Churches that have sprung out of the Church at Bethesda are taken in, O how many thousands more! So let this be a great encouragement for prayer. Seven, meeting the first time round the Lord's table! And now look at the many, many thousands who have been converted since, and been received at the Lord's table.
Are there any here who have not yet believed? See what God is willing to give in answer to prayer. See what He is willing to give to you, my dear young man, my dear young woman, and you elder friends. If any of you do not know the Lord, see what God is willing to do in answer to prayer. I am a poor, miserable sinner myself, deserving nothing but hell if I had my deserts; but see what God has given to a poor miserable sinner, simply for Christ's sake. I trust in Him, and therefore, for Christ's sake, He has given to me; and what He has given to me, He is willing to give to you. O expect blessings from Him, and He will give them to you, if you seek them by earnest prayer.
For instance, are any weak and feeble as to the body, suffering pain, or needing anything in reference to their health. This text applies to then, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." The very connection in which this stands here in this verse gives to us the assurance that we shall have blessing in God's own time and way, for it was He Who brought, under the most difficult circumstances, the Israelites out of Egypt. Neither Pharoah nor his servants would let them go; he had kept them long as slaves, made them to work continually under the most trying circumstances. Everything that the Scripture tells us was done to them was done with rig our, whether they were brick-makers, or were working in the fields, or were building stone cities for Pharoah. Nothing in that treatment escaped. Jehovah says, through Moses and Aaron, to Pharoah, "Let them go." The reply of Pharoah is against Jehovah, " I know not Jehovah; I do not mean to let them go." Presently, when this request is repeated and neglected, and there comes a judgment on him, he minds it not. There comes one judgment after the other, and one judgment after the other increases more and more; but he will not let them go. At last comes the most awful of all the judgments; in every house throughout the country one is taken, the firstborn throughout the land slain in one night by the destroying angel who goes through the land. Now the Israelites are allowed to go; yea, driven out of the country for fear they should all be dead men if they were not to let them go.
Thus we see what God is able to do in man's behalf, seeing that He, under these circumstances, could get out of the state of bondage and slavery those hundreds of thousands of Israelites. And not merely is the power of Jehovah seen in this verse, but His love also. Who were these Israelites? Were they better than the Egyptians? They were decidedly worse than the Egyptians, because they had more knowledge than the Egyptians, and yet were a stiff-necked, rebellious, hard, wicked people. But notwithstanding all this, Jehovah brings them out of the country by reason of the love He has for them, and by reason of the covenant into which He had entered with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and because He is Jehovah, the covenant-keeping God. Now in all this can we not see especial encouragement in regard to our own case? If, therefore, we need anything in reference to our bodies, let us go to our Heavenly Father. Do we need anything in reference to our family positions? Tried by our children, tried, greatly tried it may be, by the husband or wife, or perhaps by our relatives? Let us bring these things before God! It is no use complaining, speaking about it particularly to one another; no, instead of murmuring, bring this matter often before God in prayer, look to Him for help and support, and entreat Him again and again that He would, in the riches of His grace, deliver you out of your trials.
Then again, in reference to our business, our earthly occupation, our profession. Axe there particular trials? Are there particular difficulties? Instead of continually talking and fretting about the competition, the difficult times, the tricks manifested in trades and businesses, the matter should be carried to the Lord. Meekly, quietly, gently, submissively behaving ourselves under the circumstances, and again, again, and again bringing the matter before God and leaving it there. And we should find that this is the very best remedy which could be used! Then not merely in reference to temporal matters, but to spiritual things also, this is to be applied. For instance, in our spiritual conflict there is nothing better than to remember this gracious, this most precious promise, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." We feel the natural evil tendencies within us, we struggle against them, we seek to overcome them, we find ourselves too weak, but God is able to help us, and out of these things He will bring us. Our text says, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it," and so it encourages us to come to God and ask great blessings in respect to these things, and we shall find how ready He is to help us so that pride and high-mindedness, carelessness and slothfulness, indulgence in natural evil tendencies, can be overcome by the power of God the Holy Spirit.
Then in reference to our work and labour and service for the Lord, as Sunday School teachers, as tract distributors, as visitors of the sick. In all these matters we can obtain help from God. In ourselves extremely weak, let us seek help in the right way. As teachers it: the Church of God, as pastors, as labourers in any way spiritually, wonderful help can be obtained from God in answer to prayer, so that if we "open our mouths wide" we shall find the text fulfilled.
The second point in connection with this is especially to be noticed. "He will fill it." "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." "I will fill it." "I will fill it." It is not stated, "Perhaps I will fill it," or "I shall see if I will do it or not." No promise of this kind. He does not say, "If thou art doing so and so, I will fill it." We have not to fill our mouth after we have opened it wide; that is, we have not by our own power and ability and skilfulness to bring about the fulfilment of the promise. We have to leave this to God. He will do it. We have not to look to our fellow-men to bring about the answer to prayer, as often is the case on the part of dear children of God. They look to their fellow-men, instead of having the eye fixed upon the almighty power of God and the loving heart of God; they look to their fellowmen to answer their prayers. "I will fill it," He says. We have not to look to circumstances, or to a contingency in everyday things and affairs, but to God Himself is the eye to be directed. "I will fill it." "I will fill it."
Then, in the third place, we have not to be discouraged because our mouth is not at once filled; we have not to be discouraged because the answer does not come immediately. Beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, ever be mindful of the fact that in connection with all the many hundreds of promises given to us in connection with prayer, in the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Scriptures, there is not one single passage to be found where God makes in connection with this promise a statement regarding the time when He will fulfil it. He simply states everywhere, "I will do it," "I will answer it." He never says, "At such a time I will answer," " At such a time I will fill your mouth. But He simply states "I will do it." And often and often the delay is found appointed by God so that when the answer comes it may be all the more lovely to us and more suitable to us than if the answer had been immediately given. Yes, and another reason, in order that by the exercise of faith and patience, faith and patience may develop further and further, and increase more and more. There is another, a third, reason. That we may by the exercise of faith and patience glorify God. The world looks on to see how shall we behave ourselves under especial trials and difficulties, what we shall do. Now, if they find us waiting without fretting, without complaining, and especially without murmuring, then they may perceive that we are looking after the things of God, and this may lead to blessing too. Thus by such behaviour we strengthen the hands of our fellow-men.
And then often and often in the experience of the children of God answers to prayer are delayed because their hearts are not yet prepared for the reception of the blessing. I will give you an illustration. Suppose there is a young convert going to work in the Sunday School; he has heard a great deal about answers to prayer, and he longs for answers to prayer, and begins to pray that it may please God very speedily to convert all the children in his class. He goes the first Sunday; he does not find that they are all converted. He goes the second Sunday, the third, and the fourth Sunday, and it is not accomplished. He is tried now, and becomes distressed. He says to himself, " pray so much that all the children under my care in the class may be converted, and yet I go Sunday after Sunday, and they remain unconverted. How comes this?" The reason is because this dear brother is not yet prepared for receiving the blessing, for if the class so very easily were brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, he would take the credit to himself, and begin to look upon himself and to ‘say what an excellent teacher he is, and how much he could accomplish in the conversion of those scholars, instead of its all being' done by the power at the Holy Ghost. The heart is not yet prepared for the reception of the blessing; therefore the blessing is delayed. But let this beloved young brother go on waiting upon God, coming more and more to see that he can do nothing in the way of converting sinners, that all must be accomplished by the power of the Holy Ghost, then when the blessing is given, and the class converted, he will be prepared to give all the honour and glory to God.
Thus often and often we find that the hindrance to the answer to prayer lies in ourselves, because our hearts are not yet prepared for a blessing.