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'A New Year's Benediction' and ' Never! Never! Never! Never! Never!'
A New Year's Benediction
Published on Thursday, January 1st, 1914,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Thursday Evening, September 3rd, 1868.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Hebrews 13:5 .
OBSERVE the way in which the apostles were accustomed to incite believers in Christ to the performance of their duties. They did not tell them, "You must do this or that, or you will be punished; you must do this, and then you shall obtain a reward for it." They never cracked the whip of the law in the ears of the child of God. They knew the difference between the man who was actuated by sordid motives and the fear of punishment, and the new-born man who is moved by sublimer motives, namely, motives that touch his heart, that move his regenerated nature, and that constrain him, out of affection, to do the will of him that sent him. Hence the address here is not, "Be content, or else God will take away what you have," but "Be content, and have naught to do with covetousness, for he hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Another thing in the text, to which I would call your notice is this: that an inspired apostle, who might very well have used his own original words, nevertheless in this case, as indeed in many others, quotes the Old Testament. "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Behold, then, the value of Holy Scripture. If an inspired man quotes the text, as of divine authority, much more should we so regard it, who are without such inspiration. We should be much in searching the Scriptures, and when we want to clench an argument, or answer an opponent, it would always be well for us to take our weapon from the grand old Book, and come down with "He hath said." Oh! there is nothing like this for force and power. We may think a thing, but what of that? Our thinkings are but of little worth. General authority and universal opinion may sustain it, but what of that? The world has been more frequently wrong than right, and public opinion is a fickle thing. But "He hath said," that is to say, God hath said immutable truth and eternal fidelity have said; God that made heaven and earth, and that changeth not, though nations melt like the hoar frost of the morning; God who ever liveth when hills, and mountains, and this round world, and everything upon it shall have passed away "He hath said." Oh! the power there is in this, "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." So, then, let us be much in searching the Scriptures, much in feeding upon them, much in diving into their innermost depths, and then afterwards much in the habit of quoting them, using them as arguments for the defence of truth, as weapons against error, and as reasons to call us to the path of duty, and to pursue it. I. THE REMARKABLE CHARACTER OF THIS PROMISE. Matters have changed altogether, and friends that once were cherished are now forgotten. In fact, the man almost pities himself to think that he should have been so unfortunate to have a friend who has so come down, and he has no pity for his friend, because he is so much occupied in pitying himself. In hundreds, and thousands, and tens of thousands of cases, as soon as the gold has gone, the pretended love has gone, and when the dwelling has been changed from the mansion to the cottage, the friendship which once promised to last for ever, has suddenly disappeared. Sometimes, and very often, too, men lose all their friends if they fall into any temporary disgrace. They may really have done no wrong; they may even have done right, but public opinion may condemn the course they took, or slander may be propagated, which casts them into the shade, and then men suddenly grow forgetful. They do not know the man; how should they? He is not the same man, to them at any rate, and as the world gives him the cold shoulder, his friends serve him the same. The old proverb, "The devil take the hindmost," seems to be generally the custom with our friends when we get into seeming disgrace. They are all off, seeing who can run away first, for they fear that they shall be left to share in our dishonour. But it is never so with our God. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Thou mayest be put into the dungeon, like Paul and Silas, but God will make thee sing there, even at midnight. Thou mayest be set in the stocks, but even there God will cause thee to rejoice greatly. Thou mayest be cast into the fiery furnace, but he will tread the flames with thee there. Thou mayest be so dishonoured that men shall treat thee as they did God's only Son, and lift thee up upon the cross of shame, and put thee to death; but thou shalt never say, 'Why hast thou forsaken me?" Thy Lord said it when he bore thy guilt, but thou shalt never need to say it, for thy guilt is put away for ever, and Jehovah will stand by thee in all thy dishonour. And let me here say, that there is never a child in the family that is dearer to the great Father than the child that is suffering shame and contempt from others. He loves them dearest when they suffer reproach for his sake. These are nearer to his heart than any other, and he bids them rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great shall be their reward in heaven if thus they bear and endure for his name. "I will never leave thee, my persecuted one: I will pour such joy into thy heart that thou shalt forget all the dishonour. I will send an angel to minister to thee: yea, I will myself be with thee, and thou shalt rejoice in my salvation, while thy heart is glad and calm in the midst of the tumult and the strife around." Again, this is a very remarkable promise, if we think of our own conduct towards God. "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." And have not we often said the same to him? We were like Peter: we felt we did love our Saviour: we were sure we did, and we did not, could not believe that we could ever be so false, so faithless, as to forsake him. We almost longed for some temptation to prove how true we should be. We felt very vexed with other professors that they should prove so untrue. We felt in our heart that we could not do like that, and that we should stand firm under any imaginable pressure. But what became of us, my brethren? Charge your memories a moment. Did the cock that accused Peter never accuse you? Did you never deny your Lord and Master, and at last, hearing the warning voice, go out and weep bitterly because you had forgotten him, him whom you had declared so solemnly you never would forsake? Oh! yes, I fear we, many and many a time, we have said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," and yet under some sarcasm, some ridicule, or some pressing trial, we have been like the children of Ephraim, and, though armed and carrying bows, we have turned our back in the day of battle. If the voice has never denied Christ, has the heart never done so? If the tongue has remained silent, has not the soul sometimes gone back to the old flesh-pots of Egypt, and said, "I would fain find comfort once again where I did find it, with my old companions and in the old ways"? Ah! well, as you think of this, how unkindly and ungenerously you have treated your Lord, let this text stand out in bold relief, "He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Although you have often forgotten him, yet his loving-kindness changes not. Though you have been fickle, he has been firm; though you have sometimes believed him not, yet he has remained faithful, glory be to his name. He that believeth in Jesus shall never be so left of God as to fall finally from grace. He shall never be so deserted as to give up his God, for his God will never give him up so far as to let him give up his confidence, or his hope, or his love, or his trust. The Lord, even our God, holds us with his strong right hand, and we shall not be moved, and even if we sin sweet thought! "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Over the heads of all our sins and iniquities, this promise sounds like a sweet silver bell, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Observe, then, how remarkable is the promise so contrary to the manner of men, so contrary to our own conduct, and so absolute and unconditional, that it is, indeed, marvellous that such a word should be on record. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." When a believer is in this state, it is sometimes suggested to him that doubtless he is not a Christian at all, and that he must go back altogether to Egypt, in order to get gospel liberty, which is foolishness. But this promise comes in, and says to him, "God has not left thee, nor forsaken thee"; whatever may be your present state of thought and feeling, however low you may have fallen, the Eternal God is still faithful: he has not forgotten you. Go to him now: ask for revivings and refreshings, for he will surely give them to you. Conscience will, perhaps, say to some child of God to-night, indeed I hope it will, "There has been much to-day in business that has not been what it should have been, and as you look back upon the day you will see much to mourn over," and then, perhaps, conscience will add, "Therefore, God will leave you." Now, if you come to believe that, you will live worse to-morrow than to-day, and the next day worse still. But if you can answer, "No, he has said, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,' and can go with child-like confidence to your God, and confess the sin of the day, and begin again, washing once more in the precious fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel's veins, to-morrow there will be a better day. The joy of the Lord will be your strength against the sin, and your confidence in your Father's immutable affection will inspire you with zeal to trample down your temptations. Perhaps the devil may be injecting into your soul to-night all sorts of strange things, that God has forsaken you quite, and that he will be gracious no more to you, and other lies of that kind. But he has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," and if you can get hold of this, it will be a sufficient refutation of all the suggestions of your own fear; and of the infernal power. No, Satan! I will cast myself upon the precious blood of Jesus, and if God should take all my property away, yet he has not left me, nor forsaken me. I am sure of that, and if my spirit sinks so low that I dare not look up, yet still he has said he has not left me, and he never will. If my sins should roll over me, like a big billow, and my conscience should cry out against me, and I should feel no rest and no peace, yet still I will hold on to Jesus, sink or swim, for he hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," and let God be true, and every man, and every devil, and even my own conscience, prove a liar, sooner than God's Word should for a moment be placed in doubt. We now pass on to ponder upon: See how it abounds! I note, first its constancy. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." That is, not for a day, not for an hour, not for a minute. There are no breaks in the divine love. God does not depart from his people to return to them by-and-by, but he assures, "I will never, no never, leave thee." Perhaps that dear child of yours that is sickening is soon to die: well, God will not leave you in the moment when she is taken from you. Possibly that dear one who is now your comfort and delight, your husband, may sicken, and it will be a terrible stroke for you to be visited with, but "I will never leave thee, not even for an instant, then: in that trying time thou shalt prove the power and solace of my presence." I notice in the promise, next to constancy, endurance. As there shall be no breaks in God's love for his own, so there shall be no end to it. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Yes, it may not be desirable to live to extreme old age, when infirmities may abound, and all strength may decay, but if you should reach it, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." It certainly is a painful thing, that last stroke, to pass to the throne of God, but "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." There shall never be a time when the Lord will cast away one of his people. He shall never grow weary of them. He has espoused them unto himself, married them, taken them into eternal union with himself, and never, let the ages revolve as they may, and time change as it will, never will God leave or forsake his people. Comfort yourselves, therefore, with the confidence of the endurance, as well as the constancy of this love. Better still, perhaps, in the promise is the certain truth of it. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," has been proved by God's saints in all the ages that are past. Turn to the pages of your Bibles, and see if ever a man was ashamed that put his trust in Christ: see if he that wrestled with the invisible God was ever confounded. Hath not the Lord kept with his people at all hazards broken the necks of kings, and scattered empires like chaff before the wind, sooner than that one of his faithful ones should come to ruin? So fear not now that at this particular season God is about to alter his previous dispensation. Out with them, poor Little-Faith; away with thy doubts; put away those black suspicions. He is a God that changeth not, and, having helped you until now, he will help you even to the end. Why, how true this must be! "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." How can God forsake that which has cost him so much already? He has given his Son's blood to redeem us, and his Spirit's power to renew us, and if he were to leave undone the work which he has begun, why, a tower has been commenced, and he has not been able to finish it! A man who has spent much money upon one enterprise will spend yet more to finish it, because of what he has already spent. Now, God will not lose the work of Christ, and the precious blood of his Son, but, having begun, he will certainly carry on, even to the end. Besides this, also: God cannot leave his people, because he calls them his children, and how could he leave his child? "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Even when the son has dishonoured his father's name, and lost his own character, that father's love still holds on, and follows that child still with tears of sorrow, but still with faithfulness and truth. And God will not cast away his own begotten sons, whom he has begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Beloved, Christ is married to his people, and therefore how can he leave them? He says, "As a young man rejoiceth over his bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee," and will he leave them to whom he is knit by so near and dear, so tender and affectionate a union? It cannot be. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Now, see, if he did leave his people, what would it be? It would be giving up the whole quarrel between himself and Satan. It is in his people's hearts that the great battle is being fought out between good and evil. To give them up would be to give up the battle-ground to his great enemy, and what laughter there would be in the vaults of hell, what mockery in the halls of Pandemonium, if it could be said, "God has forsaken his people, given up his elect, suffered his redeemed to perish, cast away his regenerate, and forsaken the souls that trusted him"! The very thought of it is blasphemy. Far, far from us let us put it away. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Now, the third thing to be noticed concerning this promise is: Surely the first blessed fruit of such a glorious promise should be perfect contentment. It is said to be hard to be contented. I have the pleasure of knowing some brethren who I am sure are perfectly content. They even say, and I think without the slightest mental reservation, that they have not an unfulfilled wish or desire so far as this world goes. They have all that heart could wish. And yet these are not the richest people in the world, and they are not persons who are much to be envied for their mere external circumstances: yet they are perfectly contented. The fact is that the grace of God makes the people of God to sing sweetly, where other people would murmur. They are satisfied where others would find easy ground for discontent. But how easy it is, how easy it must be, for a man to be contented when he knows that God has promised to be with him in all circumstances and at all times! Surely, if anything could be a kind of conservatory, a hot-house, in which to grow the delicate plant of contentment to perfection, it must be this full belief that high or low, rich or poor, well or sick, God hath said, "I will never leave, nor forsake thee." Surely it was this that made Bunyan's Pilgrim sing in the Valley of Humiliation:
"He that is down need fear no fall, He that is low no pride; He that is humble ever shall Have God to be his guide."
Well, then, in the next place, it will cure your covetousness. A man does not need to go on scraping, and to use that muck-rake forever, when he knows "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." It was not a bad argument which one used with Alexander when he said to him, "When are you going to enjoy yourself fully?" Alexander did not answer the question, but the philosopher said, "What are you going to do next?" "First, we shall conquer Greece." "Yes, and then will you rest?" "No; we shall then attack Asia Minor." "And when you have conquered that, I suppose you will rest?" "No; we shall then take Persia." "And when you have overcome Persia, what then?" "We shall march to India." "And when you have taken India, what then?" "Why, then we shall sit down and make ourselves merry." "Well," said the philosopher, "I think we had better begin before we go to Greece, or Persia, or Asia Minor, or any of them." And truly so, it were as well for us to be content with that moderate income which God gives us. Let us enjoy what God bestows upon us now, in gratitude to him, and give ourselves up to his service; lest, perhaps, in seeking more, we become spiritually poorer while literally richer, and become less content with the great load on our back than we are to-day, when we have enough and no more. It is a sweet quietus to covetousness when God saith, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." I know what it is to fall back upon this promise sometimes to keep from depression of spirit, and to find reviving in it. Perhaps you may suppose that those of us who are always before the public, and are speaking concerning the blessed promises of God, never have any moments of downcasting, and never any times of heartbreaking; but you are quite mistaken. We may have passed through all this, perhaps, that we may know how to say a word in season to any who are now passing through similar experiences. With many enterprises upon my hands, far too great for my own unaided strength, I am often driven to fall flat upon the promise of my God, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." If I feel that any scheme has been of my own devising, and that I seek my own honour in it, I know it must come to the ground, and rightly so. But when I can prove that God has thrust it upon me, and that I am moved by a divine impulse, and not by my own monitions and wishings, then how can my God forsake me? How can he lie, however weak I may be? How is it possible for him to send his servant out to battle, and not succour him with reinforcements in the day when the battle goes hard? God is not David when he put Uriah in the front, and then left him that he might die. He will never put any of his servants forward and then desert them. Dear brethren and sisters, if the Lord shall call some of you even to things you cannot do, he will give you strength enough to do them; and if he should push you still forwarder till your difficulties increase and your burdens become heavy, still, as your days, your strength shall be, and you shall go on with the tramp of soldiers, with the indomitable spirit of men who have tried and trusted the naked arm of the Eternal God. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Then what matters it? Though all the world were against you, you could shake all the world as Samson shook the lion, and rent him as a kid. If God be for you, who can be against you? Though earth, and hell, and all their crew, come against you, and should combine together, yet if the God of Jacob stood at your back, you would thresh them as though they were but wheat, and winnow them as though they were but chaff, and the wind should carry them away. Oh! roll this promise under your tongue as a sweet morsel! The Lord of his infinite mercy bless you, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
Never! Never! Never! Never! Never!
Delivered on Sunday Morning, October 26th, 1862, by
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."-- Hebrews 13:5
WHAT POWER RESIDES in "Thus saith the Lord!" The man who can grasp by faith, "He hath said," has an all-conquering weapon in his hand. What doubt will not be slain by this to two-edged sword? What fear is that which shall not fall smitten with a deadly wound before this arrow from the bow of God's covenant? Will not the distresses of life and the pangs of death, will not the corruptions within and the temptations without, will not the trials from above and the temptations from beneath all seem but light afflictions when we can hide ourselves behind the bulwark of "He hath said?" Whether for delight in our quietude, or for strength in our conflict, "He hath said" must be our daily resort.
Hence, let us learn, my brethren, the extreme value of searching the Scriptures. There may be a promise in the Word which would exactly fit your case, but you may not know of it, and therefore miss its comfort. You are like prisoners in a dungeon, and there may be one key in the bunch which would unlock the door, and you might be free; but if you will not look for it you may remain a prisoner still, though liberty is near at hand. There may be a potent medicine in the great pharmacopia of Scripture, and you may still remain sick, though there is the precise remedy that would meet your disease, unless you will examine and search the Scriptures to discover what "He hath said." Should we not, beside reading Scripture, store our memories richly with the promises of God We can recollect the sayings of great men; we treasure up the verses of renowned poets; ought we not to be profound in our knowledge of the words of God? The Scriptures should be the classics of a Christian, and as our orators quote Homer, or Virgil, or Horace, when they would clinch a point, so we should be able to quote the promises of God when we would solve a difficulty or overthrow a doubt. "He hath said," is the foundation of all riches and the fountain of all comfort, let it dwell in you richly as "a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life." And, oh, my brethren, how diligently should we test the Scriptures! Besides searching them by reading, and treasuring them by memory, we should test them by experience, and so often as a promise is proven to be true we should make a mark against it, and note that we also can say, as did one of old, "This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me." "Wait on the Lord," said Isaiah, and then he added "Wait, I say, on the Lord," as if his own experience led him to echo the voice of God to his hearers. Test the promise, take God's banknote to the counter, and mark if it be cashed. Grasp the lever, which he ordains to lift your trials, and try if it possesses real power. Cast this divine tree into the bitter waters of your Marah, and learn how it will sweeten them. Take this salt, and throw it into the turbid waters, and witness if they be not made sweet, as were the waters of old by the prophet Elisha. Taste and see that the Lord is good, for there is no want to them that fear him.
The Apostles, you will notice, like their Master, were always very ready at quotations. Though they were inspired men, and could have used fresh words, yet they preferred, as an example to us, to quote "He hath said;" let us do the same, for, though the words of ministers may be sweet, the words of God are sweeter; and though original thoughts may have the novelty of freshness, yet the ancient words of God have the ring, and the weight, and the value of old and precious coins, and they shall not be found wanting in the day when we shall use them.
It seems from our text that "He hath said" is not only useful to chase away doubts, fears, difficulties, and devils, but that it also yieldeth nourishment to all our graces. You perceive that when the apostle would make us contented, he says, "Be content with such things as ye have, for he hath said;" and when he would make us bold and courageous, he puts it, "He hath said, therefore, we may boldly say, God is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me." When the apostle would nourish faith, he does it by quoting from Scripture the examples of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Moses, of Gideon, of Barak, and of Jephthah. When he would nourish our patience, he says, "Ye remember the patience of Job;" or if it be our prayerfulness, he says, "Elias was a man of like passions with us, and he prayed and prevailed." "He hath said" is food for every grace as well as death for every sin. Here you have nourishment for that which is good, and poison for that which is evil. Search ye, then, the Scriptures, for so shall ye grow healthy, strong, and vigorous in the divine life.
We turn at once, with great pleasure, to the wonderful words of our text, "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." I have no doubt you are aware that our translation does not convey the whole force of the original, and that it would hardly be possible in English to give the full weight of the Greek. We might render it, "He hath said, I will never, never leave thee; I will never, never, never forsake thee;" for, though that would be not a literal, but rather a free rendering, yet, as there are five negatives in the Greek, we do not know how to give their force in any other way. Two negatives nullify each other in our language; but here, in the Greek, they intensify the meaning following one after another, as I suppose David's five stones out of the brook would have done if the first had not been enough to make the giant reel. The verse we sung just now is a very good rendering of the original--
"'The soul that on Jesus hath lean'd for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake."
Here you have the five negatives very well placed, and the force of the Greek, as nearly as possible, given.
In trying to expound this five-fold assurance, this quintessence of consolation, we shall have to draw your attention, first of all, to an awful condition, or what is negatived; secondly, to a gracious promise, or what is positively guaranteed; next, we shall observe notable occasions or times when this promise was uttered; a few words upon certain sweet confirmations which prove the text to be true; and then, in the fifth place, necessary conclusions which flow from the words of the promise.
I. First of all, then, AN AWFUL CONDITION--lost and FORSAKEN of God! I am quite certain I shall fail in attempting to describe this state of mind. I have thought of it, dreamed of it, and felt it in such feeble measure as a child of God can feel it, but how to describe it I know not.
1. Forsaking implies an utter loneliness. Put a traveler in a vast howling wilderness, where for many a league there is no trace of man--no foot-step of traveler. The solitary wretch cries for help--the hollow echo of the rocks is his only reply. No bird in the air; not even a prowling jackal in the waste; not an insect in the sunbeam to keep him company; not even a solitary blade of grass to remind him of God! Yet, even there he is not alone: for yon bare rocks prove a God, and the hot sand beneath his feet, and the blazing sun above his head, all witness to a present Deity. But what would be the loneliness of a man forsaken of God! No migration could be so awful as this, for he says, "If I take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea thou art there." Such a state were worse than hell, for David says, "If I make my bed in hell thou art there." Loneliness is a feeling which none of us delight in. Solitude may have some charms, but they who are forced to be her captives have not discovered them. A transient solitude may give pleasure; to be alone, utterly alone, is terrible; to be alone, without God, is such an emphasis of loneliness, that I defy the lip even of a damned spirit to express the horror and anguish that must be concentrated in it. There is far more than you and I dream of in the language of our Lord Jesus, when he says, "I have trodden the wine-press alone." Alone! You remember he once said, "Ye shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." There is no agony in that sentence, but what must be his grief when he says--"I have trodden the wine-press alone!" "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is the cry of human nature in its uttermost dismay. Thank God, you and I by this promise are taught that we never shall know the desperate loneliness of being forsaken of God; yet, this is what it would be if he should forsake us!
2. Mingling with this mournful solitude is a sense of utter helplessness. Power belongeth unto God; withdraw the Lord, and the strong men must utterly fail. The archangel without God passes away and is not; the everlasting hills do bow, and the solid pillars of the earth are dissolved. Without God our dust returneth to the earth; without God our spirit mourneth like David, "I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind; I am like a broken vessel." Christ knew what this was when he said, "I am a worm, and no man." He was so utterly broken, so emptied of all power, that as he hung with dislocated limbs upon the cross, he cried, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; thou hast brought me into the dust of death." No broken reed or smoking flax can be so feeble as a soul forsaken of God. Our state would be as deplorably destitute as that of Ezekiel's infant, deserted and cast into the open field with none to swaddle and none to care for it, left utterly to perish and to die,--such should we be if we could be forsaken of God! Glorious are those negatives which shut us in from all fear of this calamity.
3. To be forsaken of God implies utter friendlessness. A thousand times let Jehovah be blessed that very few of us have ever known what it is to be friendless! There have been times in the experience of some of us when we felt that we stood without a friend in the particular spot which we then occupied, for we had a grief which we could not entrust to any other heart. Every man who is eminently useful in the Church will know seasons when as the champion of Israel he must go forth alone. This, however, is compensated by stronger faith, and the moral grandeur of solitary heroism. But what must it be to be some poor wretch whose parents have long since been buried; who has lost his most distant relatives; who, passing along the street remembers the name of one who was once his father's friend, knocks at the door, and is repulsed; recollects another--and this is his last hope--one he played with in his infancy--stands at that door asking for charity and is bidden to go his way, and paces the cold November streets while the rain is pouring down, feeling to his utter dismay that no friend breathes for him? Should he return to his own parish it would be like going to his own dungeon, and if he enters the workhouse no eye there will flash sympathy upon him! He is utterly friendless and alone! I believe that many a suicide has been produced by the want of a friend. As long as a man feels he has some one loving him, he has something worth living for; but when the last friend is gone and we feel that we are floating on a raft far out at sea, with not a sail in sight, and we cry, "Welcome death!" Our Lord and Master was brought to this state, and knew what it was to be forsaken, for he had no friends left. "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." "All the disciples forsook him and fled." Brethren, many saints have lost all their friends, but have bravely borne the trial, for turning their eye to heaven, they have felt that though without friends they were still befriended. They have heard the voice of Jesus say, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come unto you;" and, made strong by Divine friendship, they have felt that they were not utterly bereaved. But to be forsaken of God! Oh, may you and I never know it! To be without a friend in heaven; to look to that throne of glory and to see the blackness of darkness there; to turn to mercy and receive a frown; to fly to love and receive a rebuke; to turn to God and find that his ear is heavy that he will not hear, and his hand restrained that he will not help--oh! this is terror, terror heaped on terror, to be thus forsaken!
4. Loneliness, helplessness, friendlessness--add these together, and then put the next--hopelessness. A man forsaken of men may still entertain some hope. But let him be forsaken of God, and then hope hath failed; the last window is shut; not a ray of light now streams into the thick Egyptian darkness of his mind. Life is death; death is damnation--damnation in its lowest deeps. Let him look to men, and they are broken reeds; let him turn to angels, and they are avengers; let him look to death, and even the tomb affords no refuge. Look where he will, blank, black despair seizes hold upon him. Our blessed Lord knew this when lover and friend had been put far from him, and his acquaintance into darkness. It was only his transcendent faith which enabled him after all to say "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." The black shadow of this utter hopelessness went over him when he said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death," and he "sweat as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground."
5. To make up this five-fold forsaking, against which we have the five negatives, let us add to all this loneliness, helplessness, friendlessness, and hopelessness, a sense of unutterable agony. We speak of agony, but to feel it is a very different thing. Misery and despair--the wrestling of these with the spirit till the spirit is trodden down, and crushed, and broken, and chooses strangling rather than life; a horrible sense of every evil having made one's heart its den; a consciousness that we are the target for all God's arrows; that all God's waves and billows have gone over us; that he hath forgotten to be gracious; that he will be merciful to us no more; that he hath in anger shut up the bowels of his compassion--this is a part of being forsaken of God which only lost spirits in hell can know! Our unbelief sometimes lets us get a glimpse of what this would be, but it is only a glimpse, only a glimpse; let us thank God that we are delivered from all fear of this tremendous evil. By five wounds doth our Redeemer slay our unbelief.
Brethren, if God should leave us, mark the result: I picture to myself the very best state of one forsaken of God--it is uncertainty and chance. I would rather be an atom, which hath God with it, predestinating its track and forcing it onward according to his own will, than I would be an archangel left to my own choice, to do as I would and to act at I please, without the control of God; for an archangel, left without God, would soon miss his way, and fall to hell; or he would melt away, and drop and die; but the tiny atom, having God with it, would fulfill its predestinated course; it would be ever in a sure track, and throughout eternity would have as much potence in it as at its first creation. I cannot think why some people are so fond of free-will. I believe free-will is the delight of sinners, but that God's will is the glory of saints. There is nothing I desire more to get rid of than my own will, and to be absorbed into the will and purpose of my Lord. To do according to the will of Him who is most good, most true, most wise, most mighty, seems to me to be heaven. Let others choose the dignity of independence, I crave the glory of being wholly dead in Christ, and only alive in him. Oh! dear friends, if the Lord should forsake us, to say the best of it, our course would be uncertain, and, ere long it would end in nothingness. We know, further, that if God should forsake the best saint alive, that man would immediately fall into sin. He now stands securely on yonder lofty pinnacle, but his brain would reel and he would fall, if secret hands did not uphold him. He now picks his steps carefully; take away grace from him and he would roll in the mire, and wallow in it like other men. Let the godly be forsaken of his God, and he would go from bad to worse, till his conscience, now so tender, would be seared as with a hot iron. Next he would ripen into an atheist or a blasphemer, and he would come to his dying bed foaming at the mouth with rage; would come before the bar of his Maker with a curse upon his lip; and in eternity, left and forsaken of God, he would sink to hell with the condemned, ay, and among the damned he would have the worst place, lower than the lowest, finding in the lowest depths a lower depth, finding in the wrath of God something more dreadful than the ordinary wrath which falleth upon common sinners!
When we thus describe being forsaken of God, is it not satisfactory to the highest degree to remember that we have God's word for it five times over, "I will never, never leave thee; I will never, never, never forsake thee?" I know those who caricature Calvinism say we teach that let a man live as he likes, yet if God be with him, he will be safe at the last. We teach no such thing, and our adversaries know better. They know that our doctrines are invulnerable if they will state them correctly, and that the only way in which they can attack us is to slander us and to misrepresent what we teach. Nay, verily, we say not so, but we say that where God begins the good work, the man will never live as he likes, or if he does, he will like to live as God would have him live; that where God begins a good work he carries it on; that man is never forsaken of God, nor does he forsake God, but is kept even to the end.
II. We have before us now, in the second place, A GRACIOUS PROMISE, or what is positively guaranteed.
What is guaranteed in this promise? Beloved, herein doth God give to his people everything. "I will never leave thee." Then no attribute of God can cease to be engaged for us. Is he mighty? He will show himself strong on the behalf of them that trust him. Is HE love? Then with everlasting lovingkindness will he have mercy upon us. Whatever attributes may compose the character of Deity every one of them to its fullest extent shall be engaged on our side. Moreover, whatsoever God hath, whether it be in the lowest hades or in the highest heaven, whatever can be contained in infinity or can be held within the circumference of eternity, whatever, in fine, can be in him who filleth all things, and yet is greater than all things, shall be with his people for ever, since "He hath said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you." How one might enlarge here, but I forbear; ye yourselves know that to sum up "all things" is a task beyond all human might.
III. More fully, however, to expound this promise, I would remind you of the five OCCASIONS in which it occurs in Scripture. The number five rune all through our subject. The sense and spirit of the text are to be found in innumerable places, and possibly there may be some other passages which approximate so very nearly to our text, that you might say they also are repetitions, but I think there are five which may clearly take the priority.
1. One of the first instances is to be found in Genesis 28:15 . "Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." Here we have this promise in the case of a man of trials. More than either Abraham or Isaac, Jacob was the son of tribulation. He was now flying away from his father's house, leaving the over-fondness of a mother's attachment, abhorred by his elder brother, who sought his blood. He lies down to sleep, with a stone for his pillow, with the hedges for his curtains, with the earth for his bed, and the heavens for his canopy; and as he sleeps thus friendless, solitary, and alone, God saith to him "I will never, never leave thee." Mark his after career. He is guided to Padan-aram; God, his guide, leaves him not. At Padan-aram Laban cheats him, wickedly and wrongfully cheats him in many ways; but God doth not leave him, and he is more than a match for the thievish Laban. He flies at last with his wives and children; Laban, in hot haste pursues him, but the Lord does not leave him; Mizpah's Mount bears witness that God can stop the pursuer, and change the foe into a friend. Esau comes against him; let Jabbok testify to Jacob's wrestlings, and through the power of him who never did forsake his servant, Esau kisses his brother, whom once he thought to slay. Anon Jacob dwells in tents and booths at Succoth; he journeys up and down throughout the land, and his sons treacherously slay the Shechemites. Then the nations round about seek to avenge their death, but the Lord again interposes, and Jacob is delivered. Poor Jacob is bereaved of his sons. He cries--"Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and now ye will take Benjamin away; all these things are against me." But they are not against him; God has not left him, for he has not yet done everything that he had spoken to him of. The old man goes into Egypt; his lips are refreshed while he kisses the cheeks of his favourite Joseph, and until the last, when he gathers up his feet in the bed and sings of that coming Shiloh and the scepter that should not depart from Judah, good old Jacob proves that in six troubles God is with his people, and in seven he doth not forsake them; that even to hoar hairs he is the same, and until old age he doth carry them. You Jacobs, full of affliction, you tried and troubled heirs of heaven, he hath said to you, each one of you--oh! believe him!--I will never leave thee; I will never forsake thee."
2. The next instance in which we find this same promise is in Deuteronomy 31:6 . Here we find it spoken, not so much to individuals as to the whole body collectively. Moses said unto the people of Judah, by the Word of God, "Be strong, and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Beloved, we may take this promise as being spoken to God's Church, as a Church. These people were to fight the accursed nations of Canaan, to drive out the giants, and the men who had chariots of iron, but the Lord said he would never leave them, nor did he, till from Dan to Beersheba the favored race possessed the promised land, and the tribes went up to Jerusalem with the voice of joyful song. Now, as the Church of God, let us remember that the land lieth before us, and we are called of God to go up and possess it. I would it were my lot yet more and more, like Joshua, to lead you from one place to another, smiting the enemies of the Lord and extending the kingdom of Messias! Let us undertake what we may, we shall never fail. Let us, by faith, dare great things, and we shall do great things. Let us venture upon notable exploits which shall seem fanatical to reason and absurd to men of prudence, for he hath said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." If the Church of God would but know that her Lord cannot leave her, she might attempt greater things than she has ever done, and the success of her attempts would be most certain and sure. God never can forsake a praying people, nor cast off a laboring Church; he must bless us even to the end.
3. The third occasion upon which this promise was made is in Joshua 1:5 , where the Lord says to Joshua, "There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. "Now this is a minister's text. If we be called to lead the people, to bear the brunt of the fight, the burden and heat of the day, let us treasure up this as our precious consolation, he will not fail us nor forsake us. It needs not that I should tell you that it is not every man who can stand first in the ranks, and that, albeit there is no small share of honor given by God to such a man, yet there is a bitterness in his lot which no other men can know. There are times when, if it were not for faith, we would give up the ghost, and, were not the Master with us, we would turn our back and fly, like Jonah, unto Nineveh. But if any of you be called to occupy prominent positions in God's Church, bind this about your arm and it shall make you strong; He hath said to you, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Go, in this thy might; the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.
4. On the next occasion, this same promise was given by David in his last moments to his son Solomon, 1 Chronicles 28:20 . David was speaking of what he himself by experience had proved to be true, and he declares--"Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord." Some Christians are placed where they need much prudence, discretion, and wisdom. You may take this for your promise. The Queen of Sheba came to see Solomon; she put to him many difficult questions, but God did not leave him, nor forsake him, and he was able to answer them all. As judge over Israel, many knotty points were brought before him; you remember the child and the harlots, and how wisely he decided the case. The building of the temple was a very mighty work--the like of which the earth had never seen, but, by wisdom given to him, the stones were fashioned, and laid one upon another, till at last the top stone was brought out with shoutings. You shall do the same, O man of business, though yours be a very responsible situation. You shall finish your course, O careful worker, though there are many eyes that watch for your halting. You shall do the same, sister, though you need to have seven eyes rather than two, you shall hear the voice of God saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it." Thou shalt never be ashamed nor confounded, world without end.
5. Once more, and perhaps this fifth occasion may be the most comforting to the most of you, Isaiah 41:17 , "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them." You may be brought to this state to-day. Your soul may need Christ, but you may not be able to find him. You may feel that without the mercy which comes from the atoning blood you are lost. You may have gone to works and ceremonies, to prayings and doings, to alms-givings and to experiences, and have found them all dried wells, and now you can hardly pray, for your tongue cleaves to the roof of your mouth for thirst. Now in your worst condition, brought to the lowest state into which a creature ever can be cast, Christ will not forsake you, he will appear for your help.
Surely, one of these five occasions must suit you, and let me here remind you that whatever God has said to any one saint he has said to all. When he opens a well for one man it is that all may drink. When the manna falls, it is not only for those in the wilderness, but we by faith do eat the manna still. No promise is of private interpretation. When God openeth a granary-door to give out food, there may be some one starving man who is the occasion of its being opened, but all the hungry besides may come and feed too. Whether he gave the word to Abraham or to Moses matters not; he has given it to thee as one of the covenanted seed. There is not a high blessing too lofty for thee; nor a wide mercy too extensive for thee. Lift up now thine eyes to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, for all this is thine. Climb to Pisgah's top, and view the utmost limit of the divine promise, for the land is all thine own. There is not a brook of living water of which thou mayest not drink. If the land floweth with milk and honey, eat the honey and drink the milk. The fattest of the kine, yea, and the sweetest of the wines, let all be thine, for there is no denial of any one of them to any saint. Be thou bold to believe, for he hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." To put everything in one, there is nothing you can want, there is nothing you can ask for, there is nothing you can need in time or in eternity, there is nothing living, nothing dying, there is nothing in this world, nothing in the next world, there is nothing now, nothing at the resurrection-morning, nothing in heaven that is not contained in this text--"I will never leave thee; I will never forsake thee."
IV. I shall give five blows to drive home the nail while I speak upon THE SWEET CONFIRMATIONS of this most precious promise.
1. Let me remind you that the Lord will not and cannot leave his people, because of his relationship to them. He is your Father; will your Father leave you? Has he not said--"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Would you, being evil, leave your child to perish? Never, never! Remember, Christ is your husband. Would you, a husband, neglect your wife? Is it not a shame to a man, unless he nourisheth and cherisheth her even as his own body, and will Christ become one of these ill husbands? Hath he not said--"I hate putting away," and will he ever put thee away? Remember, thou art part of his body. No man yet ever hated his own flesh. Thou mayest be but as a little finger, but will he leave his finger to rot, to perish, to starve? Thou mayest be the least honorable of all the members, but is it not written that upon these he bestoweth abundant honor, and so our uncomely parts have abundant comeliness? If he be father, if he be husband, if he be head, if he be all-in-all, how can he leave thee? Think not so hardly of thy God.
2. Then, next, his honor binds him never to forsake thee. When we see a house half-built and left in ruins, we say, "This man began to build and was not able to finish." Shall this be said of thy God, that he began to save thee and could not bring thee to perfection? Is it possible that he will break his word, and so stain his truth? Shall men be able to cast a slur upon his power, his wisdom, his love, his faithfulness? No! thank God, no! "I give," saith he "unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." If thou shouldest perish, believer, hell would ring with diabolical laughter against the character of God; and if ever one whom Jesus undertook to save shouldest perish, then the demons of the pit would point the finger of scorn for ever against a defeated Christ, against a God that undertook but went not through.
"His honor is engaged to save
The meanest of his sheep;
All that his heavenly Father gave
His hands securely keep."
3. And if that be not enough, wilt thou remember besides this that the past all goes to prove that he will not forsake thee. Thou hast been in deep waters; hast thou been drowned? Thou hast walked through the fires; hast thou been burned? Thou hast had six troubles; hath he forsaken thee? Thou hast gone down to the roots of the mountains, and the weeds have been wrapped about thy head; hath he not brought thee up again? Thou hast borne great and sore troubles; but hath he not delivered thee? Say, when did he leave thee? Testify against him; if thou hast found him forgetful, then doubt him. If thou hast found him unworthy of thy confidence, then disown him, but not till then. The past is vocal with a thousand songs of gratitude, and every note therein proveth by an indisputable logic that he will not forsake his people.
4. And if that be not enough ask thy father and the saints that have gone before. Did ever any perish trusting in Christ? I have heard that some whom Jehovah loved have fallen from grace, and have been lost. I have heard lips of ministers thus prostitute themselves to falsehood, but I know that such never was the case. He keepeth all his saints; not one of them hath perished; they are in his hand, and have hitherto been preserved. David mourneth, "All thy waves and thy billows have gone over me;" yet, he crieth, "Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him." Jonah laments, "The earth with her bars was about me for ever;" and yet, erelong he says, "Salvation is of the Lord." Ye glorified ones above, through much tribulation ye have inherited the kingdom, and wearing your white robes, ye smile from your thrones of glory and say to us, "Doubt not the Lord, neither distrust him, he hath not forsaken his people nor cast off his chosen."
5. Beloved friends, there is no reason why he should cast us off. Can you adduce any reason why he should cast you away? Is it your poverty, your nakedness, your peril, the danger of your life? In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that hath loved us. Do you say it is your sins? Then I answer sin can never be a cause why God should cast away his people, for they were full of sin when he at first embraced their persons, and espoused their cause. That would have been a cause why he never should have loved them, but having loved them when they were dead in trespasses and sins, their sin can never be a reason for leaving them. Besides, the Apostle says, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,"--and sin is one of the things present, and I fear it is one of the things to come--"nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." O child of God, there is no fear of your misusing this precious truth. The base-born professor of godliness may say, "I will sin, for God will not cast me away," but you will not, ye heirs of heaven; rather you will bind this about your heart, and say "Now will I love him who having loved his own, loves them even unto the end." Glory be to God,
"'Midst all my sin, and care, and woe,
His Spirit will not let me go."
Go, ye slaves that fear the curse of God, and sweat and toil; we are his sons, and we know he cannot expel us from his heart. May God deliver us from the infamous bondage of the doctrine which makes men fear that God may be unfaithful, that Christ may divorce his own spouse, may let the members of his own body perish; that he may die for them and yet not save them. If there be any truth taught us in Scripture, it is that the children of God cannot perish. If this Book teaches anything whatever, if it be not all a fiction from beginning to end, it teaches in a hundred places that "The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger." "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but the covenant of his love cannot depart from us saith the Lord that hath mercy upon us."
V. And now, fifthly, the SUITABLE CONCLUSIONS to be drawn from this doctrine.
1. One of the first is contentment. The apostle says, "Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content, for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Ishmael, the son of Hagar, had his water in a bottle; and he might have laughed at Isaac because Isaac had no bottle, but then here was the difference between them--Isaac lived by the well. Now some of us have little enough in this world; we have no bottle of water, no stock in hand; but then we live by the well, and that is better still. To depend upon the daily providence of a faithful God, is better than to be worth twenty thousand pounds a year.
2. Courage is the next lesson. Let us boldly say, "God is my helper, why should I fear what man can do unto me." A child of God afraid! Why, there is nothing more contrary to his nature. If any would persecute you, look them in the face and bear it cheerfully. If they laugh at you, let them laugh; you can laugh when they shall howl. If any despise you, be content to be despised by fools, and to be misunderstood by madmen. It were hard if the world loved us; it is an easy thing if the world hateth us. We are so used to be spoken of as altogether vile in our motives and selfish in our objects; so used to hear our adversaries misconstrue our best words and pull our sentences to pieces, that if they were to do anything else but howl, we should think ourselves unworthy. "Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth."
3. Then next, we ought to cast off our despondency. Some of you came here this morning as black as the weather. Just now we saw some gleams of sunshine peering through those side windows, until our friends hastened to draw the blinds, to shut out the dazzling brightness from their eyes; I hope, however, you will not shut out the rays of holy joy which break in upon you now. No, since he has said, "I will never leave nor forsake thee" leave your troubles in your pews, and bear away a song.
4. And then, my brethren, here is argument for the greatest possible delight. How we ought to rejoice with joy unspeakable if He will never leave us! Mere songs are not enough; shout for joy all ye that are upright in heart.
5. And, lastly, what ground there is here for faith! Let us lean upon our God with all our weight. Let us throw ourselves upon his faithfulness as we do upon our beds, bringing all our weariness to his dear rest. Now, right on our God let us cast the burdens of our bodies, and our souls, for he hath said, "I will never leave thee; I will never forsake thee."
Oh, I wish this promise belonged to you all! I would give my right hand if it could! But some of you must not touch it; it does not belong to some of you, for it is the exclusive property of the man who trusts in Christ. "Oh!" saith one, "then I will trust in Christ." Do it, soul, do it; and if thou trustest in him he will never leave thee. Black as thou art, he will wash thee; he will never leave thee. Wicked as thou art, he will make thee holy, he will never leave thee. Though thou hast nought that should win his love, he will press thee to his bosom; he will never leave thee. Living or dying, in time or in eternity, he will never forsake thee, but will surely bring thee to his right hand, and say, "Here am I, and the children whom thou hast given me."
May God seal these five negatives upon our memories and hearts for Christ's sake. Amen.
'The Unchangeable Christ' and 'The Immutability of Christ'
The Unchangeable Christ
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, April 29th, 1894,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Thursday Evening, February 23rd, 1888.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."-- Hebrews 13:8 .
LET me read to you the verse that comes before our text. It is a good habit always to look at texts in their connection. It is wrong, I think, to lay hold of small portions of God's Word, and take them out of their connection as you might pluck feathers from a bird; it is an injury to the Word; and, sometimes, a passage of Scripture loses much of its beauty, its true teaching, and its real meaning, by being taken from the context. Nobody would think of mutilating Milton's poems so, taking a few lines out of Paradise Lost, and then imagining that he could really get at the heart of the poet's power. So, always look at texts in the connection in which they stand. The verse before our text is this, "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation: Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Observe, then, that God's people are a thoughtful people. If they are what they ought to be, they do a great deal of remembering and considering; that is the gist of this verse. If they are to remember and to consider their earthly leaders, much more are they to recollect that great Leader, the Lord Jesus, and all those matchless truths which fell from his blessed lips. I wish, in these days, that professing Christians did remember and did consider a great deal more; but we live in such a flurry, and hurry, and worry, that we do not get time for thought. Our noble forefathers of the Puritanic sort were men with backbone, men of solid tread, independent and self-contained men, who could hold their own in the day of conflict; and the reason was because they took time to meditate, time to keep a diary of their daily experiences, time to commune with God in secret. Take the hint, and try and do a little more thinking; in this busy London, and in these trying days, remember and consider.
My next remark is, that God's people are an imitative people, for we are told here that they are to remember them who are their leaders, those who have spoken to them the Word of God, "whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation." There is an itching, nowadays, after originality, striking out a path for yourself. When sheep do that, they are bad sheep. Sheep follow the shepherd; and, in a measure, they follow one another when they are all together following the shepherd. Our Great Master never aimed at originality; he said that he did not even speak his own words, but the words that he had heard of his Father. He was docile and teachable; as the Son of God, and the servant of God, his ear was open to hear the instructions of the Father, and he could say, "I do always those things that please him." Now, that is the true path for a Christian to take, to follow Jesus, and, in consequence, to follow all such true saints as may be worthy of being followed, imitating the godly so far as they imitate Christ. The apostle puts it, "whose faith follow." Many young Christians, if they were to pretend to strike out a path for themselves, must infallibly fall into many sorrows, whereas by taking some note of the way in which more experienced and more instructed Christians have gone, they will keep by the way of the footsteps of the flock, and they will also follow the footprints of the Shepherd. God's people are a thoughtful people, and they are an imitative and humble people, willing to be instructed, and willing to follow holy and godly examples.
One good reason, however, for imitating saints is given in our text; it is because our Lord and his faith are always the same: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." You see, if the old foundation shifted, if our faith was always changing, then we could not follow any of the saints who have gone before us. If we have a religion specially for the nineteenth century, it is ridiculous for us to imitate the men of the first century, and Paul and the apostles are just old fogies who are left behind in the far-distant ages. If we are to go on improving from century to century, I cannot point you to any of the reformers, or the confessors, or the saints in the brave days of old, and say to you, "Learn from their example," because, if religion has altogether changed and improved, it is a curious thing to say, but we ought to set an example to our ancestors. Of course, they cannot follow it because they have gone from the earth; but as we know so much better than our fathers, we cannot think of learning anything from them. As we have left the apostles all behind, and gone in for something quite new, it is a pity that we should not forget what they did, and what they suffered, and think that they were just a set of simpletons who acted up to their own light, but then they had not the light we have in this wonderful nineteenth century! O beloved, it almost makes my lips blister to talk after the present evil fashion, for grosser falsehood never could be uttered than the insinuation that we have shifted the everlasting foundations of our faith. Verily, if these foundations were removed, we might ask in many sense, "What shall the righteous do? Whom shall they copy? Whom shall they follow? The landmarks having gone, what remains to us of the holy treasury of example with which the Lord enriches those who follow Christ?"
I. Coming to our text, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever," my first observation is, that JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF IS ALWAYS THE SAME. He is, was, and will be always the same.
Changes of position and of circumstances there have been in our Lord, but he is always the same in his great love to his people, whom he loved or ever the earth was. Before the first star was kindled, before the first living creature began to sing the praise of its Creator, he loved his Church with an everlasting love. He spied her in the glass of predestination, pictured her by his divine foreknowledge, and loved her with all his heart; and it was for this cause that he left his Father, and became one with her, that he might redeem her. It was for this cause that he went with her through all this vale of tears, discharged her debts, and bore her sins in his own body on the tree. For her sake he slept in the tomb, and with the same love that brought him down he has gone up again, and with the same heart beating true to the same blessed betrothment he has gone into the glory, waiting for the marriage-day when he shall come again, to receive his perfected spouse, who shall have made herself ready by his grace. Never for a moment, whether as God over all, blessed for ever, or as God and man in one divine person, or as dead and buried, or as risen and ascended, never has he changed in the love he bears to his chosen. He is "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Therefore, beloved brethren, he has never changed in his divine purpose towards his beloved Church. He resolved in eternity to become one with her, that she might become one with him; and, having determined upon this, when the fulness of time had come, he was born of a woman, made under the law, he took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh, "and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Yet he never abandoned his purpose, he set his face like a flint to go up to Jerusalem; even when the bitter cup was put to his lips, and he seemed to stagger for a moment, he returned to it with a strong resolve, saying to his Father, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." That purpose is strong upon him now; for Zion's sake he will not hold his peace, and for Jerusalem's sake he will not rest, until her righteousness goeth forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth. Jesus is still pressing on with his great work, and he will not fail nor be discouraged in it. He will never be content till all whom he has bought with blood shall become also glorified by his power. He will gather all his sheep in the heavenly fold, and they shall pass again under the hand of him that telleth them, every one of them being brought there by the great Shepherd who laid down his life for them. Beloved, he cannot turn from his purpose; it is not according to his nature that he should, for he is "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
He is also "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever," in the holding of his offices for the carrying out of his purpose, and giving effect to his love. He is a Prophet still. Men try to set him on one side. Science, falsely so-called, comes forward, and bids him hold his tongue; but "the sheep follow him, for they know his voice; and a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." The teachings of the New Testament are as sound and true to-day as they were eighteen hundred years ago; they have lost none of their value, none of their absolute certainty; they stand fast like the everlasting hills. Jesus Christ was a Prophet, and he is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
He is the same, too, as a Priest. Some now sneer at his precious blood; alas, that it should be so! But, to his elect, his blood is still their purchase-price, by this they overcome, through the blood of the Lamb they win the victory; and they know that they shall praise it in heaven, when they have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They never turn away from this great Priest of theirs, and his wondrous sacrifice, once offered for the sins of men, and perpetually efficacious for all the blood-bought race; they glory in his everlasting priesthood before the Father's throne. In this we do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, that Jesus Christ is our Priest, "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
And as King he is ever the same. He is supreme in the Church. Before thee, O Jesus, all thy loyal subjects bow! All the sheaves make obeisance to thy sheaf; the sun and moon and all the stars obey and serve thee, thou King of kings, and Lord of lords. Thou art Head over all things to thy Church, which is thy body. Beloved, if there be any other office which our Lord has assumed for the accomplishment of his divine purposes, we may say of him, concerning every position, that he is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
So also, once more, he is the same in his relationship to all his people. I like to think that, as Jesus was the Husband of his Church ages ago, he is her Husband still, for he hateth putting away. As he was the Brother born for adversity to his first disciples, he is our faithful Brother still. As he was a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother to those who were sorely tried in the medieval times, he is equally a Friend to us upon whom the ends of the earth have come. There is no difference whatever in the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ to his people at any time. He is just as ready to comfort us to-night as he was to comfort those with whom he dwelt when here below. Sister Mary, he is as willing to come down to your Bethany, and help you in your sorrow about Lazarus, as he was when he came to Martha and Mary whom he loved. Jesus Christ is just as ready to wash your feet, my brother, after another day's weary travel through the foul ways of this world; he is as willing to take the basin, and the pitcher, and the towel, and to give us a loving cleansing, as he was when he washed his disciples' feet. Just what he was to them he is to us. Happy is it if you and I can truly say, "What he was to Peter, what he was to John, what he was to the Magdalen, that is Jesus Christ to me, 'the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.'"
Beloved, I have seen men change; oh, how they change! A little frost turns the green forest to bronze, and every leaf forsakes its hold, and yields to the winter's blast. So fade our friends, and the most attached adherents drop away from us in the time of trial; but Jesus is to us what he always was. When we get old and grey-headed, and others shut the door on men who have lost their former strength, and can serve their turn no longer, then will he say, "Even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you," for he is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." Thus much, beloved, with regard to Jesus himself; he is ever the same.
II. Now let us go a step farther. JESUS CHRIST IS ALWAYS THE SAME IN HIS DOCTRINE.
This text must refer to the doctrine of Christ, since it is connected with imitating the saints' faith: "Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation: Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace." From the connection it is evident that our text refers to the teaching of Christ, who is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." This is not according to the "development" folly. Theology, like every other science, is to grow, watered by the splendid wisdom of this enlightened age, fostered by the superlative ability of the gentlemen of light and leading of the present time, so much superior to all who came before them!
We think not so, brethren; for the Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect revelation of God. He was the express image of the Father's person, and the brightness of his glory. In previous ages, God had spoken to us by his prophets but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Now as to that which was a complete revelation, it is blasphemous to suppose that there can be any more revealed than has been made known in the person and work of Jesus Christ the Son of God. He is God's ultimatum; last of all, he sends his Son. If you can conceive a brighter display of God than is to be seen in the Only-begotten, I thank God that I am unable to follow you in any such imagination. To me, he is the last, the highest, the grandest revelation of God; and as he shuts up the Book that contains the written revelation, he bids you never dare to take from it, lest he should take your name out of the Book of life, and never dare to add to it, lest he should add unto you the plagues that are written in this Book.
At this time, the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ is the same as it was in all ages. Jesus Christ still saves sinners from the guilt, the power, the punishment, and the defilement of sin. Still, "there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." Jesus Christ still makes all things new; he creates new hearts and right spirits in the sons of men, and engraves his law upon the tablets which once were stone, but which he has turned into flesh. There is no new salvation; some may talk as if there were, but there is not. Salvation means to you to-day just what it meant to Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus; if you think it has another meaning, you have missed it altogether.
And, again, salvation by Jesus Christ comes to men in the same way as ever it did. They have to receive it now by faith; in Paul's day, men were saved by faith, and they are not now saved by works. They began in the Spirit in the apostolic age, and we are not now to begin in the flesh. There is no indication in the Book, and there is no indication in the experiences of God's children, that there is ever to be any alteration as to the way in which we receive Christ, and live by him. "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God," the gift of God to-day as much as ever it was, for Jesus Christ "is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Once more, this salvation is just the same as to the persons to whom it is sent. It is to be preached now, as ever, to every creature under heaven; but it appeals with a peculiar power to those who are guilty, and who confess their guilt, to hearts that are broken, to men who are weary and heavy laden. It is to these that the gospel comes with great sweetness. I have quoted to you before those strange words of Joseph Hart,--
"A sinner is a sacred thing,
The Holy Ghost hath made him so."
He is; the Saviour is only for sinners. He did not come to save the righteous, he came to seek and to save the lost, and still "to you is the word of this salvation sent;" and this declaration still stands true, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." There is no change in this statement, "the poor have the gospel preached to them," and it comes to those who are farthest off from God and hope, and inspires them with divine power and energy.
Beloved, I can bear witness that the gospel is the same in its effects upon the hearts of men. Still it breaks, and still it makes whole; still it wounds, and still it heals; still it kills, and still it quickens; still it seems to hurl men down to hell in their terrible experience of the evil of sin, but still it lifts them up into an ecstatic joy, till they are exalted almost to heaven when they lay hold upon it, and feel its power in their souls. The gospel that was a gospel of births and deaths, of killing and making alive, in the days of John Bunyan, has just the same effect upon our hearts to this day, when it comes with the power that God has put into it by his Spirit. It produces the same results, and has the same sanctifying influence as it ever had.
Looking beyond the narrow stream of death, we can say that the eternal results produced by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ are the same as they ever were. The promise is this day fulfilled to those who receive him as much as to any who went before; life eternal is their inheritance, they shall sit with him upon his throne; and, on the other hand, the threatening is equally sure of fulfilment: "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." "He that believeth not shall be damned." Christ has made no change in his words of promise or of threatening, nor will his followers dare to do so, for his doctrine is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
If you were to try to think over this matter, and imagine for a minute that the gospel really did shift and change with the times, it would be very extraordinary. See, here is the gospel for the first century; make a mark, and note how far it goes. Then there is a gospel for the second century; make another mark, but then remember that you must change the colour to another shade. Either these people must have altered, or else a very different effect must have been produced in the same kind of minds. In eternity, when they all get to heaven by these nineteen gospels, in the nineteen centuries, there will be nineteen sets of people, and they will sing nineteen different songs, depend upon it, and their music will not blend. Some will sing of "free grace and dying love", while others will sing of "evolution." What a discord it would be, and what a heaven it would be, too! I should decline to be a candidate for such a place. No, let me go where they praise Jesus Christ and him alone, singing, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." That is what the first-century saints sing; ay, and it is what the saints of every century will sing, without any exception; and there will be no change in this song for ever. The same results will flow from the same gospel till heaven and earth shall pass away, for Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
III. We may sound the same note again, for a moment, because JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME AS TO HIS MODES OF WORKING: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
How did Jesus Christ save souls in the olden time? "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe;" and if you will look down through church history, you will find that, wherever there has been a great revival of religion, it has been linked with the preaching of the gospel. When the Methodists began to do so much good, what did they call the men who made such a stir? "Methodist preachers", did they not say? That was always the name, "Here comes a Methodist preacher." Ah, my dear friends, the world will never be saved by Methodist doctors, or by Baptist doctors, or anything of the sort; but multitudes will be saved, by God's grace, through preachers. It is the preacher to whom God has entrusted this great work. Jesus said, "Preach the gospel to every creature." But men are getting tired of the divine plan; they are going to be saved by the priest, going to be saved by the music, going to be saved by theatricals, and nobody knows what! Well, they may try these things as long as ever they like; but nothing can ever come of the whole thing but utter disappointment and confusion, God dishonoured, the gospel travestied, hypocrites manufactured by thousands, and the church dragged down to the level of the world. Stand to your guns, brethren, and go on preaching and teaching nothing but the Word of God, for it pleases God still, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe; and this text still stands true, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
But remember that there must always be the prayers of the saints with the preaching of the gospel. You must have often noticed that passage in the Acts concerning the new converts on the Day of Pentecost, "They continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine": they thought a great deal about doctrine in those days. "And fellowship": they thought a good deal of being in church-fellowship in those days. "And in breaking of bread": they did not neglect the blessed ordinance of the Lord's supper in those days: "In breaking of bread." And then what follows? "And in prayers." Some say nowadays, that prayer-meetings are religious expedients pretty well worn out. Ah, dear me! What a religious expedient that was that brought about Pentecost, when they were assembled with one accord in one place, and when the whole church prayed, and suddenly the place was shaken, and they heard the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, that betokened the presence of the Holy Ghost! Well, you may try to do without prayer-meetings if you like; but my solemn conviction is that, as these decline, the Spirit of God will depart from you, and the preaching of the gospel will be of small account. The Lord will have the prayers of His people to go with the proclamation of his gospel if it is to be the power of God unto salvation, and there is no change in this matter since Paul's day, Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." God is still to be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them, and he still grants blessings in answer to believing prayer.
Remember, too, that the Lord Jesus Christ has always been inclined to work by the spiritual power of his servants. Nothing comes out of a man that is not first in him. You will not find God's servants doing great things for him, unless God works mightily in them, as well as by them. You must first yourself be endued with power from on high, or else the power will not manifest itself in what you do. Beloved, we want our church members to be better men and better women; we want baby-Christians to become men-Christians; and we want the men-Christians among us to be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." God will work by his servants when they are adapted to his service; and he will make his instruments fit for his work. It is not in themselves that they have any strength; their weakness becomes the reason why his strength is seen in them. Still, there is an adaptation, there is a fitness for his service, there is a cleanness that God puts upon his instruments before he works mighty things by them; and Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever," in this matter, too.
All the good that is ever done in the world is wrought by the Holy Ghost; and as the Holy Spirit honours Jesus Christ, so he puts great honour upon the Holy Spirit. If you and I try, either as a church or as individuals, to do without the Holy Spirit, God will soon do without us. Unless we reverently worship him, and believingly trust in him, we shall find that we shall be like Samson when his locks were shorn. He shook himself as he had done aforetime; but when the Philistines were upon him, he could do nothing against them. Our prayer must ever be, "Holy Spirit, dwell with me! Holy Spirit, dwell with thy servants!" We know that we are utterly dependent upon him. Such is the teaching of our Master, and Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
IV. I do not want to weary you, my dear brethren; but may I be helped, just for a few moments, to speak on a fourth point! JESUS CHRIST HAS EVER THE SAME RESOURCES, for he is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
I will repeat what I said, Jesus Christ has ever the same resources. We sit down, sometimes, very sorrowful, and we say, "The times are very dark." I do not think that we can very well exaggerate their darkness; and they are full of threatening omens, and I do not think that any of us can really exaggerate those omens, they are so terrible. But still is it true, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock."
Does the Church feel her need of faithful men The Lord can send us as many as ever. When the Pope ruled everywhere, nobody thought, I should imagine, that the first man to speak out for the old faith would be a monk; they thought they had taken stock of all the men that God had at his command, and they certainly did not think that he had one of the leaders of the Reformation in a monastery; but there was Martin Luther, "the monk that shook the world," and though men dreamed not what he would do, God knew all about him. There was Calvin, also, writing that famous book of his Institutes. He was a man full of disease, I think he had sixty diseases at once in his body, and he suffered greatly. Look at his portrait, pale and wan; and as a young man he was very timid. He went to Geneva, and he thought he was called to write books; but Farel said to him, "You are called to lead us in preaching the gospel here in Geneva." "No," said Calvin, for he shrank from the task; but Farel said, "The blast of the Almighty God will rest upon you unless you come out, and take your proper place." Beneath the threat of that brave old man, John Calvin took his place, prompt and sincere in the work of God, in life and in death never faltering. Then there was Zwingle over there at Zurich, he had come out, too, and Oecolampadius, and Melancthon, and their fellows,--who ever expected them to do what they did? Nobody. "The Lord gave the word, great was the company of them that published it." And so, to-day, he has only to give the word, and you shall see starting up all over the world earnest preachers of the everlasting gospel, for he has the same resources as ever. He is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
He has also the same resources of grace. The Holy Spirit is quite as able to convert men, to quicken, enlighten, sanctify, and instruct. There is nothing which he has done which he cannot do again; the treasures of God are as full and as running over now as they were in the beginning of the Christian age. If we do not see such great things, where lies the restraining force? It is in our unbelief. "If thou believest, all things are possible to him that believeth." Ere this year has gone, God can make a wave of revival break over England, Scotland, and Ireland, from one end to the other, ay, and he can deluge the whole world with the gospel if we will but cry to him for it, and he wills to do it, for he is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever," in the resources of his grace.
V. So I close my sermon with this fifth head, on which I will be very short indeed, JESUS CHRIST IS EVER THE SAME TO ME: "yesterday, and to day, and for ever." I will not talk about myself except to help you to think about yourselves. How long have you known the Lord Jesus Christ? Perhaps, only a short time; possibly, many years. Do you remember when you first knew him? Can you point out the spot of ground where Jesus met you? Now, what was he to you at first? I will tell you what he was to me.
Jesus was to me at first my only trust. I leaned on him very hard then, for I had such a load to carry. I laid myself and my load down at his feet; he was all in all to me. I had not a shred of hope outside of him, nor any trust beyond himself, crucified and risen for me. Now, dear brothers and sisters, have you got any further than that? I hope not; I know that I have not. I have not a shadow of a shade of confidence anywhere but in Christ's blood and righteousness. I leaned on him very hard at the first; but I lean harder now. Sometimes, I faint away into his arms; I have died into his life; I am lost in his fulness, he is all my salvation and all my desire. I am speaking for myself; but I think that I am speaking for many of you, too, when I say that Jesus Christ is to me "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." His cross, before my failing eyes, shall be my dying comfort as it is my living strength.
What was Jesus Christ to me at the first? He was the object of my warmest love; was it not so with you also? Was he not chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely? What charms, what beauties, were there in that dear face of his! And what a freshness, what a novelty, what a delight, which set all our passions on a flame! It was so in those early days when we went after him into the wilderness. Though all the world around was barren, he was all in all to us. Very well, what is he to-day? He is fairer to us now than ever he was. He is the one gem that we possess; our other jewels have all turned out to be but glass, and we have flung them from the casket, but he is the Koh-i-noor that our souls delights in; all perfections joined together to make one absolute perfection; all the graces adorning him, and overflowing to us. Is not that what we say of him? "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
What was Jesus Christ to me at the first? Well, he was my highest joy. In my young days, how my heart did dance at the sound of his name! Was it not so with many of you? We may be huskier in voice, and heavier in body, and slower in moving our limbs, but his name has as much charm for us as ever it had. There was a trumpet that nobody could blow but one who was the true heir, and there is nobody who can ever fetch the true music out of us but our Lord to whom we belong. When he sets me to his lips, you would think that I was one of the trumpets of the seven angels; but there is no one else who can make me sound like that. I cannot produce such music as that by myself; and there is no theme that can ravish my heart, there is no subject that can stir my soul, until I get to him. I think it is with me as it was with Rutherford, when the Duke of Argyle called out, as he began to preach about Christ, "Now, man, you are on the right string, keep to that." The Lord Jesus Christ knows every key in our souls, and he can wake up our whole being to harmonies of music which shall set the world ringing with his praises. Yes, he is our joy, our everything, "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Let us go forward, then, to the unchanging Saviour, through the changing things of time and sense; and we shall meet him soon in the glory, and he will be unchanged even there, as compassionate and loving to us when we shall get home to him, and see him in his splendour, as he was to his poor disciples when he himself had not where to lay his head, and was a sufferer amongst them.
Oh, do you know him? Do you know him? Do you know him? If not, may he this night reveal himself to you, for his sweet mercy's sake! Amen.
The Immutability of Christ
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 3, 1858, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."-- Hebrews 13:8
IT IS WELL that there is one person who is the same. It is well that there is one stable rock amidst the changing billows of this sea of life; for how many and how grievous have been the changes of this year? How many of you who commenced in affluence, have by the panic, which has shaken nations, been reduced almost to poverty? How many of you, who in strong health marched into this place on the first Sabbath of last year, have had to come tottering here, feeling that the breath of man is in his nostrils, and wherein is he to be accounted of? Many of you came to this hall with a numerous family, leaning upon the arm of a choice and much loved friend. Alas! for love, if thou wert all and naught beside, O earth! For ye have buried those ye loved the best. Some of you have come here childless, or widows, or fatherless, still weeping your recent affliction. Changes have taken place in your estate that have made your heart full of misery. Your cups of sweetness have been dashed with draughts of gall; your golden harvests have had tares cast into the midst of them, and you have had to reap the noxious weed along with the precious grain. Your much fine gold has become dim, and your glory has departed; the sweet frames at the commencement of last year became bitter ones at the end. Your raptures and your ecstacies were turned into depression and forebodings. Alas! for our changes, and hallelujah to him that hath no change.
But greater things have changed than we; for kingdoms have trembled in the balances. We have seen a peninsula deluged with blood, and mutiny raising its bloody war whoop. Nay, the whole world hath changed; earth hath doffed its green, and put on its somber garment of Autumn, and soon expects to wear its ermine robe of snow. All things have changed. We believe that not only in appearance but in reality, the world is growing old. The sun itself must soon grow dim with age; the folding up of the worn-out vesture has commenced; the changing of the heavens and the earth has certainly begun. They shall perish; they all shall wax old as doth a garment; but for ever blessed be him who is the same, and of whose years there is no end. The satisfaction that the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he puts his foot upon the solid shore, is just the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he plants the foot of his faith upon such a text as this--"the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." The same stability that the anchor gives the ship, when it hath at last got the grip of some immovable rock, that same stability doth our hope give to our spirits, when, like an anchor, it fixes itself in a truth so glorious as this--"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
I shall first try this morning to open the text by a little explanation; then I shall try to answer a few objections, which our wicked unbelief will be quite sure to raise against it; and afterward I shall try to draw a few useful, consoling, and practical lessons from the great truth of the immutability of Jesus Christ.
I. First, then, we open the text by a little EXPLANATION--"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." He is the same in his person. We change perpetually; the bloom of youth gives place to the strength of manhood, and the maturity of manhood fades away into the weakness of old age. But "Thou hast the dew of thy youth." Christ Jesus, whom we adore, thou art as young as ever! We came into this world with the ignorance of infancy; we grow up searching, studying, and learning with the diligence of youth; we attain to some little knowledge in our riper years; and then in our old age we totter back to the imbecility of our childhood. But O, our Master! thou didst perfectly foreknow all mortal or eternal things from before the foundations of the world, and thou knowest all things now, and for ever thou shalt be the same in thine omniscience. We are one day strong, and the next day weak--one day resolved, and the next day wavering--one hour constant, and the next hour unstable as water. We are one moment holy, kept by the power of God; we are the next moment sinning, led astray by our own lusts; but our Master is for ever the same; pure and never spotted; firm, and never changing--everlastingly Omnipotent, unchangeably Omniscient. From him no attribute doth pass away; to him no parallax, no tropic, ever comes; without variableness or shadow of a turning, he abideth fast and firm. Did Solomon sing concerning his best beloved, "His head is as the most fine gold: his locks are bushy and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedar ?" Surely we can even now conclude the description from our own experience of him; and while we endorse every word which went before, we can end the description by saying, "His mouth is most sweet, yea he is altogether lovely. His matchless beauty is unimpaired; he is still 'the chief among ten thousand'--fairest of the sons of men." Did the divine John talk of him when he said--"His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." He is the same; upon his brow there is ne'er a furrow; his locks are gray with reverence, but not with age; his feet stand as firm as when they trod the everlasting mountains in the years before the world was made--his eyes as piercing when, for the first time he looked upon a new-born world. Christ's person never changes. Should he come on earth to visit us again, as sure he will, we should find him the same Jesus; as loving, as approachable, as generous, as kind, and though arrayed in nobler garments than he wore when first he visited earth, though no more the Man of Sorrows and griefs acquaintance, yet he would be the same person, unchanged by all his glories, his triumphs, and his joys. We bless Christ that amid his heavenly splendors his person is just the same, and his nature unaffected.. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
Again: Jesus Christ is the same with regard to his Father as ever. He was his Father's well-beloved Son before all worlds; he was his well-beloved in the stream of baptism; he was his well-beloved on the cross; he was his well-beloved when he led captivity captive, and he is not less the object of his Father's infinite affection now than he was then. Yesterday he lay in Jehovah's bosom, God, having all power with his Father--to-day he stands on earth, man, with us, but still the same, for ever--he ascends on high, and still he is his Father's son--still by inheritance, having a more excellent name than angels--still sitting far above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named. O Christian, give him thy cause to plead; the Father will answer him as well now as he did aforetime. Doubt not the Father's grace. Go to thine Advocate. He is as near to Jehovah's heart as ever--as prevalent in his intercession. Trust him, then, and in trusting him thou mayest be sure of the Father's love to thee.
But now there is a yet sweeter thought. Jesus Christ is the same to his people as ever. We have delighted, in our happier moments, in days that have rolled away, to think of him that loved us when we had no being; we have often sung with rapture of him that loved us when we loved not him.
"Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He to save my soul from danger
Interposed his precious blood."
We have looked back, too, upon the years of our troubles and our trials; and we can bear our solemn though humble witness that he has been true to us in all our exigencies, and has never failed us once. Come, then, let us comfort ourselves with this thought--that though to-day he may distress us with a sense of sin, yet his heart is just the same to us as ever. Christ may wear masks that look black to his people, but his face is always the same; Christ may sometimes take a rod in his hand instead of a golden scepter, but the name of his saint is as much engraved upon the hand that grasps the rod as upon the palm that clasps the scepter. And oh, sweet thought that now bursts upon our mind! Beloved, can you concede how much Christ will love you when you are in heaven? Have you ever tried to fathom that bottomless sea of affection in which you shall swim, when you shall bathe yourself in seas of heavenly rest? Did you ever think of the love which Christ will manifest to you, when he shall present you without spot, or blemish, or any such thing before his Father's throne? Well, pause and remember that he loves you at this hour a. much as he will love you then; for he will be the same for ever as he is to-day, and he is the same to-day as he will be for ever. This one thing I know: if Jesus' heart is set on me he will not love me one atom better when this head wears a crown, and when this hand shall, with joyous fingers, touch the strings of golden harps, than he does now, amid all my sin and care and woe. I believe that saying which is written--"As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you;" and a higher degree of love we can not imagine. The Father loves his Son infinitely, and even so to-day, believer, doth the Son of God love thee. All his heart flows out to thee. All his life is thine; all his person is thine. He can not love thee more; he will not love thee less. The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
But let us here recollect that Jesus Christ is the same to sinners to-day as he was yesterday. It is now eight years ago since I first went to Jesus Christ. Come the sixth of this month, I shall then be eight years old in the gospel of the grace of Jesus; a child, a little child therein as yet. I recall that hour when I heard that exhortation--"Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and beside me there is none else." And I remember, how with much trembling and with a little faith I ventured to approach the Saviour's feet. I thought he would spurn me from him. "Sure," said my heart, "if thou shouldst presume to put thy trust in him as thy Saviour, it would be a presumption more damnable than all thy sins put together. Go not to him; he will spurn thee." However, I put the rope about my neck, feeling that if God destroyed me for ever, he would be just. I cast the ashes on my head, and with many a sigh I did confess my sin; and then, when I ventured to draw nigh to him, when I expected that he would frown, he stretched out his hand and said, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." I came like the prodigal, because I was forced to come. I was starved out of that foreign country where, in riotous living I had spent my substance, and I saw my Father's house a great way off; little did I know that my Father's heart was beating high with love to me. O rapturous hour, when Jesus whispered I was his, and when my soul could say, "Jesus Christ is my salvation." And now I would refresh my own memory by reminding myself that what my Master was to me yesterday that he is to-day; and if I know that as a sinner I went to him then and he received me, if I have never so many doubts about my saintship I can not doubt but what I am a sinner; so to thy cross, O Jesus, I go again, and if thou didst receive me then, thou wilt receive me now; and believing that to be true, I turn round to my fellow-immortals, and I say, "He that received me, he that received Manasseh, he that received the thief upon the cross, is the same to-day as he was then. Oh! come and try him! Come and try him! Oh! ye that know your need of him, come ye to him; ye that have sold for nought your heritage above may have it back unbought, the gift of Jesus' love. Ye that are empty, Christ is as full today as ever. Come! fill yourselves here. Ye that are thirsty, the stream is flowing; ye that are black, the fountain still can purify; ye that are naked, the wardrobe is not empty.
"Come, guilty souls, and flee away,
To Christ, and heal your wounds;
Still 'tis the gospel's gracious day,
And now free grace abounds"
I can not pretend to enter into the fullness of my text as I could desire, but one more thought. Jesus Christ is the same to-day as he was yesterday in the teachings of his Word. They tell us in these times that the improvements of the age require improvements in theology. Why, I have heard it said that the way Luther preached would not suit this age. We are too polite! The style of preaching, they say, that did in John Bunyan's day, is not the style now. True, they honor these men; they are like the Pharisees; they build the sepulchers of the prophets that their fathers slew, and so they do confess that they are their father's own sons, and like their parents. And men that stand up to preach as those men did, with honest tongues, and know not how to use polished courtly phrases, are as much condemned now as those men were in their time; because, say they, the world is marching on, and the gospel must march on too. No, sirs, the old gospel is the same; not one of her stakes must be removed, not one of her cords must be loosened. "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." Theology hath nothing new in it except that which is false. The preaching of Paul must be the preaching of the minister to-day. There is no advancement here. We may advance in our knowledge of it; but it stands the same, for this good reason, that it is perfect, and perfection can not be any better. The old truth that Calvin preached, that Chrysostom preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be a liar to my conscience and my God. I can not shape the truth. I know of no such thing as the paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again. The great mass of our ministers are sound enough in the faith, but not sound enough in the way they preach it. Election is not mentioned once in the year in many a pulpit; final perseverance is kept back; the great things of God's law are forgotten, and a kind of mongrel mixture of Arminianism and Calvinism is the delight of the present age. And hence the Lord hath forsaken many of his tabernacles and left the house of his covenant; and he will leave it till again the trumpet gives a certain sound. For wherever there is not the old gospel we shall find "Ichabod" written upon the church walls ere long. The old truth of the Covenanters, the old truth of the Puritans, the old truth of the Apostles, is the only truth that will stand the test of time, and never need to be altered to suit a wicked and ungodly generation. Christ Jesus preaches to-day the same as when he preached upon the mount; he hath not changed his doctrines; men may ridicule and laugh, but still they stand the same--semper idem written upon every one of them. They shall not be removed or altered.
Let the Christian remember that this is equally true of the promises. Let the sinner remember this is just as true of the threatenings. Let us each recollect that not one word can be added to this Sacred Book, nor one letter taken away from it; for as Christ Jesus is yet the same, so is his Gospel, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever.
I have thus briefly opened the text, not in its fullest meanings, but still enough to enable the Christian at his own leisure to see into that depth without a bottom--the immutability of Christ Jesus the Lord.
II. And now comes in one of crooked gait, with hideous aspect--one that hath as many lives as a cat, and that can not be killed any how, though many a great gun hath been shot against him. His name is old Mr. Incredulity--unbelief; and he begins his miserable oration by declaring, "How can that be true? 'Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.' Why, yesterday Christ was all sunshine to me--to-day I am in distress!" Stop, Mr. Unbelief, I beg you to remember that Christ is not changed. You have changed yourself; for you have said in your very accusation that yesterday you rejoiced, but to-day you are in distress. All that may happen, and yet there may be no change in Christ. The sun may be the same always, though one hour may be cloudy and the next bright with golden light; yet there is no proof that the sun has changed. 'Tis even so with Christ.
"If today he deigns to bless us
With a sense of pardoned sin,
He to-morrow may distress us,
Make us feel the plague within.
All to make us,
Sick of self and fond of him."
There is no change in him.
"Immutable his will,
Though dark may be my frame,
His loving heart is still
Unchangeably the same.
My soul through many changes goes,
His love no variation knows"
Your frames are no proof that Christ changes: they are only proof that you change.
But saith old Unbelief again--"Surely God has changed if you look at the old saints of ancient times. What happy men they were! How highly favored of their God! How well God provided for them! But now, sir, when I am hungry, no ravens come and bring me bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening. When I am thirsty, no water leaps out of the rock to supply my thirst. It is said of the children of Israel that their clothes waxed not old; but I have a hole in my coat today, and where I shall get another garment I know not. When they marched through the desert he suffered no man to hurt them; but, sir, I am continually beset by enemies. It is true of me as it says in the Scriptures, 'And the Ammonites distressed Israel at the coming in of the year;' for they are distressing me. Why, sir, I see my friends die in clouds; there are no fiery chariots to carry God's Elijahs to heaven now. I lost my son; no prophet lay upon him and gave him life again; no Jesus met me at the city gates, to give me back my son from the gloomy grave. No sir, these are evil times; the light of Jesus Christ has become dim; if he walks among the golden candlesticks, yet, still it is not as he used to do. And worse than that, sir, I have heard my father talk of the great men that were in the age gone by: I have heard the names of Romaine, and Toplady, and Scott; I have heard of Whitfields and of Bunyans; and even but a few years ago I heard talk of such men as Joseph Irons--solemn and earnest preachers of a full gospel. But where are those men now? Sir, we have fallen upon an age of drivellings; men have died out, and we have only a few dwarfs left us; there are none that walk with the giant tramp and the colossal tread of the mighty fathers, like Owen, and Howe, and Baxter, and Charnock. We are all little men. Jesus Christ is not dealing with us as he did with our fathers. Stop, Unbelief, a minute: let me remind thee that the ancient people of God had their trials too. Know ye not what the apostle Paul says? "For thy sake we are killed all the day long." Now, if there be any change it is a change for the better; for you have not yet "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
But remember that does not affect Christ; for neither nakedness, nor famine, nor sword, has separated us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is true that you have no fiery chariot; but then the angels carry you to Jesus' bosom, and that is as well. It is true no ravens bring you food; it is quite as true you get your food somehow or other. It is quite certain that no rock gushes out with water; but still your water has been sure. It is true your child has not been raised from the dead; but you remember that David had a child that was not raised any more than yours. You have the same consolation that he had: "I shall go to him; he shall not return to me." You say that you have more heart-rendings than the saints had of old. It is your ignorance that makes you say so. Holy men of old said, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me?" Even prophets had to say--"Thou hast made me drunken with wormwood, and broken my teeth with gravel stones." O, you are mistaken: your days are not more full of trouble than the days of Job; you are not more vexed by the wicked than was Lot of old, you have not more temptations to make you angry than had Moses; and certainly your way is not half so rough as the way of your blessed Lord. The very fact that you have troubles is a proof of his faith fulness; for you have got one half of his legacy, and you will have the other half. You know that Christ's last will and testament has two portions in it. "In the world ye shall have tribulation:" you have got that. The next clause is--"In me ye shall have peace." You have that too. "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." That is yours also.
And then you say that you have fallen upon a bad age with regard to ministers. It may be so; but remember, the promise is true still. "Though I take away from thee bread and water, yet will I never take away thy pastors." You have still such as you have--still some that are faithful to God and to his covenant, and who do not forsake the truth, and though the day may be dark, yet it is not so dark as days have been; and besides remember, what you say to-day is just what your forefathers said. Men in the days of Toplady looked back to the days of Whitfield; men in the days of Whitfield looked back to the days of Bunyan; men in the days of Bunyan wept because of the days of Wycliffe, and Calvin, and Luther; and men then wept for the days of Augustine and Chrysostom. Men in those days wept for the days of the Apostles; and doubtless men in the days of the Apostles wept for the days of Jesus Christ; and no doubt some in the days of Jesus Christ were so blind as to wish to return to the days of prophesy, and thought more of the days of Elijah than they did of the most glorious day of Christ. Some men look more to the past than the present. Rest assured, that Jesus Christ is the same to-day as he was yesterday, and he will be the same for ever.
Mourner, be glad! I have heard of a little girl who, when her father died, saw her mother weeping immoderately. Day after day, and week after week, her mother refused to be comforted; and the little girl stepped up to her mother, and putting her little hand inside her mothers hand, looked up in her face, and said. "Mamma is God dead? Is God dead, mamma?" And her mother thought, "Surely, no." The child seemed to say, "Thy maker is thy husband; the Lord of hosts is his name. So you may dry your tears, I have a father in heaven, and you have a husband still." O! ye saints that have lost your gold and your silver; ye have got treasure in heaven, where no moth nor rust doth corrupt, where no thieves break through and steal! Ye that are sick to-day, ye that have lost health, remember the day is coming when all that shall be made up to you, and when ye shall find that the flame has not hurt you, it has but consumed your dross and refined your gold. Remember, Jesus Christ is "the same today, yesterday, and for ever."
III. And now I must be brief in drawing one or two sweet conclusions from that part of the text.
First, then, if he be the same to-day as yesterday, my soul, set not thine affections upon these changing things, but set thine heart upon him. O my heart, build not thine house upon the sandy pillars of a world that soon must pass away, but build thy hopes upon this rock, which, when the rain descends, and floods shall come, shall stand immovably secure. O my soul, I charge thee, lay up thy treasure in this secure granary. O my heart, I bid thee now put thy treasure where thou canst never lose it. Put it in Christ; put all thine affections in his person, all thy hope in his glory, all thy trust in his efficacious blood, all thy joy in his presence, and then thou wilt have put thyself and put thine all where thou canst never lose anything, because it is secure. Remember, O my heart, that the time is coming when all things must fade, and when thou must part with all. Death's gloomy night must soon put out thy sunshine; the dark flood must soon roll between thee and all thou hast. Then put thine heart with him who will never leave thee; trust thyself with him who will go with thee through the black and surging current of death's stream, and who will walk with thee up the steep hills of heaven and make thee sit together with him in heavenly places for ever. Go, tell thy secrets to that friend that sticketh closer than a brother. My heart, I charge thee, trust all thy concerns with him who never can be taken from thee, who will never leave thee, and who will never let thee leave him, even "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." That is one lesson.
Well, then, the next. If Jesus Christ be always the same, then, my soul, endeavor to imitate him. Be thou the same, too. Remember that if thou hadst more faith, thou wouldst be as happy in the furnace, as on the mountain of enjoyment. Thou wouldst be as glad in famine, as in plenty; thou wouldst rejoice in the Lord when the olive yielded no oil, as well as when the vat was bursting and overflowing its brim. If thou hadst more confidence in thy God, thou wouldst have far less of tossings up and down; and if thou hadst greater nearness to Christ thou wouldst have less vacillation. Yesterday thou couldst pray with all the power of prayer; perhaps if thou didst always live near thy Master, thou mightest always have the same power on thy knees. One time thou canst bid defiance to the rage of Satan, and thou canst face a frowning world; to-morrow thou wilt run away like a craven. But if thou didst always remember him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, thou mightest always be firm and stedfast in thy mind. Beware of being like a weathercock. Seek of God, that his law may be written on your hearts as if it were written on stone, and not as if it were written in sand. Seek, that his grace may come to you like a river, and not like a brook that fails. Seek, that you may keep your conversation always holy; that your course may be like the shining light that tarries not, but that burneth brighter and brighter, until the fullness of the day. Be ye like Christ--ever the same.
Again: if Christ be always the same, Christian, rejoice! Come what may, thou art secure.
"Let mountains from their seats be hurled
Down to the deeps, and buried there;
Convulsions shake the solid world;
Our faith shall never need to fear."
If kingdoms should go to rack, the Christian need not tremble! Just for a minute imagine a scene like this. Suppose for the next three days the sun should not rise; suppose the moon should be turned into a clot of blood, and shine no more upon the world; imagine that a darkness that might be felt, brooded over all men; imagine, next, that all the world did tremble in an earthquake, till every tower, and house, and hut fell down: imagine, next, that the sea forgot its place, and leaped upon the earth; and that the mountains ceased to stand, and began to tremble from their pedestals; conceive after that, that a blazing comet streamed across the sky--that the thunder bellowed incessantly--that the lightnings, without a moment's pause, followed one the other; conceive, then, that thou didst behold divers terrible sights, fiendish ghosts, and grim spirits; imagine, next, that a trumpet, waxing exceeding loud, did blow; that there were heard the shrieks of men dying and perishing; imagine, that in the midst of all this confusion, there wee to be a found a saint. My friend, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for every, would keep him as secure amidst all these horrors, as we are to-day. Oh! rejoice! I have pictured the worst that can come. Then you would be secure. Come what may then, you are safe, while Jesus Christ is the same.
And now, last of all, if Jesus Christ be "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," what sad work this is for the ungodly! Ah! sinner, when he was on earth, he said, "Their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched." When he stood upon the mount, he said, "It were better to enter life halt or maimed, than having two hands, and two eyes to be cast into hell-fire." As a man on earth, he said that the goats should be on the left, and that he would say to them, "Depart, ye cursed." Sinner, he will be as good as his word. He has said, "He that believeth not shall be damned." He will damn you if you believe not, depend upon it. He has never broken a promise yet; he will never break a threatening. That same truth which makes us confident to-day that the righteous shall go away into everlasting life, should make you quite as confident that unbelievers shall go into eternal misery. If he had broken his promise, he might break his threatening; but as he has kept one, he will keep the other. Do not hope that he will change, for change he will not. Think not that the fire which he said was unquenchable, will, after all, be extinguished. No, within a few more years, my hearer, if thou dost not repent, thou wilt find that every jot and every letter of the threatenings of Jesus will be fulfilled; and, mark thee, fulfilled in thee. Liar, he said, "All liars shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." He will not deceive you. Drunkard, he has said, "Ye know that no drunkard hath eternal life." He will not belie his word. You shall not have eternal life. He has said, "The nations that forget God shall be cast into hell." All ye that forget religion, moral people you may be, he will keep his word to you; he will cast you into hell. O "kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little; blessed are an they that put their trust in him. Come, sinner, bow thy knee; confess thy sin and leave it; and then come to him; ask him to have mercy upon thee. He will not forget his promise--"Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." Come and try him. With all your sins about you, come to him now. "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved;" for this is my Master's gospel, and I now declare it--"He that believeth and is immersed shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned. God grant you grace to believe, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, September 4th, 1859, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"The blood of the everlasting covenant."-- Hebrews 13:20
ALL GOD'S dealings with men have had a covenant character. It hath so pleased Him to arrange it, that he will not deal with us except through a covenant, nor can we deal with Him except in the same manner. Adam in the garden was under a covenant with God and God was in covenant with Him. That covenant he speedily brake. There is a covenant still existing in all its terrible power--terrible I say, because it has been broken on man's part, and therefore God will most surely fulfill its solemn threatenings and sanctions. That is the covenant of works. By this he dealt with Moses, and in this doth he deal with the whole race of men as represented in the first Adam. Afterwards when God would deal with Noah, it was by a covenant; and when in succeeding ages he dealt with Abraham, he was still pleased to bind himself to him by a covenant. That covenant he preserved and kept, and it was renewed continually to many of his seed. God dealt not even with David, the man after his own heart, except with a covenant. He made a covenant with his anointed; and beloved , he dealeth with you and me this day still by covenant. When he shall come in all his terrors to condemn, he shall smite by covenant--namely, by the sword of the covenant of Sinai; and if he comes in the splendors of his grace to save, he still comes to us by covenant--namely, the covenant of Zion; the covenant which he has made with the Lord Jesus Christ, the head and representative of his people. And mark, whenever we come into close and intimate dealings with God, it is sure to be, on our part, also by covenant. We make with God, after conversion, a covenant of gratitude; we come to him sensible of what he has done for us, and we devote ourselves to him. We set our seal to that covenant when in baptism we are united with his church; and day by day, so often as we come around the table of the breaking of the bread, we renew the vow of our covenant, and thus we have personal intercourse with God. I cannot pray to him except through the covenant of grace; and I know that I am not his child unless I am his, first through the covenant whereby Christ purchased me, and secondly, through the covenant by which I have given up myself, and dedicated all that I am and all that I have to him. It is important, then, since the covenant is the only ladder which reaches from earth to heaven--since it is the only way in which God has intercourse with us, and by which we can deal with him, that we should know how to discriminate between covenant and covenant; and should not be in any darkness or error with regard to what is the covenant of grace, and what is not. It shall be our endeavor, this morning, to make as simple and as plain as possible, the matter of the covenant spoken of in our text, and I shall thus speak--first upon the covenant of grace; secondly, its everlasting character; and thirdly, the relationship which the blood bears to it. "The blood of the everlasting covenant."
I. First of all, then, I have to speak this morning of THE COVENANT mentioned in the text; and I observe that we can readily discover at first sight what the covenant is not. We see at once that this is not the covenant of works, for the simple reason that this is an everlasting covenant. Now the covenant of works was not everlasting in any sense whatever. It was not eternal; it was first made in the garden of Eden. It had a beginning, it has been broken; it will be violated continually and will soon be wound up and pass away: therefore, it is not everlasting in any sense. The covenant of works cannot bear an everlasting title; but as the one in my text is an everlasting covenant, therefore it is not a covenant of works. God made a covenant first of all with the human race, which ran in this wise: "If thou, O man, wilt be obedient, thou shalt live and be happy, but if thou wilt be disobedient, thou shalt perish. In the day that thou disobey me thou shalt die. That covenant was made with all of us in the person of our representative, the first Adam. If Adam had kept that covenant, we believe we should everyone of us have been preserved. But inasmuch as he broke the covenant, you and I, and all of us, fell down and were considered henceforth as the heirs of wrath, as inheritors of sin as prone to every evil and subject to every misery. That covenant has passed away with regard to God's people; it has been put away through the new and better covenant which has utterly and entirely eclipsed it by its gracious glory.
Again, I may remark that the covenant here meant is not the covenant of gratitude which is made between the loving child of God and his Saviour. Such a covenant is very right and proper. I trust all of us who know the Saviour have said in our very hearts:--
"'Tis done! The great transaction's done;
I am my Lord's, and he is mine."
We have given up everything to him. But that covenant is not the one in the text, for the simple reason that the covenant in our text is an everlasting one. Now ours was only written out some few years ago. It would have been despised by us in the earlier parts of our life, and cannot at the very utmost be so old as ourselves.
Having thus readily shown what this covenant is not, may I observe what this covenant is. And here it will be necessary for me to subdivide this head again and to speak of it thus: To understand a covenant, you must know who are the contracting parties; secondly, what are the stipulations of the contract; thirdly, what are the objects of it; and then, if you would go still deeper, you must understand something of the motives which lead the contracting parties to form the covenant between themselves.
1. Now, in this covenant of grace, we must first of all observe the high contracting parties between whom it was made. The covenant of grace was made before the foundation of the world between God the Father, and God the Son; or to put it in a yet more scriptural light, it was made mutually between the three divine persons of the adorable Trinity. This covenant was not made mutually between God and man. Man did not at that time exist; but Christ stood in the covenant as man's representative. In that sense we will allow that it was a covenant between God and man, but not a covenant between God and any man personally and individually. It was a covenant between God with Christ, and through Christ indirectly with all the blood-bought seed who were loved of Christ from the foundation of the world. It is a noble and glorious thought, the very poetry of that old Calvinistic doctrine which we teach, that long ere the day-star knew its place, before God had spoken existence out of nothing, before angel's wing had stirred the unnavigated ether, before a solitary song had distributed the solemnity of the silence in which God reigned supreme, he had entered into solemn council with himself, with his Son, and with his Spirit, and had in that council decreed, determined, proposed, and predestinated the salvation of his people. He had, moreover, in the covenant arranged the ways and means, and fixed and settled everything which should work together for the effecting of the purpose and the decree. My soul flies back now, winged by imagination and by faith, and looks into that mysterious council-chamber, and by faith I behold the Father pledging himself to the Son, and the Son pledging himself to the Father, while the Spirit gives his pledge to both, and thus that divine compact, long to be hidden in darkness, is completed and settled--the covenant which in these latter days has been read in the light of heaven, and has become the joy, and hope, and boast of all the saints.
2. And now, what were the stipulations of this covenant They were somewhat in the wise. God has foreseen that man after creation would break the covenant of works; that however mild and gentle the tenure upon which Adam had possession of Paradise, yet that tenure would be too severe for him, and he would be sure to kick against it, and ruin himself. God had also foreseen that his elect ones, whom he had chosen out of the rest of mankind would fall by the sin of Adam, since they, as well as the rest of mankind, were represented in Adam. The covenant therefore had for its end the restoration of the chosen people. And now we may readily understands what were the stipulations. On the Father's part, thus run the covenant. I cannot tell you it in the glorious celestial tongue in which it was written: I am fain to bring it down to the speech which suiteth to the ear of flesh, and to the heart of the mortal. Thus, I say, run the covenant, in ones like these: "I, the Most High Jehovah, do hereby give unto my only begotten and well-beloved Son, a people, countless beyond the number of stars, who shall be by him washed from sin, by him preserved, and kept, and led, and by him, at last, presented before my throne, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. I covenant by oath, and swear by myself, because I can swear by no greater, that these whom I now give to Christ shall be for ever the objects of my eternal love. Them I will forgive through the merit of the blood. To these will I give a perfect righteousness; these will I adopt and make my sons and daughters, and these shall reign with me through Christ eternally." Thus run that glorious side of the covenant. The Holy Spirit also, as one of the high contracting parties on this side of the covenant, gave his declaration, "I hereby covenant," saith he, "that all whom the Father giveth to the Son, I will in due time quicken. I will show them their need of redemption; I will cut off from them all groundless hope, and destroy their refuges of lies. I will bring them to the blood of sprinkling; I will give them faith whereby this blood shall be applied to them, I will work in them every grace; I will keep their faith alive; I will cleanse them and drive out all depravity from them, and they shall be presented at last spotless and faultless." This was the one side of the covenant, which is at this very day being fulfilled and scrupulously kept. As for the other side of the covenant this was the part of it, engaged and covenanted by Christ. He thus declared, and covenanted with his Father: "My Father, on my part I covenant that in the fullness of time I will become man. I will take upon myself the form and nature of the fallen race. I will live in their wretched world, and for my people I will keep the law perfectly. I will work out a spotless righteousness, which shall be acceptable to the demands of thy just and holy law. In due time I will bear the sins of all my people. Thou shalt exact their debts on me; the chastisement of their peace I will endure, and by my stripes they shall be healed. My Father, I covenant and promise that I will be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. I will magnify thy law, and make it honourable. I will suffer all they ought to have suffered. I will endure the curse of thy law, and all the vials of thy wrath shall be emptied and spent upon my head. I will then rise again; I will ascend into heaven; I will intercede for them at thy right hand; and I will make myself responsible for every one of them, that not one of those whom thou hast given me shall ever be lost, but I will bring all my sheep of whom, by thy blood, thou hast constituted me the shepherd--I will bring every one safe to thee at last." Thus ran the covenant; and now, I think, you have a clear idea of what it was and how it stands--the covenant between God and Christ, between God the Father and God the Spirit, and God the Son as the covenant head and representative of all Gods elect. I have told you, as briefly as I could what were the stipulations of it. You will please to remark, my dear friends, that the covenant is, on one side, perfectly fulfilled. God the Son has paid the debts of all the elect. He has, for us men and for our redemption, suffered the whole of wrath divine. Nothing remaineth now on this side of the question except that he shall continue to intercede, that he may safely bring all his redeemed to glory.
On the side of the Father this part of the covenant has been fulfilled to countless myriads. God the Father and God the Spirit have not been behindhand in their divine contract. And mark you, this side shall be as fully and as completely finished and carried out as the other. Christ can say of what he promised to do. "It is finished!" and the like shall be said by all the glorious covenanters. All for whom Christ died shall be pardoned, all justified, all adopted. The Spirit shall quicken them all, shall give them all faith, shall bring them all to heaven, and they shall, every one of them, without let or hindrance, stand accepted in the beloved, in the day when the people shall be numbered, and Jesus shall be glorified.
3. And now having seen who were the high contracting parties, and what were the terms of the covenant made between them, let us see what were the objects of this covenant Was this covenant made for every man of the race of Adam? Assuredly not; we discover the secret by the visible. That which is in the covenant is to be seen in due time by the eye and to be heard with the ear. I see multitudes of men perishing, continuing wantonly in their wicked ways, rejecting the offer of Christ which is presented to them in the Gospel day after day, treading under foot the blood of the Son of Man, defying the Spirit who strives with them; I see these men going on from bad to worse at last perishing in their sins. I have not the folly to believe that they have any part in the covenant of grace. Those who die impenitent, the multitudes who reject the Saviour, are clearly proved to have no part and no lot in the sacred covenant of divine grace; for if they were interested in that, there would be certain marks and evidences which would show us this. We should find that in due time in this life they would be brought to repentance, would be washed in the Saviour's blood, and would be saved. The covenant--to come at once straight to the matter, however offensive the doctrine may be--the covenant has relationship to the elect and none besides. Does this offend you? Be ye offended ever more. What said Christ? "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me: for they are thine." If Christ prayeth for none but for the chosen, why should ye be angry that ye are also taught from the Word of God that in the covenant there was provision made for the like persons, that they might receive eternal life. As many as shall believe, as many as shall trust in Christ, as many as shall persevere unto the end, as many as shall enter into the eternal rest, so many and no more are interested in the covenant of divine grace.
4. Furthermore, we have to consider what were the motives of this covenant. Why was the covenant made at all? There was no compulsion or constraint on God. As yet there was no creature. Even could the creature have an influence on the Creator, there was none existing in the period when the covenant was made. We can look nowhere for God's motive in the covenant except it be in himself, for of God it could be said literally in that day, "I am, and there is none beside me." Why then did he make the covenant? I answer, absolute sovereignty dictated it. But why were certain men the objects of it and why not others? I answer, sovereign grace guided the pen. It was not the merit of man, it was nothing which God foresaw in us that made him choose many and leave others to go on in their sins. It was nothing in them, it was sovereignty and grace combined that made the divine choice. If you, my brethren and sisters, have a good hope that you are interested in the covenant of grace, you must sing that song--
"What was there in me to merit esteem, or give the Creator delight
'Twas even so Father I ever sing, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
"He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy," "for it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." His sovereignty elected, and his grace distinguished, and immutability decreed. No motive dictated the election of the individuals, except a motive in himself of love and of divine sovereignty. Doubtless the grand intention of God in making the covenant at all was his own glory; any motive inferior to that would be beneath his dignity. God must find his motives in himself: he has not to look to moths and worms for motives for his deeds. He is the "I AM."
"He sits on no precarious throne,
Nor borrows leave to be."
He doth as he wills in the armies of heaven. Who can stay his hand and say unto him, "What doest thou?" Shall the clay ask the potter for the motive for his making it into a vessel? Shall the thing formed before its creation dictate to its Creator? No, let God be God, and let man shrink into his native nothingness, and if God exalt him, let him not boast as though God found a reason for the deed in man. He finds his motives in himself. He is self-contained, and findeth nothing beyond nor needeth anything from any but himself. Thus have I, as fully as time permits this morning, discussed the first point concerning the covenant. May the Holy Spirit lead us into this sublime truth.
II. But now, in the second place, we come to notice ITS EVERLASTING CHARACTER. It is called an everlasting covenant. And here you observe at once its antiquity. The covenant of grace is the oldest of all things. It is sometimes a subject of great joy to me to think that the covenant of grace is older than the covenant of works. The covenant of works had a beginning, but the covenant of grace had not; and blessed be God the covenant of works has its end, but the covenant of grace shall stand fast when heaven and earth shall pass away. The antiquity of the covenant of grace demands our grateful attention. It is a truth which tends to elevate the mind. I know of no doctrine more grand than this. It is the very soul and essence of all poetry, and in sitting down and in sitting down and meditating upon it. I do confess my spirit has sometimes been ravished with delight. Can you conceive the idea that before all things God thought of you? That when as yet he had not made his mountains, he had thought of thee, poor puny worm? Before the magnificent constellations began to shine, and ere the great centre of the world had been fixed, and all the mighty planets and divers worlds had been made to revolve around it, then had God fixed the centre of his covenant, and ordained the number of those lesser stars which should revolve round that blessed centre, and derive light therefrom. Why, when one is taken up with some grand conceptions of the boundless universe, when with the astronomers we fly through space, when with we find it without end, and the starry hosts without number, does it not seem marvelous that God should give poor insignificant man the preference beyond even the whole universe besides? Oh this cannot make us proud, because it is a divine truth, but it must make us feel happy. Oh believer, you think yourself nothing, but God does not think so of you. Men despise you but God remembered you before he made anything. The covenant of love which he made with his Son on your behalf is older than the hoary ages, and if ye fly back when as yet time had not begun, before those massive rocks that bear the marks of gray old age upon them, had begun to be deposited, he had loved and chosen you, and made a covenant on your behalf. Remember well these ancient things of the eternal hills.
Then, again, it is an everlasting covenant from its sureness. Nothing is everlasting which is not secure. Man may erect his structures and think they may last for ever, but the Tower of Babel has crumbled, and the very Pyramids bear signs of ruin. Nothing which man has made is everlasting, because he cannot ensure it against decay. But as for the covenant of grace, well David say of it, "It is ordered in all things and sure." It is
"Signed, and sealed, and ratified,
In all things ordered well."
There is not an "if" or a "but" in the whole of it from beginning to end. Free-will hates God's "shalls" and "wills," and likes man's "ifs" and "buts," but there are no "ifs" and "buts" in the covenant of grace. Thus the tenure runs: "I will" and "they shall." Jehovah swears it and the Son fulfills it. It is--it must be true. It must be sure, for "I AM" determines. "Hath he said and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" It is a sure covenant. I have sometimes said, if any man were about to build a bridge or a house if he would leave me just one single stone or one timber to put where I liked, I would undertake that his house would fall down. Let me if there is anyone about to construct a bridge, have just simply the placing of one stone--I will select which stone it shall beÃ¹and I will defy him to build a bridge that shall stand. I should simply select the key-stone and then he might erect whatever he pleased and it should soon fall. Now, the Armenian's covenant is one that cannot stand because there are one or two bricks in it (and that is putting it in the slightest form; I might have said, "because every stone in it," and that would be nearer the mark) that are dependent on the will of man. It is left to the will of the creator whether he will be saved or not. If he will not, there is no constraining influence that can master and overcome his will. There is no promise that any influence shall be strong enough to overcome him, according to the Armenian. So the question is left to man, and God the mighty Builder--though he put stone on stone massive as the universe--yet may be defeated by this creature. Out upon such blasphemy! The whole structure, from beginning to end, is in the hand of God. The very terms and conditions of that covenant are become its seals and guarantees, seeing that Jesus has fulfilled them all. Its full accomplishment in every jot and title is sure, and must be fulfilled by Christ Jesus, whether man will or man will not. It is not the creature's covenant, it is the Creators. It is not man's covenant, it is the Almighty's covenant, and he will carry it out and perform it, the will of man notwithstanding. For this is the very glory of grace--that man hates to be saved--that he is enmity to him, yet God will have him redeemed--that God's consensus is. "You shall," and man's intention is "I will not, and God's "shall" conquers man's "I will not." Almighty grace rides victoriously over the neck of free will and leads it captive in glorious captivity to the all-conquering power of irresistible grace and love. It is a sure covenant, and therefore deserves the title of everlasting.
Furthermore, it is not only sure, but it is immutable. If it were not immutable, it could not be everlasting. That which changes passes away. We may be quite sure that anything that has the word "change" on it, will sooner or later die, and be put away as a thing of nought. But in the covenant, everything is immutable. Whatever God has established must come to pass, and not word, or line, or letter, can be altered. Whatever the Spirit voweth shall be done, and whatever God the Son promised hath been fulfilled, and shall be consummated at the day of his appearing. Oh if we could believe that the sacred lines could be erased--that the covenant could be blotted and blurred, why then my dear friends, we might lie down and despair. I have heard it said by some preachers, that when the Christian is holy, he is in the covenant; that when he sins, he is crossed out again; that when he repents, he is put in again, and if he fails he is scratched out once more; and so he goes in and out of the door, as he would in and out of his own house. He goes in at one door and out of another. He is sometimes the child of God, and sometimes the child of the devil--sometimes an heir of heaven, and anon an heir of hell. And I know one man who went so far as to say that although a man might have persevered through grace for sixty years, yet should he fall away the last year of his life--if he should sin and die so, he would perish everlastingly, and all his faith, and all the love which God had manifested to him in the day's gone by would go for nothing. I am very happy to say that such a notion of God is just the very notion I have of the devil. I could not believe in such a God, and could not bow down before him. A god that loves today and hates tomorrow; a God that gives a promise, and yet foreknows after all that man shall not see the promise fulfilled; a God that forgives and punishes--that justifies and afterwards executes--is a God that I cannot endure. He is not the God of the Scriptures I am certain, for he is immutable, just, holy, and true, and having loved his own, he will love them to the end, and if he hath given a promise to any man, the promise shall be kept, and that man once in grace, is in grace forever, and shall without fall by-and-by enter into glory.
And then to finish up this point. The covenant is everlasting because it will never run itself out. It will be fulfilled but it will stand firm. When Christ hath completed all, and brought every believer to heaven; when the Father hath seen all his people gathered in--the covenant it is true, will come to a consummation, but not to a conclusion, for thus the covenant runs: The heirs of grace shall be blessed for ever, and as long as "for ever" lasts, this everlasting covenant will demand the happiness, the security, the glorification, of every object of it.
III. Having thus noticed the everlasting character of the covenant, I conclude by the sweetest and most precious portion of the doctrine--the relation which the blood bears to it--THE BLOOD OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT. The blood of Christ stands in a fourfold relationship to the covenant. With regard to Christ, his precious blood shed in Gethsemane, in Gabbatha and Golgotha, is the fulfillment of the covenant. By this blood sin is canceled; by Jesus' agonies justice is satisfied; by his death the law is honoured; and by that precious blood in all its mediatorial efficacy, and in all its cleansing power, Christ fulfills all that He stipulated to do on the behalf of his people towards God. Oh, believer, look to the blood of Christ, and remember that there is Christ's part of the covenant carried out. And now, there remains nothing to be fulfilled but God's part, there is nothing for thee to do; Jesus has done it all; there is nothing for free will to supply; Christ has done everything that God can demand. The blood is the fulfillment of the debtor's side of the covenant, and now God becometh bound by his own solemn oath to show grace and mercy to all whom Christ has redeemed by his blood. With regard to the blood in another respect, it is to God the Father the bond of the covenant. When I see Christ dying on the cross, I see the everlasting God from that time, if I may use the term of him who ever must be free, bound by his own oath and covenant to carry out every stipulation. Does the covenant say, "A new heart will I give thee, and a right spirit will I put within thee?" It must be done, for Jesus died, and Jesus' death is the seal of the covenant. Does it say, "I will sprinkle pure water upon them and they shall be clean; from all their iniquities will I cleanse them?" Then it must be done, for Christ has fulfilled his part. And, therefore, now we can present the covenant no more as a thing of doubt; but as our claim on God through Christ, and coming humbly on our knees, pleading that covenant, our heavenly Father will not deny the promises contained therein, but will make every one of them yea and amen to us through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Then, again, the blood of the covenant has relation to us as the objects of the covenant, and that is its third light; it is not only a fulfillment as regards Christ, and a bond as regards his Father, but it is an evidence as regards ourselves. And here, dear brothers and sisters, let me speak affectionately to you. Are you relying wholly upon the blood? Has his blood--the precious blood of Christ--been laid to your conscience? Have you seen your sins pardoned, through his blood? Have you received forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus? Are you glorying in his sacrifice, and is his cross your only hope and refuge? Then you are in the covenant. Some men want to know whether they are elect. We cannot tell them unless they will tell us this. Dost thou believe? Is thy faith fixed on the precious blood? Then thou are in the covenant. And oh, poor sinner, if thou hast nothing to recommend thee; if thou are standing back, and saying "I dare not come! I am afraid! I am not in the covenant!" still Christ bids thee come. "Come unto me," saith he. "If thou canst not come to the covenant Father, come to the covenant Surety. Come unto me and I will give thee rest." And when thou hast come to him, and his blood has been applied to thee doubt not, but that in the red roll of election stands thy name. Canst thou read thy name in the bloody characters of a Saviour's atonement? Then shalt thou read it one day in the golden letters of the Father's election. He that believeth is elected. The blood is the symbol, the token, the earnest, the surety, the seal of the covenant of grace to thee. It must ever be the telescope through which thou canst look to see the things that are afar off. Thou canst not see they election with the naked eye, but through the blood of Christ thou canst see it clear enough. Trust thou in the blood, poor sinner, and then the blood of the everlasting covenant is a proof that thou are an heir of heaven. Lastly, the blood stands in a relationship to all three, and here I may add that the blood is the glory of all. To the Son it is the fulfillment, to the Father the bond, to the sinner the evidence, and to all--To Father, Son, and sinner--it is the common glory and the common boast. In this the Father is well pleased; in this the Son also, with joy, looks down and sees the purchase of his agonies; and in this must the sinner ever find his comfort and his everlasting song,--"Jesus, thy blood and righteousness, are my glory, my song, for ever and ever!"
And now, my dear hearers, I have one question to ask, and I have done. Have you the hope that you are in the covenant? Have you put your trust in the blood? Remember, though you imagine, perhaps, from what I have been saying, that the gospel is restricted, that the gospel is freely preached to all. The decree is limited, but the good news is as wide as the world. The good spell, the good news, is as wide as the universe. I tell it to every creature under heaven, because I am told to do so. The secret of God, which is to deal with the application, that is restricted to God's chosen ones, but not the message, for that is to be proclaimed to all nations. Now thou hast heard the gospel many and many a time in thy life. It runs thus: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Dost thou believe that? And this is thy hope--something like this: "I am a sinner. I trust Christ has died for me; I put my trust in the merit of his blood, and sink or swim, I have no other hope but this.
'Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling'"
Thou hast heard it; hast thou received it in thy heart, and laid hold on it; then thou art one of those in the covenant. And why should election frighten thee? If thou hast chosen Christ, depend upon it he has chosen thee. If thy tearful eye is looking to him, then his omniscient eye has long looked on thee; if thy heart lovest him, his heart loves thee better than ever thou canst love, and if now thou art saying, "My father, thou shalt be the guide of my youth," I will tell thee a secret--he has been thy guide, and has brought thee to be what thou now art, a humble seeker, and he will be thy guide and bring thee safe at last. But art thou a proud, boastful, free-willer, saying, "I will repent and believe whenever I choose; I have as good a right to be saved as anybody, for I do my duty as well as others, and I shall doubtless get my reward"--if you are claiming a universal atonement, which is to be received at the option of man's will, go and claim it, and you will be disappointed in your claim. You will find God will not deal with you on that ground at all, but will say, "Get thee hence, I never knew thee. He that cometh not to me through the Son cometh not at all." I believe the man who is not willing to submit to the electing love and sovereign grace of God, has great reason to question whether he is a Christian at all, for the spirit that kicks against that is the spirit of the devil, and the spirit of the unhumbled, unrenewed heart. May God take away the enmity out of your heart to his own precious truth, and reconcile you to himself through THE BLOOD of his Son, which is the bond and seal of the everlasting covenant.
The Blood of the Covenant
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, August 2nd, 1874, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."-- Hebrews 13:20-21
WHAT WE ASK OTHERS to do we should be prepared to do ourselves. Precept fails unless it be followed up by example. The apostle had exhorted the Hebrew believers to pray for him in the words, "Pray for us;" and then, as if to show that he did not ask of them what he was not himself. Willing to give, he utters this most wonderful prayer for them. He may confidently say to his congregation, "Pray for me" who does unfeignedly from his soul pray for them. The prayer of the apostle, as you observe, is tinged with the subject upon which he had been writing. This Epistle to the Hebrews is full of distinctions between the old covenant and the new, the gist of it being to show that the former covenant was only typical of that abiding dispensation which followed it; for it had only the shadow, and not the very image of heavenly things. His subject had been the covenant, and when he prayed his garments were sweet with the myrrh and aloes and cassia among which his meditations had conducted him. According to the manner of his thoughts was the expression of his desires. He weaved into the texture of his prayer the meditations of his heart. And this is a very right method, especially when the prayer is public, for it ensures variety, it assists others to unite with us, and it tends to edification; in fact, as the bee gathers honey from many flowers, and the honey is often flavored with wild thyme or some other special flower which abounds in the region from which it collects its sweets, so doth our soul gather dainty stores of the honey of devotion from all sources, but that upon which she longest tarries in her meditations yields a paramount savor and flavor to the expression and the spirit of her prayer. What was more natural than that a discourse upon the covenant should be followed by this covenant prayer: "The God of peace, that brought from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will"
The subject of the Epistle to the Hebrews is deep, for it passes on from the superficial rudiments to those underlying truths which are more mysterious and profound. It is a book for the higher classes in Christ's school; and hence this prayer is not for babes, but for men of understanding. We could not say to all the saints, "after this manner pray ye," for they would not know what they were asking; they have need to begin with something simpler, such as that sweet "Our Father, which art in heaven," which suits alike all believers. Full grown men feed on strong meat, think sublime thoughts, and offer mighty prayers. As we may admire in the prayer of the babe its simplicity, and in the prayer of the young man its vivacity, so in the prayer of one who has become a father in Christ, and feeds upon the covenant, we rejoice in its depth, compass, and sublimity. All these we find here. I invite those who would understand the deep things of God to ask the Holy Spirit's assistance while we follow the apostle in this his covenant prayer, a prayer of which the covenant is the thread, the substance, and the plea.
I. The subject of our discourse this morning, therefore, is the covenant of grace, as it is here spoken of; and I shall begin by noticing, first, THE COVENANT NAMES which the apostle uses. He calls the ever-blessed Father "the God of peace;" and to the Redeemer who has taken the other side of the covenant, he gives the title, "Our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep." Dear friends, as many of us as have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ are in Christ, and he is our Head and Representative, our Shepherd and Sponsor. On our behalf he made a covenant with the Father upon this tenor, that we having sinned, a full recompense should be made to injured justice, and the law of God should be fully honored; the Father on his part stipulating to grant full pardon, acceptance, adoption, and eternal life to us. Now, the covenant has been kept on Christ's side. The text assures us of that, for Jesus has according to his promise shed his blood, and now the covenant stands only to be fulfilled on the side of the eternal Father, and under that aspect of the covenant the apostle calls the Father "the God of peace." What a precious name! Under the covenant of works he is the God of vengeance; to sinners he is the thrice Holy God, terrible out of his holy places. Even our God is a consuming fire; and yet to us, seeing that the covenant has been fulfilled on our side by our great Head and Representative, he is only "the God of peace." All is peace between you and God, Christian; there is no past ground of quarrel remaining, nor any fear that a new one can arise; the everlasting covenant secures everlasting peace. He is not the God of a hollow truce, not the God of a patched-up forgetfulness of unforgiven injuries, but the God of peace in the very deepest sense; he is himself at peace, for there is a peace of God that passeth all understanding; and, moreover, by reason of his mercy his people are made to enjoy peace of conscience within themselves, for you feel that God is reconciled to you, your hearts rest in him, your sins which separated you have been removed, and perfect love has cast out the fear which hath torment. While the Lord is at peace with himself, and you are made to enjoy inward peace through him, he is also at peace with you, for he loves you with a love unsearchable; he sees nothing in you but that which he delights in, for in the covenant he does not look at you as you are in yourself, but in your Head, Christ Jesus, and to the eye of God there is no sight in the universe so lovely as his own dear Son, and his people in his Son. There is beauty enough in Jesus to make him forget our deformities, merits enough in Jesus to swallow up our demerits, and efficacy sufficient in the atoning blood of our great High Priest to wash away all our transgressions. As for us, our soul recognizing that blood, and perceiving the love of God towards us, feels now no war with God. We did rebel once, for we hated him, and even now, when the old nature champs the bit, and the Lord's will runs cross to our desires, we do not find it easy to bow before him and say, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because it seemed good in thy sight ": but yet the new nature which comes to the front does rule and govern, and all heart-contest between our soul and God is at an end. To us the Lord is in the widest and most perfect sense the God of peace. Oh, how I love that name; himself the peaceful, happy God, unruffled, undisturbed; ourselves within ourselves made to enjoy a peace that passeth all understanding, which keeps our hearts and minds. God at peace with us, declaring that he will never be wroth with us nor rebuke us, and ourselves rejoicing in him, delighting in his law, and living for his glory. Henceforth be it ours in every troubled hour to look to the Lord under this cheering name, "the God of peace," for as such the covenant reveals him.
The apostle had a view of the other great party to the covenant, and he names him "Our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep." We must view our Redeemer in the covenant first as Jesus the Savior who leads us into the Canaan which has been given to us by a covenant of salt, even the rest which remaineth to the people of God; he is also the Lord Jesus, in all the dignity of his nature, exalted far above all principalities and powers, to be obeyed and worshipped by us; and our Lord Jesus--ours because he has given himself to us, and we have accepted and received him with holy delight to be the Lord whom we cheerfully serve. Our Lord Jesus because he saves us; our Lord Jesus because by bringing us under his kingdom he rescues us; and our Lord Jesus because we have a special relation both to his sovereignty and his salvation. We are not generally observant of the appropriateness of our Lord's names, we do not notice the instruction which is intended by the writers who use them, nor do we exercise discretion enough ourselves in the employment of them; yet is there great force in these titles when appropriately employed. Other names may have small significance, but in the titles of Jesus there is a wealth of meaning.
Further, our Lord is called "that great Shepherd of the sheep." In the covenant we are the sheep, the Lord Jesus is the Shepherd. You cannot make a covenant with sheep, they have not the ability to covenant; but you can make a covenant with the Shepherd for them, and so, glory he to God, though we had gone astray like lost sheep, we belonged to Jesus, and he made a covenant on our behalf, and stood for us before the living God. Now, I have aforetime explained to you that our Lord Jesus in his death is the good Shepherd--the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep, and so shows his goodness; that in his rising again he is the great Shepherd, as we have it in the text, for his resurrection and return to glory display his greatness; but in his second advent he is the chief Shepherd--"when the chief Shepherd shall appear ye also shall appear with him in glory"--there he shows his superior sovereignty. Our Lord was good in laying down his life for the sheep, and there are other shepherds whom he makes good, who in his name feed his lambs and sheep. When he comes again the second time he will appear with others, the chief among them all; but in his resurrection for our justification, in connection with the covenant, he is alone, and bears the name of the or "that great Shepherd,"--that great Shepherd of whom all prophecy has spoken, in whom all the divine decrees are fulfilled, before whom all others shrink away, who stands alone, as in that covenant capacity the sole and only Shepherd of the sheep.
It is very beautiful to trace the shepherds through the Old Testament, and to see Christ as Abel, the witnessing shepherd, pouring out that blood, which crieth from the ground; as Abraham, the separating shepherd, leading out his flock into the strange country where they dwelt alone; as Isaac, the quiet shepherd, digging wells for his flock, and feeding them in peace in the midst of the enemies; as Jacob, the shepherd who is surety for the sheep, who earns them all by long toils and weariness, separates them, and walks in the midst of them to Canaan, preserving them by his own lone midnight prayers. There, too, we see our Lord as Joseph, the shepherd who is head over Egypt for the sake of Israel, of whom his dying father said, "From thence is the Shepherd, the stone of Israel." Head over all things for his church, the King who governs all the world for the sake of his elect, the great Shepherd of the sheep, who for their sakes has all power committed unto his hands. Then follows Moses, the chosen shepherd, who led his people through the wilderness up to the Promised Land, feeding them with manna and giving them drink from the smitten rock,--what a wide theme for resection here! And then there is David, the type of Jesus, as reigning in the covenanted inheritance over his own people, as a glorious king in the midst of them all. All these together enable us to see the varied glories of "that great Shepherd of the sheep."
Beloved, this is a great subject, and I can only hint at it. Let us rejoice that our Shepherd is great, because he with his great flock will be able to preserve them all from the great dangers into which they are brought, and to perform for them the great transactions with the great God which are demanded of a Shepherd of such a flock as that which Jesus calls his own. Under the covenant, Jesus is Prophet, Priest, and King--a shepherd should be all this to his flock; and he is great in each of these offices. While we rest in the covenant of grace we should view our Lord as our Shepherd, and find solace in the fact that sheep have nothing to do with their own feeding, guidance, or protection; they have only to follow their Shepherd unto the pastures which he prepares, and all will be well with them. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters."
II. Secondly, the apostle mentions THE COVENANT SEAL. "The God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd, of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant." The seal of the covenant is the blood of Jesus. In olden times when men made covenants the one with the other, they generally used some ceremony to bind the bargain, as it were. Now, under the old dispensation covenants with God were always confirmed with blood. As soon as ever blood was shed, and the victim died, the agreement made was established. Now, when our heavenly Father made a covenant with Jesus Christ on our behalf, that covenant was true and firm, "according to the sure mercies of David," but to make it stand fast there must be blood Now, the blood ordained to seal the covenant was not the blood of bulls or of goats, but the blood of the Son of God himself; and this has made the covenant so binding that sooner may heaven and earth pass away than one Little of it fail. God must keep his own promises. He is a free God, but he binds himself; by two immutable things wherein it is impossible for him to lie, he has bound himself to bestow covenant blessings upon the flock which the great Shepherd represented. Brethren, you and I, as honest men, are bound by our word. If we took an oath, which I trust we would not, we should certainly feel doubly bound by it; and if we had lived in the old times, and blood had been sprinkled on an agreement which we had made, we should regard the solemn sign and never dream of running back from it. Think, for a moment, how impossible it is that the Lord should ever break that covenant of grace, which he spontaneously made with his own Son, and with us in him, now that it has been sprinkled with blood from the veins of his own well-beloved Son No; the covenant is everlasting. It stands fast for ever, because it is confirmed by blood which is none other than the blood of the Son of God.
Remember, too, that in our case that blood not only confirmed the covenant, but actually fulfilled it; because the covenant stipulation was on this wise:--Christ must subtler for our sins and honor the divine law. He had kept the law in his life, but it was necessary to the complete fulfilling of the covenant on his part that he should also be obedient to death, even the death of the cross. The shedding of his blood therefore was the carrying out of his promised obedience to its extremity. It was the actual fulfillment of Christ's side of the covenant on our behalf; so that now the whole covenant must stand firm, for that upon which it depended is finished for ever. It is not only ratified with that bloody signature, but by that blood it is actually carried out on Christ's part, and it cannot be that the eternal Father should start back from his side of the compact since our side of it has been carried out to the letter by that great Shepherd of the sheep who laid down his life for us.
By the shedding of the blood the covenant is turned into a testament. In some Bibles, the margin puts it "testament," and often in other cases we scarcely know how to translate the word, whether to say the new testament or the new covenant; certainly it is now a testament, for since Christ has kept his part of the covenant he wills to us what is due to him from God, and he makes over to us by his death all that comes to him as his reward, making us his heirs by a testament which is rendered valid by his death. So you may say "testament" if you please, or "covenant" if you will, only forget not that the blood has made both testament and covenant sure to all the sheep of whom Jesus is the shepherd.
Dwell with pleasure upon that word "everlasting covenant." Certain men in these days declare that "everlasting" does not mean everlasting, but indicates a period to which an end will come sooner or later; I have no sympathy with them, and feel no inclination to renounce the everlastingness of heaven and other divine blessings in order to gratify the tastes of wicked men by denying the eternity of future punishments. Human nature leans in that direction, but the word of God does not, and following its unerring track we rejoice in the everlasting covenant, which will abide for ever and ever. The covenant of works is gone; it was based on human strength, and it dissolved as a dream; in the nature of things it could not be everlasting. Man could not keep the condition of it, and it fell to the ground. But the covenant of grace depended only upon the power and love and faithfulness of Christ, who has kept his part of the covenant, and therefore the covenant now rests only upon God, the faithful and true, whose word cannot fail.
"As well might he his being quit,
As break his promise, or forget."
"His mercy endureth for ever, and his truth throughout all generations." He has said, "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good," and therefore do them good he must, for he is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent. So, then, the covenant seal makes all things sure.
III. We have now to notice THE COVENANT FULFILMENT, for the Lord has commenced to fulfill it. "The God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant." See, then, Jesus Christ has been brought back again from the dead through the blood of the covenant. Here is the story. He was the covenantor on our behalf; he took our sin upon himself, and undertook to suffer for it. Having been crucified he yielded up his life, and from the cross he was taken to the grave, and there he lay in durance vile. Now, it was a part of the covenant on God the Father's part that he would not leave Christ's soul in Hades, nor suffer his Holy One to see corruption; this agreement has been faithfully kept. Christ on the cross represented all of us who believe in him--we were crucified in him: Jesus in the tomb also represented us, for we are buried with him. Whatever happened to him happened also to the flock. Now, then, what will occur to the body of Jesus? Will God keep his covenant? Will the worm devour that lovely frame, or will it defy corruption? Will it come to pass that he who has descended into the earth shall never return? Wait. It is the third morning! The promised time has come. As yet no worm has dared to feed upon that God-like form, yet it lies among the dead; but on the third morning the slumberer awakes like one that has been refreshed with sleep. He rises. The stone is rolled away. Angels escort him to liberty. He comes into the open air of the garden, and speaks to his disciples. Jesus who bled has left the dead, no more to die. He waits for forty days that he may let his friends see that he is really risen, but he has to rise higher yet to be fully brought back to his former honors. Will God be faithful to him and bring him back from the dead all the way he once descended? Yes, for on the Mount of Olives, when the time is come, he begins to ascend; cleaving the ambient air he mounts from amidst his worshipping disciples, till a cloud receives him. But will he rise fully to the point from which he came? Will he in his own person gain for his church a full recovery from all the ruin of the fall? Ah, see him as he enters the gates of pearl! How he is welcomed by the Father! See how he climbs aloft, and sits upon the Father's throne, for God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should how.
Now note by what means our Lord returned from the dead to all this glory. It was because he had presented the blood of the everlasting covenant. When the Father saw that Jesus had kept all his part of the covenant even to death, then he began to fulfill his portion of the contract by bringing back his Son from the grave to life, from shame to honor, from humiliation to glory, from death to immortality. See where he now sits expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. Now, what has been done to Jesus has been virtually done to all his people, because, you observe, the Lord "brought again from the dead," not the Lord Jesus as a private person only, but "Our Lord Jesus," as "that great Shepherd of the sheep." The sheep are with the Shepherd. Shepherd of the sheep, where is thy flock? We know that thou hast loved them even to the end; but thou art gone; hast thou left them in the wilderness? It cannot be, for it is written, "Who can separate us from the love of Christ? "Hear the Shepherd say, "I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." "Because I live ye shall live also." "Where I am there also shall my servant be." Beloved, the sheep never are away from that great Shepherd of the sheep, they are always in his hand, and none can pluck them thence. They were on earth with him, and they are risen with him. If Jesus had remained in the grave there must all his sheep have perished; but when the Father brought him back by the blood, he brought us back by the blood, and gave us for our souls a lively hope that they shall never die, and for our bodies the expectation of resurrection.
"For though our inbred sins require
Our flesh to see the dust,
Yet as the Lord our Shepherd rose,
So all his followers must."
Jesus in heaven is only there as our representative, and his flock is following him. I wish you could get a picture in your eye of the hills of heaven rising up from these lowlands. We are feeding here awhile under his watchful eye, and yonder is a river which runs at the foot of the celestial hills, and parts us from heavenly pasturage. One he one our beloved ones are being called across the flood by the Good Shepherd's voice, and they cross the river pleasantly at his bidding, so that a long line of his sheep may be seen going over the stream and up the hillside to where the Shepherd stands and receives them. This line joins the upper flock to the lower, and makes them all one company. Do you not see them continually streaming up to him, and passing again under the hand of him that telleth them, to be fed by the Lamb and made to lie down for ever where wolves can never come? Thus the one flock is even now with the Shepherd, for it is all one pasture to him, though to us it seems divided by Jordan's torrent. Every one of the sheep is marked with the blood of the everlasting covenant; every one of them has been preserved, because Jesus lived; and as he was brought again from the dead by the blood, even so must they be, for so the covenant stands.
Remember, then, dear friends, that the punishment of the flock was borne by the Shepherd, that the flock died in the Shepherd, and that the flock now live because the Shepherd lives; that their life is consequently a new life; that he will bring all his sheep that as yet are not called, out of their death in sin, even as he has been brought out of his own death; that he will lead onward and upward those that are called, even as he went onward and upward from the grave to the throne; that he will preserve them all their journey through, even as he was preserved by the blood of the everlasting covenant; and that he will perfect them even as he is perfect. Even as the God of peace has glorified his Son, so also will he bring all his chosen to eternal glory with him.
IV. Fourthly, we will view THE COVENANT BLESSING. What is one of the greatest of all the covenant blessings? The writer of this epistle here pleads for it. "Now," saith he, "the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good worry to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight." Notice that one of the chief blessings of the covenant is power and will to serve God. The old covenant said, "There are the tables of stone, mind that you obey every word that is written thereon: if you do you shall live, and if you do not you shall die." Man never did obey, and consequently no one ever entered heaven or found peace by the law. The new covenant speaketh on this wise, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. I will write my law in their hearts, and on their minds will I write them. I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me." The prophets enlarge most instructively upon this new covenant. It is not a covenant of "if you will I will," but it runs thus, "I will and you shall." As a covenant this exactly suits me. If there were something to be performed by me I could never be sure, but as it is finished I am at rest. God sets us working, and we work; but the covenant itself dependeth wholly upon that great promise, "I will not turn away from them to do them good." So that it was right of Paul to pray that God would make us meet in every good work to do his will, because of old this was the master promise, that those for whom Jesus died should be sanctified, purified, and made meet to serve their God. Great as the prayer is, it is asking what the covenant itself guarantees.
Taking the text word by word, I perceive that the first blessing asked for by the apostle is meetness for the divine service, for the Greek word is not "Make you perfect," but meet, "fit," "prepared," "able for." I have no reference to the discussion upon the doctrine of perfection in this observation. No one text would decide that controversy; I simply make the observation because it is matter of fact. The expression should be rendered, "Make you fully complete," or "fully fitted" to do his will. We ought to request earnestly that we may be qualified, adapted, and suited, to be used of God for the performance of his will. After the man once dead in sin is made alive again, the question arises, who shall be his master? We having died in our great Shepherd, and having been brought again from the dead, to whom shall we yield ourselves? Certainly unto God alone. Our prayer is that we may be made meet to do his will. Our Shepherd did his Father's will, for he cried, "I delight to do thy will, O God," "by the which will we are sanctified," and sanctified to the doing of that will each one of us thenceforth. It is a grand desire, but it burns in every Christian heart, that now he may be meet to serve his God, may be a vessel such as God can use, an instrument fit for the divine hand; weak and feeble, but not impure, unsuitable by reason of want of native strength, but suitable through having been cleansed by the blood of the covenant. Dear brothers and sisters, ask for meetness for service; pray day and night that you may be fully fitted for every good work.
But the apostle asked for an inward work of grace, not merely meetness for service, but an operation felt--"Working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight." I long above everything to possess in myself the inworking of the Holy Ghost more and more clearly. There is so much superficial religion, and we are so apt to be contented with it that it becomes us to pray for deep heart-work. We need to have our affections elevated, our will subdued, our understanding enlightened, and our whole nature deeply spiritualized by the presence of the Holy Ghost. Now this is the promise of the covenant: "I will dwell in them and walk in them." Remember, God worked in Christ in the grave by quickening his body into life, and he must work in us according to the working of that mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead. Ask the Lord to do it. Do not be satisfied with a little, weak, almost imperceptible, pulse of religion, of which you can hardly judge whether it is there or not; but ask to feel the divine energies working within you, the eternal omnipotence of God, struggling and striving mightily in your spirit until sin shall be conquered, and grace shall gloriously triumph. This is a covenant blessing. Seek ye for it.
But we need outward as well as inward work. Working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight--no small matter when you remember that nothing but perfect holiness can please God. Paul would have us made fit for every good work, wanted us to be many-sided men who could do every good work, just as Jesus did. He wished us to be qualified for any station and every position. When Jesus Christ rose from the dead he was seen; there was not merely a secret quickening in him, but a visible life, he was seen of angels and of men, and here below he lived for a period of time the observed of all observers. So, dear brethren, there ought to be in us not only an inner resurrection which we feel, but such a quickening that we shall be manifestly alive to newness of life. We must know the power of our Lord's resurrection, and exhibit it in every action of our lives. May God grant us this. There is much upon this point which time does not permit me to enlarge upon. May you know it all by experience.
Observe, once more, the completeness of this covenant blessing. Just as Jesus is fully restored to the place from which he came, and has lost no dignity nor power by having shed his blood, but rather is exalted higher than ever, so God's design is to make us pure and holy as Adam was at the first, and to add to our characters a force of love which never would have been there if we had not sinned and been forgiven, an energy of intense devotion, an enthusiasm of perfect self-sacrifice, which we never could have learned if it had not been for him who loved us and gave himself for us. God means to make us the princes of the blood royal of the universe, or, if you will, the body guards of the Lord of Hosts. He desires to fashion an order of creatures who will come very near to him, and yet will feel the lovliest reverence for him. He will have them akin to himself, partakers of the divine natures and yet the most obedient of servants, perfectly free agents, and yet bound to him by bonds which will never let them disobey in thought, or word, or deed. And this is how he is fashioning this central battalion who shall wait upon his eternal marchings for ever--he is forgiving us great sins, he is bestowing upon us great blessings, he is making us one with his dear Son; and when he has entirely freed us from the cerements of our spiritual death he will call us up to where Jesus is, and we shall serve him with an adoration superior to all the rest of his creatures. Angels cannot love so much as we shall, for they have never tasted redeeming grace and dying love. This high devotion is the Lord's aim. He did not bring up the Lord Jesus from the dead that he might live a common life. He lifted him up that he might be head over all things to his church, and that all things might be under his feet; even so the destiny of Christians is mysteriously sublime: they are not lifted up from their native death to a mere morality. They are destined to be something more than philanthropists and men esteemed by their fellows, they are to exhibit to angels, and principalities, and powers, the wonderful grace of God, showing in their own persons what God can do with his creatures through the death of his Son. I do but touch like a swallow with my wing where it were delightful to dive.
IV. We conclude with THE COVENANT DOXOLOGY, "To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." If anything in the world can make a man praise his God it is the covenant, and the knowledge that he is in it. I will leave off preaching and ask you to think over the love of God in the covenant. It does not belong to all of you. Christ is not the Shepherd of the whole herd of men; he is only the Shepherd of the sheep, and he has not entered into any covenant for all mankind, but for his sheep alone. The covenant is for his own people; if you believe in him it is a covenant for you, but if you reject him you can have no participation in that covenant; for you are under the covenant of works, which condemns you. But now, believer, just sit down for a moment and think over this exceeding mercy. Your God, the everlasting Father, has entered into a solemn compact with Christ on your behalf; that he will save you, keep you, and make you perfect. He has saved you; he has performed a large part of the covenant in you already, for he has placed you in the way of life and kept you to this day; and if, indeed, you are his, he will keep you to the end. The Lord is not as the foolish man who bedpan to build and was not able to finish. He does not commence to carry out a design, and then turn from it. He will push on his work till he completes it in you. Can you really believe it? With you, a poor puny mortal, who will soon sleep in the grave--with you he has made an everlasting covenant! Will you not say with our text, "To whom be glory." Like dying David you can say, "Though my house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure." I am sure you will joyfully add, "Glory be to his name."
Our God deserves exclusive glory. Covenant theology glorifies God alone. There are other theologies abroad which magnify men; they give him a finger in his own salvation, and so leave him a reason for throwing up his cap and saying, "Well done I;" but covenant theology puts man aside, and makes him a debtor and a receiver. It does, as it were, plunge him into the sea of infinite grace and unmerited favor, and it makes him give up all boasting, stopping the mouth that could have boasted by filling it with floods of love, so that it cannot utter a vainglorious word. A man saved by the covenant must give all the glory to God's holy name, for to God all the glory belongs. In salvation wrought by the covenant the Lord has exclusive glory.
He also has endless glory. "To whom be glory for ever and ever." Have you glorified God a little, dear brethren, because of his covenant mercy? Go on glorifying him. Did you serve him well when you were young? Ah, not so well as you wish you had: then serve him better now in these riper days. Throw yourself into the glorifying of God. The task of saving yourself is not yours, Jesus has done it all. You may sing,
"A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify;"
But you will not need to add--
"A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky,"
For that soul of yours is saved; "he hath saved us and called us with a holy calling," and you are fitted for the sky by the blood of the ever lasting covenant, for Paul says, "Thanks be unto the Father who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." All you have to do is to glorify the Lord who has saved you and set your feet upon a rock, and established your goings. Now, go at it with all your might. Are you getting grey, dear brother? With all your experience yore ought now to glorify the Lord more than ever. You will soon be up yonder in the land of the living. Do not praise the Redeemer any longer at a poor dying rate, for you have but a short time to tarry here. And, oh, when we ascend above these clouds, how we will magnify our covenant God! I am sure I shall not feel my powers capacious enough, even in heaven, to express my gratitude for his amazing love. I do not wonder that the poet says--
"Eternity's too short
To utter half his praise."
People find fault with that expression, and say it is an exaggeration. How would you have the poets talk? Is not hyperbole allowable to them? I might even plead that it is not an hyperbole, for neither time nor eternity can utter all the praises of the infinite Jehovah.
"On, for a thousand tongues to sing
Our great Redeemer's praise."
This shall be the sweetest note of all our music,--the covenant, "the covenant made with David's Lord, in all things ordered well," the covenant with that great Shepherd of the sheep by which every sheep was preserved and kept, and brought into the rich pastures of eternal glory. We will sing of covenant love in heaven. This shall be our last song on earth and the first in Paradise--"The covenant, the covenant sealed with blood." How I wish Christ's ministers would spread more and more of this covenant doctrine throughout England. He who understands the two covenants has found the marrow of all theology, but he who does not know the covenants knows next to nothing of the gospel of Christ. You would think, to hear some ministers preach, that salvation was all of works, that it was still uncertain who would be saved, that it was all a matter of "ifs," and "buts," and "peradventures" and if you begin to give them "shells," and "wills," and purposes, and decrees, and pledges, and oaths, and blood, they call you Calvinistic. Why, this doctrine was true before Calvin was born or thought of! Calvin loved it as we do, but it did not come from him. Paul had taught it long before; nay, the Holy Ghost taught it to us in the word, and therefore we hold it. The bringing back of this truth to the front will be a grand thing for the church. From the mouth of this cannon the Lord will blow the Pope and all his myrmidons into a thousand shivers, but no other doctrine will do it. By God's good grace, we must live this doctrine as well as preach it, and may he that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will. Then will he have glory through the covenant and through you, both now and for ever. Amen and amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON--Hebrews 13:0 .
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent