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.
Glorying in the Cross of Christ. A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on Sunday evening, March 14th, 1897.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Gal. vi., 14.
This verse was written by the Apostle Paul in contradistinction to the false teachers, who gloried, made their boast, and rejoiced in outward observances, outward forms and ceremonies, and in all the Mosaic appointments which were intended only for a time, until there came the Saviour of sinners, our Lord Jesus. Now in contradistinction to these false teachers the Apostle writes, "But God forbid;" that means, "Far be it." That is always the meaning when we find this phrase, either in the Old or the New Testament. "But ‘far be it' that I should glory"-that I, the Apostle Paul, should glory, make my boast, rejoice in this, as those false teachers did-" 'far be it' that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." In the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ he would glory, make his boast, rejoice!
Now the first thing that we have to ask is, "What is meant by the CROSS of Christ?" Not the ceremonies of the Papists, in crossing themselves, that is not the meaning of it; nor to wear, as an ornament, a cross; nor to carry about a large construction representing the cross on which the Lord Jesus Christ hung and was put to death; nor does it mean that cross on which He expired, was hanged, and His hands and feet pierced with large nails-for if it were possible that we could have that very identical cross, it would not be worth a farthing; it could do no good whatever. Relics were sold in Popish times, and alleged relics of this very identical cross on which the Lord Jesus Christ hung have been sold for very large sums of money. But all of no use. If the whole of the identical cross on which the Lord Jesus Christ was put to death could be obtained, it would profit nothing- as to the salvation of the soul; it would profit nothing even as to one particle of spiritual benefit to be derived from it; it would be worth not one single farthing so far as the actual value was concerned in reference to spiritual benefit.
Now, then, what have we to understand by the cross of Christ? Even this. The blessing obtained through the instrumentality of what our precious Lord Jesus Christ accomplished while He was hanging on the cross, shedding His blood for the salvation of our souls! This is what we have to understand by the cross of Christ! Now nothing in which these false teachers glory, in which they make their boast, is of the least particle of spiritual profit and avail; but that which our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished while He hung on the cross, shedding His blood for the remission of our sins, making an atonement for us, delivering us from the curse of the law, this is of the deepest value! O how precious! Now this we have particularly to keep before us! When the Lord Jesus Christ hung on the cross, it was that He might make an atonement for our sins! It was that He might bear the punishment due to all who put their trust in Him! It was that He might deliver us from the curse of the law, because He became thus a curse for us, for it is written in the Books of Moses that "He who hangs on a tree," i.e., is put to death as a malefactor by being bung on a tree, "is accursed of God;" and it was by the Lord Jesus Christ thus worthily allowing Himself to be put to death by wicked men on the tree, and on the cross, that He delivered us from the curse of the law.
Every sinner in his natural state is a transgressor before God! Everyone, so long as he or she is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, is under the curse of God, by day and by night, whether at home, or travelling, whether on the land or on the sea, whether eating or fasting, whether at work or at rest-all the time that he is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ he is under the curse of God! Every morsel he puts into his mouth, he puts there as one who is accursed of God; every drop of water he takes, he takes as one who is under the curse of God. And wherever he is, in whatever state of body, in whatever occupation he is engaged, he is under the curse, so long as he is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ!
O remember this! And in this state we must remain until we are believers in the Lord Jesus, for we have no righteousness of our own by which we can commend ourselves to God! There is no righteousness of our own that will deliver us from this curse under which we are by nature! A fearful condition in which every unconverted person is, and it is simply because they do not see it that they have a particle of quietness of mind; that they are not raving mad is simply because they are ignorant of the condition in which they are! O the solemnity of the thought! Can it be too much weighed, too much considered, too much pondered, in order to get rid of it?
Then, again, through the cross of the Lord Jesus we are not simply delivered from the curse; through what the Lord Jesus Christ worthily took on Himself to deliver us from, the state in which we are by nature, we are not merely delivered, but from the state of thraldom and slavery of sin in which all of us are as unconverted. Spiritual freedom we only receive, and can only receive, by putting our trust in the Lord Jesus, by apprehending the power of the Blood of Christ, shed by Him when He made an atonement for our sins, hanging on the accursed tree! O the solemnity of this! We try to make ourselves better in our natural condition, we try to put aside this thing and another thing, which we see to be contrary to the mind of God. We may have in our natural condition light enough to see that we cannot remain in the condition in which we are; and try then, on this account, to make ourselves better, but we are unable to deliver ourselves from the slavery and bondage of sin till we are brought to believe in Christ.
O, I remember sometimes as a young man, being from my earliest days educated to become a clergyman, and yet careless, reckless, unconcerned about the things of God, never reading the Scriptures, going on in all the folly and frivolity of this present evil world, caring only about eating and drinking, new clothes, and going about to the theatre, the ball-room, to the card-table, and the billiard-room, All these things I only cared about, not about God and His precious Word. Under these circumstances, nevertheless twice a year, the Lord's Supper was taken, as a formal thing, a customary thing; and twice at such times I swore with the bread of the ordinance in my mouth that I would become a different man, for I had light enough to see that it would not do to go on in this careless way, habitually frequenting the theatre, and the ball-room, and the card-table, and the billiard-room-it would not do to become a clergyman under such circumstances. Therefore, I swore solemnly twice on these occasions I would become different. The next day was just as before.
How came this? Not because there was not a measure of sincerity. I saw the folly in a certain sense of going on in this way, but I was dead in trespasses and in sins. I had no spiritual life in myself. I was not regenerated. Therefore, I was a ready victim to the devil; he could lead me about, and induce me just as he pleased, and bid me do this, that, or another thing, and I was ready enough to do it by reason of the natural, carnal mind. But the moment I apprehended the power of the Blood of Christ, I became completely different. One evening, at a little prayer meeting, I saw, all at once, by the grace of God, that I was a sinner, and that Christ was a Saviour for sinners, and having entered the house where the little meeting was held as one who was as far from God as he possibly could be, I left a happy Christian.
That night I found myself lying on my bed peacefully, a forgiven sinner, and without a single human being having conversed with me on the subject. I said at once to my Heavenly Father, "My Heavenly Father, I no longer go to the theatre, I no longer go to the ball-room, I no longer shall be found at the card-table, and in the billiard-room; I know something far better than these; Thou hast made me to be a happy child of Thine; I seek now to live to Thee, to glorify Thee." This without having conversed with a single individual under heaven. I was at once instructed by the Holy Ghost to say this to my Heavenly Father. I became now a spiritually free man. Before, I was a slave to sin for 20 years and five weeks. Now, being a believer in Christ, regenerated, born again, a child of God, all was at an end, and ever since that time, on the 1st of November, 1825, now 71 years ago, my whole life has been a different one.
Now, you see the oath that I had sworn to God came to nothing, simply because I was not born again; I was not a believer in Christ. I had depended in my own strength to make myself different, and all came to nothing; but when I came to Christ, was made a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I became a spiritually free man, and I obtained thus, through faith in Christ, power over sin, because I had now spiritual life, and I was constrained by love and gratitude to the precious Lord Jesus Christ to live a completely different life from what before had been the case. Now, then, this brings before us that we should glory in the cross of Christ, that we should make our boast in the cross of Christ, that we should rejoice in what the Lord Jesus Christ did for sinners while He hung on the cross, because He made an atonement for their sins, and thus obtained for them that they should become spiritually free men. Through faith in Him they are regenerated, obtain spiritual life, and thus become free from sin.
Now let us particularly seek to enter into this, that we should glory in the cross of Christ, make our boast in it. We have no goodness of our own, no merit of / our own, no righteousness of our own; our good acts and deeds are compared to filthy rags in the Scriptures-there is sin connected with them all; therefore in our own goodness, merit, worthiness, and righteousness we cannot make our boast. But in what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for poor sinners, and is doing for poor sinners, we can glory and make our boast, because it becomes ours through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Firstly, all the glory belongs to God, not the least particle of glory belongs to us; what we are, and what we have, we have all in and through our Lord Jesus Christ; we have nothing in ourselves. The Lord Jesus Christ, through what He has accomplished, has given us spiritual life! We, who were dead in trespasses and in sins, have obtained through faith in Him spiritual life. And let me affectionately tell all those who are not yet believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, who are dead in trespasses and sins. "You have no spiritual life in yourselves, you can have no spiritual life in yourselves, till you are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; and therefore, being dead in trespasses and sins, you cannot make yourselves better, because you are dead, and just as a dead man cannot make himself better, so you cannot make yourselves better as long as you are not believers in Christ." Therefore ask God to show you that you are sinners, that you may own it before God in prayer; and then when you have owned it before God, ask Him to help you to put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, for so you will obtain spiritual life, being born again.
Through this faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we obtain forgiveness of our sins-everyone of our numberless transgressions is forgiven, immediately forgiven, when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot work in any way so as to obtain this forgiveness by our own doings, by our own work. It is through Jesus having made an atonement for our sins that we obtain forgiveness; it is through Jesus having in our room and stead fulfilled the law of God, the commandments of God, that we, putting our trust in Him, are reckoned righteous. For naturally we are unrighteous, we are sinners, and great sinners in the sight of God. But the believer in Christ is pardoned, and everyone of his numberless transgressions forgiven; not a single sin remains to be punished, but everyone forgiven! Now, is not this unspeakably blessed? O seek to enter into it! It is this which makes me such a happy man!
I know that though I have been guilty of thousands and tens of thousands of sins, in action, in word, in thought, in feeling, in desire, in purpose, in inclination, yet everyone of these thousands and tens of thousands of sins is forgiven, and not one single sin stands against me. So I am able to look my Heavenly Father in the face without dread and without fear; I would follow Him up to the end of my earthly pilgrimage, either by death or the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I look at all this without a particle of dread or fear, because, as a believer in Christ, all my numberless transgressions are forgiven. I am regenerated through faith in Christ, and thus have I become a child of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ my Elder Brother. I am an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ! O how precious are all these things.
And hereafter, as regards the world to me, my prospect is I shall have a glorified body and I shall be perfectly like what the Lord Jesus Christ was while here on earth! O how precious these prospects are! In body like the Lord Jesus after His resurrection, in spirit, in soul, like Him, when I see Him as He is. Perfectly holy! O how precious this; and thus it will go on throughout eternity, one thousand years after the other. Unspeakably happy in the presence of God! One thousand years after the other, partaking of the "rivers of pleasure at the right hand of God!" Not a few draughts of pleasure! Notice the figure. The "rivers of pleasure." The rivers of pleasure, in order to bring before the poor sinner who trusts in Christ what awaits him! How unspeakably blessed the prospect of eternity is!
O if we entered into it, every one would at once come to the Lord Jesus; but because these things are considered simply as religious frenzies and not as realities, they are treated with indifference and carelessness, and put off for a while; and persons say to themselves, "Hereafter I may think a little more about it, but at present I will enjoy the world." And thus, day after day, and week after week, these blessed, glorious realities are put aside, until suddenly one day the end comes and the sinner is found in an unprepared state! O if this were only entered into! One thousand years after the other, one million years after the other, one hundred millions of years after the other, and all these enjoyments in the presence of the Lord, the partaking of the "rivers of pleasure," of never-ending delights! O if this were taken seriously, persons would indeed care about their souls!
Now the last sentence of our passage. "Far be it from me that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." We see the results of this in what follows, "By whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world." By entering into what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, the result is this. First, the heart is filled with love and gratitude to God for the gift of Jesus, and to the precious Jesus for giving Himself in our room and stead. Next, we are regenerated, become children of God, obtain spiritual life, heavenly life, become one with Christ, and are thus filled with love and gratitude to the precious Jesus for what He accomplished in our room and stead. And the result of this is, in this life, that we in spirit are separated from the world, we can no longer go on in their ways, in their habits, in their maxims, just as I stated was the result in my own case. The very first evening I was brought to Christ, the theatre was given up, the ballroom was given up, the card-table was given up, the billiard-table put aside, and all the worldly habits in which I had been going on year after year; and my heart longed to live a completely different life. Thus, in spirit, separated from the world, completely separated; and what was the result of this? The world separated also from me.
I remember so well my fellow-students. I was at the University at the time, where there were 1,200 young men, and they knew what a thorough comrade I had been in all their ways, their habits and maxims, and they laughed at me, they pointed their fingers at me, "There goes the fool!" "There goes the madman!" "There goes the enthusiast!" This is what they said. I, in heart and spirit, separated from the world; and they, because of my godly ways, separated themselves from me. Thus it is everywhere with true children of God. They can no longer go on as they used to go on, and the world will no longer reckon them as being one with themselves. They separate from the world, and the world separates from them. They no longer caring about the things of the world, the world no longer cares about them, any more than they would care about a crucified malefactor hanging on the cross. This is the result on both sides where it is really Christ in the heart. Separation from the world comes where it is really Christ in the heart, in the life, and deportment. The world does not care about such; the world turns its back upon them. He is a fool, an enthusiast, a madman, a fanatic, and the world will have nothing to do with him.
Now, one word more. How is it with us who are professed disciples of the Lord Jesus? Have we really come out from among the world? Are we really walking in separation from the world? Is the world crucified to us-that is, no more valued by us than a malefactor hanging on the cross? And on the other hand, is our life and deportment of that character that the world has turned its back on us just as we have turned our backs on the world? Does the world care no more about us than it would care about a malefactor hanging on the cross? That is the meaning, "The world is crucified unto us and we are crucified unto the world."
Now let us seek to know more and more in secret meditation how unspeakably precious it is to be a believer in Christ. Let us seek to be found more and more in secret, meditating on what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in our room and stead, in order that our hearts increasingly may be filled with gratitude and love to the Precious One; and particularly let our inmost soul be assured that we cannot save ourselves, that no goodness of ours can bring us to heaven. Our own goodness can only bring us to hell, not to heaven. For we have to own that all our goodness is, in the sight of God, as filthy rags-that is, our own righteousness. But if we are putting our trust in Christ, we are delivered from the curse. We are born again, we are spiritually free men, we have power with God; and power over sin through faith in Christ. God grant us this blessing.
Paul's Thorn in the Flesh. A Sermon preached on Sunday evening, July 11th, 1897, at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.-2 Cor. xii., 7, 8, 9.
THE position in which the Apostle Paul stood was that though, with his might, he had sought to do everything he could for the church at Corinth, through false teachers, who had crept in unawares, he was calumniated, spoken against, looked down upon, rejected, and the like; and he was under the painful necessity, for the sake of the Gospel and for the glory of God, to speak about himself in a manner which he had never done before, to justify himself before these adversaries of the Gospel. And this is frequently the case, not merely with preachers of the Gospel and pastors of churches, but with children of God generally, that they are evil spoken of. "For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles."
After reading to the end of verse 27, chapter xi., Mr. Muller went on to remark: Just think of it, that this holy man, one of the holiest men that ever lived on earth, had to suffer from hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness," being in the position that he could not have a comfortable place, being without in the cold, and with not sufficient warm clothing. "Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? . . . If I must needs glory, I will glory in the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not."
Commenting on the first six verses of the 12th chapter, Mr. Muller said: He Himself was the person, but he does not say so; though it is obvious that he was the person. "Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities"-that is, he could have mentioned far more than this, but he would no longer speak about himself, lest any should form too high an opinion of him, which he did not wish to be the case.
"Lest I 'should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me; and He said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong". "The confession of this holy man regarding his entire dependence on God, and his own weakness, yea nothingness, is especially to be treasured up in our own hearts, and we have to seek for grace to imitate him, in coming to the conclusion to which he came. "Lest I should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations." Notice here, how this most holy man, the chief of all the apostles, had such a view regarding himself that he considered he was in danger of being "exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations;" through what God had done for him in taking him to Paradise, in taking him, who was yet in the body, to be in a place which was only fit for those who were no longer in the body. He tells us that he was in danger of being "exalted above measure."
Now, if such a man of God as he was, "the chief of all the apostles," the one who, in honesty of heart, could say about himself that he had "laboured more abundantly" than any of the apostles-if he could confess that he was in danger of being "exalted above measure," what shall we weak ones, and feeble ones, in comparison with the Apostle Paul, say regarding ourselves? Most assuredly, if with any measure of truth and of uprightness of heart we have to make a confession regarding ourselves, we must say, "If Paul was in danger of being exalted above measure, a thousand times more may we be in danger of being exalted above measure, and of having too high an opinion about ourselves."
Now, then, the remedy was provided, even for Paul, regarding this. "Lest I should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh"-that is, a trial, and a very heavy trial, to counterbalance, that he might not be "exalted above measure." We are not told what this thorn in the flesh was. That it was something very painful, very trying, we see by the figure which is used. Many of us may know from our own experience what it is to have a little splinter, or thorn, go into our hands, or any part of our body; how painful it is until the thorn, or the little splinter, is extracted-how exceedingly painful it is. Therefore, it was something extremely painful on purpose, we have reason to believe. We are not told what it was, for if we had been told such a thing, or such a thing, or such a thing, then those who were not similarly situated might say, "O this might be borne," or, "I could have borne it." So, in order that none of us might say regarding ourselves, "O my trial is a different one, and a far heavier one," we purposely are not informed what this thorn in the flesh was.
But evidently, by the very figure which is used, it was something extremely trying that he had to bear day by day, week after week, month after month. This thorn in the flesh is called, "The messenger of Satan," because through the instrumentality of Satan came the trial. All trials that come upon us, in our family, in our business, in our health, and in other ways, come directly, or indirectly, through the instrumentality of the Wicked One. Our Heavenly Father tries to make us pass through this life pleasantly, easily, happily, without having trials and afflictions; but Satan hates us, exceedingly hates us, because he knows that we are no longer belonging to his kingdom-we who put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. We no longer belong to him.
That he will not have us at last for eternity, to torment us, to make us wretched and miserable, he knows; and therefore, as he cannot have us then, he seeks to make us in this life, while we are in the body, as unhappy as he possibly can. He tries to afflict us, to torment us, to the very uttermost that he has permission to do; for we have ever to keep before us that he can do nothing against us, unless he obtains first permission from God. A most striking illustration of this we have in the case of Job. Satan had been trying to get at him, but was unable to do so; he had been trying to injure him, his family, his property, but he could not do so, and he was constrained to make a confession, "Hast Thou not set a hedge round about him?" That is, he had often and often unquestionably tried to get at Job, but could not by reason of the protection which God gave to His holy servant. And therefore he says, "Thou hast set a hedge round about him," which implies, "I have often tried to get at him, but I was unable to do so." And this hedge is never broken down, except by the permission of God. A wall of fire is round about us, and Satan dare not touch us, except God gives permission; and this permission is never, never, NEVER given, except God has determined to rule it all for the confounding of Satan, and for our real good and blessing and comfort. So that we come under this precious promise, "All things work together for good to them that love God."
If Satan is permitted to break down the hedge, this permission is only given for the purpose of confounding him, and of bringing more blessing to us out of it than if the hedge were not broken. O how precious the position of the children of God! And if everyone knew what it means to be a child of God, everyone most earnestly would seek to become a child of God. But because it is not known, we are naturally blinded, we have no proper Scriptural idea of what it implies to be a child of God; therefore we care not about it, we treat the matter with indifference. But all those who are made to see their lost and ruined condition by nature, all those who have turned to find out, in any goodly measure, that they are sinners, and that they deserve nothing but punishment, and who own this before God in prayer, and then put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls, become happy, happy, happy beings. They are blessed, and truly blessed, and no other persons are really and truly blessed and really and truly happy until they come to this!
Therefore, should there be any here present who have not found out yet that they are sinners, great sinners, deserving nothing but punishment, let them pray to God that He will be pleased, in the riches of His grace, to show it to them, and when they have come to see it, then humble themselves before God, make confession of their sinfulness before Him, and ask His merciful forgiveness. When they are come as far as this, they have further to put their trust alone in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls. Being brought thus far, they are regenerated; through this trust in the Lord Jesus Christ they become a new creation, they become children of God, they obtain spiritual life, they are now born again, they belong no longer to the world, and they stand as justified ones before God, through the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, and they are forgiven ones by reason of the atonement which the Lord Jesus Christ made in their room and stead. For He not only fulfilled the law, He also bore its punishment, and on this account we shall not be condemned, because the Lord Jesus Christ bore all the punishment which we guilty sinners ought to have borne; and this belongs not merely to one or the other, not merely to a few thousands of human beings, but belongs to every one whose eyes have been spiritually opened to see his lost condition, and who really has trusted in Jesus for salvation. Now, being brought on the road to heaven, having obtained spiritual life, as assuredly as we continue putting our trust alone in Jesus Christ, we shall at last reach glory.
"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, to buffet me." This figure is particularly to be noticed. "Beats me with his fists," that is the literal meaning of "to buffet me." "Beats me with his fists." This figure implies the greatness of the trial, the greatness of the suffering, that he had to endure from this "messenger of Satan," from this evil angel, this evil spirit. And this buffeting was, " Lest I should be exalted above measure"-that is, God allows it in order that on no account the Apostle Paul should be exalted; that he might be kept in real, true humility of soul, that he might have a lowly view about himself. Now let us not forget this, that if such an exceedingly holy man as was the Apostle Paul was in danger of being "exalted above measure on account of the abundance of the revelations" which he had had, how much more is this the case regarding ourselves? Now, what did this man of God do under these circumstances? "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me."
Because this "messenger of Satan" was so very trying, the sufferings were so exceedingly great, he, with earnestness, besought God that it might be taken from him. When it is stated here he "besought the Lord thrice," he did not for five minutes ask God three times, but we have reason to believe it means in a solemn way, most earnestly, at three different times he besought the Lord that it might depart from him. This is what we have to do, to come to the Lord under trial and affliction, and beseech Him to take it away. And if the prayer, once prayed before God, is not enough, to bring it the second time, to bring it the third time, to bring it the thirtieth time, to bring it the fiftieth time before the Lord, until we plainly see that He has something better for us, and therefore does not take it away. But until we are instructed about this, we may go on praying that God graciously would take away the heavy trial, the heavy affliction.
Now, in the 9th verse we see what the Lord Himself says, "And He said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.''' Grace is sufficient for every trial and every affliction, because, obtaining grace, we get the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, as the Strengthener, of the inner life, the divine life, the spiritual life we have obtained; and He leads us on spiritually and helps us under all circumstances, under all trials, under all afflictions, of whatever character they may be. Therefore the great point is this, "Are we partakers of grace?" Then, and only then, have we obtained spiritual life. Only then are we regenerated, only then are we warranted to look at ourselves as the children of God, and as pardoned sinners through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. O how precious is this, that as partakers of grace we are helped for time and for eternity. When once brought to this, we are no longer in nature's darkness, we no longer belong to the kingdom of Satan, but to the kingdom of God. We then are the children of God, and as such the heirs of God, and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. We then for eternity have the Lord Jesus as our Friend, as our Helper, as our Comforter, as our Guide, as our Counsellor, and as the One Who will watch over us and never leave us or hide Himself away from us, in order that He may shield and protect us against the powers of darkness. O the blessedness of such a position!
Now I ask, before going any further, "Are you partakers of this grace?" I have been through the wondrous mercy of God, in this state to which I have referred, for 71 years and 8 months. And as God has bestowed this wondrous blessing on me, He is willing to bestow it on anyone who is yet without peace. We must obtain this blessing if we desire to go to heaven at last! There is no such thing as obtaining this blessing when once we have passed out of time into eternity. In the world to come there is no seeking after Christ; in the world to come there is no such thing as being regenerated; in the world to come there is no such thing as obtaining forgiveness for our sins, if we do not obtain forgiveness before passing out of time into eternity! Now, then, ask yourselves, I beseech and entreat all of you who are not certain on Scriptural grounds that you have obtained the blessing-ask yourselves, "How is it with me, and shall I still go on without this blessing, and treat it yet with indifference as I have done for a long time?" O, on no account delay to care about your souls. The present moment is ours, and the present moment alone is ours. How it may be after a single hour, who will tell us? Often, often it has happened that persons who were at a religious meeting were one hour afterwards no longer in the land of the living. Now, I do not say that this will be the case with any here present to-night; but because of the possibility, therefore let us, on no account, delay to care about our souls.
"My grace is sufficient for thee." Paul had obtained grace; that meant in every position in life that he could need it, though he had "the thorn in the flesh," grace was given to him to counteract. Though he had "the messenger of Satan" sent to him, yet grace could counteract this. Though he was "beaten with fists," greatly afflicted, greatly tried, yet grace was sufficient to meet all. "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." That means "My power is just seen more abundantly on account of thy weakness; thou art a weak one in thyself, thou hast no strength in thyself, but the power is Mine, and My power shall be made manifest in thy weakness." Now, what decision did Paul come to, when this was told him? "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." "I will no longer be tried, though I have this 'thorn in the flesh;' I will no longer be tried by 'this messenger of Satan to buffet me;' I will rejoice rather than be tried, by reason of what I have, through the grace of God, to strengthen me."
"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me," for this is the meaning of to "rest upon me." Dwell in me, that I may be a partaker of the power of Christ, through the grace bestowed on me. We weak ones, and feeble ones, may therefore say to ourselves, "In myself I am extremely weak, in myself I am nothing, I can do nothing, I have no power of my own; but the power of Christ dwells in me, through the Holy Ghost being given to me." O how precious! And the Holy Spirit we have individually, as assuredly as we have owned before God that we are sinners, and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls. That brings this wondrous blessing to us, and the power of Christ dwells in us, in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then am I strong." See what effect this had had upon the Apostle Paul, when once he knew that the very way of obtaining great blessing, exceeding great blessing, was just the position in which he was, because he was a partaker of the grace of God, and that therefore he should never be left nor forsaken! He could then come to the conclusion, "I take pleasure in infirmities." "Take pleasure in infirmities"-that is, when weak in body he took pleasure in his weakness, because the power of Christ dwelt in him. "I take pleasure in reproaches." He was called "a fool," "a madman," "a good-far-nothing fellow," "not fit to live; " these reproaches were heaped upon him, but the Apostle Paul now says, "I take pleasure in these reproaches; yea, though men reproach me, to make me wretched and miserable, they only make me happy by the reproaches which they heap upon me, because I know what blessing all this in the end will bring." Then, he further says, "I take pleasure in necessities." When I am hungry, when I have not sufficient food, when I have no proper clothing to warm and to shield me against the inclemencies of the weather, or, when in other respects, I am in necessities, I take pleasure in them, because I now see that this is the very opportunity given to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who by the power of His Spirit dwells in me, and this power dwells in me to help me, to comfort me, and to bring a blessing to my soul.
In persecutions he could now take pleasure. No longer complaining of being dissatisfied because he was persecuted, but taking pleasure in it, because it gave to the Lord Jesus Christ an opportunity of manifesting His power. Then he says, "I take pleasure in distresses, for Christ's sake." Not in distresses on account of having acted improperly, imprudently, but for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. If he were in distress he would take pleasure in it, for it would bring blessing to his soul. And the whole is wound up with this, "For when I am weak, then am I strong;" because of the power of the Lord Jesus Christ dwelling in him. Now, our comfort is particularly this, that these glorious statements referred not merely to such an one as the Apostle Paul was, but they refer to the weakest, feeblest, least instructed child of God; yea, they belong to the new-born babe in Christ who but this morning was brought to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. O how precious is all this; and when we appropriate these things to ourselves, we are no longer cast down, we become peaceful and happy, very peaceful and very happy, We glory in the greatest trials and difficulties, because we see they are all appointed for our good and blessing and profit, and they all give to the Lord Jesus Christ the opportunity of manifesting His power in reference to ourselves. They give Him also an opportunity of manifesting His matchless care and love, which He has for the weakest and feeblest of His children.
Now our business is to enter into all this, and if, as yet we are unable to do so, to ask the Lord to strengthen us, by His Holy Spirit, that we may comprehend all that which is contained in these few verses on which we have now meditated; and, in doing so, lasting, lasting and abiding blessing will come to our souls.
"He was wounded for our transgressions." A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on April 25th, 1897
THIS chapter was written by the Holy Ghost, through the prophet Isaiah, 740 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; and all that we read here regarding Him was fulfilled in His life, and in His atoning work. Another most precious truth out of many thousands that the Word of God is its own proof. It is not at all necessary to have external evidences that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God! They themselves are proof of its truths!
The commencement of the chapter plainly indicates that multitudes might hear and read what is revealed by the Holy Ghost in this portion, and yet the message of God be not received. "Who hath believed our report?" Comparatively a small number! "To whom is the Arm of Jehovah revealed?" The Lord Jesus Christ is called here "the Arm of Jehovah." Even as our arm is the great instrument by which we work in connection with the body, so the Lord Jesus Christ was God's great Instrument in working; and therefore He is called " The Arm of Jehovah." "For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." This brings before us, in figure, the outward meanness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the inferiority of His position in the world.
In the first place, it is stated, "He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant." A tender plant, a very little plant; just something springing up out of a tree cut down-yet a little life in the root, and a little shooting forth. This refers to the Lord Jesus in being connected with the House of David, the Son of David. The might and power and wealth and riches, seen in the days of Solomon, were all done with; His mother, after the flesh, so poor that she was unable to bring a lamb for an offering, but must be content with a pair of turtle doves. Not merely a tender plant, but "a root out of a dry ground." Water is wanted to make it become larger and larger, for it is found only in a dry ground. "He hath no form nor comeliness." All the representations of the Lord Jesus Christ as an exceedingly beautiful man, all are fancy representations. Nothing of the kind, so far as His outward appearance was concerned. There was "no form nor comeliness" found in Him. "When we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him," for it was on purpose that there should be no attraction according to the eye of the flesh.
"He is despised and rejected of men." This was His standing in the world. Instead of being honoured by everyone, sought after by everyone, it was the very opposite. "He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." That was one reason why there was nothing attractive in His appearance, because of the sorrow that was continually found in Him, on account of the ungodliness in all directions surrounding Him. This filled His heart with grief; and therefore no comeliness was found in Him. "And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him," because of there being no attraction at all to nature. His very appearance was always indicating His communion with God; His perfect holiness; His abhorring that which was hateful to God. Therefore those who were not likeminded with Him "hid their faces from Him."
"He was despised, and we esteemed Him not; surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." The great mass of the people regarded Him as suffering on account of His own sins; on account of that which was wrong in Him they considered Him "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." But the next two verses tell us the true reason. "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." On these two verses I say nothing now, because we shall more especially meditate on them presently.
"He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth." The meekness, the gentleness, the patient suffering, the passing through heavy trials and afflictions without fretting or complaining, far less murmuring, is here brought before us. One of the figures used, "As a sheep," etc., is very remarkable. I have seen again and again, with my own eyes, when sheep are shorn, that instead of resisting and making a noise, they very patiently bear it. And thus is the word fulfilled. "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He (the Lord Jesus Christ) opened not His mouth."
"He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of My people was He stricken." This refers to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ-"He was taken from prison and from judgment." "Who shall declare His generation?" In consequence of what the Lord Jesus Christ did, and what He suffered, I here should be given Him a multitude of believers: this is the generation that cannot be counted. "He was cut off out of the land of the living;" and this was done not on account of His transgressions, but "For the transgression of My people was He stricken." In our room and stead He suffered, and as our substitute.
"And He made His grave with the wicked." That is, as if He had been an ordinary man, and especially as if He had been a wicked man. "And with the rich in His death." That refers particularly to the splendid grave He had, in being buried in the sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea, a grave which was cut out of the rock, and therefore exceedingly costly. "Because He had done no violence." The word "because" here is rather more correctly in the Hebrew, "although." "Although He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth," yet had He to die, and to be buried, just as if He had been a sinner like ourselves. "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him." This bruising Him refers to the greatness of His agonies and sufferings in His atoning death. "He hath put Him to grief; when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." All this is now being fulfilled. The soul of the Lord Jesus, or the life of the Lord Jesus, has been made an offering for sin. He does see His seed. O the numberless millions who have been brought to the knowledge of Jesus Christ since His crucifixion, and O the thousands upon thousands, and the tens of thousands upon tens of thousands, who are continually being brought to believe on Him. "He shall prolong His days." He is living now after His resurrection; though 1860 years and upwards have passed already, He is the Living One, and after thousands upon thousands of years shall have passed away, and millions upon millions of years have gone, He will still be the Living One. And thus the fulfilment of the Word, "He shall prolong His days."
But this is not all, for "The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." The atoning work has been carried on these 1860 years, and will be carried on till all is completed, till Satan has been entirely confounded, and the works of the devil have been completely destroyed. Thus the atoning work has been going on, and thus the fulfilment of the prophecy, "The pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in His hand." Satan has sought to resist it continually, but has been as frequently foiled, and the work of the Lord, in the midst of all the opposition of Satan, still goes on!
"He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." There are not a few present this very evening who are regenerated by the power of the Holy Ghost, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the fulfilment, "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." And this very day we have reason to believe that multitudes, considering the whole number of human beings on earth to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed, have been brought to the knowledge of Jesus Christ; thereby further fulfilling this word. "By His knowledge shall My Righteous Servant justify many." "My Righteous Servant," that is a title given to the Lord Jesus Christ. By knowing Him, many shall be justified; that is, brought into a state, through faith, that Jehovah can count them just and righteous, though unjust and unrighteous in themselves. That is the meaning of being justified. "For He shall bear their iniquities." By reason of these individuals having a Substitute, Who in their room; fulfilled the law of God and Who in their room bore the punishment of the law, they are justified.
"Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong." Satan, the angels of Satan, the powers of darkness, these are the strong ones here referred to; but the Lord Jesus Christ gets the victory, takes the prey out of their hands, and therefore gets the glory to Himself. "Because He hath poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." This, again, has had its fulfilment, and is going on being fulfilled in our day, and will be fulfilled while the Lord Jesus Christ tarries.
Verses 5 and 6 bring especially before us the vicarious sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He, as our Substitute, not merely fulfilled the law of God, which we have broken times without number, but that He, likewise standing in our room and stead, endured the punishment due to us, on account of our numberless transgressions. For this reason these two verses axe exceedingly precious, and are to be present in our hearts and our faith, in our life and deportment, and are continually to be looked at and applied to our life and conduct, in order that, in the midst of all our failures and shortcomings, as long as we do not wilfully go on in a course contrary to the mind of God, we may have "peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."
The very first word, how precious! "Surely." "Surely," it is said in the 4th verse, "He hath borne our griefs." "Surely" He hath "carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." But! O what a "but" this is! "But He was wounded for our transgressions." The whole in regard to the sufferings of Christ is to be put aside, and simply are we to look at it in reference to ourselves, as if we were the people, and the only people, for whom He endured all this. And it is just in the degree in which we are able to apply the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ to ourselves, and to enter into it with reference to themselves, that comfort, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost results. If we think at all upon other persons, we do not to the full degree, as otherwise we might, obtain the blessing. We should write, as it were, our own name on the fifth verse, and say to ourselves, individually, as believers. "He was wounded for my transgressions. He was bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement of my peace was upon Him "-that is, that I might have peace in my soul and be at peace with God, therefore He had to suffer-"and with His stripes I am healed."
And thus applying the whole to ourselves, the result will be the heart will be brimful of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost; while, on the other hand, the more we look at the sufferings of Christ, the atonement He made, with reference to others, the less will peace and joy in the Holy Ghost result from it. "He was wounded for our transgressions." Here we have especially not to lose sight of the fact that it was not merely bodily pain and suffering which our Lord Jesus had to endure-though, unquestionably, that was exceedingly great-but He passed through "the hour of darkness," and His holy, righteous soul had to suffer. And in connection with all this, we have never to lose sight of the fact that the Father did not deliver at that time, in order that, really and truly, He might pass through all the woe, the misery, the agonies, and pain, and suffering of body, mind, and spirit through which we ought to have passed, on account of our numberless transgressions. All this we have to carefully consider, in order to get the least idea of the greatness of the sufferings through which our blessed Lord had to pass.
Then it is further stated, "He was bruised for our iniquities." Ground, as it were, in the mill to powder by His sufferings-something like this is brought before us by the expression, "Bruised for our iniquities." O the vastness of the sufferings, the greatness of the agonies, through which our Lord had to pass! And O how this should make us to abhor ourselves on account of sin, for our sins brought all this on our Lord. Speaking after the manner of men, had we been free of sin, had all human beings been perfectly free from sin, the atonement would not have been necessary! But by the fall, sin being introduced into the world and all human beings to a greater or less degree being actually transgressors, and guilty of sinful deeds, sinful, unholy words, sinful, unholy thoughts, desires, purposes, and inclinations, therefore, in order that we might be reconciled to God, that we might be cleansed from all our numberless transgressions, the Lord Jesus Christ had to endure all this, so that we could be saved finally. "He was bruised for our iniquities." I ask, affectionately, my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, to ponder this word, "bruised."
"The chastisement of our peace was upon Him." That is, He was chastised in order that we might have peace in our souls, and in order that we might be reconciled unto God. He had to endure all that which we ourselves ought to have endured; but if we put our trust in Him, if we look at the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ with regard to ourselves, then we shall have peace in our souls, and be at peace with God, because what the Lord Jesus Christ endured, He endured vicariously, on account of our numberless transgressions. "And with His stripes we are healed." The moment we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we obtain the Lord Jesus Christ as a Spiritual Physician, and get under His care, and are placed in a kind of spiritual hospital; and there we remain, under the care of this infinitely great Physician, who watches over us, who looks after us, and who does not discharge us as incurable ones, as many people are discharged from the hospitals in the world. Not thus! Not thus! But "The Great Physician" remains through the whole life we spend on earth "Our Great Physician," and we remain under His care and keeping temporally and· spiritually. In His own great, precious spiritual hospital, we are kept till we are perfectly cured, perfectly healed. The moment we believe in Jesus Christ, He becomes our Physician. The moment we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ we are placed under His care, for being perfectly healed. And the same moment we are entered in the hospital of the Lord Jesus, and there kept and looked after, and attended to by the Great Physician, and never let go till we are perfectly healed.
"With His stripes we are healed." Through the instrumentality of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are cured. The atonement He made is God's great instrument of curing us, for there would be no spiritual cure found regarding anyone all over the world, were it not for the atonement of Christ. But through pondering more and more what He did and suffered in our room and stead, by little and little we become more and more free from sin, by little and little we become more and more cured. He has apprehended us for the purpose of curing us, and He will not let us go till we are perfectly cured-that means, till we are as spotless, as holy, as free from sin, and as heavenly-minded as He Himself is, and as He Himself was in His life here on earth. And we should lay hold on this by faith. It is very difficult to enter into it; nay, it is completely impossible to enter into it by nature; and even at the beginning of the divine life it is very difficult to do so.
I found it myself thus when I was converted 71 years and 6 months since, on account of the evil habits I had contracted. It was exceedingly difficult to put them aside. I had been passionately fond of the theatre, and was there day after day. I had been found at the ball-room, and at the card-table, and again and again at a late hour at the latter. And when I was converted, though I never touched a pack of cards again, though it was all over with the theatre, though I never went any more to the ball-room, yet these evil habits, these evil natural tendencies, were very difficult to surmount. I began to pray that God would give me power and victory over them; but, after I had been praying a good while, it appeared as if I never should lose my love for these things, as if continually they would come back to my mind and desire. But by little and little, after all, I got complete victory over them!
I mention this for the encouragement of young Christians, so that they may on no account despair and suppose they will not be able to withstand these things, and that they will not be able to live for the glory and honour of God. The Lord Jesus is your Physician. The Lord Jesus has taken you under His care. You are in the spiritual hospital of "the Great Physician," the Lord Jesus, and He is ready to help you. Look at Him! Expect great things from Him! "Open your mouth wide, and He will fill it." That is it. He will answer your prayers regarding the things that you require. O the blessedness of the position in which we stand as believers. Everyone of us who is trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, who is born again, who has obtained spiritual life, shall at the last be perfectly holy! O the blessedness of this! We shall be completely heavenly-minded, so that throughout eternity never a command will go forth on the part of God that we shall do this, or another thing, but instantaneously the heart will say, "I delight, my Heavenly Father, to do Thy will." And with the greatest alacrity we shall carry out the will of God; there will be no tardiness, no hesitation, no questioning in ourselves, whether we shall do it or not. But, as quickly as the command goes forth, we shall be ready to carry out His will.
For all this we are apprehended by God in Christ Jesus. We shall not be discharged out of the hospital of the Great Physician as incurable persons, but shall be made perfectly Christ-like in the end. This is what is brought before us here when it is said, "With His stripes we are healed." The cure having been begun, you, my brethren and sisters beloved, and I, shall be as holy in the end as the Lord Jesus Christ was while on earth! We have not attained to it yet, but the work is going on, and we shall attain to it hereafter, when the Lord has taken us home to Himself.
"All we like sheep." Notice here in the first place particularly that it is not only this one, and that one, who went like a sheep astray, but all, all; ALL-without exception. "All we like sheep have gone astray." And it must come, with everyone of us who desires to enter heaven, to this: that in our inmost soul we are able to reiterate this, and to say to God, "Thus it is that I, a guilty sinner, went astray." Every one who supposes that he is good, or that she is good, and that they deserve the favour of God because they have not been bad, but good, excellent people, are in the greatest error.
They think, on the ground of their own goodness, to go to heaven at last. On the ground of our own goodness, we can go to hell! But there is not among the innumerable multitude of the glorified spirits one single individual who got there on the ground of his or her own goodness; for, I repeat it, on the ground of our own goodness we can only go to hell, and not to heaven. We have no goodness of our own. There is nothing, nothing, NOTHING of goodness in us by nature, but everything which is contrary to the mind of God! And the worst of it all is we do not even see it is so bad-that it, in our natural condition. But there is the fact; the Word of God declares it. We have only to read the first three chapters of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, and the second chapter of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, and there is abundant proof how it is with us naturally.
But though thus with us, that like sheep we went astray and everyone turned to his own way, yet there is hope, yet there is hope, in regard to the salvation of our souls. For the greatest transgressor, for the oldest transgressor, if only he will accept what God has provided for us in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is hope, and none need despair. "We have turned everyone to his own way." Notice this particularly-"his own way." That is the great sin. It is not that everyone is a drunkard, or that everyone is a thief, or that everyone is habitually given to speaking nothing but lies. That may not be at all the case. There are persons who in their whole life have never drunk more than they ought to have done, who have never been guilty of taking away from anyone as much as the value of a pin that did not belong to them; indeed, their whole life and deportment, in a variety of ways, may be not at all outwardly bad. But this is our sin: that by nature we go our own way, instead of going God's way; and we live to please ourselves, instead of living to please God, and doing His work as we should. Doing our own work, pleasing ourselves, going our own way-this is the great sin of which everyone of the human family by nature is guilty. And we must come to see this! If we do not, we shall have no comfort whatever regarding heaven being our place and portion.
But while it is stated, and perfectly true is it regarding us, that like sheep we went astray, that every one turned to his own way, it is added, "And Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all," O how precious the comfort! Had this not been added, I should not have had a particle of comfort in my own soul! I could have had no prospect with regard to heaven and glory at the last. But it is added, and added for everyone of us, the weakest and feeblest believers, a Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." For my habitually going to the theatre to amuse myself; for my going to the ball-room; for my being found at the card-table, sometimes to twelve at night-yea, once to two o'clock in the morning-for this my precious Lord Jesus was punished. That I thus misspent my time, that I thus misspent my faculties and my money, everything with which God had entrusted me as a steward; that I lived to myself, pleased myself; that in travelling I sought happiness, instead of seeking happiness in the Lord Jesus-for all this my precious Lord Jesus was punished. He did willingly, worthily bear the punishment; and now I, putting my trust in Him, am a forgiven sinner; and thus my brethren and sisters in Christ, doing the like, are forgiven ones. O how precious!
Now our business is to lay hold on this; to appropriate all this to ourselves; to write our very own name to these two verses, and say to ourselves, "Jehovah has laid on MY Lord Jesus Christ MY iniquity, as MY substitute, and has made Him to pay MY sins by death; and THEY have been perfectly paid, there is not found one single sin in ME unforgiven, and MY Heavenly Father is most perfectly satisfied with what MY adorable Lord Jesus Christ has done for ME, and has done for the countless multitude believing in Him."This is the conclusion of the whole. O how delightful it is to be able to appropriate all this to ourselves. Let not my young brethren and sisters say, "O this was very well regarding Isaiah, and such men as Daniel, and Jeremiah, and the Apostles; but that does not apply to me." Yes, it does apply to you, my weak brother and sister, my young brother and sister; it applies to everyone of us trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. The sin that is in us has been perfectly punished, perfectly atoned for; and not a single sin at the last will be brought against us.
Therefore afresh we should give thanks to God for His unspeakable gift, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, with deep gratitude for what God has done for us in Him!
"Trust in the Lord." A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on Sunday Evening, May 30th, 1897
Proverbs iii., 5-17.
THE Book of Proverbs forms a deeply important portion of the Word of God. It is full of most precious counsels and advice for all human beings, if they would only give ear. Of course, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will have the greatest blessing through it; but even for those who as yet do not know the Lord, if they were to attend to what is given in this Book of Proverbs, they would find great blessing and benefit, not merely in regard to the life to come, but for their stay here on earth. It is full of important instruction. I will mention just this point, for instance. More than once warning is given against becoming surety for other persons. Now, very many of us know, from our own experience, what misery, what exceeding great misery, has come upon whole families, it may be upon several families, simply on account of not attending to this.
Hastily, inconsiderately, they have become sureties for others, saying to themselves, "I shall never be called on to pay this money;" but before they were aware of it they were compelled to make good their suretyship, and often and often brought the greatest misery not merely on themselves, but on their whole family, and perhaps more than one family were drawn thus into misery. Now, God, knowing all this beforehand, through His servant Solomon admonished us not to do it. I myself, in my long life, have known instance upon instance of the greatest misery brought on whole families on account of not attending to this. Now, this is just one instance that I mention; but there are numberless points in the Book of Proverbs of a similar character, which, because they are not attended to, bring wretchedness and misery, not merely on one, but often on very many. Verse 5: " Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding." Often and often because this likewise has not been attended to misery has been brought, the greatest misery, not only on individuals, but on large families. The temptation is, "O I have a great deal of experience in my business; I know what to do, I know how to act, I know what will turn out best." Thus speculation has come on, and speculation to a very, very large extent; and misery beyond description has been brought about on account of this. I just mention one instance which I was intimate with, the individual concerned being one whom I greatly loved. There was a war with China coming on, many, many years ago-the first war with China on the part of England; the individual was advised to buy an immense quantity of tea, because tea would rise in price exceedingly on account of the war, and the beloved, dear Christian man said to himself, "I do not care about this speculation for myself, but I feel exceedingly for my own dear brother about business matters." And so, being advised by the brother to buy an immense quantity, he speculated far beyond his capital, in order to help his brother out of difficulties. The result was, very soon war was at an end, the tea did not at all rise to what it was expected it would-indeed, because so many had bought very large quantities, it actually decreased in price, instead of rising-and this beloved Christian friend of mine lost an enormous sum of money, so that instead of helping his brother he brought himself into exceeding great difficulty.
Now here, you see, is the Word speaking to the opposite effect, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart"-"depend on Me for what you need; look to Me for what you need, and do not take the advice of those brokers, or any other such agents, but consult the Lord"-"lean not unto thine own understanding." Do not suppose because you have had a good deal of experience, or another person has had a good deal of experience, that that is all which is needed; but betake yourself to the Lord under all circumstances, at all times, under all difficulties, and seek His advice and counsel. Now this has been my habit (it was not my habit for the first two years after my conversion), but it has now been for 69 years my habit to act according to this, and the result is that all has been going on well with my affairs. I have never been allowed to bring myself into difficulties on account of such matters, because I have not trusted in my own experience, but have trusted in the Lord.
If difficulties arise with our service, when we meet in the morning we lay our case before God, tell Him in all simplicity our position, and ask His counsel and advice. And He does give unto us counsel and advice, and helps us out of difficulties and perplexing circumstances, though they are very frequent in our service-yea, there is rarely a day but something or ether turns up in which we need to be guided and directed by the Lord; and He helps us, He appears for us. I can advise this way of living and acting to all my beloved Christian friends, for the result of it is peace, peace, peace! All the ordinary troubles of life vanish, if we thus throw our burden on the Lord and speak to Him about matters.
"Lean not unto thine own understanding." How dearly expressed, how decidedly expressed! Our danger is continually to lean on our own understanding; to say to ourselves, "O, I have many times passed through similar circumstances. I have a good deal of experience in these matters; it is not necessary that I should pray about it, for I know very well what I ought to do." And thus we bring on ourselves wretchedness and misery, and often not merely on ourselves, but on those connected with us.
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." In all thy ways. Let us particularly notice this-not merely now and then come to God for guidance and direction, but regarding every step that we take, every business that we enter into, and every new phase of our business, bring it before God and talk to Him, converse with Him concerning the matter. That is the meaning of "In all thy ways acknowledge Him;" and the result will be this: "He shall direct thy paths." Never begin anything without going to God about it in prayer! Never take any step without first of all settling the matter between yourselves and God, and the result will be you will not speak to Him in vain. He loves you. "He shall direct thy paths;" He will make plain your way, and show you clearly and distinctly how you ought to act. Thus you will escape the great difficulties, the great trials, in carrying out the measure of light which God will give you. O how precious!
Now, we have not to say, "I do not live in the days of miracles; I do not live in a time when there is a Urim and a Thummim, and the high priest who could tell me what to do." For God is willing by His Spirit, through the Holy Scriptures, yet in our day, at the close of the nineteenth century, to guide and direct us. And in being guided and directed, if we carry out the measure of light which God is pleased to give to us, we shall find how blessed it is not to take any steps directed by our own understanding, but to seek wisdom from God, and obtain counsel and advice from Him. The Lord Jesus Christ, among all other titles given to Him in the Word of God, has one title: that is, He is the Counsellor. The Counsellor of the Church of God, for her benefit, for her instruction. We are naturally ignorant, we do not know how to act, what to do; but if we betake ourselves to our Counsellor, the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall find how ready He is to counsel us, to advise us.
I have found it thus, more or less, during the last 69 years that I have known the Lord. The first two years I often, often acted hastily, without much prayer, because patience was not natural to me then. I would have the matter settled, and therefore acted without patiently and quietly waiting on God; and taking hasty steps often and often, I was not merely confounded, but I brought trouble on myself. During the last 69 years, however, I have acted differently, and have therefore gone peacefully along, and have had rest in God. None of those trials through which I first passed after my conversion have been found in my life since, because I have patiently and quietly waited on God, to guide, direct, and help me.
"Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil." Naturally we have, often and often, too high an idea about ourselves; we are "wise in our own eyes," and on account of this take steps to go forward without seeking the counsel and advice of the Lord. The result is, trouble and difficulty. Now, beloved Christian friends, let us especially be warned by this, not to be wise in our own eyes, because it is too true, that we are not wise. If left to ourselves, we shall surely take wrong steps; we shall surely be confounded. Things will not go on well. And therefore it becomes us as being made fully aware of our natural ignorance and helplessness, to betake ourselves to God for counsel and advice. That is what we have to do, and above all to "fear God and to depart from evil."
Our own ways are so frequently connected with that which is contrary to the mind of God; but if we are not wise in our own eyes, not only shall we be guided aright, but the result, further, will be that taking steps according to the mind of God we shall be departing from evil. Now, what follows from this? It tends even to the benefit of the body. Not merely gives peace of mind to the soul, but is good even for the body. "It shall be health to thy navel and marrow to thy bones."
Now comes in another subject altogether. "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thy increase, so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." I do not forget that the Israelites had special promises given to them with regard to abundance in this life, if they walked in the ways of the Lord. Now, though in this present dispensation, we have not the promise to become very rich, to become great men, if we walk in the ways of the Lord, still there is, if we attend to these two verses, blessing coming to us even in this life, besides spiritual blessing. I have known this in my own experience, by acting according to these two verses. I have seen it ever so many times in the lives of godly brethren and sisters in Christ, who acted according to these two verses.
"Honour the Lord with thy substance and with the first-fruits of all thy increase." God fills the clouds with rain, for the very purpose that they may empty themselves on the land, to make the land fertile; and so God trusts His children, as His stewards, with means not to keep all to themselves, not to enjoy merely themselves, but to communicate out of the abundance He is pleased to give them to their fellow men-those who are weak and feeble, and cannot work, or who through other circumstances are brought into straightened, difficult positions and circumstances. This attended to brings blessing not only to the soul, but even blessing of a temporal character. I speak as one who knows all this from an experience in my own case of much more than 60 years. I speak about this as having, through my acquaintance with more than tens of thousands of children of God, had brought before me again and again and again the fact that those who acted according to the principles here laid down, not merely brought blessings to their souls, but even as to their circumstances temporarily, obtained far more again than they had given away, so that not only interest was given them, but compound interest, and in many cases twenty times, fifty times, even a hundred times more than they had given to the poor, or than they had given to the work of God. For God ever sees to it that He is not our debtor, but that we are His debtors. O if brethren and sisters in Christ habitually acted according to this verse, how different would be their position even as to this life, and how great the blessing which they would thus bring to their own souls!
"Honour the Lord with thy substance." When God is pleased to give to us temporal blessings, He gives them, not that on our own persons we may spend the abundance He is pleased to bestow on us, but that we may remember the weak and sickly, and help and assist them; that we may remember those who are out of employment, who would gladly work, but who have no work; and that we may care for the widow, and the aged widow in particular, and the aged man who can no longer work-that we may remember their necessities and care for them. And the result will be, as I have seen it times without number in my long Christian career, that not only will blessing come to the souls of those who act according to this word, but that even with regard to temporal things God will abundantly repay what we have thus given. "So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." We may have no barns, and no vineyard, to have this literally fulfilled; but God, in some way or other, will make it manifest how He is mindful of what we have given to the widow, to the poor sick person who cannot work, to the poor aged man who is past work.
Now comes another subject. "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction, for whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he deligheth." Often and often I have found how real, true children of God are discouraged, disheartened, greatly bowed down, because they are so long afflicted, forgetting that the very affliction is a token of the Father's love to them. O remember this, because it is a matter not to question. I take God at His word, "Whom the Lord loveth He correcteth." All these afflictions are education to our hearts. In regard to our positions and circumstances, "Whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth;" not the father the son whom he hates, whom he does not care about in the least, whom he despises, whom he may mean to disinherit. Nothing, nothing, nothing of the kind. "Even as a father the son in whom he delighteth." Ah! if this were laid to heart by the dear children of God in trial, in affliction, and in difficulty, how differently would they judge their trials, their afflictions, their disappointments, their sorrows, their pain and suffering. "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord."
I was once for a good while in a position that I could not work at all, because I had overwrought myself, overworked myself in service for the Lord, had not been careful at all about my health. For six years, I had never taken a walk in the fields! If the work of the Lord called me to exercise, I would walk eight, ten, twenty miles, or more in such service, but if the work of the Lord did not call me to exercise, I would never go out for five minutes for the sake of recreation, or for the sake of benefiting my health. The consequence was, that while before I was able to write ten, fifteen, or twenty letters without rising from my chair, and read for three or four hours at a stretch, I was now so reduced that the writing of one single little note was too much for me, and, as for reading, not a quarter of an hour could I stay at it. It was all too much. Under these circumstances I did not, by the grace of God, despise His chastening; but, after months and months had passed, leaving me in this state, I began to be weary of His correction. That was the danger into which I came, and I began to ask God not merely to keep me from despising the chastening, but not to weary-to be willing to go on bearing with the way in which He dealt with me. And, in the riches of His grace, He kept me from being weary.
So after months had been passed in this weakness mentally, in the inability of going on doing what I had been able to do, my health became by little and little restored; and I thus obtained the ability of warning my fellow-believers to take care of their health. I began to take now and then a little rest, now and then a little walk; and the consequence was I have been able to work far, far more abundantly, and have been far, far happier in my soul since I began to care about my health. I mention this for warning to those who despise the taking care of their health, and go on toiling, toiling, toiling, as if their bodies were brass and iron. If we wish to get profit to the soul, we need to let the body have rest. I state deliberately and solemnly, in the fear of God, during these last fifty years of my life, since I have allowed myself a quarter of an hour's rest, or a little more, now and then, God has enabled me to labour far more abundantly than before, and my soul has also been blest far more abundantly.
"My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction." Let this sink into our souls-not to be weary of His correction. It does not require overmuch grace not to despise the chastening of the Lord; but it requires a good deal of grace when the mental affliction, the chastening of the Lord, continues for a long time, not to be weary of His correction. But the will of God is to submit to His dealings with us, and His leadings of us, both now and always; for "whom the Lord loveth He correcteth." This is a word for particular support under affliction, to remember that it is a love token when we are afflicted. "Whom the Lord loveth He correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth." Notice this phrase, "In whom he delighteth." Therefore it is entirely a mistake to suppose that when affliction, trial, or sorrow is allowed to befall us, that it is a token of dislike on the part of God; but it is all intended for blessing to our souls. Because God loves us, He gives us this love-token of affliction.
"Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding." Now, this is particularly a word to those who are not converted, for "finding wisdom" means to be brought to the fear of the Lord. Wisdom is the fear of the Lord, to know the Saviour, to see that we are sinners, to own that we are sinners, to confess that we are sinners; and then to put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls. That is the meaning of finding wisdom. Now, before going on any further, I affectionately ask the little company here present, " Are we all believers in the Lord Jesus Christ?" God's delight is to make us all as happy as we are capable of being while yet in the body. Now, have we obtained this real, true happiness, everyone of us, through faith in the Lord Jesus? That is my desire and my prayer regarding all here present.
There is nothing to hinder us individually from obtaining the blessing. I was as far from God as anyone possibly could be; but it pleased God to show me what a great sinner I was. I owned it before God, and He helped me to put my trust alone in Jesus for salvation; and thus I became a very happy young man, and am continuing to hold fast to Christ, to trust in Him alone for salvation, and, by grace, to walk in the fear of God. I have now been for more than 7I years a very happy man. And thus blessing is to be obtained by everyone, for God does not act by partiality, or despise this or another one; He takes delight and pleasure in bestowing this happiness on any and every one He has to do with.
But there are some individuals who will not have it, who are determined to go their own way, who despise the blessing which God is willing to give to them in Christ Jesus, and therefore they are without it, and they will remain without it as long as they continue in this state of mind. But let us not forget what is said here. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom." That means, happy is the man who comes to Christ, happy is the man who puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ; and here those who have not yet done so will find it thus if they will close with Christ, if they will but own that they are sinners needing a Saviour. Then, having confessed this, having put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, God will account them just and righteous for Christ's sake, God will forgive them their sins for Christ's sake, and this will bring peace to the soul, rest to the soul, and make them happy through faith in Christ Jesus. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom." I say once more, wisdom means the fear of God. "Findeth the fear of God; " and this is brought about through faith in Christ Thus we are regenerated, born again, get spiritual life and a new nature, by 'which we hate sin and love holiness. Though it be but little and little at the first, yet we shall increase more and more in this.
"And the man that getteth understanding"-that is, getteth understanding about heavenly things, about his own sinfulness; about God and the Lord Jesus Christ; and about the vanity of this present world and the blessedness of heavenly things. "For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold; she is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her." In this figurative language is brought before us the blessedness of being believers in Christ, the blessedness of having found wisdom, and of having obtained a new nature, spiritual life, justification, and the forgiveness of all our sins. "The merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver"-that is, whatever we might gain in the possession of silver, it is all as nothing in comparison with getting Christ. "And the gain thereof than fine gold." To have found Jesus is better, better by far, than an abundance of fine gold. "She is more precious than rubies." Wisdom, the fear of God obtained through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is more precious than rubies or pearls, "and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her." A very large property left to us, as a legacy, is nothing in comparison with finding Christ. A very lucrative situation is nothing in comparison with Christ. A very high post under Government is nothing in comparison with Christ. All the blessings of this present life, all is nothing in comparison with finding Jesus. O let this sink deeply into our hearts. "She is more precious than rubies." In other words, "Jesus is more precious than pearls, than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto Him."
"Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour." This is particularly to be looked at in a spiritual point of view. The eternal life, eternal happiness, is our lot-is that which we obtain through faith in the Lord Jesus. "And in her left hand riches and honour." That is, spiritual riches and spiritual honours, because we become the inheritors of God and of the Lord Jesus; honours because we shall share with the Lord Jesus Christ the glory which the Father gives Him as a recompense for His mediatorial work as our Saviour. We shall have the honour with Him; He will not have it merely to Himself. His Bride, the Church of God, will share it with Him, and therefore shall we partake of the honour which the Father gives to Him.
"Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." I cannot tell you what a happy man I became when I found the Lord Jesus. I had been seeking year after year for happiness; but I met with nothing but disappointment and increased guilt on the conscience as long as I was not a believer in Christ. But when I found Jesus, I became a truly happy young man, and I have been a truly happy man now for 71 years and six months. I have had fulfilled in my own experiences what is stated here-that the ways of wisdom are the ways of pleasantness. Numberless persons think it is far from being pleasant to become a Christian; they think if they were to become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ they would not have a happy day more. This is the greatest folly, the greatest mistake, for our real true happiness commences only when we find the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore we need not to be pitied as believers in Christ, but others are to be counselled to seek the same Lord whom we have found, in order that they, too, may partake of the happiness which we have obtained through faith in Him.
Then, lastly, "All her paths are peace." Now, if at any time we are without peace, we should ask ourselves, "What is the reason? Am I really walking in the ways of wisdom, for it is stated that all her paths are peace? If I am without peace, it becomes me solemnly, earnestly, and carefully, to look into the matter, and see whether I have not departed from the ways of the Lord, whether I have not forsaken the fear of the Lord; for if I were going on in the paths of wisdom I should be at peace." O how instructive is all this!
Now, my beloved Christian friends, I have been directed, after a good deal of prayer, to the words on which we have been meditating, and I beseech and entreat you all to ponder again and again and again these verses, and to remember the remarks which I have made in connection with them; for weighty and important matters are contained in these verses, and, if attended to, the result will be happiness in a way in which as yet we have not known it. And, again, should there be any present who are not yet believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, they should give themselves no rest in asking God to show them that they are sinners, and that they need the Saviour; and when they are brought to know this, then to ask God to enable them to put their trust in Jesus. And what they will obtain will be the forgiveness of their sins and peace to their souls, and hatred of sin and love for holiness. God grant this blessing to all of us, for Christ's sake.
"The God of all grace . . . make you perfect, stablish . . . you." A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on Sunday Evening, March 28th, 1897·
But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory, by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.-1 Peter v., 10.
IN meditating for a little while on this verse, let us notice, in the first place, the title given to our precious Heavenly Father. He is called "The God of all Grace!" He is God Almighty. He is the God of Power, the God of Justice, the God of Holiness, the God of Wisdom, the God of Infinite Compassion. He bears a variety of precious names, because they set forth His attributes, and prove, all of them, His character.
Now, in this portion He is called "The God of all Grace." That is a most precious title given to Him for our comfort. We are sinners, we fail in a variety of ways, we have failed in numberless ways before this; and we therefore need One Who is not merely Almighty, not merely righteous, not merely infinitely holy, not merely infinitely wise, but Who is also full of pity and compassion towards poor sinners, such as I am, and as you are. And therefore this word, that "He is the God of all Grace," suits us admirably. We just need such a God as this is. "He is the God of all grace," and were He not, O what would become of us? But because "He is the God of all grace" there is hope for the oldest, the greatest, the vilest sinner among us. None need to despair, since "He is the God of all Grace." That is, the grace that is found in God is without limit, and it can be applied to every one of our various failures and shortcomings, of whatever character they may be.
There is even the possibility that the greatest thief, the greatest robber, the vilest person that ever lived under heaven, can obtain forgiveness for his crimes. There is grace found in God, since "He is the God of all Grace," that whatever amount of grace is needed, it is to be had from Him. It is to be found in God. The greatest sins can be forgiven. Look at Manasseh's case, and see what God did for him. He was swimming, as it were, in the blood of the individuals whom he had murdered; and his idolatry went beyond everything that had ever been seen. But after he was taken a prisoner, and he humbled himself before God-really and truly humbled himself before God-see how merciful and good God was to him. It was all forgiven! There is an instance of "the God of all Grace!"
Look, again, at the great persecutor Saul, who delighted in having the believers in Christ beaten in every synagogue; who delighted in having them cast into prison, again and again and again; who delighted in tormenting them till they blasphemed the worthy, precious name of the Lord Jesus; who delighted in having believers in Christ put to death. Yet this great persecutor-in his day, we have reason to .believe, the greatest of persecutors-was forgiven. "I obtained mercy," he himself says. "I obtained mercy." Why? Because God was "the God of all Grace." That was the reason, not because he deserved it, not because he had become a better man now. No! While he was on the very way to Damascus, to do to the believers in Christ there what he had been doing to the believers in Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus met him and changed his heart, and made him one of the holiest men that ever lived on earth (as a mere human being, I mean) and this because God is "the God of all Grace." How this suits sinners, as we are, in all our variety of failures and shortcomings-even in the case of the converted. Though they hate sin and love holiness, yet how many are their failures, how many their shortcomings, how many their words which are contrary to the mind of God! Though they do not live in sin, and though they do not go on in an evil, wicked course, yet their failures, their shortcomings, if not in action, yet in word, and if it were even not in word, in thought, in feeling, in desire, in purpose, in inclination, O how many are they! How many are our failures and shortcomings! But our Friend and Helper in heaven, our Father in Christ Jesus, is "the God of all Grace."
O, a precious title! And I advise my beloved Christian friends to study this title yet further and further; to think about it, and to pray over this name given here to our Heavenly Father, that more and more they may be comforted by "the God of Grace," Who hath called us unto His eternal glory." That is the prospect we have! The weakest, the feeblest, the least instructed of the children of God have this prospect before them-to share the eternal glory of God! What a wonderful thing is this! And all the glory which the Father will give to the Lord Jesus Christ, on account of His mediatorial work, the weakest, the feeblest of the children of God shall share with Christ, because they are members of His mystical body, of which He is the Head, because they belong to Him; and that is the reason why they shall share it with Him. To this eternal glory of God the Father, and to this eternal glory of God the Son, we are called, and we have obtained (for the very purpose that we might be assured that we shall share it) an earnest, which is the Spirit of God. And as assuredly as we are the partakers of God the Holy Spirit, so surely we shall share the eternal glory of the Father and of the Son. Bright, and blessed, and glorious, therefore, are our prospects!
And how do we come to all this? What is our title to all this? It is stated, "Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus"-rather in Christ Jesus, because we belong to Christ. No goodness, no merit, no worthiness found in us; not because we are better than other people; not because we pray a great deal; not because we work a great deal for God. That is not the reason, but because we are in Christ Jesus, members of His mystical body. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. He, in our room and stead, fulfilled the whole law, the law which we had broken times without number. And thus it comes that we are justified before God-that is, accounted just, reckoned just, though unjust and unrighteous in ourselves.
This perfect obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ unto death, the death on the Cross, is put to our account, is imputed to us; and therefore it is that we are called unto His eternal glory through Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered in our room and stead, as our mediator, and bore all the punishment which we deserve on account of our numberless transgressions. And thus God, though just and holy and righteous, can in Christ Jesus give to us this wonderful blessing, to share His own eternal glory, and to share the eternal glory of the Lord Jesus Christ! O the wonderful, wondrous prospects which we have! If this were entered into, we should sing and rejoice all the day long, under all circumstances, under all trials; but because we enter so little into it, we apprehend so little of it, we pass by so much of what is declared in the Word of God about these things, and are so short of happiness as we are! Now let us ponder more abundantly all these things, that the heart may be brimful of joy. This is so important, because "the joy of the Lord" is the spiritual strength of the believer while we are this side eternity.
"Called us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile"-more exactly and minutely, "after ye have suffered a little while." It is only a little while, in comparison with eternity! Suppose it were to last 20 years, or 50 years, or even 80 years, and if it were even longer than this, yet, in comparison with eternity, it is a little while! For a little while only! O how short it will be, in comparison with eternity! We must never lose sight of the fact that eternity is a period without end. A thousand years are as one day! A thousand years, a little time, a very little time! And ten hundred millions of years, a little time. Eternity only beginning, though a thousand millions of years shall have passed away! Only the beginning of eternity! And 50 millions, and 5,000 millions of years, O how little, how little a period in comparison with eternity.
So after this life, suffered a little while, what comes? He will "make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." It is a positive statement! It is not merely a wish, not merely a desire, on the part of the apostle, nor merely a prayer. But He will make you perfect! When you look at your spiritual conflicts now, remember they will not always remain. We shall have the victory, completely, through our Lord Jesus Christ. No temptations any longer! Nor hesitation whether we shall do a thing, or not do it-all this completely done away. The will of God will be declared to us, and instantaneously, without a second's hesitation, without a moment of pondering whether we shall do it or not, the heart will say, "Thy will, Heavenly Father, is my perfect delight; I shall rejoice in glorifying Thee, by doing what Thou wilt have me to do." This is the state of things to which we are hastening on! Perfect conformity to the mind of Christ! Perfect; universal, and eternal obedience to our Heavenly Father! When, hereafter in the glory, His holy pleasure is made known to us, instantaneously we shall comply. That is the meaning of being made perfect, and that is the promise we have.
He will make you perfect as to holiness and as to intelligence; there will be no remaining in ignorance found in us, but "we shall know in that day, as perfectly as we are known now." We shall completely know God, we shall completely know the Lord Jesus, we shall completely know everything that is according to the mind of God, or contrary to the mind of God. O the bright and blessed and glorious prospect that every particle of ignorance now found in us will be completely done away with. We shall be perfect as to holiness; we shall be perfect as to knowledge. O how bright, how glorious, these prospects are! We are not perfect now, even as to knowledge, or as to grace. Far otherwise. We are weak and feeble in ourselves still, though believers in the Lord Jesus; and though hating sin and loving holiness, we are far from being perfect. But we shall be perfect! This is the bright and blessed prospect, "He will make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."
Stablish-that is, He will give unto us a state in which there will no double-mindedness, all a reality, in regard to the things of God; all one-minded, all according to the mind of God. This is the bright prospect before us. Then we shall be strengthened -that is to say, completely firm according to the mind of God, no double-mindedness whatever; one mind, and only one mind, to glorify God; one purpose, and only one purpose, to live for God, to labour for God; and everything that is contrary to the mind of God will be entirely removed from us. A bright and blessed prospect this, that just as the Lord Jesus Christ was, while on earth, thirty-three years and a half, so hereafter will be the feeblest, the weakest, of the children of God; so completely minded shall we be, as the Lord Jesus Christ was, for glorifying God while on earth. That is the prospect before us.
And lastly, we shall be settled-that is, such a foundation of complete spirituality shall we be brought to, that a shaking of the foundation will be entirely impossible, O this prospect of being settled, with firm foundations, will be ours; no shifting and changing will be the question then, but one purpose, and one purpose throughout eternity, will be ours: to glorify God, to do the will of God, to work for God, to have no will of our own. O how bright is the prospect for us weak ones, feeble ones, and erring ones, as we are, that we shall not remain thus. O how often have we condemned ourselves since our conversion, in that we are not altogether Christ-like, that we are still not always inclined to do the things which are perfectly according to the mind of God, and though at last we come to it, and do the thing according; to the mind of God, yet that we hesitated for a little moment, that we considered whether we should do the thing or not. This should not be found in us; this shows that we are not altogether according to the mind of God, that yet the corrupt nature is found in us, that the devil has still a measure of power over us, and that we are not yet perfect in holiness.
All this will then be altered completely. One single aim throughout eternity, one single mind throughout eternity, to live for God, to glorify God, without the least particle of hesitation at any time; instantaneously, when the will of God is presented to us to set our seal to it, that we will obey Him, that we. will glorify Him, that we will do His will. How bright and blessed and glorious these prospects! Now is there yet an unbeliever here present? If so, to you, my dear friend, I would say in whatever way you seek after happiness now, you will never have it, can never have it, except you find it in this way that I have been pointing out, I through Jesus Christ. The Apostles, holy men, exceedingly holy men as they were, obtained all this through Christ. They did not obtain it by their own exertion. It was as poor, guilty, hell-deserving sinners, they accepted what God gives to the sinner in Christ Jesus. We have to own before God that we are sinners, and, if we do not see it, to ask God to show it to us, and then to confess before God in prayer that we are sinners, and, having done so, to put our trust solely in Christ Jesus for salvation. It is this, and this alone, which brings the blessing, and can bring the blessing. Any, therefore, who are not yet believers in Christ, if they desire really and truly to be happy, this is the only way to obtain it; if they desire to go to heaven, this is the only way to get there. God grant that some soul or other may be benefited through this our meditation, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
Extracts From An Address By Mr. George Müller Psalm 42:5, 11
“WHY art thou cast down, O my soul?” the Psalmist saith to himself. And so may we say to ourselves. Is there ever any ground to be cast down? There are two reasons, but only two: if we are as yet unconverted, we have ground to be cast down; or, if we are converted and live in sin, then we are rightly cast down. But except for these two things, there is no ground to be cast down, for all else may be brought before God in prayer with supplication and thanksgiving; and regarding all our necessities, all our difficulties, all our trials, we may exercise faith in the power of God, and in the love of God; and in His own time help will come in answer to prayer and faith.
“Hope thou in God.” Oh, remember this—there is never a time when we may not hope in God. Whatever our necessities, however great our difficulties, and though to all appearance help is impossible, yet our business is to hope in God. And it will be found that it is not in vain; in the Lord’s own time help will come.
Oh, the hundreds, yea, the thousands of times that I have found it thus within the past seventy years and four months! When it seemed impossible that help could come, help did come, for God has His own resources, and these resources may be counted by hundreds, by thousands. He is not confined to this thing or that thing, or to twenty things; in ten thousand different ways, and at ten thousand different times, God may help us. Our business is to spread our case before the Lord, in childlike simplicity to pour out all our heart before God, telling Him, “I do not deserve that Thou shouldst hear me and answer my requests, but for the sake of my precious Lord Jesus—in Whom alone I trust for the salvation of my soul, Thy perfect Servant, my Saviour—for His sake answer my prayer and give me grace quietly to wait till it please Thee to answer my prayer, for I believe Thou wilt do it in Thine own time and way.” Thus invariably I have found that (with the exception of one case, for which I have preyed since November 10th, 1844) my prayer has been answered. And I cannot tell you what an effect this has had on my life, and how it has made me a happy man; and in my greatly advanced age it makes me a very happy man.
“For I shall yet praise Him.” More prayer, more exercise of faith, more patient waiting, and the result will be blessing, abundant blessing. Thus I have found it many hundreds of times, and therefore I continually say to myself, “Hope thou in God.”
“Who is…my God.” This is just the great point to remember, that this God is our God—Jehovah, the Almighty God—is our God. And, therefore, we must wait in Him longer and longer and longer, and exercise patience yet more and more and more; for in God’s own time it will be seen that it is not in vain.
Now the Psalmist tells God in all simplicity that his soul is cast down (v. 6). So may we tell God, our Father, tell the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him that He would now speak a word to us in season, because we are weary. That is His own precious promise in Isaiah 50:4. And when we are weary and tried, either through difficulty, sore temptation, losses, crosses, or greatly reduced through sickness—under such circumstances we may turn to the Lord Jesus, and remind Him of His precious promise, saying to Him, “My precious Lord Jesus, I am weary, wilt Thou now speak to me a word in season?” And He will comfort us, refresh our spirit, and so strengthen us by His Spirit in the inner man.
Oh! If you have never made trial of Him, make trial of Him, and you will find how ready He is to do this!
The precious LORD Jesus the Messiah is our FRIEND. Oh, let us seek to realize this! It is not a mere religious phrase or statement, but VERILY HE IS OUR FRIEND. He is the Brother Who is “born for adversity”, the One Who “sticketh closer than a brother”, Who will never leave nor never forsake us. (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24b; Hebrews 13:5 & 8).
How precious even on earth to have a heavenly Friend, for this brings the joys of heaven in a little degree into our hearts now. And this is just what our heavenly Father desires regarding His children, that they might be as happy as they are capable of being while here in the body. Do we enter into it, that the One Who is “altogether lovely” is ready hour by hour to be our Friend, by day and by night to prove Himself to be our Friend?
When we cannot sleep at night say, “My precious heavenly Friend, wilt Thou give me a little sleep?” When in pain, say, “My precious heavenly Friend, if it may please Thee, wilt Thou take away this pain? but if not, if Thou seest better that it should continue, sustain, help and strengthen me, my heavenly Friend!” When we feel lonely and tired, turn to the precious LORD Jesus: He is willing to be our Friend in our loneliness. I have found it thus. For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to my precious Lord Jesus as I walk up and down in my room, and say, “My precious Lord Jesus, I am alone, and yet not alone, Thou art with me; Thou art my Friend, now LORD comfort me, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest he needs.”
Oh! this is REALITY, not a fable, that the LORD Jesus the Messiah is our Friend.
And we should not be satisfied until we are brought to this, that we know the LORD Jesus the Messiah EXPERIMENTALLY to be our Friend, HABITUALLY to be our Friend. Just ponder this. HABITUALLY, never leaving, never forsaking us, at all times and under all circumstances ready to prove Himself to be our Friend.
And this He is willing not merely to grant for a few months, or a year or two, but to the very end of our earthly pilgrimage. David in Psalm 23, says, “YEA, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, FOR THOU ART WITH ME.” Oh, how precious this is!
Now THIS “LOVELY ONE” IS COMING AGAIN, AND SOON, SOON, SOON, MAY HE COME AGAIN, and then He will take us Home, and there we shall be for ever with Him. Oh, how precious that bright and glorious prospect! And here again the practical point is, to appropriate this to ourselves. “He is coming to take ME, poor, guilty, worthless, hell-deserving ME, He is coming to take ME to Himself!”
And in the degree in which we enter into and appropriate to ourselves these glorious things, in that degree the joys of heaven will be commenced already.
This message was given by George Muller, and was used by permission from E.C.L., 60 Park Street, Bristol, England.
I HAVE been for fifty years, by God’s grace, acting on the principle of Christian giving according to the Scriptures, and I cannot tell you the abundance of spiritual blessing I have received to my own soul through acting thus; that is, seeking to be a cheerful giver; seeking to give as God has been pleased to prosper me.
I began when I had comparatively very, very little to spare; but as I gave, God increased my ability to give more and more: until at last God has been pleased, in the riches of His grace, to condescend to use a poor worthless worm like me, and has entrusted me year by year with very large sums to expend. Many beloved saints are depriving themselves of wondrous spiritual blessing by not giving as stewards what is entrusted to them. They act as if it were all their own, as if all belonged to them, as if already they were in possession of the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled; forgetting that they have nothing whatever which is their own, that they are bought by the precious blood of Christ, and all they possess—their bodily strength, their time, their talents, their business, their professions, their eyes, their hands, their feet, all belong to the Lord Jesus Christ; because He has bought them with His precious blood.
Therefore may I affectionately beseech and entreat my beloved Christian friends to take this to heart, and consider that hitherto they have been depriving themselves of vast spiritual blessings, because they have not followed the principles of giving systematically, and giving as God prospers them, and according to a plan; not merely just according to impulse—not as they are moved by a missionary or charity sermon, but systematically and habitually giving on principle, just as God enables them. If He entrusts to them one pound to give accordingly a proportion; if they are left a legacy of a thousand pounds, to give accordingly; if He entrusts them with ten thousand pounds, or whatever it might be, to give accordingly. Oh, my brethren, I believe if we realized the blessing, we would give thus on principle; and, if so, we should give a hundred times more than we do now.
Just as we are constrained by the love of Christ, so God condescends to use us; and as we give, He is pleased to entrust to us more and more. It is impossible for us to say to what amount God may entrust us, or how largely He may give unto us the joy and honour, the precious privilege, of communicating to others.
And here allow me to refer to my own experience. The first year I began giving, God entrusted me with about fifty pounds; but this afterwards increased, until now He has entrusted me with about two thousand pounds a year. The poor man George Müller, known by everybody as a poor man, who is this very day as a poor man, who stands before you a poor man, and yet by the grace of God has been enabled to give about forty thousand pounds sterling—that is altogether since I began.
Of late, God has allowed me to receive one legacy after another, and that sometimes two thousand and even three thousand a year have I been enabled to give; and see the blessedness, the privilege, the wondrous honour, that a poor man as I am should thus be entrusted by Him! By the grace of God I desire to be nothing but poor. I wish to be nothing else than a poor man, having nothing, no house of my own, no money in the Funds, not an acre of land—a poor man all together; day by day waiting on God for all I need, the very clothes that I wear. I wait on God for everything, and yet He has allowed me the great honour and blessed privilege of giving more than forty thousand pounds sterling within the last fifty years. I began in the year 1830 to live thus as steward for the Lord. In the little way I could I gave, but God increased my ability more and more, until now He is allowing me to give in His service, year by year, two or three thousand pounds. Now, why do I say it? To encourage the hearts of my beloved brethren to seek to give systematically. If you have not done so hitherto, do begin now. It is a blessed thing for the soul, it is a blessed thing for your purse and God will entrust to you more and more.
Now I do not say imitate me, George Müller; but I say, seek to give, if it be ever so little, to give systematically; if it be only the twentieth part of your income, give systematically, and you will find a blessing to your soul; and the blessing with regard to stewardship will be such that you will be encouraged more and more to go on in this way.
(Part of an Address at a Mildmay Park Conference.)