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The Word Appreciated by Charles Spurgeon
“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” — Psalm 119:103

It is delightful to find how exactly the experience of David, under the Jewish dispensation, tallies with the experience of the saints of God in these gospel times. David lived in an age of miracles and divers manifestations. He could have recourse to the Urim and the Thummim and the priesthood; he could go up to Zion and listen to the holy songs of the great assembly; he could converse with the priesthood; but, still, the food of his soul was supplied to him from the written Word of God, just as it is with us now. As that is the food of our souls, so it was the food of David’s soul.

Martin Luther says, “I have covenanted with the Lord that I would neither ask him for visions, nor for angels, nor for miracles, but I would be satisfied with his own Word, and if I might but lay hold upon Scripture by faith, that shall be enough for me.” Now it seems to be so with David here. The honey that gratifies his taste is not found in angels’ visits or miraculous signs or officiating priesthoods or special revelations, but in the words of God’s mouth and in the testimonies of Holy Writ.

Let us, then dear brethren, prize this Book of God. Be not ambitious, as some are, of seeking new revelations, or enquire for the whispers of disembodied spirits, but be satisfied with this good household bread which God has prepared for his people; and while others may loathe and dislike it, let us be thankful for it and acknowledge with gratitude the bread which came down from heaven, testifying to us, as it does, of the Lord Jesus, the Word of life that liveth and abideth forever.

This exclamation of David is clear proof that he set the highest possible value upon the Word of God. The evidence is more valuable, because the Scripture that David had was but a slender book compared with this volume which is now before us. I suppose he had little more than the five Books of Moses, and yet, as he opened that Pentateuch, he said, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste!” If that first morsel so satisfied the psalmist, surely this fuller and richer feast of heavenly dainties ought to be yet more gratifying to us. If, when God had but given him the first dish of the course, and that by no means the best, his soul was ravished with it, how should you and I rejoice with joy unspeakable, now that the King has brought on royal dainties and given us the revelation of his dear Son!

Think a minute. The Pentateuch is what we would call, nowadays, the historical part of Scripture; and haven’t you frequently heard persons say, “Oh, the minister read a passage out of the historical parts of the Word.” I have, with great pain, heard persons speak in a very depreciating manner of the histories of Holy Writ. Now, understand this. The part of the Word which David loved so much is mainly historical, and if the mere history of the Word was so sweet, what ought those holy Gospels and sacred Epistles to be which declare the mystery of that narrative — which are the honey whereof the Old Testament is but the comb — which are the treasures of which the Old Testament is but the casket? Surely we are to be condemned indeed who do not prize the Word now that we have it all.

That Word of God, which David so much prized, was mainly typical, shadowy, symbolical. I do not know that he understood it all. I do know that he understood some of it, for some of his Psalms are so evangelical that he must have perceived the great sacrifice of God foreshadowed in the sacrifices described in the books of Numbers and Leviticus, or it would not have been possible that he should, in so marvelous a style, express his faith in the great offering of our Lord Jesus. I put it to some professors here: do you often read these at all? If, now, your Bible was so circumscribed that all was taken from you but the Pentateuch, would you be able, to say, “Thy Word is sweet unto my taste?” Are not many of us so little educated in God’s Word that, if we were confined to the reading of that part of it, we should be obliged to confess it was unprofitable to us? We could not give a good answer to Philip’s question, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” Oh, shame upon us that, with so many more Books, and with the Holy Spirit so plenteously given to guide us into all truth, we should seem to value at least half of the Word of God even less than David did!

A great portion of the Pentateuch is taken up with precepts, and I may say of some of them that they are grievous. Those commandments which are binding upon us are not grievous. Some of the commands of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are so complex, that they were a yoke of bondage, according to Peter, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear. Yet, that wondrous 20th chapter of Exodus with its ten commandments and all the long list of the precepts of the ceremonial law, which you may perhaps account wearisome to read, David says were sweet to his taste, sweeter than honey to his mouth. What! Did he so love to hear his heavenly Father speak that it did not much matter to him what he said so long as he did but speak, for the music of his voice was gladdening in its every tone to him? Now that you and I know that all the bondage of the ceremonial law is gone, that nothing remains of it but blessing to our souls, and now that we are not under the law, but under grace, and have become inheritors of rich and precious and unspeakably great promises, how is it that we fall so far short, and do not, I fear, love the Word of God to anything like the degree that David loved it?

David here speaks of all God’s words, without making any distinction concerning some one of them. So long as it was God’s Word, it was sweet to him, whatever form it might take. Alas, this is not true of all professors. With an unwise partiality, they pronounce some of God’s words as very sweet, but other portions of God’s truth are rather sour and unsavory to their palates. There are persons of a certain class who delight in the doctrines of grace. Therein they are to be commended, for which of us do not delight in them if we know our interest in them? The covenant and the great truths which grow out of the covenant, these are unspeakably precious things and are rightly enough the subjects of joy to all believers who understand them. Yet certain of these persons will be as angry as though you had touched them with a hot iron if you should bring a precept anywhere near them; and if you insist upon anything being the duty of a believer, the very words seem to sting them like a whip; they cannot endure it. If you speak of the “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord,” and speak of it as a holiness which is wrought in us by God the Holy Spirit and as a holiness of mind and thought and action — a personal holiness which is to be seen in the daily life — they are offended. They can say, “How sweet are thy doctrinal words to my taste, but not thy precepts, Lord; those I do not love; those I call legal. If thy servants minister them, I say they are gendering bondage and I go away from them and leave them as Arminians or duty-faith men or something of that kind; for I love half thy Word and only half of it.” Alas, there are not a few of that class to be found every here and there.

And there are some who go on the other side they love God’s Word in the precepts of it, or the promises, but not the doctrines. If the doctrine be preached, they say it is dangerous — too high; it will elevate some of God’s servants to presumption it will tempt them to think lightly of moral distinctions; it will lead them to walk carelessly, because they know they are safe in Christ. Thus they love one half of the truth and not the whole of it. But, my dear brethren and sisters, I hope you are of the same mind as David. If God shall give you a promise, you will taste it, like a wafer of honey, and feed on it; and if he shall give you a precept, you will not stop to look at it, and say, “Lord, I don’t like this as well as the promise;” but you will receive that and feed upon that also. And when the Lord shall be pleased afterwards to give you some revelation with regard to your inward experience or to your fellowship with his dear Son, you welcome it with joy, because you love any truth and every truth so long as you know it to be the truth of God’s own Word.

It is a blessed sign of grace in the heart when God’s words are sweet to us as a whole — when we love the truth, not cast into a system or a shape, but as we find it in God’s Word. I believe that no man who has yet lived has ever proposed a system of theology which comprises all the truth of God’s Word. If such a system had been possible, the discovery of it would have been made for us by God himself: certainly it would if it had been desirable and useful for our profit and holiness. But it has not pleased God to give us a body of divinity; let us receive it as he has given it each truth in its own proportion — each doctrine in harmony with its fellow — each precept carefully carried out into practice and each promise to be believed and by-and-by received. Let the truth and the whole truth, be sweet to our taste. “How sweet are thy words!”

There seems to be an emphasis on the pronoun, “How sweet are thy words!” O my God, if the words be thine, they are sweet to me. Had they come to me from the prophet, and I had perceived them to be merely the words of man, I might then have estimated them at their own weight, without reference to their authority; but when my Father speaks, when the Spirit lives and breathes in the truth to which I listen, when Jesus Christ himself draws near to me in the preaching of the gospel — then it is that the Word becomes sweet unto my taste. Beloved, let us not be satisfied with the truth except we can also feel it to be God’s truth. Let us ask the Lord to enable us, when we open this Book, to feel that we are not reading it as we read a common book — truths put there by some means, unimportant to us how; but let us recollect that we are reading truth put there by an inspired pen — that we have there God’s truth such as he would have us receive — such as he thought it worth his while to write and to preserve to all ages for our instruction.

The psalmist is not content to say, “God’s Word is sweet, and sweeter than honey,” but “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” After all, the blessedness of the Word is a matter to be ascertained by personal experience. Let others choose this philosophy and that form of thought, let them gad abroad after the beauties of poetry, or dote upon the charms of oratory; my palate shall be satisfied with thy Word, O God, and my soul shall find an excess of sweetness in the things which come from thy mouth into my mouth!

The Word of God, then, while in itself certainly most sweet, and all the sweeter when we recognize it as coming from God, will only be sweet to us in proportion as we are able to receive it and to feed upon it. Every man must in this case feed for himself. There can be no proxy here. I wonder not at those who think lightly of God’s Word, notwithstanding the rapturous admiration they have heard expressed by others; for, unless they have tasted it, and felt and handled it, they still must be strangers to its unspeakable sweetness.

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The Means of Atonement – C. H. Spurgeon

“This shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.”—Leviticus 16:34
The Jews had many striking ceremonies which marvelously set forth the death of Jesus Christ as the great expiation of our guilt and the salvation of our souls.  One of the chief of these was the day of atonement, which I believe was pre-eminently intended to typify that great day of vengeance of our God, which was also the great day of acceptance of our souls, when Jesus Christ “died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”  That day of atonement happened only once a year, to teach us that only once should Jesus Christ die; and that though he would come a second time, yet it would be without a sin offering unto salvation. The lambs were perpetually slaughtered; morning and evening they offered sacrifice to God, to remind the people that they always needed a sacrifice; but the day of atonement being the type of the one great propitiation, it was but once a year that the high priest entered within the veil with blood as the atonement for the sins of the people.  And this was on a certain set and appointed time; it was not left to the choice of Moses, or to the convenience of Aaron, or to any other circumstance which might affect the date; it was appointed to be on a peculiar set day, as you find at the 29th verse: “In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month;” and at no other time was the day of atonement to be, to show us that God’s great day of atonement was appointed and predestinated by himself. Christ’s expiation occurred but once, and then not by any chance; God had settled it from before the foundation of the world; and at that hour when God had predestinated, on that very day that God had decreed that Christ should die, was he led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers he was dumb.  It was but once a year, because the sacrifice should be once; it was at an appointed time in the year, because in the fulness of time Jesus Christ should come into the world to die for us.
Let us consider THE MEANS WHEREBY THIS ATONEMENT WAS MADE.  You read at the 5th verse, “And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.”  And at the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th verses, “And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.  And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.  And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.  But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”  The first goat I considered to be the great type of Jesus Christ the atonement: such I do not consider the scapegoat to be.  The first is a type of the means whereby the atonement was made, and we shall keep to that first.

Notice that this goat, of course, answered all the pre-requisites of every other thing that was sacrificed; it must be a perfect, unblemished goat of the first year.  Even so was our Lord a perfect man, in the prime and vigor of his manhood.  And further, this goat was an eminent type of Christ from the fact that it was taken of the congregation of the children of Israel, as we are told at the 5th verse.  The public treasury furnished the goat.  So, beloved, Jesus Christ was, first of all, purchased by the public treasury of the Jewish people before he died.  Thirty pieces of silver they had valued him at, a goodly price; and as they had been accustomed to bring the goat, so they brought him to be offered: not, indeed, with the intention that he should be their sacrifice, but unwittingly they fulfilled this when they brought him to Pilate, and cried, “Crucify him, crucify him!”  Oh, beloved! Indeed, Jesus Christ came out from the midst of the people, and the people brought him.  Strange that it should be so!  “He came unto his own, and his own received him not;” his own led him forth to slaughter; his own dragged him before the mercy seat.

Note, again, that though this goat, like the scapegoat, was brought by the people, God’s decision was in it still.  Mark, it is said, “Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”  I conceive this mention of lots is to teach that although the Jews brought Jesus Christ of their own will to die, yet, Christ had been appointed to die; and even the very man who sold him was appointed to it—so saith the Scripture.  Christ’s death was fore-ordained, and there was not only man’s hand in it, but God’s.  “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.”  So it is true that man put Christ to death, but it was of the Lord’s disposal that Jesus Christ was slaughtered, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”

Next, behold the goat that destiny has marked out to make the atonement.  Come and see it die.  The priest stabs it.  Mark it in its agonies; behold it struggling for a moment; observe the blood as it gushes forth. Christians, ye have here your Savior.  See his Father’s vengeful sword sheathed in his heart; behold his death agonies; see the clammy sweat upon his brow; mark his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth; hear his sighs and groans upon the cross; hark to his shriek, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” and you have more now to think of than you could have if you only stood to see the death of a goat for your atonement.  Mark the blood as from his wounded hands it flows, and from his feet it finds a channel to the earth; from his open side in one great river see it gush.  As the blood of the goat made the atonement typically, so, Christian, thy Savior dying for thee, made the great atonement for thy sins, and thou mayest go free.

But mark, this goat’s blood was not only shed for many for the remission of sins as a type of Christ, but that blood was taken within the veil, and there it was sprinkled.  So with Jesus’ blood, “Sprinkled now with blood the throne.”  The blood of other beasts (save only of the bullock) was offered before the Lord, and was not brought into the most holy place; but this goat’s blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat, to make an atonement.  So, O child of God, thy Savior’s blood has made atonement within the veil; he has taken it there himself; his own merits and his own agonies are now within the veil of glory, sprinkled now before the throne.  O glorious sacrifice, as well as High Priest, we would adore thee, for by thy one offering hot hast made atonement forever, even as this one slaughtered goat made atonement once in a year for the sins of all the people.

I have now an interesting fact to tell you, and I am sure you will think it worth mentioning.  Turn to Leviticus 25:9, and you will read: “Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall yet make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.”  So that one of the effects of the atonement was set forth to us in the fact that when the year of jubilee came, it was not on the first day of the year that it was proclaimed, but “on the tenth day of the seventh month.”  Ay, methinks, that was the best part of it.  The scapegoat is gone, and the sins are gone, and no sooner are they gone than the silver trumpet sounds,
“The year of jubilee is to come,
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.”

On that day sinners go free; on that day our poor mortgaged lands are liberated, and our poor estates which have been forfeited by our spiritual bankruptcy are all returned to us.  So when Jesus dies, slaves win their liberty, and lost ones receive spiritual life again; when he dies, heaven, the long lost inheritance is ours.  Blessed day!  Atonement and jubilee ought to go together.  Have you ever had a jubilee, my friends, in your hearts?  If you have not, I can tell you it is because you have not had a day of atonement.

One more thought concerning the effects of this great day of atonement, and you will observe that it runs throughout the whole of the chapter—entrance within the veil.  Only on one day in the year might the high priest enter within the veil, and then it must be for the great purposes of the atonement.  Now, beloved, the atonement is finished, and you may enter within the veil: “Having boldness, therefore, to enter into the holiest, let us come with boldness into the throne of the heavenly grace.”  The veil of the temple is rent by the atonement of Christ, and access to the throne is now ours.  O child of God, I know not of any privilege which thou hast, save fellowship with Christ, which is more valuable than access to the throne.  Access to the mercy seat is one of the greatest blessings mortals can enjoy.

Precious throne of grace!  I never should have had any right to come there if it had not been for the day of atonement; I never should have been able to come there if the throne had not been sprinkled with the blood.

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I believe that the best, surest, and most permanent way to fill a place of worship is to preach the gospel, and to preach it in a natural, simple, interesting, earnest way. The gospel itself has a singularly fascinating power about it, and unless impeded by an unworthy delivery, or by some other great evil, it will win its own way.  It certainly did so at the first, and what is to hinder it now?  Like the angels, it flew upon its own wings; like the dew, it tarried not for man, neither waited for the sons of men.  The Lord gave the word; great was the company of them that published it; their line went forth throughout all the world, and the nations heard the glad tidings from heaven.

The gospel has a secret charm about it which secures a hearing: it casts its good spell over human ears, and they must hearken.  It is God’s own word to men; it is precisely what human necessities require; it commends itself to man’s conscience, and, sent home by the Holy Spirit, it wakes an echo in every heart.

In every age, the faithful preaching of the good news has brought forth hosts of men to hear it, made willing in the day of God’s power.  I shall need a vast amount of evidence before I shall come to the conclusion that its old power is gone.  My own experience does not drive me to such a belief, but leads me in the opposite direction.  Thirty years of crowded houses leave me confident of the attractions of divine truth: I see nothing as yet to make me doubt its sufficiency for its own propagation.  Shorn of its graciousness, robbed of its certainty, spoiled of its peculiarities, the sacred word may become unattractive; but decked in the glories of free and sovereign grace, wearing the crownroyal of the covenant, and the purple of atonement, the gospel, like a queen, is still glorious for beauty, supreme over hearts and minds.  Published in all its fulness, with a clear statement of its efficacy and immutability, it is still the most acceptable news that ever reached the ears of mortals.  You shall not in my most despondent moments convince me that our Lord was mistaken when he said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.”

Edited from The Sword and the Trowel (August, 1883).

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Fishers of Men by Charles Spurgeon

“And Jesus saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

When Christ calls us by his grace we ought not only to remember what we are, but we ought also to think of what he can make us.  It is, “Follow me, and I will make you.”  We should repent of what we have been, but rejoice in what we may be.  It is not “Follow me, because of what you are already.”  It is not “Follow me, because you may make something of yourselves;” but, “Follow me, because of what I will make you.”  Verily, I might say of each one of us as soon as we are converted, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.”  It did not seem a likely thing that lowly fishermen would develop into apostles; that men so handy with the net would be quite as much at home in preaching sermons and in instructing converts.  One would have said, “How can these things be?  You cannot make founders of churches out of peasants of Galilee.”

That is exactly what Christ did; and when we are brought low in the sight of God by a sense of our own unworthiness, we may feel encouraged to follow Jesus because of what he can make us.  O you, who see in yourselves at present nothing that is desirable, come you and follow Christ for the sake of what he can make out of you.  Do you not hear his sweet voice calling to you, and saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?”

Note, next, that we are not made all that we shall be, nor all that we ought to desire to be, when we are ourselves fished for and caught.  This is what the grace of God does for us at first; but it is not all.  We are like the fishes, making sin to be our element; and the good Lord comes, and with the gospel net he takes us, and he delivers us from the life and love of sin.  But he has not wrought for us all that he can do, nor all that we should wish him to do, when he has done this; for it is another and a higher miracle to make us who were fish to become fishers – to make the convert into a converter – the receiver of the gospel into an imparter of that same gospel to other people.

I think I may say to every person whom I am addressing – If you are saved yourself, the work is but half done until you are employed to bring others to Christ.  You are as yet but half formed in the image of your Lord.  You have not attained to the full development of the Christ-life in you unless you have commenced in some feeble way to tell to others of the grace of God: and I trust that you will find no rest to the sole of your foot till you have been the means of leading many to that blessed Savior who is your confidence and your hope.  His word is–Follow me, not merely that you may be saved, nor even that you may be sanctified; but, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Be following Christ with that intent and aim; and fear that you are not perfectly following him unless in some degree he is making use of you to be fishers of men.  The fact is that every one of us must take to the business of a mancatcher.  If Christ has caught us, we must catch others.  If we have been apprehended of him, we must be his constables, to apprehend rebels for him.  Let us ask him to give us grace to go a-fishing, and so to cast our nets that we may take a great multitude of fishes.  Oh that the Holy Ghost may raise up from among us some master-fishers, who shall sail their boats in many a sea, and surround great shoals of fish!

My teaching at this time will be very simple, but I hope it will be eminently practical; for my longing is that not one of you that love the Lord may be backward in his service.   What says the Song of Solomon concerning certain sheep that come up from the washing?  It says, “Every one beareth twins, and none is barren among them.”  May that be so with all the members of this church and all the Christian people that hear or read this sermon!

The fact is, the day is very dark.  The heavens are lowering with heavy thunder-clouds.  Men little dream of what tempests may soon shake this city, and the whole social fabric of this land, even to a general breaking up of society.  So dark may the night become that the stars may seem to fall like blighted fruit from the tree.  The times are evil.  Now, if never before, every glow-worm must show its spark.  You with the tiniest farthing candle must take it from under the bushel, and set it on a candlestick.  There is need of you all.  Lot was a poor creature.  He was a very, very wretched kind of believer; but still, he might have been a great blessing to Sodom had he but pleaded for it as he should have done.  And poor, poor Christians, as I fear many are, one begins to value every truly converted soul in these evil days, and to pray that each one may glorify the Lord.  I pray that every righteous man, vexed as he is with the conversation of the wicked, may be more importunate in prayer than he has ever been, and return unto his God, and get more spiritual life, that he may be a blessing to the perishing people around him.  I address you, therefore, at this time first of all upon this thought.  Oh that the Spirit of God may make each one of you feel his personal responsibility!

Here is for believers in Christ, in order to their usefulness, something for them to do: “Follow me.”  But, secondly, here is something to be done by their great Lord and Master: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  You will not grow into fishers of yourselves, but this is what Jesus will do for you if you will but follow him.  And then, lastly, here is a good illustration, used according to our great Master’s wont; for scarcely without a parable did he speak unto the people.  He presents us with an illustration of what Christian men should be – fishers of men.  We may get some useful hints out of it, and I pray the Holy Spirit to bless them to us.

I. First, then, I will take it for granted that every believer here wants to be useful. If he does not, I take leave to question whether he can be a true believer in Christ.  Well, then, if you want to be really useful, here is SOMETHING FOR YOU TO DO TO THAT END: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

What is the way to become an efficient preacher?  “Young man,” says one, “go to college.”  “Young man,” says Christ, “follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” How is a person to be useful?  “Attend a training-class,” says one.  Quite right; but there is a surer answer than that—Follow Jesus, and he will make you fishers of men.  The great training-school for Christian workers has Christ at its head; and he is at its head, not only as a tutor, but as a leader: we are not only to learn of him in study, but to follow him in action.  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  The direction is very distinct and plain, and I believe that it is exclusive, so that no man can become a fisherman by any other process.  This process may appear to be very simple; but assuredly it is most efficient.  The Lord Jesus Christ, who knew all about fishing for men, was himself the Dictator of the rule, “Follow me, if you want to be fishers of men.  If you would be useful, keep in my track.”

I understand this, first, in this sense: be separate unto Christ.  These men were to leave their pursuits; they were to leave their companions; they were, in fact, to quit the world, that their one business might be, in their Master’s name, to be fishers of men.  We are not all called to leave our daily business, or to quit our families.  That might be rather running away from the fishery than working at it in God’s name.  But we are called most distinctly to come out from among the ungodly, and to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing.  We cannot be fishers of men if we remain among men in the same element with them.  Fish will not be fishers.  The sinner will not convert the sinner.  The ungodly man will not convert the ungodly man; and, what is more to the point, the worldly Christian will not convert the world.  If you are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own; but you cannot save the world.  If you are dark, and belong to the kingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness.  If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeat them.  I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.

The first lesson which the church has to learn is this: Follow Jesus into the separated state, and he will make you fishers of men.  Unless you take up your cross and protest against an ungodly world, you cannot hope that the holy Jesus will make you fishers of men.

A second meaning of our text is very obviously this: abide with Christ, and then you will be made fishers of men.  These disciples whom Christ called were to come and live with him.  They were every day to be associated with him.  They were to hear him teach publicly the everlasting gospel, and in addition they were to receive choice explanations in private of the word which he had spoken.  They were to be his body-servants and his familiar friends.  They were to see his miracles and hear his prayers; and, better still, they were to be with himself, and become one with him in his holy labor.  It was given to them to sit at the table with him, and even to have their feet washed by him.  Many of them fulfilled that word, “Where thou dwellest I will dwell.”  They were with him in his afflictions and persecutions.  They witnessed his secret agonies; they saw his many tears; they marked the passion and the compassion of his soul, and thus, after their measure, they caught his spirit, and so they learned to be fishers of men.

At Jesus’ feet, we must learn the art and mystery of soul-winning to live with Christ is the best education for usefulness.  It is a great boon to any man to be associated with a Christian minister whose heart is on fire.  The best training for a young man is that which pastors were wont to give, when each old man had a young man with him who walked with him whenever he went up the mountainside to preach, and lived in the house with him, and marked his prayers and saw his daily piety.  This was a fine instruction.  Was it not?  But it will not compare with that of the apostles who lived with Jesus himself, and were his daily companions.  Matchless was the training of the twelve.  No wonder that they became what they were with such a heavenly tutor to saturate them with his own spirit!  And now to-day his bodily presence is not among us; but his spiritual power is perhaps more fully known to us than it was to those apostles in those two or three years of the Lord’s corporeal presence.

There be some of us to whom he is intimately near.  We know more about him than we do about our dearest earthly friend.  We have never been able quite to read our friend’s heart in all its twistings and windings, but we know the heart of the Well Beloved.  We have leaned our head upon his bosom, and have enjoyed fellowship with him such as we could not have with any of our own kith and kin.  This is the surest method of learning how to do good.  Live with Jesus, follow Jesus, and he will make you fishers of men.  See how he does the work, and so learn how to do it yourself.  A Christian man should be bound apprentice to Jesus to learn the trade of a Savior.  We can never save men by offering a redemption, for we have none to present; but we can learn how to save men by warning them to flee from the wrath to come, and setting before them the one great effectual remedy.

See how Jesus saves, and you will learn how the thing is done: there is no learning it anyhow else.  Live in fellowship with Christ, and there shall be about you an air and a manner as of one who has been made in heart and mind apt to teach, and wise to win souls.

A third meaning, however, must be given to this “Follow me,” and it is this: “Obey me, and then you shall know what to do to save men.”  We must not talk about our fellowship with Christ, or our being separated from the world unto him, unless we make him our Master and Lord in everything.  Some public teachers are not true at all points to their convictions, and how can they look for a blessing?  A Christian man anxious to be useful, ought to be very particular as to every point of obedience to his Master.  I have no doubt whatever that God blesses our churches even when they are very faulty, for his mercy endureth forever.

When there is a measure of error in the teaching, and a measure of mistake in the practice, he may still vouchsafe to use the ministry, for he is very gracious.  But a large measure of blessing must necessarily be withheld from all teaching which is knowingly or glaringly faulty.  God can set his seal upon the truth that is in it, but he cannot set his seal upon the error that is in it.  Out of mistakes about Christian ordinances and other things, especially errors in heart and spirit, there may come evils which we never looked for.  Such evils may even now be telling upon the present age, and may work worse mischief upon future generations.  If we desire as fishers of men to be largely used of God we must copy our Lord Jesus in everything, and obey him in every point.  Failure in obedience may lead to failure in success.

Again, I think that there is a great lesson in my text to those who preach their own thoughts instead of preaching the thoughts of Christ.  These disciples were to follow Christ that they might listen to him, hear what he had to say, drink in his teaching, and then go and teach what he had taught them.  Their Lord says, “What I tell you in darkness, speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.”  If they will be faithful reporters of Christ’s message, he will make them “fishers of men.”

But you know the boastful method nowadays is this: “I am not going to preach this old, old gospel, this musty Puritan doctrine.  I will sit down in my study, and burn the midnight oil, and invent a new theory; then I will come out with my brand-new thought, and blaze away with it.”  Many are not following Christ, but following themselves, and of them the Lord may well say, “Thou shalt see whose word shall stand, mine or theirs.”  Others are wickedly prudent, and judge that certain truths which are evidently God’s word had better be kept back.  You must not be rough, but must prophesy smooth things.  To talk about the punishment of sin, to speak of eternal punishment, why, these are unfashionable doctrines.  It may be that they are taught in the Word of God, but they do not suit the genius of the age.  We must pare them down. Brothers in Christ, I will have no share in this.  Will you? O my soul, come not thou into their secret!

To a great degree I attribute the looseness of the age to the laxity of the doctrine preached by its teachers.  From the pulpit they have taught the people that sin is a trifle.  From the pulpit these traitors to God and to his Christ have taught the people that there is no hell to be feared.  A little, little hell, perhaps, there may be; but just punishment for sin is made nothing of.  The precious atoning sacrifice of Christ has been derided and misrepresented by those who were pledged to preach it.  They have given the people the name of the gospel, but the gospel itself has evaporated in their hands.  From hundreds of pulpits, the gospel is as clean gone as the dodo from its old haunts; and still the preachers take the position and name of Christ’s ministers.  Well, and what comes of it?  Why, their congregations grow thinner and thinner; and so it must be.  Jesus says, “Follow me, I will make you fishers of men;” but if you go in your own way, with your own net, you will make nothing of it, and the Lord promises you no help in it.  The Lord’s directions make himself our leader and example.  It is, “Follow me, follow me.  Preach my gospel.  Preach what I preached.  Teach what I taught, and keep to that.”  With that blessed servility which becomes one whose ambition it is to be a copyist, and never to be an original, copy Christ even in jots and tittles.  Do this, and he will make you fishers of men; but if you do not do this, you shall fish in vain.

I close this head of discourse by saying that we shall not be fishers of men unless we follow Christ in one other respect; and that is, by endeavoring, in all points, to imitate his holiness.  Holiness is the most real power that can be possessed by men or women.  We may preach orthodoxy, but we must also live orthodoxy.  God forbid that we should preach anything else; but it will be all in vain, unless there is a life at the back of the testimony.  An unholy preacher may even render truth contemptible.  In proportion as any of us draw back from a living and zealous sanctification, we shall draw back from the place of power.

Our power lies in this word, “Follow me.”  Be Jesus-like.  In all things endeavor to think, and speak, and act as Jesus did, and he will make you fishers of men.  This will require self-denial.  We must daily take up the cross.  This may require willingness to give up our reputation — readiness to be thought fools, idiots, and the like, as men are apt to call those who are keeping close to their Master.  There must be the cheerful resigning of everything that looks like honor and personal glory, in order that we may be wholly Christ’s and glorify his name.  We must live his life and be ready to die his death, if need be.  O brothers, sisters, if we do this and follow Jesus, putting our feet into the footprints of his pierced feet, he will make us fishers of men.  If it should so please him that we should even die without having gathered many souls to the cross, we shall speak from our graves.  In some way or other, the Lord will make a holy life to be an influential life.  It is not possible that a life which can be described as a following of Christ should be an unsuccessful one in the sight of the Most High.  “Follow me,” and there is an “I will” such as God can never draw back from: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Thus much on the first point.  There is something for us to do: we are graciously called to follow Jesus.  Holy Spirit, lead us to do it.

II. But secondly, and briefly, there is SOMETHING FOR THE LORD TO DO.

When his dear servants are following him, he says, “I will make you fishers of men;” and be it never forgotten that it is he that makes us follow him; so that if the following of him be the step to being made a fisher of men, yet this he gives us.  ‘Tis all of his Spirit.  I have talked about catching his spirit, and abiding in him, and obeying him, and hearkening to him, and copying him; but none of these things are we capable of apart from his working them all in us.  “From me is thy fruit found,” is a text which we must not for a moment forget.  So, then, if we do follow him, it is he that makes us follow him; and so he makes us fishers of men.

But, further, if we follow Christ, he will make us fishers of men by all our experience. Keep close to your Lord and he will make every step a blessing to you.  If God in providence should make you rich, he will fit you to speak to those ignorant and wicked rich who so much abound in this city, and so often are the cause of its worst sin.  And if the Lord is pleased to let you be very poor you can go down and talk to those wicked and ignorant poor people who so often are the cause of sin in this city, and so greatly need the gospel.  The winds of providence will waft you where you can fish for men.  The wheels of providence are full of eyes, and all those eyes will look this way to help us to be winners of souls.  You will often be surprised to find how God has been in a house that you visit: before you get there, his hand has been at work in its chambers.  When you wish to speak to some particular individual, God’s providence has been dealing with that individual to make him ready for just that word which you could say, but which nobody else but you could say.  Oh, be you following Christ, and you will find that he will, by every experience through which you are passing, make you fishers of men.

Further than that, if you will follow him he will make you fishers of men by distinct monitions in your own heart. There are many monitions from God’s Spirit which are not noticed by Christians when they are in a callous condition; but when the heart is right with God and living in communion with God, we feel a sacred sensitiveness, so that we do not need the Lord to shout, but his faintest whisper is heard.  Nay, he need not even whisper. “Thou shalt guide me with thine eye.”  The Christian who follows his Lord shall be tenderly guided. I do not say that the Spirit of God will say to you, “Go and join yourself unto this chariot,” or that you will hear a word in your ear; but yet in your soul, as distinctly as the Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join yourself to this chariot,” you shall hear the Lord’s will.  As soon as you see an individual, the thought shall cross your mind, “Go and speak to that person.”  Every opportunity of usefulness shall be a call to you.  If you are ready, the door shall open before you, and you shall hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk ye in it.”  If you have the grace to run in the right way you shall never be long without an intimation as to what the right way is.  That right way shall lead you to river or sea, where you can cast your net, and be a fisher of men.

Then, too, I believe that the Lord meant by this that he would give his followers the Holy Ghost.  They were to follow him, and then, when they had seen him ascend into the holy place of the Most High, they were to tarry at Jerusalem for a little while, and the Spirit would come upon them and clothe them with a mysterious power.  This word was spoken to Peter and Andrew; and you know how it was fulfilled to Peter.  What a host of fish he brought to land the first time he cast the net in the power of the Holy Ghost!   Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Brethren, we have no conception of what God could do by this company of believers gathered in the Tabernacle to-night.  If now we were to be filled with the Holy Ghost there are enough of us to evangelize London.  There are enough here to be the means of the salvation of the world.  God saveth not by many nor by few.  Let us seek a benediction; and if we seek it let us hear this directing voice, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

You men and women that sit before me, you are by the shore of a great sea of human life swarming with the souls of men.  You live in the midst of millions; but if you will follow Jesus, and be faithful to him, and true to him, and do what he bids you, he will make you fishers of men.  Do not say, “Who shall save this city?”  The weakest shall be strong enough. Gideon’s barley cake shall smite the tent, and make it lay along.  Samson, with the jawbone, taken up from the earth where it was lying bleaching in the sun, shall smite the Philistines.  Fear not, neither be dismayed.  Let your responsibilities drive you closer to your Master.  Let horror of prevailing sin make you look into his dear face who long ago wept over Jerusalem, and now weeps over London.  Clasp him, and never let go your hold.  By the strong and mighty impulses of the divine life within you, quickened and brought to maturity by the Spirit of God, learn this lesson from your Lord’s own mouth: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  You are not fit for it, but he will make you fit.  You cannot do it of yourselves, but he will make you do it.  You do not know how to spread nets and draw shoals of fish to shore, but he will teach you.  Only follow him, and he will make you fishers of men.

I wish that I could somehow say this as with a voice of thunder, that the whole church of God might hear it.  I wish I could write it in stars athwart the sky, “Jesus saith, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  If you forget the precept, the promise shall never be yours.  If you follow some other track, or imitate some other leader, you shall fish in vain.  God grant us to believe fully that Jesus can do great things in us, and then do great things by us for the good of our fellows!

III. The last point you might work out in full for yourselves in your private meditations with much profit. We have here A FIGURE FULL OF INSTRUCTION.  I will give you but two or three thoughts which you can use.

A fisher is a person who is very dependent, and needs to be trustful. He cannot see the fish.  One who fishes in the sea must go and cast in the net, as it were, at a peradventure.  Fishing is an act of faith. I have often seen in the Mediterranean men go with their boats and enclose acres of sea with vast nets; and yet, when they have drawn the net to shore, they have not had as much result as I could put in my hand.  A few wretched silvery nothings have made up the whole take.  Yet they have gone again and cast the great net several times a day, hopefully expecting something to come of it.  Nobody is so dependent upon God as the minister of God. Oh, this fishing from the Tabernacle pulpit!  What a work of faith!  I cannot tell that a soul will be brought to God by it.  I cannot judge whether my sermon will be suitable to the persons who are here, except that I do believe that God will guide me in the casting of the net.  I expect him to work salvation, and I depend upon him for it.  I love this complete dependence, and if I could be offered a certain amount of preaching power, by which I could save sinners, which should be entirely at my own disposal, I would beg the Lord not to let me have it, for it is far more delightful to be entirely dependent upon him at all times.  Go to work, you who would be fishers of men, and yet feel your insufficiency.  You that have no strength, attempt this divine work.  Your Master’s strength will be seen when your own has all gone.  A fisherman is a dependent person, he must look up for success every time he puts the net down; but still he is a trustful person, and therefore he casts in the net joyfully.

A fisherman who gets his living by it is a diligent and persevering man. The fishers are up at dawn.  At day-break our fishermen off the Doggerbank are fishing, and they continue fishing till late in the afternoon.  As long as hands can work men will fish.  May the Lord Jesus make us hard-working, persevering, unwearied fishers of men!  “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that.”

The fisherman in his own craft is intelligent and watchful. It looks very easy, I dare say, to be a fisherman, but you would find that it was no child’s play if you were to take a real part in it.  There is an art in it, from the mending of the net right on to the pulling it to shore.  How diligent the fisherman is to prevent the fish leaping out of the net!  They are very crafty, these fish, and they use this craftiness in endeavoring to avoid salvation.  We shall have to be always at our business, and to exercise all our wits, and more than our own wits, if we are to be successful fishers of men.

The fisherman is a very laborious person. It is not at all an easy calling.  He does not sit in an armchair and catch fish.  He has to go out in rough weathers.  If he that regardeth the clouds will not sow, I am sure that he that regardeth the clouds will never fish.  If we never do any work for Christ except when we feel up to the mark, we shall not do much.  We must be always at it, until we wear ourselves out, throwing our whole soul into the work in all weathers, for Christ’s sake.

The fisherman is a daring man. He tempts the boisterous sea.  A little brine in his face does not hurt him; he has been wet through a thousand times, it is nothing to him.  He never expected when he became a deep-sea fisherman that he was going to sleep in the lap of ease.  So the true minister of Christ who fishes for souls will never mind a little risk.  He will be bound to do or say many a thing that is very unpopular; and some Christian people may even judge his utterances to be too severe.  He must do and say that which is for the good of souls.  It is not his to entertain a question as to what others will think of his doctrine, or of him; but in the name of the Almighty God he must feel, “If the sea roar and the fullness thereof, still at my Master’s command I will let down the net.”

Now, in the last place, the man whom Christ makes a fisher of men is successful. “But,” says one, “I have always heard that Christ’s ministers are to be faithful, but that they cannot be sure of being successful.”  Yes, I have heard that saying, and one way I know it is true, but another way I have my doubts about it.  He that is faithful is, in God’s way and in God’s judgment, successful, more or less.  For instance, here is a brother who says that he is faithful.  Of course, I must believe him, yet I never heard of a sinner being saved under him.  Indeed, I should think that the safest place for a person to be in if he did not want to be saved would be under this gentleman’s ministry, because he does not preach anything that is likely to arouse, impress, or convince anybody.

Well, if any person in the world said to you, “I am a fisherman, but I have never caught anything,” you would wonder how he could be called a fisherman.  A farmer who never grew any wheat, or any other crop – is he a farmer?  When Jesus Christ says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” he means that you shall really catch men – that you really shall save some; for he that never did get any fish is not a fisherman.  He that never saved a sinner after years of work is not a minister of Christ.  If the result of his life-work is nil, he made a mistake when he undertook it.  Go thou and scatter the good seed: it may not all fall in fruitful places, but some of it will.  Be thou sure of that.  Do but shine, and some eye or other will be lightened thereby.

Thou must, thou shalt succeed.  But remember this is the Lord’s word –“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Keep close to Jesus, and do as Jesus did, in his spirit, and he will make you fishers of men.

Perhaps I speak to an attentive hearer who is not converted at all.  Friend, I have the same thing to say to you.  You also may follow Christ, and then he can use you, even you.  I do not know but that he has brought you to this place that you may be saved, and that in after years he may make you speak for his name and glory.  Remember how he called Saul of Tarsus, and made him the apostle of the Gentiles.  Reclaimed poachers make the best gamekeepers; and saved sinners make the ablest preachers.  Oh, that you would run away from your old master to-night, without giving him a minute’s notice; for if you give him any notice, he will hold you.  Hasten to Jesus, and say, “Here is a poor runaway slave!  My Lord, I bear the fetters still upon my wrists. Wilt thou set me free, and make me thine own?”

Remember, it is written, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”  Never runaway slave came to Christ in the middle of the night without his taking him in; and he never gave one up to his old master.  If Jesus makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  Flee away to Jesus, then, on a sudden.  May his good Spirit help you, and he will by-and-by make you a winner of others to his praise!  God bless you.  Amen.

Edited from a sermon preached by Spurgeon in 1886.

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“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though any reins be consumed within me.” — Job 19:25-27

The hand of God has been upon us heavily this week.  An aged deacon, who has been for more than fifty years a member of this Church, has been removed from our midst; and a sister, the beloved wife of another of our Church-officers, a member for nearly the same term of years, has fallen asleep.  It is not often that a Church is called to sorrow over the departure of two such venerable members — let not our ears be deaf to such a double admonition to prepare to meet our God.  That they were preserved so long and upheld so mercifully for so many years was not only a reason of gratitude to them, but to us also.  I am, however, so averse to the preaching of what are called funeral sermons that I forbear, lest I appear to eulogize the creature when my only aim should be to magnify the grace of God.

Our text deserves our profound attention.  Its preface would hardly have been written had not the matter been of the utmost importance in the judgment of the patriarch who uttered it.  Listen to Job’s remarkable desire: “Oh that my words were now written!  Oh that they were printed in a book!  That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!”  Perhaps, hardly aware of the full meaning of the words he was uttering, yet his holy soul was impressed with a sense of some weighty revelation concealed within his words; he therefore desired that it might be recorded in a book.  He has had his desire: the Book of books embalms the words of Job.  He wished to have them graven on a rock, cut deep into it with an iron pen and then the lines inlaid with lead; or he would have them engraved, according to the custom of the ancients, upon a sheet of metal, so that time might not be able to eat out the inscription.  He has not had his desire in that respect, save only that upon many and many a sepulcher those words of Job stand recorded, “I know that my redeemer liveth.”

It is the opinion of some commentators that Job, in speaking of the rock here, intended his own rock-hewn sepulcher and desired that this might be his epitaph; that it might be cut deep, so that ages should not wear it out; that when any asked, “Where does Job sleep?” as soon as they saw the sepulcher of the patriarch of Uz they might learn that he died in hope of resurrection, resting upon a living Redeemer.  Whether such a sentence adorned the portals of Job’s last sleeping-place we know not.  But certainly no words could have been more fitly chosen.  Should not the man of patience, the mirror of endurance, the pattern of trust, bear as his memorial this golden line which is as full of all the patience of hope, and hope of patience, as mortal language can be?  Who among us could select a more glorious motto for his last escutcheon?  I am sorry to say that a few of those who have written upon this passage cannot see Christ or the resurrection in it at all.  If it had been Job’s desire to foretell the advent of Christ and his own sure resurrection, I cannot see what better words he could have used.  And if those truths are not here taught, then language must have lost its original object and must have been employed to mystify and not to explain, to conceal and not to reveal.  What, I ask, does the patriarch mean, if not that he shall rise again when the Redeemer stands upon the earth?

Brethren, no unsophisticated mind can fail to find here what almost all believers have here discovered.  I feel safe in keeping to the old sense and we shall this morning seek no new interpretation, but adhere to the common one, with or without the consent of our critics.

In discoursing upon them, I shall speak upon three things. First, let us, with the patriarch, descend into the grave and behold the ravages of death.  Then, with him, let us look up on high for present consolation.  And, still in his admirable company, let us, in the third place, anticipate future delights.

I. First, LET US DESCEND INTO THE SEPULCHLER.

The body has just been divorced from the soul.  Friends who loved most tenderly have said — “Bury my dead out of my sight.”  The body is borne upon the bier and consigned to the silent earth; it is surrounded by the earthworks of death.  Death has a host of troops.  If the locusts and the caterpillars be God’s army, the worms are the army of death.  These hungry warriors begin to attack the city of man.  They commence with the outworks; they storm the munitions and overturn the walls.  The skin, the city wall of manhood, is utterly broken down and the towers of its glory covered with confusion.  How speedily the cruel invaders deface all beauty.

Regard it as a necessity; nay more, view it as the platform of a miracle, the lofty stage of resurrection, since Jesus shall surely raise again from the dead the particles of this body, however divided from one another.  We have heard of miracles, but what a miracle is the resurrection!  All the miracles of Scripture, yea even those wrought by Christ, are small compared with this.  The philosopher says, “How is it possible that God shall hunt out every particle of the human frame?”  He can do it: he has but to speak the word, and every single atom, though it may have traveled thousands of leagues, though it may have been blown as dust across the desert, and anon have fallen upon the bosom of the sea, and then have descended into the depths thereof to be cast up on a desolate shore, sucked up by plants, fed on again by beasts, or passed into the fabric of another man — I say that individual atom shall find its fellows and the whole company of particles at the trump of the archangel shall travel to their appointed place, and the body, the very body which was laid in the ground, shall rise again.

I am afraid I have been somewhat uninteresting while tarrying upon the exposition of the words of Job, but I think very much of the pith of Job’s faith lay in this: that he had a clear view that the worms would after his skin destroy his body and yet that in his flesh he should see God.  You know we might regard it as a small miracle if we could preserve the bodies of the departed.  If, by some process with spices and gums, we could preserve the particles for the Lord to make those dry bones live and to quicken that skin and flesh were a miracle certainly, but certainly not so great a marvel as when the worms have destroyed the body.

When the fabric has been absolutely broken up, the tenement all pulled down, ground to pieces, and flung in handfuls to the wind, so that no relic of it is left, and yet when Christ stands in the latter days upon the earth, all the structure shall be brought together, bone to his bone — then shall the might of Omnipotence be seen.  This is the doctrine of the resurrection and happy is he who finds no difficulty here, who looks at it as being an impossibility with man but a possibility with God, and lays hold upon the omnipotence of the Most High and says, “Thou sayest it, and it shall be done!”  I comprehend thee not, great God; I marvel at thy purpose to raise my moldering bones, but I know that thou doest great wonders!  And I am not surprised that thou shouldst conclude the great drama of thy creating works here on earth by re-creating the human frame by the same power by which thou didst bring from the dead the body of thy Son Jesus Christ and by that same divine energy which has regenerated human souls in thine own image.

II. LET US LOOK UP WITH THE PATRIARCH AND BEHOLD A SUN SHINING WITH PRESENT COMFORT.

“I know,” said he, “that my Redeemer liveth.”  The word “Redeemer” here used is, in the original, “goel” — kinsman.  The duty of the goel was this: suppose an Israelite had alienated his estate, as in the case of Naomi and Ruth; suppose a patrimony which had belonged to a family had passed away through poverty, it was the goel’s business, the redeemer’s business to pay the price as the next of kin and to buy back the heritage.  Boaz stood in that relation to Ruth.

Now, the body may be looked upon as the heritage of the soul — the soul’s small farm, that little plot of earth in which the soul has been wont to walk and delight, as a man walketh in his garden or dwelleth in his house.  Now, that becomes alienated.  Death, like Ahab, takes away the vineyard from us who are as Naboth.  We lose our patrimonial estate; Death sends his troops to take our vineyard and to spoil the vines thereof and ruin it.  But we turn round to Death and say, “I know that my Goel liveth and he will redeem this heritage.  I have lost it; thou takest it from me lawfully, O Death, because my sin hath forfeited my right.  I have lost my heritage through my own offense and through that of my first parent Adam, but there lives one who will buy this back.”  Brethren, Job could say this of Christ long before he had descended upon earth, “I know that he liveth.”  And now that he has ascended up on high and led captivity captive, surely we may with double emphasis say, “I know that my Goel, my Kinsman, liveth and that he hath paid the price, that I should have back my patrimony, so that in my flesh I shall see God.”  Yes, my hands, ye are redeemed with blood, bought not with corruptible things, as with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.  Yes, heaving lungs and palpitating heart, ye have been redeemed!  He that redeemed the soul to be his altar has also redeemed the body that it may be a temple for the Holy Ghost.  Not even the bones of Joseph can remain in the house of bondage.  No smell of the fire of death may pass upon the garments which his holy children have worn in the furnace.

Remember, too, that it was always considered to be the duty of the goel, not merely to redeem by price, but where that failed, to redeem by power.  Hence, when Lot was carried away captive by the four kings, Abraham summoned his own hired servants and the servants of all his friends and went out against the kings of the East and brought back Lot and the captives of Sodom.  Now, our Lord Jesus Christ, who once has played the kinsman’s part by paying the price for us, liveth, and he will redeem us by power.  O Death, thou tremblest at this name!  Thou knowest the might of our Kinsman!  Against his arm thou canst not stand!  Thou didst once meet him foot to foot in stern battle, and, O Death, thou didst indeed tread upon his heel.  He voluntarily submitted to this, or else, O Death, thou hadst no power against him.  But he slew thee, Death, he slew thee!  He rifled all thy caskets, took from thee the key of thy castle, burst open the door of thy dungeon.  And now thou knowest, Death, thou hast no power to hold my body; thou mayst set thy slaves to devour it, but thou shalt give it up and all their spoil must be restored.  Insatiable Death, from thy greedy mouth yet shall return the multitudes whom thou hast devoured.  Thou shalt be compelled by the Savior to restore thy captives to the light of day.  I think I see Jesus coming with his Father’s servants.  The chariots of the Lord are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels.  Blow ye the trumpet!  Blow ye the trumpet!  Immanuel rides to battle!  The Most Mighty in majesty girds on his sword.  He comes!  He comes to snatch by power his people’s lands from those who have invaded their portion.  Oh, how glorious the victory!  No battle shall there be.  He comes, he sees, he conquers.  The sound of the trumpet shall be enough: Death shall fly affrighted and at once from beds of dust and silent clay to realms of everlasting day the righteous shall arise.

To linger here a moment, there was yet, very conspicuously in the Old Testament, we are informed, a third duty of the goel, which was to avenge the death of his friend.  If a person had been slain, the Goel was the avenger of blood.  Snatching up his sword, he at once pursued the person who had been guilty of bloodshed.  So now, let us picture ourselves as being smitten by Death.  His arrow has just pierced us to the heart, but in the act of expiring, our lips are able to boast of vengeance and in the face of the monster we cry, “I know that my Goel liveth.”   Thou mayst fly, O Death, as rapidly as thou wilt, but no city of refuge can hide thee from him.  He will overtake thee; he will lay hold upon thee, O thou skeleton monarch and he will avenge my blood on thee.  I would that I had powers of eloquence to work out this magnificent thought.  Both Chrysostom or Christmas Evans could picture the flight of the King of Terrors, the pursuit by the Redeemer, the overtaking of the foe, and the slaying of the destroyer.  Christ shall certainly avenge himself on Death for all the injury which Death hath done to his beloved kinsmen.  Comfort thyself then, O Christian; thou hast ever living, even when thou diest, one who avenges thee, one who has paid the price for thee, and one whose strong arms shall yet set thee free.

Passing on in our text to notice the next word, it seems that Job found consolation not only in the fact that he had a Goel, a Redeemer, but that this Redeemer liveth.  He does not say, “I know that my Goel shall live,” but that “he lives,” — having a clear view of the self-existence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.  And you and I looking back do not say, “I know that he did live,” but “he lives today.”  This very day you that mourn and sorrow for venerated friends, you may go to Christ with confidence, because he not only lives, but he is the source of life.  And you therefore believe that he can give forth out of himself life to those whom you have committed to the tomb.  He is the Lord and giver of life originally and he shall be specially declared to be the resurrection and the life when the legions of his redeemed shall be glorified with him.  If I saw no fountain from which life could stream to the dead, I would yet believe the promise when God said that the dead shall live; but when I see the fountain provided, and know that it is full to the brim and that it runneth over, I can rejoice without trembling.  Since there is one who can say, “I am the resurrection and the life,” it is a blessed thing to see the means already before us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us look up to our Goel then who liveth at this very time.

Still the marrow of Job’s comfort, it seems to me, lay in that little word “My.” “I know that MY Redeemer liveth.”  Oh, to get hold of Christ!  I know that in his offices he is precious.  But, dear friends, we must get a property in him before we can really enjoy him.  What is honey in the wood to me, if like the fainting Israelites, I dare not eat?  It is honey in my hand, honey on my lip, which enlightens mine eyes like those of Jonathan.  What is gold in the mine to me?  Men are beggars in Peru and beg their bread in California.  It is gold in my purse which will satisfy my necessities, purchasing the bread I need.  So, what is a kinsman if he be not a kinsman to me?  A Redeemer that does not redeem me, an avenger who will never stand up for my blood, of what avail were such?  But Job’s faith was strong and firm in the conviction that the Redeemer was his.  Dear friends, can all of you say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth”?  The question is simple and simply put, but oh, what solemn things hang upon your answer, “Is it MY Redeemer?”  I charge you rest not, be not content until by faith you can say, “Yes, I cast myself upon him; I am his, and therefore he is mine.”

I know that full many of you, while you look upon all else that you have as not being yours, yet can say, “My Redeemer is mine.”  He is the only piece of property which is really ours.  We borrow all else: the house, the children, nay, our very body we must return to the Great Lender.  But Jesus we can never leave, for even when we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord.  And I know that even death cannot separate us from him, so that body and soul are with Jesus truly even in the dark hours of death, in the long night of the sepulcher, and in the separate state of spiritual existence.  Beloved, have you Christ?  It may be you hold him with a feeble hand, you half think it is presumption to say, “He is my Redeemer;” yet remember, if you have but faith as a grain of mustard seed, that little faith entitles you to say, and say now, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

There is another word in this consoling sentence which no doubt served to give a zest to the comfort of Job.  It was that he could say, “I KNOW” — “I KNOW that my Redeemer liveth.”  To say, “I hope so, I trust so,” is comfortable; and there are thousands in the fold of Jesus who hardly ever get much further.  But to reach the marrow of consolation you must say, “I KNOW.”  Ifs, buts, and “perhapses” are sure murderers of peace and comfort.  Doubts are dreary things in times of sorrow.  Like wasps they sting the soul!  If I have any suspicion that Christ is not mine, then there is vinegar mingled with the gall of death.  But if I know that Jesus is mine, then darkness is not dark; even the night is light about me.  Out of the lion cometh honey; out of the eater cometh forth sweetness.  “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”  This is a brightly-burning lamp cheering the damps of the sepulchral vault, but a feeble hope is like a flickering, smoking flax just making darkness visible, but nothing more.  I would not like to die with a mere hope mingled with suspicion.  I might be safe with this, but hardly happy.  But oh, to go down into the river knowing that all is well, confident that as a guilty, weak and helpless worm, I have fallen into the arms of Jesus, believing that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him.  I would have you, dear Christian friends, never look upon the full assurance of faith as a thing impossible to you.

Assurance is a jewel for worth but not for rarity.  It is the common privilege of all the saints if they have but the grace to attain unto it, and this grace the Holy Spirit gives freely.  Surely if Job in Arabia, in those dark, misty ages when there was only the morning star and not the sun, when they saw but little, when life and immortality had not been brought to light — if Job before the coming and advent still could say, “I know,” you and I should not speak less positively.  God forbid that our positiveness should be presumption.  Let us try ourselves and see that our marks and evidences are right, lest we form an ungrounded hope; for nothing can be more destructive than to say, “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.”  But oh, let us build for eternity and build solidly.  Let us not be satisfied with the mere foundation for it is from the upper rooms that we get the widest prospect.  Let us pray the Lord to help us to pile stone on stone until we are able to say as we look at it, “Yes, I know, I KNOW that my Redeemer liveth.”  This, then, provides present comfort today in the prospect of departure.

III. And now, in the third and last place, as THE ANTICIPATION OF FUTURE DELIGHT, let me call to your remembrance the other part of the text.

Job not only knew that the Redeemer lived, but he anticipated the time when he should stand in the latter day upon the earth.  No doubt Job referred here to our Savior’s first advent, to the time when Jesus Christ, “the goel,” the kinsman, should stand upon the earth to pay in the blood of his veins the ransom price, which had, indeed, in bond and stipulation been paid before the foundation of the world in promise.  But I cannot think that Job’s vision stayed there; he was looking forward to the second advent of Christ as being the period of the resurrection.  We cannot endorse the theory that Job arose from the dead when our Lord died, although certain Jewish believers held this idea very firmly at one time.  We are persuaded that “the latter day” refers to the advent of glory rather than to that of shame.  Our hope is that the Lord shall come to reign in glory where he once died in agony.  The bright and hallowed doctrine of the second advent has been greatly revived in our churches in these latter days and I look for the best results in consequence.  There is always a danger lest it be perverted and turned by fanatical minds, by prophetic speculations, into an abuse; but the doctrine in itself is one of the most consoling and, at the same time, one of the most practical, tending to keep the Christian awake, because the bridegroom cometh at such an hour as we think not.  Beloved, we believe that the same Jesus who ascended from Olivet shall so come in like manner as he ascended up into heaven.  We believe in his personal advent and reign.  We believe and expect that when both wise and foolish virgins shall slumber in the night when sleep is heavy upon the saints; when men shall be eating and drinking as in the days of Noah, that suddenly as the lightning flasheth from heaven, so Christ shall descend with a shout and the dead in Christ shall rise and reign with him.  We are looking forward to the literal, personal, and actual standing of Christ upon earth as the time when creation’s groans shall be silenced forever and the earnest expectation of the creature shall be fulfilled.

Mark, that Job describes Christ as standing.  Some interpreters have read the passage, “he shall stand in the latter days against the earth;” that as the earth has covered up the slain, as the earth has become the charnel-house of the dead, Jesus shall arise to the contest and say, “Earth, I am against thee; give up thy dead!  Ye clods of the valley cease to be custodians of my people’s bodies!  Silent deeps, and you, ye caverns of the earth, deliver, once for all, those whom ye have imprisoned!”  Macphelah shall give up its precious treasure, cemeteries and graveyards shall release their captives and all the deep places of the earth shall resign the bodies of the faithful.

Well, whether that be so or not, the posture of Christ, in standing upon the earth, is significant.  It shows his triumph.  He has triumphed over sin which once like a serpent in its coils had bound the earth.  He has defeated Satan.  On the very spot where Satan gained his power Christ has gained the victory.  Earth, which was a scene of defeated goodness, whence mercy once was all but driven, where virtue died, where everything heavenly and pure, like flowers blasted by pestilential winds, hung down their heads, withered and blighted — on this very earth everything that is glorious shall blow and blossom in perfection; and Christ himself, once despised and rejected of men, fairest of all the sons of men, shall come in the midst of a crowd of courtiers, while kings and princes shall do him homage and all the nations shall call him blessed.  “He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth.”

Then, at that auspicious hour, says Job, “In my flesh, I shall see God.” Oh, blessed anticipation — “I shall see God.”  He does not say, “I shall see the saints” — doubtless we shall see them all in heaven — but, “I shall see God.”  Note he does not say, “I shall see the pearly gates, I shall see the walls of jasper, I shall see the crowns of gold and the harps of harmony,” but “I shall see God;” as if that were the sum and substance of heaven.  “In my flesh shall I see God.”  The pure in heart shall see God.  It was their delight to see Him in the ordinances by faith.  They delighted to behold him in communion and in prayer.  There in heaven they shall have a vision of another sort.  We shall see God in heaven, and be made completely like him; the divine character shall be stamped upon us and being made like to him we shall be perfectly satisfied and content.  Likeness to God, what can we wish for more?  And a sight of God, what can we desire better?  We shall see God and so there shall be perfect contentment to the soul and a satisfaction of all the faculties.

Some read the passage, “Yet, I shall see God in my flesh,” and hence think that there is here an allusion to Christ, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the word made flesh.  Well, be it so, or be it not so, it is certain that we shall see Christ, and He, as the divine Redeemer, shall be the subject of our eternal vision.  Nor shall we ever want any joy beyond simply that of seeing him.  Think not, dear friend, that this will be a narrow sphere for your mind to dwell in.  It is but one source of delight, “I shall see God,” but that source is infinite.  His wisdom, his love, his power, all his attributes shall be subjects for your eternal contemplation and, as he is infinite under each aspect, there is no fear of exhaustion.  His works, his purposes, his gifts, his love to you, and his glory in all his purposes and in all his deeds of love — why, these shall make a theme that never can be exhausted.  You may with divine delight anticipate the time when in your flesh you shall see God.

But I must have you observe how Job has expressly made us note that it is in the same body.  “Yet, in my flesh shall I see God;” and then he says again, “Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eye shall behold and not another.”  Yes, it is true that I, the very man standing here, though I must go down to die, yet I shall as the same man most certainly arise and shall behold my God.  Not just part of myself, though the soul alone shall have some view of God, but the whole of myself; my flesh, my soul, my body, my spirit shall gaze on God.  We shall not enter heaven, dear friends, as a dismasted vessel is tugged into harbor.  We shall not get to glory some on boards and some on broken pieces of the ship, but the whole ship shall be floated safely into the haven, body and soul both being safe.  Christ shall be able to say, “All that the father giveth to me shall come to me” – not only all the persons, but all of the person — each man in his perfection.  There shall not be found in heaven one imperfect saint.  There shall not be a saint without an eye, much less a saint without a body.  No member of the body shall have perished;,nor shall the body have lost any of its natural beauty.  All the saints shall be all there, and all of all; the same persons precisely, only that they shall have risen from a state of grace to a state of glory.  They shall be ripened; they shall be no more the green blades, but the full corn in the ear; no more buds but flowers; not babes but men.

Please notice, and then I shall conclude, how the patriarch puts it as being a real, personal enjoyment. “Whom mine eye shall behold, and not another.”  They shall not bring me a report as they did the Queen of Sheba, but I shall see Solomon the King for myself.  I shall be able to say, as they did who spoke to the woman of Samaria, “Now I believe, not because of thy word who did bring me a report, but I have seen him for myself.”  There shall be personal intercourse with God; not through the Book, which is but as a glass; not through the ordinances; but directly, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be able to commune with the Deity as a man talketh with his friend.  “Not another.”  If I could be a changeling and could be altered, that would mar my comfort.  Or if my heaven must be enjoyed by proxy, if draughts of bliss must be drunk for me, where were the hope?  Oh, no – for myself, and not through another – shall I see God.

Have we not told you a hundred times that nothing but personal religion will do and is not this another argument for it, because resurrection and glory are personal things?  “Not another.” If you could have sponsors to repent for you, then, depend upon it, you would have sponsors to be glorified for you.  But as there is not another to see God for you, so you must yourself see and yourself find an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In closing, let me observe how foolish have you and I been when we have looked forward to death with shudders, with doubts, with loathings.  After all, what is it?  Worms!  Do ye tremble at those base crawling things?  Scattered particles!  Shall we be alarmed at these?  To meet the worms we have the angels; and to gather the scattered particles we have the voice of God.  I am sure the gloom of death is altogether gone now that the lamp of resurrection burns.  Disrobing is nothing now that better garments await us.  We may long for evening to undress that we may rise with God.  I am sure my venerable friends now present, in coming so near as they do now to the time of the departure, must have some visions of the glory on the other side the stream.  Bunyan was not wrong, my dear brethren, when he put the land Beulah at the close of the pilgrimage.  Is not my text a telescope which will enable you to see across the Jordan?  May it be as hands of angels to bring you bundles of myrrh and frankincense!  You can say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

You cannot want more; you were not satisfied with less in your youth, you will not be content with less now.  Those of us who are young are comforted by the thought that we may soon depart.  I say comforted, not alarmed by it; and we almost envy those whose race is nearly run, because we fear — and yet we must not speak thus, for the Lord’s will be done — I was about to say, we fear that our battle may last long and that mayhap our feet may slip; only he that keepeth Israel does not slumber nor sleep.  So since we know that our Redeemer liveth, this shall be our comfort in life, that though we fall we shall not be utterly cast down.  And since our Redeemer liveth, this shall be our comfort in death, that though worms destroy this body, yet in our flesh we shall see God.

May the Lord add his blessing on the feeble words of this morning and to him be glory forever.  Amen.

“Grave, the guardian of our dust!

Grave, the treasury of the skies!

Every atom of thy trust

Rests in hope again to rise.

Hark! the judgment trumpet calls;

Soul, rebuild thy house of clay,

Immortality thy walls,

And Eternity thy day.”

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“And they shall see his face.” Revelation 22:4

The Italians so much admire the city of Naples, that their proverb is: “See Naples and die;” as if there remained nothing more to be seen after that fair bay and city had been gazed upon.  To behold the far fairer sight mentioned in the text men might well be content to die a thousand times.  If it shall please God that we shall depart this life before the Master’s appearing, we may laugh at death and count it to be gain, seeing that it introduces us to the place where we shall see his face.  “Thou can not see my face and live,” said the Lord of old.  But that was true of mortals only, and refers not to immortals who have put on incorruption.  In yonder glory-land, they see the face of God and yet live; yea, the sight is the essence and excellence of their life.  Here that vision might be too overpowering for the soul and body and might painfully separate them with excess of delight, and so cause us death.  But up yonder the disembodied spirit is able to endure the blaze of splendor, and so will the body also when it shall have been refined and strengthened in its powers by resurrection from the dead.  Then these eyes, which now would be smitten with blindness should they look upon the superlative glory, shall be strengthened to behold eternally the Lord of angels, who is the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person.

Brethren and sisters, regard the object of our expectations!  See the happiness, which is promised us!  Behold the heaven, which awaits us!  Forget for awhile your present cares: let all your difficulties and your sorrows vanish for a season; and live for awhile in the future which is so certified by faithful promises that you may rejoice in it even now!  The veil which parts us from our great reward is very thin: hope gazes through its gauzy fabric.  Faith, with eagle eyes, penetrates the mist which hides eternal delights from longing eyes.  “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him; but he hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.”  And we, in the power of that Spirit, have known, believed, and anticipated the bliss which every winged hour is bringing nearer to us.

It would have been no small joy to have seen the face of Jesus of Nazareth in the years of his maturity, when his countenance beamed with joy.  “At that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, Father, I thank thee.”  One would like to have basked in the radiance of a sinless smile: it was a vision fit only for the pure in heart to have traced the fair marks of joy upon the face of Jesus; and such a joy, so spiritual, so refined, so heavenly, so divine!  “Father, I thank thee:” blessing God for that eternal decree of election by which he has hidden the things of the kingdom from the wise and prudent, and has revealed them unto babes, and saying, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”  Equally rare must have been the vision which Peter, James and John beheld, when they looked into that Savior’s face and saw it transfigured, beams of light flashing from its every feature, and his whole person made to glow with a superhuman splendor.  The favored spectator might well be content to die upon that mount; it was enough to have lived to have beheld his glory so divinely revealed.

Beloved, have you not sometimes felt as I have, that you could have wished to have seen the Well-beloved’s face even in its grief and agony?  It was not long before the beauty of Jesus began to be marred by his inward grief’s and his daily hardships.  He appears to have looked like a man of fifty when he was scarcely thirty.  The Jews said, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?”  His visage was more marred, we are told, than that of any man, and his form more than the sons of men; for he took upon himself our sickness and bare our sorrows, and all this substitutionary grief ploughed deep furrows upon that blessed brow, and made the cheeks to sink, and the eyes to become red with much weeping.  Yet fain would I have gazed into the face of the Man of Sorrows.  Fain would I have seen those eyes which were “as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set,” those founts of pity, wells of love, and springs of grief.  Fain would I have adoringly admired those cheeks which were as beds of spices, as sweet flowers, and those lips like lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh; for all the suffering that he suffered could not take away from that marred visage its majesty of grace and holiness, nor withdraw from it one he of that mental, and moral, and spiritual beauty which were peculiar to the perfect man.  O how terribly lovely that beloved face must have looked when it was covered with the crimson of the bloody sweat, when the radiant hues of his rosy sufferings suffused the lily of his perfection!  What a vision must that have been of the Man of Sorrows, when he said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death!”  What must it have been to have looked into his face, when his brow was girt about with the crown of thorns, when the ruby drops followed each other adown those bruised cheeks which had been spit upon by the shameful mouths of the scorners?  That must have been a spectacle of woe indeed!

But, perhaps, yet more ghastly still was the face of the Redeemer when he said, “I thirst!” when, in bitterest anguish, he shrieked, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!  “Then, indeed, the sun of the universe suffered a horrible eclipse; then the light of heaven for awhile passed under a black tempestuous cloud.  That face in such a condition we have not seen, nor shall see; yet, beloved, we shall see his face.  I could have wished to have been with Mary, and the holy women, and Joseph, and Nicodemus, when they took his blessed body from the cross and laid it in the tomb.  O for one gaze into that poor pale dead face-to have seen how death looked when mirrored in that matchless clay; and how Jesus appeared when conquered and yet conquering, vanquished and yet victor, yielding up his body to the spoiler, to be laid for awhile in the treasure-house of the tomb, and yet bursting all the bars of the spoiler’s den!

But, brethren, there was a glorious change no doubt, in the face of our Lord when it was seen by divers brethren after the resurrection.  It was the same face, and they knew him to be the same Christ.  Did they not put their fingers into the nail-prints and thrust their hand into his side?  Did they not know him to be veritable flesh and bone as they saw him eat the piece of fish and of an honeycomb?  But the face was restored to its former majesty and radiance, for I suppose it to  have beamed with the dawn-flashes of that light which now flames forth from it, of which John says, “His face was as the sun shining in its strength.”  There were, we believe, some soft unveilings of that unexampled glory which glorified saints, day without night, are perpetually beholding in heaven.  That face was for the last time seen when he ascended and the clouds concealed him.  Then, gazing downward, and scattering benedictions with both his hands, he appointed his disciples to be his witnesses, and bade them go and preach his gospel, for he would be with them always, even unto the end of the world.  Such was the face of Christ on earth, and the remembrance may serve to inspire in us a holy panting after the beatific vision which the Lord hath promised us, and of which we are now about to speak as the Holy Ghost may graciously give us utterance.

First, this morning, I purpose, brethren, to bring before your minds the beatific vision itself –”They shall see his face;” then secondly, we shall dwell for a moment upon the surpassing clearness of the vision – “They shall see his face”— in a sense more than usually emphatic; then thirdly, upon the privileges, choice and precious, which are involved in the vision; and lastly, we shall have a word or two upon those favored ones who shall enjoy the sight –“They shall see his face.”

I. First, then, THE BEATIFIC VISION.

“They shall see his face.”  It is the chief blessing of heaven, the cream of heaven, the heaven of heaven, that the saints shall there see Jesus. There will be other things to see.  Who dare despise those foundations of chrysolite and chrysoprasus and jacinth?  Who shall speak lightly of streets of glassy gold and gates of pearl?  We would not forget that we shall see angels, and seraphim, and cherubim; nor would we fail to remember that we shall see apostles, martyrs, and confessors, together with those whom we have walked with and communed with in our Lord while here below.

We shall assuredly behold those of our departed kindred who sleep in Jesus, dear to us here and dear to us still – “not lost, but gone before.”  But still, for all this, the main thought which we now have of heaven, and certainly the main fullness of it when we shall come there, is just this: we shall see Jesus. We shall care little for any of those imaginary occupations, which have such charms for a certain class of minds that they could even find a heaven in them.  I have read fanciful periods in which the writer has found celestial joys to consist in an eternal progress in the knowledge of the laws of God’s universe.  Such is not my heaven.  Knowledge is not happiness, but, on the contrary, is often an increase of sorrow.  Knowing, of itself does not make men happy nor holy.  For mere knowing’s sake, I would as soon not know as know, if I had my choice: better to love an ounce than to know a pound; better a little service than much knowledge.  I desire to know what God pleases to teach me; but beyond that, even ignorance shall be my bliss.  Some have talked of flitting from star to star, seeing the wonders of God throughout the universe, how he rules in this province of his wide domain, how be governs in that other region of his vast dominion.  It may be so, but it would be no heaven to me.

So far as I can at present judge, I would rather stop at home, and sit at the feet of Christ forever than roam over the wide creation.

The spacious earth and spreading flood

Proclaim the wise and powerful God,

And thy rich glories from afar

Sparkle in every rolling star.

Yet in Christ’s looks a glory stands,

The noblest wonder of God’s hands;

He, in the person of his Son,

Has all his mightiest works outdone.

If Jesus were not infinite we should not speak so; but since he is in his person divine, and as to his manhood, so nearly allied to us that the closest possible sympathy exists between us, there will always be fresh subjects for thought, fresh sources for enjoyment, for those who are taken up with him.

Certainly, brethren and sisters, to no believer would heaven be desirable if Jesus were not there, or, if being there, they could not enjoy the nearest and dearest fellowship with him.  A sight of him first turned our sorrow into joy; renewed communion with him lifts us above our present cares, and strengthens us to bear our heavy burdens: what must heavenly communion he?  When we have Christ with us we are content on a crust, and satisfied with a cup of water; but if his face be hidden the whole world cannot afford a solace, we are widowed of our Beloved, our sun has set, our moon is eclipsed, our candle is blown out.  Christ is all in all to us here, and therefore we pant and long for a heaven in which he shall be all in all to us forever; and such will the heaven of God be.  The Paradise of God is not the Elysium of imagination, the Utopia of intellect, or the Eden of poetry; but it is the heaven of intense spiritual fellowship with the Lord Jesus – a place where it is promised to faithful souls that “they shall see his face.”

In the beatific vision, it is Christ whom they see; and further, it is his face which they behold.  They shall not see the skirts of his robe as Moses saw the back parts of Jehovah; they shall not be satisfied to touch the hem of his garment, or to sit far down at his feet where they can only see his sandals, but they “shall see his face!”  By which I understand two things: first, that they shall literally and physically, with their risen bodies, actually look into the face of Jesus; and secondly, that spiritually their mental faculties shall be enlarged, so that they shall he enabled to look into the very heart, and soul, and character of Christ, so as to understand him, his work, his love, his all in all, as they never understood him before.  They shall literally, I say, see his face, for Christ is no phantom; and in heaven though divine, and therefore spiritual, he is still a man, and therefore material like ourselves.  The very flesh and blood that suffered upon Calvary is in heaven; the hand that was pierced with the nail now at this moment grasps the scepter of all worlds; that very head which was bowed down with anguish is now crowned with a royal diadem; and the face that was so marvel is the very face which beams resplendent amidst the thrones of heaven.  Into that selfsame countenance we shall be permitted to gaze.  O what a sight! Roll by, ye years; hasten on, ye laggard months and days, to let us but for once behold him, our Beloved, our hearts’ care, who “redeemed us unto God by his blood,” whose we are, and whom we love with such a passionate desire, that to be in his embrace we would be satisfied to suffer ten thousand deaths!  They shall actually see Jesus.

Yet the spiritual sight will be sweeter still.  I think the text implies that in the next world our powers of mind will be very different from what they are now.  We are, the best of us, in our infancy as yet, and know but in part; but we shall be men then, we shall “put away childish things.”  We shall see and know even as we are known; and amongst the great things that we shall know will be this greatest of all, that we shall know Christ: we shall know the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths of the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.  O how delightful it will be then to understand his everlasting love; how without beginning, or ever the earth was, his thoughts darted forward towards his dear ones, whom he had chosen in the sovereignty of his choice, that they should be his for ever!

What a subject for delightful meditation will the covenant be, and Christ’s surety-ship engagements in that covenant when he undertook to take the debts of all his people upon himself, and to pay them all, and to stand and suffer in their room!  And what thoughts shall we have then of our union with Christ – our federal, vital, conjugal oneness!  We only talk about these things now, we do not really understand them.  We merely plough the surface and gather a topsoil harvest, but a richer subsoil lies beneath.

Brethren, in heaven we shall dive into the lowest depths of fellowship with Jesus.  “We shall see his face,” that is, we shall see clearly and plainly all that has to do with our Lord; and this shall be the topmost bliss of heaven.  In the blessed vision the saints see Jesus, and they see him clearly.  We may also remark that they see him always; for when the text says “They shall see his face.”  It implies that they never at any time are without the sight.  Never for a moment do they unlock their arm from the arm of their Beloved.  They are not as we are – sometimes near the throne, and sometimes afar off by backslidings; sometimes hot with love, and then cold with indifference; sometimes bright as seraphs, and then dull as clods – but for ever and ever they are in closest association with the Master, for “they shall see his face.”

Best of all, they see his face as it is now in all its glory.  John tells us what that will be like: In his first chapter he says, “His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow,” to mark his antiquity, for he is the Ancient of days.  “And his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.”  Such is the vision which the redeemed enjoy before the throne; their Lord is all brightness, and in him there is nothing to weep over, nothing to mar his glory.  Traces there doubtless are upon that wondrous face, of all the grief’s he once endured, but these only make him more glorious.  He looks like a lamb that has been slain and wears his priesthood still; but all that has to do with the shame, and the spitting, and slaughter, has been so transformed that the sight is all blissful, all comforting, all glorious; and in his face there is nothing to excite a tear or to beget a sigh.  I wish my lips were unloosed and my thoughts were free, that I could tell you something more of this sight, but indeed it is not given unto mortal tongues to talk of these things; and I suppose that if we were caught up to see his face and should come back again, yet should we have to say like Paul, that we had heard and seen that which it was not lawful for us to utter.  God will not as yet reveal these things fully to us, but he reserves his best wine for the last.  We can but give you a few glimpses, but O beloved, wait a little, it shall not be long ere you also shall see his face!

II. Secondly, we turn to another thought-THE SURPASSING CLEARNESS OF THAT VISION.

“They shall see his face.”  The word “see” sounds in my ears with a clear, full, melodious note.  Methinks we see but little here.  This, indeed, is not the world of sight; “we walk by faith, not by sight.”  Around us all is mist and cloud.  What we do see, we see only as if men were trees walking.  If ever we get a glimpse of the spirit-world, it is like yonder momentary lightning-flash in the darkness of the tempest, which opens for an instant the gates of heaven, and in the twinkling of an eye they are closed again, and the darkness is denser than before, as if it were enough for us poor mortals to know that there is a brightness denied to us as yet.

The saints see the face of Jesus in heaven, because they are purified from sin.  The pure in heart are blessed: they shall see God and none others.  It is because of our impurity which still remains that we cannot as yet see his face, but their eyes are touched with eye-salve, and therefore they see.  Ah, brethren, how often does our Lord Jesus hide himself behind the clouds of dust which we ourselves make by our unholy walking?  If we become proud, or selfish, or slothful, or fall into any other of our besetting sins, then our eye loses its capacity to behold the brightness of our Lord; but upyonder they not only do not sin, but they cannot sin; they are not tempted, and there is no space for the tempter to work upon, even could he be admitted to try them; they are without fault before the throne of God; and, surely, this alone is a heaven – to be rid of inbred sin, and the plague of the heart, and to have ended for ever the struggle of spiritual life the crushing power of the fleshly power of death.  They may well see his face when the scales of sin have been taken from their eyes, and they have become pure as God himself is pure.

They surely see his face the more clearly because all the clouds of care are gone from them.  Some of you while sitting here today have been trying to lift up your minds to heavenly contemplation, but you cannot; the business has gone so wrong this week; the children have vexed you so much; sickness has been in the house so sorely; you yourself feel in your body quite out of order for devotion – these enemies break your peace.  Now they are vexed by none of these things in heaven, and therefore they can see their Master’s face.  They are not cumbered with Martha’s cares; they still occupy Mary’s seat at his feet.  When shall you and I have laid aside the farm, and the merchandise, and the marrying, and the burying, which come so fast upon each other’s heels, and when shall we be for ever with the Lord

Far from a world of grief and sin,

With God eternally shut in?

Moreover, as they have done with sins and cares, so have they done with sorrows.  “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.”  We are none of us quite strangers to grief, and with some of us pain is an inseparable companion; we dwell in the smoky tents of Kedar still.  Perhaps it is well that we should so be tried while we are here, for sanctified sorrow refines the soul; but in glory there is no affliction, for the pure gold needeth not the furnace. Well may they then behold Christ when there are no tears to dim their eyes, no smoke of this world to rise up between them and their Beloved, but they are alike free from sin, and care, and sorrow.  They see his face right gloriously in that cloudless atmosphere, and in the light, which he himself supplies.

Moreover, the glorified see his face the more clearly because there are no idols to stand between him and them.  Our idolatrous love of worldly things is a chief cause of our knowing so little of spiritual things.  Because we love this and that so much, we see so little of Christ.  Thou canst not fill thy life-cup from the pools of earth, and yet have room in it for the crystal streams of heaven.  But they have no idols there-nothing to occupy the heart; no rival for the Lord Jesus.  He reigns supreme within their spirits, and therefore they see his face.  They have no veils of ignorance or prejudice to darken their sight in heaven.  Those of us who most candidly endeavor to learn the truth are nevertheless in some degree biased and warped by education.  Let us struggle as we may, yet still our surroundings will not permit us to see things as they are.  There is a deflection in our vision, a refraction in the air, a something everywhere which casts the beam of light out of its straight he so that we see rather the appearance than the reality of truth.  We see not with open sight; our vision is marred; but up yonder, among the golden harps, they “know, even as they are known.”  They have no prejudices, but a full desire to know the truth: the bias is gone, and therefore they are able to see his face.  O blessed thought!  One could almost wish to sit down and say no more, but just roll that sweet morsel under one’s tongue, and extract the essence and sweetness of it.

“They see his face.”  There is no long distance for the eye to travel over, for they are near him; they are in his bosom; they are sitting on his throne at his right hand.  No withdrawals there to mourn over: their sun shall no more go down.  Here he stands behind our wall; he showeth himself through the lattices; but he hides not himself in heaven.  O when shall the long summer days of glory be ours, and Jesus our undying joy for ever and ever?  In heaven they never pray –

Oh may no earthborn cloud arise

To hide thee from thy servant’s eyes,

but for ever and for aye, they bask in the sunlight, or rather, like Milton’s angel, they live in the sun itself.  They come not to the sea’s brink to wade into it up to the ankles, but they swim in bliss forever.  In waves of everlasting rest, in richest, closest fellowship with Jesus, they disport themselves with ineffable delight.

III. The third part of the subject is THE MATCHLESS PRIVILEGE WHICH THIS VISION INVOLVES.

We may understand the words “they shall see his face” to contain five things. They mean, first, certain salvation. The face of Jesus Christ acts in two ways upon the sons of men: with some it is a face of terror – “Before his face heaven and earth fled away.”  It is written concerning him, “Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap.”  A sight of Christ’s face will be to the ungodly eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord.  But  if there are some men who shall see his face, who shall sit down and delight themselves in gazing upon the face of the great Judge upon the throne, then those persons are assuredly saved; they are abiding the day of his coming; they are dwelling with the eternal flame without being consumed; they are resting on the bosom of our God who is a consuming fire; and yet, like the burning bush of old, though glowing with the glory they are not consumed by the heat.  O happy men, who can live where others must expire; who can find their heaven where a carnal world must eternally find its hell!  This is the first thing in the text.  “They shall see his face;” then they are everlastingly safe.”

The second privilege is, they shall have a clear knowledge of him. I have dwelt upon that thought before, and merely mention it to complete the summary.  To look into the face of Christ signifies to be well acquainted with his person, his office, his character, his work.  So the saints in heaven shall have more knowledge of Christ than the most advanced below.  As one has said, the babe in Christ admitted to heaven discovers more of Christ in a single hour than is known by all the divines of the assemblies of the church on earth.  O yes, our catechisms and our creeds, and even our Bible – all these reveal but very little of what we shall discover when we shall see his face.

Our text implies also conscious favor. Was not that the old benediction, “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you?”  He has lifted it up upon the glorified, and they see it world without end.  Here it is our joy of joys to have the Lord smiling upon us, for if he be with us who can be against us?  If we know that he loves us, and that he delights in us, it matters not to us though earth and hell should hate us, and men cast out our names as evil.  In heaven, then, they have this to be their choice privilege.  They are courtiers who stand always in the monarch’s palace, secure of the monarch’s smile.  They are children who live unbrokenly in their father’s love, and know it, and rejoice to know it evermore.

The fourth privilege involved in the text is that of close fellowship. They are always near to Jesus.  They are never hoping that they are with him, and yet fearing that they are not; they have none of those inward struggles which make life so unhappy to some of us; they never say – “Tis a point I long to know.”  But they see his face and are in hourly communion with their Lord.  Perfect spirits are always walking with the Lord, for they are always agreed with him.  In glory, they are all Enochs, walking with God.  There forever and forever they lie in the bosom of Jesus, in the nearest possible place of communion with him who redeemed them with his blood.

And this involves a fifth privilege, namely, complete transformation – “They shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is.”  If they see his face they shall be “changed from glory to glory” by this face-to-face vision of the Lord.  Beholding Christ, his likeness is photographed upon them; they become in all respects like him as they gaze upon him world without end.

Thus have I very briefly mentioned the privileges involved in seeing Christ face to face.

IV. We must conclude by noting WHO THEY ARE TO WHOM THIS CHOICE BOON IS AFFORDED BY THE DIVINE MERCY.

“They shall see his face.”  Who are they? They are all his elect, all his redeemed, all his effectually called ones, all the justified, all the sanctified. They are the tens of thousands and myriads who have died in Jesus, of whom the Spirit saith, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”  Thank God we are not strangers to those who now behold his face.  As we look back to the associations of our youth, and to the friendships of our manhood, we remember many whose privilege it has been to precede us, and to know long before us the things, which we desire and expect so soon to learn.  Some are taken away to see his face while yet young.  We bless God that our babes shall have the same heaven as our holy sires; they shall not be placed in the back settlements of Canaan, but they shall with equal clearness see the face of Jesus.  Those dear boys and girls who learnt to love Christ and made a profession of his name in their youth, were never spared to reach the ripeness of manhood and womanhood, but they shall equally see his face with the gravest and most reverend fathers of the church.  I read of no secondary joys.  Whoever may have invented the doctrine of degrees in heaven I do not know, but I believe there is as much foundation for it in Scripture as there is for the doctrine of purgatory, and no more.  All the saints shall see their Master’s face.  The thief dying on the cross was with Christ in paradise, and Paul could be no more.  I like sometimes to think of heaven in the same way as old Ryland did when he wrote his rhyming letter from Northampton –

They all shall he there,

The great and the small:

For I shall shake hands

With the blessed St. Paul.

Doubtless so we shall.  Whether dying young or old, whether departing after long service of Christ, or dying immediately after conversion as with the thief, of all the saints shall it be said in the words of the text, “They shall see his face.”  What more can apostles and martyrs enjoy?  Do you regret that your friends have departed?  Do you lament that wife, and husband, and child, and father, and grandparent, have all entered into their rest?  Be not so unkind, so selfish to yourself, so cruel to them.  Nay, rather, soldier of the cross, be thankful that another has won the crown before you, and do you press forward to win it too.  Life is but a moment: how short it will appear in eternity.  Even here hope perceives it to be brief; and though impatience counts it long, yet faith corrects her, and reminds her that one hour with God will make the longest life to seem but a point of time, a mere nothing, a watch in the night, a thing that was and was not, that has come and gone.

So we will close our sermon by observing that they who see his face already make only a part of the great “they” who shall see his face, for many of us here below are on the way to the same reward.  So many as have felt the burden of sin, and have come to the foot of the cross and looked to Jesus; so many as can say, He is all my salvation and all my desire;” so many as can serve him feeling that for them to live is Christ; so many as shall fight day by day against sin, and shall overcome through the blood of the Lamb; so many as by the eternal Spirit’s power shall be kept by faith unto salvation – so many shall see his face.  It is mine to hope to see it, and it is yours too.  Beloved, the hope shall not be disappointed, it maketh not ashamed; we shall see his face, and that vision shall yield us perfect bliss.

I fear my text is not true of all here assembled.  Just this word with the unconverted: I am afraid you may almost say with Balaam, “I shall see him but not now, I shall behold him but not nigh.”  For every eye shall see him, and they also which crucified him; and what will they say when they see him?  These ungodly ones what will they do?  They shall cry to the rocks, “Hide us;” and to the mountains, “Cover us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne.”  Ah, my dear hearer, what a dreadful thing it will be if that very face which is the heaven of your mother, and the heaven of your husband, or the heaven of your wife and of your child, should be the hell to you from which you shall desire to be hidden.  Now it must be the case unless first of all you seek his face on earth.  Certain Greeks said to the disciples, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”  I wish you bad that same desire this morning in a spiritual sense, for he himself has said, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”  If you see him now by simple faith as your Savior, you shall see him at the last as your King, your Friend, your Beloved; but you must first see him to trust him here, or you shall not see him to rejoice in him hereafter.

Ye sinners, seek his grace,

Whose wrath ye cannot hear:

Fly to the shelter of his cross,

And find salvation there.

May God, even our own God, bless you for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.” — Revelation 7:16, 17

“They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” — Isaiah 49:10

Jordan is a very narrow stream.  It made a sort of boundary for Canaan; but it hardly sufficed to divide it from the rest of the world, since a part of the possessions of Israel was on the eastern side of it.  Those who saw the Red Sea divided, and all Israel marching through its depths, must have thought it a small thing for the Jordan to be dried up and for the people to pass through it to Canaan.  The greatest barrier between believers and heaven has been safely passed.  In the day when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we passed through our Red Sea and the Egyptians of our sins were drowned.  Great was the marvel of mercy!  To enter fully into our eternal inheritance we have only to cross the narrow stream of death.

I start by reminding you of this because we are very apt to imagine that we must endure a kind of purgatory while we are on earth, and then, if we are believers, we may break loose into heaven after we have shuffled off this mortal coil.  But it is not so.  Heaven must be in us before we can be in heaven; and while we are yet in the wilderness, we may spy out the land and may eat of the clusters of Eshcol.  There is no such gulf between earth and heaven as gloomy thoughts suggest.  Our dreams should not be of an abyss, but of a ladder whose foot is on the earth, but whose top is in glory. There would not be one hundredth part so much difference between earth and heaven if we did not live so far below our privileges.  We live on the ground when we might rise as on the wings of eagles.  We are all too conscious of this body.  Oh, that we were oftener where Paul was when he said, “Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth!”  If not caught up into Paradise, yet may our daily life be as the garden of the Lord.

Listen a while, ye children of God; for I speak to you, and not to others.  To unbelievers, what can I say?  They know nothing of spiritual things and will not believe them though a man should show them unto them. They are spiritually blind and dead: the Lord quicken and enlighten them!   But to you that are begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, I speak with joy.  Think of what you are by grace, and remember that what you will be in glory is already outlined and foreshadowed in your life in Christ.  Being born from above, you are the same men that will be in heaven.  You have within you the divine life — the same life which is to enjoy eternal immortality.  “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:” it is your possession now.  As the quickened ones of the Holy Spirit, the life which is to last on for ever has begun in you.

At this moment you are already, in many respects, the same as you ever will be.  I might almost repeat this passage in the Revelation concerning some of you at this very hour: “What are these? and whence came they? These are they that came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  I might even go on to say, “Therefore are they before the throne of God,” — for you abide in close communion with the King — “and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”  I am straining no point when I thus speak of the sanctified.

Beloved, you are now “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” and you are “the called according to his purpose.”  Already you are as much forgiven as you will be when you stand without fault before the throne of God. The Lord Jesus has washed you whiter than snow and none can lay aught to your charge.  You are as completely justified by the righteousness of Christ as you ever can be; you are covered with his righteousness and heaven itself cannot provide a robe more spotless.  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.”  “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.”  Today we have the spirit of adoption and enjoy access to the throne of the heavenly grace; yea, and today by faith we are raised up in Christ and made to sit in the heavenlies in him.  We are now united to Christ, now indwelt by the Holy Ghost: are not these great things, and heavenly things?  The Lord hath brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Although we may, from one point of view, lament the dimness of the day, yet, as compared with our former darkness, the light is marvelous; and, best of all, it is the same light which is to brighten from dawn into mid-day.  What is grace but the morning twilight of glory?

Look ye, beloved: the inheritance that is to be yours tomorrow, is, in very truth, yours today; for in Christ Jesus you have received the inheritance, and you have the earnest of it in the present possession of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.  It has been well said that all the streets of the New Jerusalem begin here.  See, here is the High Street of Peace, which leads to the central palace of God; and now we set our foot on it.  “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.”  The heavenly street of Victory, where are the palms and the harps, surely we are at the lower end of it here; for “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”  Everything that is to be ours in the home country is, in measure, ours at this moment.  As sleeps the oak within the acorn, so slumbereth heaven within the first cry of “Abba, Father!”  Ay, and the hallelujahs of eternity lie hidden within the groans of penitence.  “God be merciful to me a sinner” has in its bowels the endless “We praise thee, O Lord.”  O saints, little do you know how much you have in what you have!

If I could bring believers consciously nearer to the state of glory by their more complete enjoyment of the privileges of the state of grace, I should be exceeding glad.  Beloved, you will never have a better God: and “this God is our God forever and ever.” Delight yourselves in him this day.  The richest saint in glory has no greater possession than his God: and even I also can say, in the words of the psalm, “Yea, mine own God is he.”

Despite your tribulation, take full delight in God your exceeding joy this morning and be happy in him.  They in heaven are shepherded by the Lamb of God, and so are you: he still carrieth the lambs in his bosom and doth gently lead those that are with young.  Even here he makes us to lie down in green pastures: what would we have more?  With such a God, and such a Savior, all you can want is that indwelling Spirit who shall help you to realize your God and to rejoice in your Savior; and you have this also, for the Spirit of God dwelleth with you and is in you: “know ye not that ye are the temple of God?”  God the Holy Ghost is not far away, neither have we to entreat his influence, as though it were rays from a far-off star; for he abides in his people evermore.  I will not say that heavenly perfection is not far superior to the highest state that we ever reach on earth; but the difference lies more in our own failure than in the nature of things.  Grace, if realized to its full, would brighten off into glory.  When the Holy Spirit fully possesses our being, and we yield ourselves to his power, our weakness is strength and our infirmity is to be gloried in.  Then is it true that on earth God is with us; and there is but a step between us and heaven, where we are with God.

Thus I have conducted you to my two texts, which I have put together as an illustration of what I would teach.  In the New Testament text, we have the heavenly state above; and in the Old Testament text, we have the state of the Lord’s flock while on the way to their eternal rest.  Very singular, to my mind, is the sameness of the description of the flock in the fold, and the flock feeding in the ways. The verses are almost word for word the same.  When John would describe the white-robed host, he can say no more of them than Isaiah said of the pilgrim band, led by the God of mercy.

I. First, LET US CONSIDER THE HEAVENLY STATE ABOVE.

The beloved John tells us what he heard and saw.  The first part of the description assures us of the supply of every need.  “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.”  In heaven no need is unsatisfied and no desire ungratified.  They can have no want as to their bodies, for they are as the angels of God.  Children of poverty, your straitness of bread will soon be ended and your care shall end in plenty.  The worst hunger is that of the heart and this will be unknown above.  There is a ravenous hunger, fierce as a wolf, which possesses some men: all the world cannot satisfy their greed.  A thousand worlds would be scarce a mouthful for their lust.

Now, in heaven there are no sinful and selfish desires.  The ravening of covetousness or of ambition enters not the sacred gate.  In glory there are no desires which should not be, and those desires which should be are all so tempered or so fulfilled that they can never become the cause of sorrow or pain, for, “they shall hunger no more.”

Even the saints need love, fellowship, rest: they have all these in union with God, in the communion of saints, and in the rest of Jesus.  The unrenewed man is always thirsting; but Christ can stay this even now, for he saith, “He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.”  Be you sure, then, that from the golden cup of glory we shall drink that which will quench all thirst forever.  There is not in all the golden streets of heaven a single person who is desiring what he may not have, or wanting what he cannot obtain, or even wishing for that which he has not to his hand.  O happy state!  Their mouth is satisfied with good things; they are filled with all the fullness of God.

And as there is in heaven a supply for every need, so is there the removal of every ill.  Thus saith the Spirit, “Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.”  We are such poor creatures that excess of good soon becomes evil to us.  I love the sun: if you had ever seen it shining in the clear blue heavens, you would not wonder that I speak with emphasis.  Life, joy, and health stream from it in lands where it is enough of pleasure to bask in its beams.  But too much of the sun overpowers us; his warmth makes men faint, his stroke destroys them.  Too great a blessing may prove too heavy a cargo for the ship of life.  Hence we need guarding from dangers which, at the first sight, look as if they were not perilous.  In the beatific state, if these bodies of flesh and blood were still our dwelling-place, we could not live under the celestial conditions.  Even here, too much of spiritual joy may prostrate a man and cast him into a swoon.  I would like to die of the disease; but still, a sickness cometh upon one to whom heavenly things are revealed in great measure and enjoyed with special vividness.  One of the saints cried out in an agony of delight, “Hold, Lord, hold! Remember I am but an earthen vessel, and can contain no more!”  The Lord has to limit his revelations because we cannot bear them now.  I have heard of one who looked upon the sun imprudently, and was blinded by the light.  The very sunlight of divine revelation, favor, and fellowship could readily prove too much for our feeble vision, heart, and brain.  Therefore, in the glorious state flesh and blood shall be removed and the raised body shall be strengthened to endure that fierce light which beats about the throne of Deity.  As for us, as we now are, we might well cry, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?”  But when the redemption of the body has come about and the soul has been strengthened with all might, we shall be able to be at home with our God, who is a consuming fire.  “Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.”  May God grant us to enjoy the anticipation of that happy period when we shall behold his face, when his secret shall be with us, and we shall know even as we are known!  Oh, for that day when we shall enter into the Holiest and shall stand before the presence of his glory; and yet, so far from being afraid, [we] shall be filled with exceeding joy!

But, further, the description of the heavenly life has this conspicuous feature — the leading of the Lamb.  “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them.”  It is heaven to be personally shepherded by him who is the Great Sacrifice.  In this present state we have earthly shepherds; and when God graciously feeds us by men after his own heart, whom he himself instructs, we prize them much.  Those whom the Lord ordains to feed his flock we love, and their faith we follow, for the Lord makes them of great service to us; but still, they are only underlings, and we do not forget their imperfections and their dependence upon their Lord. But in the glory-land “that Great Shepherd of the sheep” will himself personally minister to us. Those dear lips that are as lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh, shall speak directly to each one of our hearts.  We shall hear his voice, we shall behold his face, we shall be fed by his hand, we shall follow at his heel.  How gloriously will he “stand and feed!”  How restfully shall we lie down in green pastures!  He shall feed us in his dearest character.  As the Lamb, he revealed his greatest love, and as the Lamb will he lead and feed us forever.  The Revised Version wisely renders the passage, “The Lamb in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd.”  We are never fed so sweetly by our Lord himself as when he reveals to us most clearly his character as the sacrifice for sin.  The atoning sacrifice is the center of the sun of infinite love, the light of light. There is no truth like it for the revelation of God.  Christ in his wounds and bloody sweat is Christ indeed.  “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.”  With this truth before us, his flesh is meat indeed and his blood is drink indeed.  In heaven, we shall know him far better than we do now as the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, the Lamb of God’s Passover, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”  That deep peace, that eternally unbroken rest which we shall derive from a sight of the Great Sacrifice will be a chief ingredient in the bliss of heaven.  “The Lamb shall feed them.”

Though we shall see our Lord as a Lamb, it will not be in a state of humiliation, but in a condition of power and honor.  “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them.”  Heaven will largely consist of expanded views of King Jesus and nearer beholdings of the glory which follows upon his sacrificial grief.  Ah, brethren, how little do we know his glory!  We scarce know who he is that has befriended us.  We hold the doctrine of his Deity tenaciously, but in heaven we shall perceive his Godhead in its truth so far as the finite can apprehend the infinite.  We have known his friendship to us, but then we shall behold the King in his beauty in his own halls, and our eyes shall look into his royal countenance and his face, which outshineth the sun, shall beam ineffable affection upon each one of us.  Then shall we find our heaven in his glory.  We ask no thrones; his throne is ours.  The enthroned Lamb himself is all the heaven we desire.

Then the last point of the description is full of meaning.  The drinking at the fountain is the secret of the ineffable bliss.  “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of waters.”  We are compelled to thirst at times, like the poor flock of slaughter which we see driven through our London streets; and, alas, we stop at the very puddles by the way and would refresh ourselves at them, if we could!  This will never happen to us when we reach the land where flows the river of the water of life.  There the sheep drink of no stagnant waters or bitter wells, but they are satisfied from living fountains of waters.  Comfort is measurably to be found in the streams of providential mercies, and therefore they are to be received with gratitude but yet common blessings are unfilling things to souls quickened by grace.  Corn can fill the barn but not the heart.  Of the wells of earth, we may say, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again;” but when we go beyond temporal supplies and live upon God himself, then the soul receives a draught of far truer and more enduring refreshment; even as our Lord Jesus said to the woman at the well, “He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”  In heaven, the happy ones live not on bread, which is the staff of life, but on God, who is life itself.  The second cause is passed over, and the first cause alone is seen.

In the home country, souls have no need of the means of grace, for they have reached the God of grace.  The means of grace are like conduit-pipes which bring down the living water to us: but we have found them fail us; and at times we have used them in so faulty a way that the water has lost its freshness or has even been made to taste of the pipe through which it flowed.  Fruit is best when gathered fresh from the garden: the fingering of the market destroys the bloom.  We have too much of this in our ministries.  Brethren, we shall soon drink living water at the well-head and gather the golden fruit from him who is “as the apple tree among the trees of the wood.”  We shall have no need of baptisms and breakings of bread, nor of churches and pastors.  We shall not need the golden chalices or the earthen vessels which now serve our turn so well, but we shall come to the river’s source and drink our full.  “He shall lead them unto living fountains of water.”

At times, we know what it is to come to the pits and find no water; then we try to live on happy memories.  We sing and sigh; or sigh and sing —

“What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,

How sweet their memory still!

But they have left an aching void

The world can never fill.”

A cake made of memories will do for a bite now and then, but it makes poor daily bread.  We want the present enjoyment of God.  We need still to go to the fountain for new supplies; for water which standeth long in the pitcher loses its cool and refreshing excellence.  Happy is the man that is not living upon the memories of what he used to enjoy but is even now in the banqueting-house!  The present and perpetual renewal of first love and first delight in God is heaven.

Heaven is to know the substance and the secret of the divine life – not to hold a cup, but to drink of the living water.  The doctrine is precious, but it is far better to know the thing about which the doctrine speaks.  The doctrine is the silver of silver, but the blessing itself is the apple of gold.  Blessed are they that are always fed on the substance of the truth, the verity of verities, the essence of essential things.  “He shall lead them unto fountains.”  There the eternal source is unveiled: they not only receive the mercy, but they see how it comes and whence it flows: they not only drink, but they drink with their eye upon the glorious Well-head.  Did you ever see a boy on a hot day lie down, when he has been thirsty, and put his mouth down to the top of the water at the brim of the well?  How he draws up the cool refreshment!  Drink away, poor child!  He has no fear that he will drink the well dry, nor have we.  How pleasant it is to take from the inexhaustible!  That which we drink is all the sweeter because of the measureless remainder.   Enough is not enough: but when we have God for our all in all, then are we content.  When I am near to God and dwell in the overflowing of his love, I feel like the cattle on a burning summer’s day when they take to the brook which ripples around them up to their knees, and there they stand, filled, cooled, and sweetly refreshed.  O my God, in thee I feel that I have not only all that I can contain, but all that containeth me.  In thee I live and move with perfect content.

Such is heaven!  We shall have bliss within and bliss around us: we ourselves drinking at the source and dwelling by the well forever.  The fact is that heaven is God fully enjoyed.  The evil that God hates will be wholly cast out; the capacity which God gives will be enlarged and prepared for full fruition and our whole being will be taken up with God, the ever-blessed, from whom we came and to whom it will be heaven to return.  Who knoweth God knoweth heaven.  The source of all things is our fountain of living waters.

Thus I could occupy all the morning with my first [point]; but I must not tarry, or I shall miss my aim, which is to show you that, even here, we may outline glory and, in the wilderness, we may have the pattern of things in the heavens.  This you will see by carefully referring to the second text.

II. LET US CONSIDER THE HEAVENLY STATE BELOW.

I think I have heard you saying, “Ah! this is all about heaven; but we have not yet come to it.  We are still wrestling here below.”  Well, well; if we cannot go to heaven at once, heaven can come to us.  The words which I will now read refer to the days of earth, the times when the sheep feed in the ways and come from the north and from the south at the call of the shepherd.  “They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.”

Look at the former passage and at this.  The whole description is the same.  When I noticed this parallel, I stood amazed.  John, thou art a great artist; I entreat thee, paint me a picture of heaven!  Isaiah, thou also hast a great soul; draw me a picture of the life of the saintly ones on earth when their Lord is with them!  I have both pictures.  They are masterpieces.  I look at them and they are so much alike that I wonder if there be not some mistake.  Surely they are depicting the same thing.  The forms, the lights and shades, the touches and the tones are not only alike, but identical.  Amazed, I cry, “Which is heaven, and which is the heavenly life on earth?”  The artists know their own work and by their instruction I will be led.  Isaiah painted our Lord’s sheep in his presence on the way to heaven, and John drew the same flock in the glory with the Lamb; and the fact that the pictures are so much alike is full of suggestive teaching.  Here are the same ideas in the same words.  Brethren, may you and I as fully believe and enjoy the second passage as we hope to realize and enjoy the first Scripture when we get home to heaven.

First, here is a promise that every want shall he supplied.  “They shall not hunger nor thirst.”  If we are the Lord’s people and are trusting in him, this shall be true in every possible sense.  Literally, “your bread shall be given you, your water shall be sure.”  You shall have no anxious thought concerning what you shall eat and what you shall drink.  But, mark you, if you should know the trials of poverty and should be greatly tried and brought very low in temporal things, yet the Lord’s presence and sensible consolations shall so sustain you that spiritually and inwardly you shall know neither hunger nor thirst.  Many saints have found riches in poverty, ease in labor, rest in pain, and delight in affliction.  Our Lord can so adapt our minds to our circumstances that the bitter is sweet, and the burden is light.  Paul speaks of the saints “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”  Note well that the sorrow has an “as” connected with it, but the rejoicing is a fact.  “They shall not hunger nor thirst.”  If you live in God, you shall have no ungratified desire.  “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  There may be many things that you would like to have and you may never have them; but then you will prefer to be without them, saying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  If Christ be with you, you will be so happy in him that wanton, wandering wishes will be like the birds which may fly over your head but dare not make their nests in your hair.  You will be without a peevish craving, or a pining ambition, or a passing care.  “Oh,” says a believer, “I wish I could reach that state.”  You may reach it: you are on the way to it.  Only love Christ more and be more like him, and you shall be satisfied with favor, and sing, “All my springs are in thee;” “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”

I do not mean that the saints find a full content in this world’s goods, but that they find such content in God that with them or without them they live in wealth.  A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of that which he possesseth; and many a man who has had next to nothing that could be seen with eyes or handled with hands has been a very millionaire for true wealth in possessing the kingdom of the Most High.  The Lord has brought some of us into that state in which we have all things in him, and it is true to us, “They shall not hunger nor thirst.”

Then, next, there is such a thing as having every evil removed from you while yet in this wilderness.  “Neither shall the heat nor sun smite them.”  Suppose God favors you with prosperity; if you live near to God you will not be rendered proud or worldly-minded by your prosperity.  Suppose you should become popular because of your usefulness; you will not be puffed up if Christ Jesus is your continual leader and shepherd.  If you live near to him, you will be lowly.  If your days are spent in sunlight and you go from joy to joy, still no sunstroke shall smite you.  If still you dwell in God and your heart is full of Christ and you are led as a sheep by him, no measure of heat shall overpower you.  It is a mistake to think that our safety or our danger is according to our circumstances; our safety or our danger is according to our nearness to God, or our distance from him. A man who is near to God can stand on the pinnacle of the temple and the devil may tempt him to throw himself down, and he will be firm as the temple itself.  A man that is without God may be in the safest part of the road and traverse a level way and yet he will stumble.  It is not the road, but the Lord that keepeth the pilgrim’s foot.  O heir of heaven, commit thou thy way unto God and make him thine all in all: rise above the creature into the Creator and then shalt thou hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite thee.

Further, it is said that on earth we may enjoy the leading of the Lord.  See how it is put: “For he that hath mercy on them shall lead them.”  Here we have not quite the same words as in the Revelation, for there we read, “The Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall lead them.”  Yet the sense is but another shade of the same meaning.  Oh, but that is a sweet, sweet name, is it not?  “He that hath mercy on them.”  He has saved them and so has had mercy on them.  Yes, that is very precious, but the word is sweeter still — “He that hath mercy on them,” he that is always having mercy on them, he that follows them with mercy all the days of their lives, he that continually pardons, upholds, supplies, strengthens, and thus daily loadeth them with benefits: “He that hath mercy on them shall lead them.”

Do you know, beloved friends, what it is to be led of the Lord?  Many are led by their own tastes and fancies.  They will go wrong.  Others are led by their own judgments.  But these are not infallible, and they may go wrong.  More are led by other people; these may go right, but it is far from likely that they will.  He that is led of God, he is the happy man, he shall not err.  He shall be conducted providentially in a right way to the city of habitations.  “Commit your way unto the Lord: trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass.”  It may be a rough way, but it must be a right way if we follow the track of the Lord’s feet.  The true believer shall be led by the Spirit of God in sacred matters: “He will guide you into all truth.”  He that hath mercy on us in other things will have mercy on us by teaching us to profit.  We shall each one sing, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  We shall be led into duty and through struggles; we shall be led to happy attainments and gracious enjoyments; we shall go from strength to strength.

In the case of the gracious soul, earth becomes like heaven, because he walks with God.  He that hath mercy on him visits him, communes with him, and manifests himself to him.  A shepherd goeth before his flock and the true sheep follow him.  Blessed are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes.  They have a love for their Lord and therefore they only want to know which way he would have them go, and they feel drawn along it by the cords of love and the bands of a man.  If they can get a glance from their Lord’s eye it suffices them: as it is written, “I will guide thee with mine eye.”  Every day they stand anxiously attentive to do the King’s commandment, be it what it may.  They yield themselves and their members to him to be instruments of righteousness, vessels fit for the Master’s use.  Beloved, this is heaven below.  If you have ever tried it, you know it is so.  If you have never fully tried it, try it now, and you will find a new joy in it.  Jesus says to you, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

I do not know anything more delightful than to be such a fool, as the world will call you, as to yield your intellect to the teaching of the Lord and to be so weak that you cannot judge but accept his will; and [to be] so incapable that even to will and to do must be wrought in you of the Lord.   Oh, to be so unselfed as to take anything from Christ far more gladly than you would choose of your own accord!  If your Lord puts his hand into the bitter box, you will think the potion sweet; and if he scourge, you will thank him for being so kind as to think of you at all.  When you get to that point, that you are as a sheep to whom God himself is the Shepherd, it is well with you. Then you will realize, even in the pastures of the wilderness, how the rain from heaven drops upon the inheritance of the Lord and refreshes it when it is weary.  “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  God give you to know it, dear friends!  I can speak experimentally [by personal experience] of it: it is not only the antepast [foretaste] of heaven, but a part of the banquet itself.

But now the last touch is the drinking at the springhead.  We were not surprised to find in our description of heaven that the Lamb led them to the fountains of waters; but we are delighted to find that, here below, “even by the springs of water shall he guide them.”  Beloved, covet earnestly this drinking at the springs.  It is not all who profess to be Christians who will know what I am talking about this morning: they will think I have got into the way of the mystics and am dreaming of things unpractical.  I will not argue with them; let me speak to those who understand me.

Beloved in the Lord, you can even now live upon God himself and there is no living comparable to it. You can get beyond all the cisterns and come to the river of the water of life, even as they do in heaven.  To live by second causes is a very secondary life: to live on the First Cause is the first of living.  I exhort you to do this with regard to the inspired Word.  This is a day of man’s opinions, views, judgments, criticisms.  Leave them all – good, bad, and indifferent – and come to this Book which is the pure fount of inspiration undefiled.  When you study the Word of God, live upon it as his Word.  I am not going to defend it; it needs no defense.  I am not going to argue about its inspiration; if you know the Lord aright, his Word is inspired to you, if to no one else.  You know not only that it was inspired when it was written, but that it is inspired still; moreover, its inspiration affects you in a way in which no other writings can ever touch you.  It breathes upon you; it breathes life into you and makes you to speak words for God which prove to be words from God to other souls.  Oh, it is wonderful, if you read the word of God in a little company, morning by morning — simply read it and pray over it, what an effect it may have upon all who listen!  I speak what I do know.  If you read the inspired words themselves and look up to him who spoke them, their spiritual effect will be the witness of their inspiration.  This is a miracle-working Book: it may be opposed, but never conquered; it may be buried under unbelief, but it must rise again.  Blessed are they to whom the Word is meat and drink.  They quit the cistern of man for the fountain of God, and they do well.  “By the springs of water shall he guide them.”

Yet I would exhort you not even to tarry at the letter of God’s word, but believingly and humbly advance to drink from the Holy Ghost himself.  He will not teach you anything which is not in the Bible, but he will take of the things of Christ and will show them unto you.  A truth may be like a jewel in the Word of God, and yet we may not see its brilliance until the Holy Spirit holds it up in the light and bids us mark its luster.  The Spirit of God brings up the pearl from the deeps of revelation and sets it where its radiance is perceived by the believing eye.  We are such poor scholars that we learn little from the Book till “the Interpreter, one of a thousand,” opens our heart to the Word and opens the Word to our heart.  The Holy Ghost who revealed truth in the Book must also personally reveal it to the individual.  If ever you get a hold of truth in that way, you will never give it up.  A man who has learned truth from one minister may unlearn it from another minister, but he that has been taught it of the Holy Ghost has a treasure which no man taketh from him.

Beloved, we would exhort you to drink of the springs of living water while you are here. Be often going back to fundamental doctrines.  Especially get back to the consideration of covenant engagements.  Whence come all the deeds of mercy from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ?  Come they not from eternal purposes and from that covenant, “ordered in all things, and sure,” made or ever the earth was, between the Father and the ever-blessed Son?  Get you often to the well of the covenant.  I know of nothing that can make you so happy as to know in your very soul how the Father pledged himself by oath to the Son, and the Son pledged himself to the eternal Father concerning the great mystery of our redemption.  Eternal love and covenant faithfulness: these are ancient wells.  Do not hesitate to drink deep at the fountain of electing love.  The Lord himself chose you, having loved you with an everlasting love.  Everything comes to the saints “according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.”  The Philistines have stopped this well full many a time, but they cannot prevent its waters bubbling up from among the stones which they have cast into it.  There it stands.  “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”  Get back to the love that had no cause but the First Cause, to the love that knows no change, to the love that knows no limit, no hesitancy, no diminution, the love that stands, like the Godhead itself, eternal and immovable.  Drink from eternal springs; and if you do so, your life will be more and more “as the days of heaven upon the earth.”  God grant us to get away from the deceitful brooks to “the deep which lieth under,” and with joy may we draw water.

Christ’s presence and fountain drinking — give me these two things and I ask no more.  The Lamb to feed me and the fountain to supply me: these are enough.  Lord, whom have I in heaven but thee?  Come poverty, come sickness, come shame, come casting out by brethren; yea, come death itself, nothing can I want, and nothing can harm me if the Lamb be my Shepherd and the Lord my fountain.

Before another Sunday, some of us may be in heaven.  Before this month has finished, some of us may know infinitely more about the eternal world than the whole assembly of divines could tell us.  Others of us may have to linger here a while.  Yet are we not in banishment.  Here we dwell with the King for his work.  We will endeavor to keep close to our Master, and if we may serve him and see his face, we will not grudge the glorified their fuller joys.

You that know nothing about these things, God grant you spiritual sense to know that you do not know and then give you further grace to pray to him, “Lord, lead me to the living fountains.”  There is an inner life, there is a heavenly secret, and there is a surpassing joy; some of us know it: we wish that you, also, had it.  Cry for it.  Jesus can give it you at once.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall live forever.  The new birth goes with faith in Christ.  May he give it you this morning and may you begin to be heavenly here, that you may be fit for heaven hereafter.  The Lord bless you, dear friends, for Jesus’ sake!  Amen.

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