Matthew 15: 21–28; And Jesus, going forth from thence, went away into the parts of Tyre and Sidon; and lo, a Canaanitish woman, coming out from those borders, cried [to him] saying, Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is miserably possessed by a demon. But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came to [him] and asked him, saying, Dismiss her, for she cries after us. But he answering said, I have not been sent save to the lost sheep of Israel’s house. But she came and did him homage, saying, Lord, help me. But he answering said, It is not well to take the bread of the children and cast it to the dogs. But she said, Yea, Lord; for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the table of their masters. Then Jesus answering said to her, O woman, thy faith [is] great. Be it to thee as thou desirest. And her daughter was healed from that hour.
Luke 7: 6–10; And Jesus went with them. But already, when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent to him friends, saying to him, Lord, do not trouble thyself, for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. Wherefore neither did I count myself worthy to come to thee. But say by a word and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having under myself soldiers, and I say to this [one], Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my bondman, Do this, and he does [it]. And Jesus hearing this wondered at him, and turning to the crowd following him said, I say to you, Not even in Israel have I found so great faith. And they who had been sent returning to the house found the bondman, who was ill, in good health.
I was thinking of the availability of Christ in the glad tidings. It’s a very wonderful matter to get into the area of help. That’s where we are today, we’re in the area of immediate help. How to find it is the test. How to get help, how to get it in your own soul, so that your soul is brought in touch with God through Christ. How we need it. How we need it in view of a settlement. How we need to take advantage of the death of Jesus, take advantage of the great work of atonement, the work of redemption, and all that Christ has accomplished in all its infinite glory and greatness. It surpasses everything in this world. The glory of the world might, at times, come on to your view, but then to see the greatness of what’s been worked out at the cross. Everything in this world, you might say, has a shadow on it cast by the cross of Christ. Is that how it appears to you, young person? How do you see the world? How are you influenced by the world? Come in touch with Jesus, get your view changed, get a different view on everything, through a divine intervention in your life, in your soul; what a favour it is to receive it.
This woman got hold of it. I thought of these two cases, they were both outside Israel—this woman was a special case. How could we get in her company, that’s what I was thinking, how could we get into this woman’s company? She had a daughter miserably possessed by a demon. She was crying out to Christ, Have pity on me Lord, Son of David. She knew who He was, she knew who Jesus was; she was crying out, you know, for compassion. See, she knew who Jesus was. She had heard about Him no doubt. She had no claim on Him as Son of David; she was speaking, you might say, in honour of Him, in some sense recognising the glory of His Person. The Lord tested her out. It says, He did not answer her a word. Have you ever felt like that? Ever felt like that, that you are crying out for help and you are not getting an answer? Jesus is close, He is available, He is accessible. How are you going to get a word from Christ to settle you? How are you going to get a word to heal you, so you don’t go away unhealed? There are cases in this room that need healing, and there is healing power available. If you are going on in your sins, you need to be pulled up, you need to be healed, you need the source and the power of sin to be stopped. This woman was persistent. The Lord answers her, He says, I have not been sent save to the lost sheep of Israel’s house. Then she came and did Him homage. Very attractive. See, she was getting closer to Christ, remarkable thing that she wasn’t put off. How many of us have been put off at times, at the point of greatest crisis and greatest need, we’ve been put off? Not by Christ, not by the Lord. He wouldn’t repel anyone. If you feel repelled at all it’s not Christ that’s doing it, it’s not God that’s doing it. It’s the inability to take the place that you have to take to get help.
This woman did—she persevered. Finally she says, Yea, Lord; for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the table of their masters. I thought it was very attractive. It’s His position as Son of man. Everyone has got a claim on Him, it’s not related to Israel, it’s not related to anything on natural lines or family lines. That’s how we come in, we can only really come in through putting our claim in on the Son of man. But do you believe it? Do you believe it? This woman believed, believed in Jesus. She says, Yea, Lord. The note is very interesting, not that I could open it up, but she is saying, You can do it, You can do it, You must do it! You think of that. Think of the, you might say, the extremity, in the extremity of this woman’s soul she was speaking to Christ, and she says, You must do it—You can do it, You are equal to it, nothing is impossible, but You must do it, You must do it for me, and for my daughter. How urgent do we get in our need? How many years do we go on at a distance from Christ? And yet you can get close to Him today. This woman got very close. She says, Yea, Lord—I think if you read the note it means, You must do it for me, You are able to do it, and You will do it, You must do it—and at that point He comes in. It’s very attractive. Jesus answering says, O woman, thy faith is great. It’s as though the compassions of Christ were freshly drawn out. It drew out, you might say, the lowliness of Jesus. Think of the lowliness of His manhood, here as Son of man, come in on man’s side to take up man’s case, and He says, O woman—O woman, thy faith is great. Be it to thee as thou desirest. Her daughter was healed from that hour. See, healing came in immediately.
That’s how quickly help could come in. Someone having a struggle, some young person having a struggle, and liable to go back on what they have come to a judgment of, get into the presence of Christ. He is able to heal you, the power is there, the Person, the glorious Person of Jesus is available. Find that you’ve got a claim on Him. Find the way to get to Him. See, she took low ground, she took the place of a dog. It was of no consequence to this woman taking low ground, it was of no consequence. How proud we are, how lifted up we get. What about? What for? For nothing, absolutely nothing! And this woman was brought to the lowest point, and she took it, she willingly took it, and He says, thy faith is great. Think of the Lord standing, you might say, in awe of this woman’s faith to get healing.
It’s like this man in Luke, I thought it was attractive. He’s a centurion, and he understands authority. He wants to bring help into his house for his bondman, and he finds a way of getting the Lord’s attention. He says he is not worthy; I am not worthy Thou shouldest enter under my roof. Say by a word. And the Lord came in for him. Just a word, a word from Christ. Can you get it today, can you get a touch from Christ? Will you avail yourself of a word, a word in power? One word from Christ is enough. How we struggle on, struggle on for years, toing and froing with the flesh, and with the world, and yet one word from Christ can undo the whole thing and heal it. It says, the Lord hearing this wondered at him, and turning to the crowd He says, Not even in Israel have I found so great faith. Think of the pleasure Christ had, taking account of unlikely persons. See, you might feel unlikely, might not feel you are worth anything—have you ever got to that point?—not feel that you’re worthy of anything, not worth anything, absolutely worthless. And they are the cases the Lord is taking up. He is taking them up in His grace and in His compassion and He has got the right to do it, He has got the power to do it. Have you proved it? Have you found it? Do you really know it? Do you know it in your own soul? How many of us know it? How many of us really know it, that we’ve got a claim on Jesus as the Son of man, and that He has got the right and power to heal us? And what’s required is faith. It says He wondered: Not even in Israel have I found so great faith.
That’s the point to get to, complete faith in Jesus. That’s what we need; some of these questions we get asked, the answer to them is faith in Christ, faith in God, put your faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus can take you all the way through. Think of what took Him all the way to the cross, that’s Luke’s gospel, His feet taking Him all the way to the cross for you, for me, went all the way to Calvary, all the ignominy and shame of Calvary. He bore it all in His holy perfection, and you can find your faith today strengthened. May it be strengthened today so that cases get cured, that there is healing come in, healing, healing! You don’t have to keep coming back, exactly, get healed, get an answer, get an answer for your need, and make progress. For His name’s sake.
Luke 15: 17; And coming to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have abundance of bread, and I perish here by famine.
Luke 15: 20; And he rose up and went to his own father. But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, and covered him with kisses.
Luke 15: 22–24; But the father said to his bondmen, Bring out the best robe and clothe him in [it], and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry: for this my son was dead and has come to life, was lost and has been found. And they began to make merry.
Acts 22: 6–8; And it came to pass, as I was journeying and drawing near to Damascus, that, about mid-day, there suddenly shone out of heaven a great light round about me. And I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said to me, I am Jesus the Nazaræan, whom thou persecutest.
Acts 22: 10, 11; And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me, Rise up, and go to Damascus, and there it shall be told thee of all things which it is appointed thee to do. And as I could not see, through the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came to Damascus.
I thought of these two Scriptures, the first one is a parable, the Lord bringing out the grace of God that had appeared. It’s a wonderful matter to take in the grace of God that’s shone out in Jesus, shone down to you. You think of all the billions of men there are on the earth at the present time, all the billions that have died, and yet God is the supreme Ruler, everything is under His control, He is letting the earth run on. You might think men are in control of it, but if you look a little behind the scenes you’ll find that God is in control, and He is letting the time run on in view of the dispensation of grace being lengthened, so that more will come into the gain of the glad tidings.
I thought of this younger son, what confusion he was led into through his own will. One looks around, one can look within one’s own heart, and can see what confusion is brought about when I follow my own will. I might think I’m pleasing myself, I might think I’m so smart that I know what to do, get up against my parents, defy their authority, get up against law even, the law of the land, you know, come right up against it, think I can beat it. And what I’m finding myself is in a state of confusion, through my rebellion. And this young man found that, he went his own way. His father let him take half, that’s what he wanted. He says, give me the share of the property. And he divided to them what he was possessed of, the two sons. And, it says, after not many days, it wasn’t long before this young man found the results of the confusion that was brought in.
The Lord came in bringing peace. It was peace upon earth, and then it was peace, peace in heaven, in view of the work that was going to be accomplished. Think of God providing peace to everyone that took account of the work of Jesus. Have you done it? Have you done it? Are you holding out? Any young person here holding out, not understanding the grace of God, why He has left you here today, why He could have taken you away in your lawlessness, and dispensed with you, and disposed of you? He has done it many times, He is doing it today, He is doing it in this city, He is taking young men and young women away in their lawlessness and their wickedness, He is taking them away. And we are here today, subjects of the grace of God.
And this young man, he rises up. He comes to himself, I think he comes to see what confusion that his wilfulness, and his lawlessness, his self-will, has led him into. His own determination in his heart, seeking excitement and happiness and satisfaction, led him into confusion and emptiness and barrenness. And he remembers his father’s house, and he comes to himself, and rises up. And then you get the picture of him back in his father’s house. What a picture! That’s peace, that’s peace. When you see a soul that’s had to do with Jesus, and given up their own will, and been extricated from the confusion that’s brought in through the influence of Satan, as we had earlier, influence of Satan is what’s brought in the confusion to this whole scene, when some soul gets extricated from it, and returns to the father’s house, that’s peace, that’s reconciliation, that’s taking advantage of the work of Christ. Made peace, it says, by the blood of His cross. He did it Himself, He shed His own blood, He died for you, He went to Calvary’s cross for you, He suffered, suffered the ignominy and shame and scorn, the crown of thorns. He was the King, King of glory, and yet He bore the crown of thorns for you, bore it for you. What for? To accomplish God’s righteousness, so you can get peace; peace now, but peace eternally, but peace now. It’s the same thing, it’s the same thing.
You can’t get, you’re not going to get nearer to Christ eternally than you are now. But think about it, think about it. You go on in your lawlessness, are you near to Christ? You going on in rebellion, are you close to Christ? The only way you’ll get close to Christ is through submission, through coming under His authority. And you can do it now. You won’t be able to do it eternally, won’t be able to do it eternally, there will be no change morally, no growth spiritually eternally. It’s now, it’s today. Today is the day of salvation.
And that’s what Paul came into. Paul was affected by Christ coming into his life. Paul was against Jesus, he would have had nothing to do with Him, have nothing to do with Him, he hated His name, hated every expression of the testimony of Jesus. And yet the Lord came out from heaven, came down from heaven, and arrested him, and took him up. And Paul found peace. I think Paul found peace at this time, when He says, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And I answered, Who art Thou, Lord? He says, I am Jesus. And then he says, I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said, Rise up, and go to Damascus, and there it shall be told thee all things. And he was led by the hand. I think Paul found peace at this point, when his whole being and soul came into subjection to Christ. He found the One that he hated was his Lover, he found the One that he had set himself against was for him, was for him. He was his Lover, and He was his Advocate, He took up his case.
Think of Paul, Saul of Tarsus as he then was, speaking out against Christ, and what he was as a person, as a man, insolent, he says, overbearing. You couldn’t come near him as a man here in the flesh. And yet he gave it all up and surrendered to Christ. That’s open to us today. That’s peace, that’s peace, that’s peace, when you surrender your will to Christ. And he says, the glory of the light. He never had that light before. He knew all about Judaism, he knew everything according to the law, but he hadn’t seen Jesus. Jesus appeared to him, he said the One that appeared to him in the way, on the road to Damascus, when he was hell-bent against Christ. And the Lord appeared to him, and he submits, and he finds the Person, he finds the Man, the Man Christ Jesus, the Mediator between God and men one, the Man, the Man Christ Jesus. That means He has come close to you in the glad tidings, He has come close to you today, that’s the point. If you’re not going to get close to Him now you’ll never be close to Him eternally. Don’t wait for eternity, make it now, get closer to Him every day, make Him your Friend. Little children, Jesus is your Friend, He is your Friend, He is your Saviour, He has shed His blood for you. You see, your hearts are tender, your hearts are soft, your hearts are open, your consciences are tender, haven’t been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. How quickly we get that way, how quickly we allow Satan to harden us through the deceitfulness of sin, like that young man, and yet he returned.
Oh, may we return today and find peace, find settlement, find satisfaction, find that we can get close to Christ now, now. Make it a current experience in your soul, let it grow every day, aim at it every day. Am I getting closer to Christ? Am I getting further away from the world? Am I getting further away from the ruler of this world, the man of sin? Heading up shortly, heading up. He will be the climax of all the confusion that’s existed since the fall, will come out in the man of sin, and Jesus Himself will come out and annul him with the breath of His mouth. What a Saviour, what a Deliverer! May we put our faith and trust in Him afresh today, and find a settlement in our souls. For His name’s sake.
Acts 22: 6–9; And it came to pass, as I was journeying and drawing near to Damascus, that, about mid-day, there suddenly shone out of heaven a great light round about me. And I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said to me, I am Jesus the Nazaræan, whom thou persecutest. But they that were with me beheld the light, [and were filled with fear], but heard not the voice of him that was speaking to me.
Revelation 3: 19, 20; I rebuke and discipline as many as I love; be zealous therefore and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and am knocking; if any one hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him and sup with him, and he with me.
I thought of this occasion of Saul of Tarsus’ conversion, thinking of what we read earlier as to the Lord falling on the earth in Gethsemane in Mark. Matthew, I think, says that He fell on His face. We thought of the pressure on Christ, the pressure that came on Jesus, we couldn’t measure it. The distance that had come in through sin, distance that had come in through the fall, would be indicated, I think, as Christ fell, fell on the earth. Nothing in Jesus, nothing in Jesus, I mean, in any way in connection with the fall of man, except that He came in to the place of man. Think of God looking on to Jesus as Man, manhood in Christ, always ever, it’s been said, in the mind of God. Very wonderful matter, beloved, that God should look ahead to provide for us.
But what Christ did was take on everything that had come in in the fall. Referred to, I think, in the reading as to the curse, how He bore it, the magnitude of it, the immensity of it. The cries on the cross we touched on. The appeal to every one of our hearts would be to answer to them. That’s the appeal in the glad tidings, is to answer, answer to the cries on the cross. Why, why stay away? Why stay aloof? Why stay at a distance? The Lord has gone through the distance, He has measured it, He has traversed it, He has removed it for ever before the eye of God. So there’s a way in, a way in through mercy’s door, the door of mercy is wide open. That’s a wonderful matter, beloved. It’s not shut, it’s not shut for you, it’s not shut tonight. The glad tidings is that the door is open. The appeal is to come, come through that door, find your way to that door.
I thought of Saul here, Paul, that he says, I fell to the ground. There’s two things here, really three things, but there were two main matters here. There was the light, a light out of heaven. It says, suddenly shone out of heaven a great light round about me. Later on he says it’s a light above the brightness of the sun, in his third account of his conversion. See, is it, is it deepening with you, beloved? It’s a wonderful thing to look back, and to know when the light of Jesus shone into your heart. In some sense it’s a gradual matter, in some sense; in some sense it’s a matter that commences and builds up and develops, and then finally there’s total surrender. See, some of us would, no doubt, be able to speak of experiences like that, experiences starting early in our lives, and accumulating, finally it’s a complete surrender, there’s a complete surrender. The question in the glad tidings is how, how quickly can that come? How quickly can I arrive at a total surrender and never go back on it?
See, how quick it was with Paul. It was overdue, it was overdue for Saul of Tarsus. He had been kicking against the goads, he had been resisting what had been coming into his pathway to arrest him. And yet he had found it hard, he hadn’t found it easy. It says, the way of a transgressor is hard. Saul of Tarsus’ way would not have been easy, it would have been hard. God was making it hard.
We knew what that was too when we were—see, we knew what that was when we were young, when we were in our teen-ages. Thank God that He made it hard. It’s the love of Christ, you know, that makes it hard, it’s the personal love of Jesus that makes it hard, makes it difficult for you not to give in. It’s a wonderful matter, you know. Why, why keep sinning against love? Someone reminded me that if you go on sinning against the love of Jesus it’s like betraying Him. It’s what the Lord encountered, is the rejection of His love when He was here. That’s what He proved, was the rejection; the rejection of His Person, rejection of His love, rejection of His word, rejection of His glory.
And Saul of Tarsus was on the wrong road. How many of us have been on the wrong road? Will you ever go back? Challenge yourself tonight, challenge yourself tonight here. You’re in the place of favour. Are you going to ever go back again? Are you going to go back to your sins? Have you ever been set free, entirely free, completely free? That’s complete surrender. That’s what the Lord is interested in. See, have we, have we measured up to it? Have we understood?
We come to these meetings, and we think it’s easy. You think it’s easy? It’s not easy, it’s not easy. The Lord is knocking, standing at these times, and He has been knocking. How many times He has been knocking on the door of our hearts, and we’ve kept it shut, kept it shut. Beautiful occasion of Saul’s conversion was that he let it open, he opened it. And this light came in, wonderful light from heaven. He met a lover, he met a lover personally, Jesus came down. Couldn’t have accomplished, been accomplished any other way, couldn’t have been accomplished any other way except that Christ came personally down. He was such a difficult case, Saul of Tarsus. Really it’s what’s been said, he is the most lawless man, greatest hater of Christ, but he’s turned around by the love of Jesus, by His grace that broke his will, smashed his will to pieces. What a victory in his case. Why not prove it in your own case? Why not prove it in your own case? Bring it down to your own history, why don’t you analyse your own history up to this point? Why don’t you analyse it, go over it carefully in the presence of the Lord, and find the grace that’s come in to break your will, break it down, so that it can never be put back together again?
So that he fell to the ground, and he heard the voice. So there was the light, and then there was the voice; that’s a very wonderful matter, that means his heart was open. He didn’t just hear the sounds. The others knew that the light—these others that were with him, they beheld the light, and they heard the voice, but they couldn’t distinguish the words. Paul distinguished the words of Jesus. Jesus was speaking to him. In his last account he says He spoke to him in the Hebrew tongue. You wonder why he reserves that to the last account, the Lord taking up, it’s been said, the language of love. And he heard the actual words that Christ was speaking to him. And they were compressed, they were few. He says, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And then he says, Who art Thou, Lord? And He says, I am Jesus the Nazaræan, whom thou persecutest; very wonderful.
It could be the position for us tonight, you know, just to isolate ourselves in that sense, just to withdraw ourselves, you might say, take ourselves into the presence of God, get into the presence of Jesus, find His interest in us, find that His love is towards us, His grace is towards us, and that it’s a difficult, we’ve been, it’s been a difficult matter to break us down, it’s been a difficult matter for the Lord to accomplish His ends with us. How He loves us. How much He has to do in us, but how much He would do through us, how He could use us. Greatest vessel that was ever secured here, human vessel ever secured, was Saul of Tarsus. And he’s brought down, he falls to the ground; think of it, very wonderful. And then he rose up, led by the hand, he couldn’t see.
Just to get some appeal, appeal in Laodicea. What’s been said is the same light was there as Philadelphia, they had the same light, but they weren’t answering to it, there was indifference. See, that’s what will keep the word out. What we ought to do is examine our own hearts, you know, are we indifferent? Have we been indifferent? I go back, some of us, you know, years, how far can we go back? Fifty years, forty-five years, others can go back much longer. Have we been indifferent to the appeal? Have we been indifferent to the counsel? Had that word about counsel, counsel in Psalm 32, I will counsel thee with Mine eye upon thee. Think of the favour of it, getting counsel from Jesus. Think of the Lord’s grace and love, that He would counsel even indifferent persons, persons who were indifferent to His love. And He says, I am standing at the door and knocking. It’s the position He has taken up tonight in the glad tidings. May we, may we answer to it, may we find that we get to a complete surrender.
Love to appeal to younger persons, you know, you don’t have to wait as long as some of us waited, you don’t have to wait that long. See, some of you young fellows that are past twenty, it’s long, it’s getting late in the day. You say, I’m only young. Yes, but you haven’t got much time on your side left. You say, I’ve got plenty of time. No, you haven’t, no, you haven’t. We referred to that accident in South Australia the other day, this morning, and, see, that comes, can come across persons very, very quickly. You don’t know, you don’t know what time you’ve got. My appeal to you, my advice, my counsel, is to submit to Christ tonight. Don’t, don’t take a chance, don’t chance it. Take it, take the gospel as serious, treat it as of the absolute greatest importance that you let Christ into your life. Look to Him for direction, look to Him for everything.
He says, I will come in. I stand at the door and am knocking; if any one hear My voice and open the door, I will come in unto him and sup with him, and he with Me. Think of the Lord saying, be zealous therefore and repent. It’s a gift of God, repentance is a gift of God; that means it’s sovereign, repentance is sovereign. Very critical matter to understand that. It’s offered, it’s commanded in the glad tidings, but it’s a gift of God. You’ve got to come to Christ to get it, you’ve got to come and get it. You won’t just get it automatically, you won’t get repentance automatically, repentance is a very deep matter.
It says, be zealous, be zealous therefore and repent. It means you’ve got to follow after it, you’ve got to be urgent to get it. And then what will happen then is that there’ll be a whole change of outlook in your life, whole change of direction, you’ll be thinking of Christ every day, you’ll be thinking of Him every moment, you won’t be wanting to shut Him out of your life for an instant. May we, may we get a touch tonight, may the Lord in His grace lift us up and show us the depths of what’s needed for us to make a complete break, a complete total surrender. For His name’s sake.
Mark 14: 32–35; And they come to a place of which the name [is] Gethsemane, and he says to his disciples, Sit here while I shall pray. And he takes with him Peter and James and John, and he began to be amazed and oppressed in spirit. And he says to them, My soul is full of grief even unto death; abide here and watch. And, going forward a little, he fell upon the earth; and he prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass away from him.
Mark 14: 41 from ‘It is’, 42; It is enough; the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is delivered up into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us go; behold, he that delivers me up has drawn nigh.
Mark 15: 33, 34; And when [the] sixth hour was come, there came darkness over the whole land until [the] ninth hour; and at the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, [saying], Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Mark 15: 37; And Jesus, having uttered a loud cry, expired.
Mark 16: 4, 5 to ‘robe’; And when they looked, they see that the stone has been rolled [away], for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed in a white robe, and they were amazed and alarmed;
I just thought of reading from this gospel since it was brought into the reading. Wonderful matter to be occupied with the sufferings of Jesus. This is at the conclusion of His life, thirty-three plus years of Christ’s life here, compressed period of public service, from the time He was about thirty. Think of the fulness that entered into the life of Jesus. This conclusion is the, really the greatest facts that we could know about, beloved. You sometimes feel at times that you don’t know enough facts, you know, don’t know enough statistics about the world. One finds my, one finds our limitations, finding at times that you don’t know things perhaps that you’re expected to know.
But if you wanted to make a start in your knowledge you could make a start in these chapters, these final chapters of the four gospels, bringing up the conclusion of the life of Jesus here. His suffering in Gethsemane; think of Satan coming against Him, as our brother referred to, the ruler of this world comes, that was in the garden when he came against Him at this point. And think of the pressure that came on Jesus. Think of Him being wholly alone. He was deprived of every resource, you might say, at this point. But the wonder of His glory and His greatness, that He turned, turned away from Satan. Satan, Satan would have at this last hour sought to deflect Christ. Think of Him saying: the ruler of this world comes, the ruler of this world. That’s the one really in whom, whose hands the world is. It says, the whole world lies in the wicked one; that’s Satan. The whole world lies in the wicked one; it lies in wickedness, wickedness.
How could… you couldn’t measure, you couldn’t measure the wickedness that is going on in the world today. This is the Lord’s day. Think of it commencing to the east of us, and then going right round westward, think of the whole day being filled out. You couldn’t measure, couldn’t measure the wickedness. Christ has measured it, He measured it here, measured it really in the garden, measured it here as the whole force of Satan came against Him. And He took, He took the cup from His Father. We didn’t read it, but He says, Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee: take away this cup from Me; but not what I will, but what Thou wilt. Think of the wonder of it, that He went forward, knowing what lay ahead, and knowing what lay ahead in the resurrection.
I thought it was very wonderful here, I just read this reference in Mark, because it says He fell upon the earth; going forward a little, He fell upon the earth. See, the earth was Christ’s, He was the Creator, this was the Creator coming into manhood, glorious Creator. The earth was His, and the fulness thereof. Everything belongs to Christ, everything belongs to Christ. How much we appropriate, you know, at times in our puniness to ourselves, and what man does in his puniness. How quickly God takes it away from them. One loves it when you see how quickly God takes things away from wicked men, wicked, unrighteous men, going on in utter defiance of God, and God comes in so swiftly and takes away what they thought was theirs, He takes it away from them. Think of what He will do finally, beloved.
The point is, you know, to give your heart to Christ, give your life to Jesus, give it to Him now, give it to Him totally, absolutely, unconditionally. It requires surrender, that’s what it requires, surrender. Why you’re having problems is because you will not surrender, you will not surrender. All your troubles could be answered in one single word if you were prepared to surrender to Christ.
Think of Him falling on the earth, think of the humility of Jesus, think of the oppression. And then He goes into the hands of these wicked men. He goes on, and He says, he that delivers Me up has drawn nigh. And then the darkness coming over the whole land these three hours, very wonderful. And these two cries. The first one we get the words, the actual words of Jesus, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? The original words that Christ uttered. My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? The darkness of man’s mind at this point, been, often been said rose to a summit here at the cross. The darkness, the utter darkness in man’s mind, all darkened by malice and sin and envy and hatred, every feature against God, every feature of the will of man as governed by Satan was demonstrated in these times, and at the cross.
And think of the Lord surrendering, submitting Himself to the abandonment; letting Himself be taken by the hands of wicked men, and allowing Himself to be crucified, and then submitting to the abandonment. What a deep matter that is, beloved. Let us go through the thing in our own souls, let us see what it means for Christ to be abandoned, let us hold it in our hearts, let us keep, let the force of it, let the power of it, keep us from sinning.
Mark doesn’t give us the blood of Jesus; John gives us the blood of Christ, he was a witness to it. Very fine the way John refers to the blood in his gospel and then his epistle in a very distinctive way. So it’s held out to us, as we said, I think it was yesterday, set forth as a mercy-seat through faith in His blood. There’s a mercy-seat, you can reach the mercy-seat today in your soul, you can find where God can meet you, with Jesus, in Jesus, in the presence of Jesus. In the presence of God you’ll find Jesus. In the presence of Jesus you’ll find God. And you’ll find the blood there, able to meet your guilt, and in a full way expiate your soul in the presence of God. May we find that peace, may we find that settlement.
I read about this young man because he’s in the light. He’s washed his robes, he’s got free of every element of darkness, every element of contamination, every feature of darkness, any element of looseness, you know, or lightness. See, if you go on with looseness, you go on with lightness, you go on with frivolity—maybe not in everybody’s company, but you might go on with looseness and lightness in some company, and other company you go on soberly—the looseness and the lightness is darkness. Don’t, don’t deceive yourself, don’t deceive yourself, don’t say, I’m entitled to it. You’re not entitled to it, beloved, you’re not entitled to it, it’s darkness.
This young man has come completely free, completely clear. Measure yourself, let every young man here, and old man, measure themselves against, or up against, you might say, this young man. He’s in the sepulchre, he’s got a message, he’s perfectly in the clear, perfectly in the clear. He’s not just half-hearted. What’s the point of dealing with our young people, and just letting them go, get away, and be light about it, and be sentimental, when the Lord is, the Lord is speaking? The Lord is speaking in this accident last Lord’s day it was—was it last Lord’s day? It was Monday morning, in fact, early hours of, very early hours of Monday morning. The Lord is speaking in these matters. It’s no time for sentimentality. Sentimentality will take the edge of it away in a moment, and leave persons in darkness.
This young man had faced up to the consequences of the abandonment, and the darkness that came on the earth, this young man had faced up to it, and he had faced up to it in the experience of his own soul. And he’s sitting on the right, and he’s clothed in a white robe. I think it’s very beautiful. That’s enough, that’s enough, that’s enough, it means no one else has got a claim on you other than Jesus. You’ve had your clothes washed, you’ve cut off all your connections, you’re just alone. Here he was alone, but he knew that Jesus had come out of the grave, he knew that the stone had been rolled away. He said, it’s very, it’s very great. Beloved, it’s a very great matter for you to get converted, it’s a very great matter, it’s a very great matter to get delivered from the power of sin. It’s not easy, it’s not a light matter. These chapters bring out what it cost Jesus to effect redemption, and to provide a remedy, provide a way of escape. Oh, that we might keep it constantly before us, that we might never ever let a sense of the urgency of the glad tidings, or the fervency of the preaching, ever leave us. For His name’s sake.
Mark 16: 5–7; And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed in a white robe, and they were amazed and alarmed; but he says to them, Be not alarmed. Ye seek Jesus, the Nazarene, the crucified one. He is risen, he is not here; behold the place where they had put him.
Luke 23: 43; And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
This reference to this young man in Mark came to one’s mind thinking of the glory that he was connected with. He was ready, he was really ready for eternity. That’s what made me think of this verse, very wonderful to see the effect, you might say, the effect that Christ had had on him, how Christ had come into his life. That’s the point of the glad tidings, beloved, Jesus coming into your life. Have you, have you known it as a real experience in your history, when Christ came into your life, came into your life? You say, Well, He hasn’t become my life. Yes, but let Him into your life. If you let Him into your life, let Him into your heart, He will then become your life. That is, there’s nothing else that matters except what He is, who He is, His glory and His greatness, the glory of His work, what He has accomplished at the cross in His death.
This young man was in the gain of it, he had responded to it, he had answered to it, he had taken in the majesty of it. And he’s a young man, he’s sitting, sitting in the sepulchre. He’s got a message. He’s clothed in a white robe, it’s like what we’ve just sung. What a thing it is to be washed, having our clothes, as in Revelation, those that were washed in the blood of the Lamb. Think of the immensity of the sufferings of Christ, how we need to be constantly going over them, letting them fill our hearts and fill our minds. These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, they’re another, another family than ours, than us, it’s a later time. This is after we’ve gone.
It’s hard to take it all in in Revelation. It’s, in the main, symbolic and for the future, but it enters into the present time. The bearing of the Revelation for us is not so much really to tell us about the future, but it’s really to tell us how to, how to conduct ourselves now, in view of the glory that’s going to come in in the eternal day, and the glory that’s going to follow the entire overthrow of the world, the complete overthrow of Satan’s world and the binding of Satan. What a wonderful time that will be when Satan will be bound. The false prophet and the beast, they’re taken, it says somewhere. And then finally we get Satan, Satan bound. Yes, the end of chapter 19 it says, the beast was taken, the false prophet that was with him. Alive were both cast into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. They’ll be persons, they’re persons, they’re not beasts as such, they’re persons, and they’re taken. I think it’s very beautiful the way it’s put. They lose their liberty, they lose their freedom, they lose every, every element of power and influence that they ever, ever had or could wield, it’s taken away from them so quickly.
And then we get, Satan was loosed, and then he’s cast, cast into the lake of fire. It says, the devil cast into the lake of fire, lake of fire and brimstone, where are both the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for the ages of ages. This is the final completion of things, leading on to the great white throne. Very wonderful, you know, Christ will be there as judge. The devil has no part in the great white throne, he’s already confined for eternity. What a wonderful matter that is, beloved. If you ever feel Satan getting at you, think about the final day, think about the day that’s not far off when he will be contained and confined and in torment eternally, eternally; that is, for ever. What a challenge it is for us, what an encouragement it is for us not to give in to Satan, to resist him, just resist him, refuse his temptations, refuse his advances, refuse his seductions, and resist him, knowing what God in Christ is going to finally do.
And then the great white throne, you wouldn’t want to be there, beloved, would you? Would you ever consider, have you ever considered the possibility that you might stand before the great white throne? Think of the summons that will be. That’s persons that have refused the glad tidings, and dying in their sins without getting any gain from the work of Jesus, refusing entirely the work of Christ, and they’re summonsed up for judgment. The book of life will be there. Is your name there? Is your name in the book of life? How would you know? Can you guarantee, can you tell me that you know your name is in the book of life? Let there be no doubt about it, beloved, let none of us have any doubt, even little ones. Parents should instruct them to get your name into the book of life. How can you get that? How can you be sure of it? By becoming a believer in Jesus, believer in His blood, believe that He can save you from your sins, that is, that He can, that you’ve given up your sins, that you confess them. You say, I might go back to them again. Well then, bring them out again. If you go back, bring them out. Don’t think you can keep covering them up, bring them out again. The appeal is not to go back to them. That’s the appeal in the glad tidings, is to give them up for ever. But if you go back, bring them out, keep on confessing them, have the power to confess them, have the courage to confess them. It says, love, love covers a multitude of sins. That’s the love of Christ, that’s the expression of grace in the glad tidings, that’s an administration, that’s an administration, administration of love, administration of grace.
And this young man, he proves it, and he’s in the clear, he’s in a position of power. And Mark, I think, would be speaking of himself, you know. When Mark came back he was ready for service, but I think he was ready for translation. I think when Mark got recovered, and Paul says, he is serviceable to me for ministry, and he brought him back with Timothy, and he’s in the company of Luke, I think you’ll find that Mark would have been ready for translation; that’s how complete his recovery was. Wouldn’t you like to be in that company? Would you like to be in the company of this young man? Couldn’t be anything greater, beloved. Very secure, you know, very safe, completely, completely apart from the enemy, completely secure from any attack from the enemy. And he’s got a message. And he knows exactly what’s preceded. And he has a link with Jesus personally, and he knows about the cross, and he knows about Him coming out of death, he knows about the tomb. And then he knows about Peter, he’s in touch with the administration; he says, go, tell His disciples and Peter. He even knows about Peter. He knows, he understands divine sovereignty, he understands his place, and he knows Peter’s place. He would have known everyone’s place. That’s how you find where you fit, you know, when you understand Christ’s place, when you understand the place that Christ has, and where He is, that’s how you find your place in the local assembly. That’s what this man represents.
Just this one verse about the malefactor, because it’s today. Wonderful thing, just like that verse we sang, found before we sought. That’s not the right quotation of it. Found by Thee before I sought. See, this young man was found, he was found by Christ. We call him a young man, because I think he was. The Lord answers him in wonderful grace, and He says, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise. That is, he was translated to glory that day, that day. The Lord wasn’t putting it off, He didn’t say, When I come back, when I come back for judgment I’ll save you then. He says, Today, today. The Lord was going into death of His own mighty act, He did it Himself, His life wasn’t taken from Him. He was crucified. He could have come down from the cross Himself, but He didn’t, He submitted, and gave up His own life. Who for? For you, for you. What a wonderful matter it is when you come to it in your own experience that there’s nothing we could have done from our own side to, in any way to redeem ourselves. What a day of relief that is in your history when you come to the depths of it, that there’s nothing we could do, there’s nothing we could do to mitigate what our histories have been, and what we are, Christ has done it all, He has taken, taken it away, taken it away.
Here He is, He’s taking this man’s sins away from him, and He says, Today, Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise. Think of the wonder of it, still alive when the Lord died, but he was with Christ that day, that day. You can have that experience today, you can have it. Do you think this is as real as what I’m saying? Or are you doubting me? You doubting me? Don’t doubt, beloved, don’t doubt. Believe, believe in the glad tidings. If you’re going to believe in the glad tidings you’ll get an answer, you’ll get an answer from Christ Himself, directly, personally, as real as this man got. Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise. That’s what you can enjoy as you get the clearance, get this wonderful clearance, wonderful release. May we find it. For His name’s sake.
Luke 22: 52, 53; And Jesus said to the chief priests and captains of the temple and elders, who were come against him, Have ye come out as against a robber with swords and sticks? When I was day by day with you in the temple ye did not stretch out your hands against me; but this is your hour and the power of darkness.
Luke 22: 63–71; And the men who held him mocked him, beating [him]; and covering him up, asked him saying, Prophesy, who is it that struck thee? And they said many other injurious things to him. And when it was day, the elderhood of the people, both [the] chief priests and scribes, were gathered together, and led him into their council, saying, If thou art the Christ, tell us. And he said to them, If I tell you, ye will not at all believe; and if I should ask [you], ye would not answer me at all, nor let me go; but henceforth shall the Son of man be sitting on the right hand of the power of God. And they all said, Thou then art the Son of God? And he said to them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need have we any more of witness, for we have heard ourselves out of his mouth?
These verses came to one’s mind thinking of the reference in the earlier preaching as to Jesus going through all quarters; I think it says He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. It’s a wonderful matter, beloved, that we can be in touch with power for good in the glad tidings. Jesus is available today to have to say to every matter, every power that would be working against the believer in this world and in your heart, Jesus has had to say to. I just thought of these verses, the reference to the power of darkness, the Lord says, this is your hour and the power of darkness. This was the hour when, you might say, men were in control, at least externally. Jesus was, you might say, under the power of these Jews, these men that hated Him, as we read of earlier in the day, men that had become haters of Christ. And they took Him, they took Him by night, they thought they would take Him unawares, that’s the way they came to take Him, came with Judas. And this was their hour, the Lord says, and the power of darkness. You might say, the Lord was in control infinitely, but this was the moment, as it would seem, of the enemy’s power, the combination of the forces against Christ: sin, and death, Satan, the whole world really. That’s what the world is comprised of, it’s comprised of sin, and the power of Satan, and death, that’s a summary of this world. Wherever you look that’s what you’ll find, you’ll find the power of Satan, and you’ll find the power of sin, and then you’ll find death everywhere. And these forces were combined against Jesus. He says, this is your hour. It was a limited period of time, as we’ve often been told, God limited it, God, you might say, made it finite.
Think of what it was for Christ to suffer at the hands of men. You think of Him being held, held like a common criminal, He was held. It says here, the men who held Him. Think of men holding Jesus, holding your Saviour. Is He your Saviour? Have you owned Him as your Saviour? Don’t go on lightly, we’re in the presence of the power of God, it’s for salvation. And that’s what the Lord refers to here, that’s why I read, He says, henceforth shall the Son of man be sitting on the right hand of the power of God. Think of Christ looking right on past this period, this hour, you might say, when men were against Him and were holding Him and beating Him and mocking Him. Think of what Jesus endured. It says, when reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not. See, Jesus could have dealt with them in a moment, He had the power to do it, but He suffered. Why did He suffer, beloved? He suffered to set you and me free, He suffered to set us free from this power of darkness. That’s what’s against your soul, that’s why Jesus went into death. You think of the guilt that He bore. That’s the effect of sin, if you’re going on in your sins you’ve got guilt, guilt on your conscience, guilt on your heart. Jesus bore it, He was made sin; think of that, beloved, Jesus was made sin, He died, has been made sin, and in that He bore the guilt. It says, He bore the guilt of many. I think that’s what Isaiah says, he says, He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. That’s what Jesus has done, beloved, He has done it for you and me. Oh, take advantage of it today, take advantage of the power that’s here for salvation.
These men were haters of Christ, the Lord accounted it to them as their ignorance. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. But you think of the power of darkness that was against Christ, and yet here was the power of God. He looks right on, He says, but henceforth shall the Son of man be sitting on the right hand of the power of God. That would be in judgment finally. He is Son of God, it says, Thou art then the Son of God? And He says, Ye say that I am. Think of the glory of His Person, you might say, revealed, the glory of Christ’s Person, Son of God; but then He is Son of man, He has come in on our side. But He is the One that’s going to execute final judgment, He is coming back and He will be executing judgment against these Jews, these chief priests and these Pharisees and these elders and these scribes, these men that held Him. You think of the men that held Him. Christ is coming back and He is going to execute judgment in the power of God, because He is God.
O beloved, may it come into our hearts what we’re having to answer to, you might say, in the glad tidings. Jesus went the whole way in love, He went to the cross, He went right on to crucifixion, He allowed these same men to crucify Him; think of them putting the nails in, the same men that held Him, then nailed Him to the cross. O beloved, let it fill your heart, to see what Jesus has done to set you free, to relieve you of the power of your own will, relieve you of the power of sin and your own sins, that need to be met and cleansed in the blood of Christ. Think of His blood being shed, cleansing power of Christ to remove the guilt. He can do it for you today, that’s just the appeal I had, that He can do it; and there’s the power of God available, it’s on our side now. He is the Son of man still, and power is available now, it’s not preaching of judgment; we’re telling you about the judgment, judgment is coming.
See, this was, you might say, the time of Christ’s weakness. Think of what He was, going about amongst men, and He held Himself out from the power of men, held Himself from it, until the time when He submitted to it. This was the time of His weakness. Think of it, in weakness and defeat He won the meed and crown. Think of Him allowing Himself, you might say, to get into a position of weakness. What for? To answer the whole sin question, to remove it before the sight of God eternally, and to have to say to your sins, bearing them in His own body on the tree. O beloved, take advantage of today, don’t go on light about the gospel, don’t go on light about the message of salvation, see that time is short. See, you might feel strong when you’re young, you might feel the strength of youth, go anywhere, do anything, say anything, finally become weak when you’re old, and you experience weakness. Christ was a real Man, Jesus is a real Man, He experienced weakness. Think of the weakness, think of how He was held, submitted to these men, and yet He looks on, and it’s like a warning, like a warning of judgment, and He has to say to them, He answers them, He says, if I should ask you, ye would not answer Me at all, nor let Me go. He knew that the, you might say, the outcome was inevitable; God was over it, God was in it to set us free. May we take advantage of it, may we find a real answer in our souls, and find power come into our life in testimony through answering to the glad tidings. For His name’s sake.
Luke 23: 41–43; and we indeed justly, for we receive the just recompense of what we have done; but this [man] has done nothing amiss. And he said to Jesus, Remember me, [Lord,] when thou comest in thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Luke 7: 41, 42; There were two debtors of a certain creditor: one owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty; but as they had nothing to pay, he forgave both of them [their debt]: [say,] which of them therefore will love him most?
Luke 7: 47, 48; For which cause I say to thee, Her many sins are forgiven; for she loved much; but he to whom little is forgiven loves little. And he said to her, Thy sins are forgiven.
These are very well-known passages. They came into one’s mind, thinking how we might come into the gain of a transaction with Christ. I think there was some reference in the earlier preachings to what it is to have a transaction with the Saviour. A transaction is not a passing matter, it’s something that’s accomplished that will stand. You might say, it really equates to a conversion. It’s a very real question how many of us have had a real transaction with Christ. Very serious matter, specially in youth. See, you might get convicted, you might get some touch in your soul, even in a preaching like this, something might catch your attention, but it’s not strong enough, not powerful enough, to bring you into touch with Christ. It’s when your soul meets God, has a meeting with God.
I thought of this man here, this robber. This was a very dark hour, I suppose the darkest hour in the whole history of time, Jesus being crucified. What a unique picture, what a picture to keep indelibly in our hearts, the picture of the cross, the Lord of glory hanging here, everyone discerning Him: Lord of glory, Creator of the universe, Originator of life, Saviour of sinners. He came in grace to meet man. That’s Luke’s gospel, the Lord coming in grace. He was rejected, He was the rejected Messiah, He was Israel’s hope, but they rejected Him. The Jews hated Him, and in their malice He was crucified. This man had his eyes opened, he was enlightened, the outshining of God shone into his heart. See, have you had that? Have you had your heart opened to receive an outshining? If you haven’t had it, you’re not converted, you’re not converted. The fact that you’re here in this room in a place of greatest favour means nothing, means nothing, except another lost opportunity if you don’t take advantage of it.
This man here, he was a thief. I think he would have known what violence was. He wasn’t self-righteous. How self-righteous we are. Every one of our hearts is capable of the greatest wickedness. Do you believe that? Do you believe that? I believe it, I’ve found it in my own heart; much more wickedness than you’ve found in your heart, I’ve found in mine. This robber wasn’t justifying himself, he wasn’t self-righteous, he was pointing to Christ. He said, This Man has done nothing amiss. He was singling Christ out at this greatest hour when the Lord was bearing the penalty; the only guiltless One, the only sinless One, the only One who was without sin. And the robber knew it, he says, This Man has done nothing amiss, this Man. There was no other man, there was no other man on the face of the earth that has done nothing amiss. This Man has done nothing amiss. And the robber singled Him out. And it’s at that point that he had a transaction with Christ, and he says, Remember me; it’s like a covenant, Remember me. Remember me, Lord, when Thou comest in Thy kingdom. His soul met with Jesus at this point. They came to break his legs, as was the common practice to the victims of crucifixion. He was still alive. The Lord had already gone into paradise. He says, Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise. He was the next one, you might say, ushered in, after Christ into paradise.
See, that was a transaction, that’s a transaction with Christ. Have you had it? Have you had it? If you haven’t had it, nothing is going to stop you going on in your sins, nothing is going to stop you going on in your lawlessness, and your self-will, and your utter selfishness, and self-righteousness. This man found it, he was a subject of a real conversion, a real conversion. You might say, it was a very late hour. Certainly it was; he stood out. He distinguished Christ, he pinned his whole faith on Christ, his whole faith was in Jesus, the One who was about to shed His blood, the One who was about to accomplish atonement, redemption, the work of redemption, complete. And this robber was in the gain of it.
Oh, you can find it today. Come, come the lowly way, come the way of lowliness, come the way of contrition, come the way of brokenness, like this woman did. I think she is another one. These, of course, are two of the landmarks of grace in Luke’s gospel, very beautiful. Simon missed everything. The Lord could see through Simon, the Lord could see through the woman, He knew what the woman was. The woman only had her eye on Christ, she wasn’t worried about Simon, she wasn’t worried about the cavillings—I remember someone spoke about that once, the callous cavillings of Simon—she only had her heart attached to Christ, she was attracted by Him. She would have come in touch with Him earlier, heard Him preaching, no doubt, and followed Him up. She wasn’t invited. She got in here, she wanted a pardon. See, a pardon is a transaction, it’s a real conversion. He says, she has loved much. The Lord says, she loved much; but he to whom little is forgiven loves little. Her many sins are forgiven; for she loved much. That’s a transaction. You might say, the creditor was there, God was there, in Jesus, outshining, He wasn’t imputing trespasses, He wasn’t asking for payment of the debt, He was there in forgiveness. And that’s where He is tonight, He is here, standing here towards you, based on the death of Jesus, offering you forgiveness. It’s a transaction, the forgiveness of sins is a transaction with Christ. Will you claim it?
This woman loved Christ, she was attracted to Him. Simon wasn’t. Simon would have admired Him, he would have known all the miracles He had done, he would have known His fame, and he would have added to his importance having Christ in his house. But he wasn’t attracted to Christ, he went out of this time, out of this scene here, without any real conversion. Wouldn’t hear of Simon again, his case was hardened. O friend, let none of our cases be hardened today, let us be softened. But to find what it is to have this transaction with Jesus. It’s a very real matter, a very real matter. I’d love to challenge every soul here, have you had it? Have you had it? Old and young, have you had it? This woman had it. The Lord says to her, Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace. He says, It’s your faith in Me, it’s the way you’ve loved Me, and the faith you’ve put in Me, that has given you peace, and you’re entitled to forgiveness. That was a transaction, because of her love, love for Christ, and she was attached to Him. He says, go in peace. Her whole way was mapped out for her. She had no doubts, she had no uncertainties.
Have you ever been like that in your life? Have you ever had it? I’ve had it, many times, every doubt removed, not an uncertainty, not an uncertainty in your life, even, you might say, in the presence of greatest opposition and greatest darkness, not the slightest doubt in your soul. That was this woman’s portion. Simon attacking her in the presence of Christ, she having perfect peace, because of what Christ had done for her, and what He meant to her. She wasn’t looking outside of Him for anything. May we find it today, may we search our souls, and search our hearts, until we find it. For His name’s sake.
Zechariah 2: 1–5; And I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. And I said, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. And behold, the angel that talked with me went forth; and another angel went forth to meet him, and said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein; and I, saith Jehovah, I will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
Proverbs 7: 6–10; For at the window of my house, I looked forth through my lattice, and I beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the sons, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, in the twilight, in the evening of the day, in the blackness of night and the darkness. And behold, there met him a woman in the attire of a harlot, and subtle of heart.
Proverbs 7: 27; Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.
The simple desire at this time is to seek help to make some impression on the young men that are here, and that would include the young women. It’s not that this is a gospel exactly for young persons, but they are primarily in mind. The Preacher has something to say about that, he addresses himself, Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth; that’s the word at this time. It wouldn’t be difficult to see how important that is. The immediate point is the value of a young man, or young woman; it is the same thing, no difference in that sense. Both are needed to build up one world or another. The rulers of this world know full well how essential the youth is. The god of this world does, he organises his whole system with a view to attracting young men and young women—the youth.
That is this Scripture in Proverbs, an inspired exposure of the arrangements of the god of this world to allure young men and young women away from the light, away from the truth, away from blessing, away from hope, and away from life; and it’s not surprising. Those of us who are older, our days are numbered. Not that we are ignoring, or overlooking, or slighting old persons. If they had the opportunity of speaking, they would be saying the same thing to you as I am. That is, they are very concerned about your youth, very concerned about it. It is irreplaceable. I can’t tell you, I haven’t got the capacity to impress on you sufficiently how valuable your youth is; it is irreplaceable, there is no substitute for it. When it is gone, it is gone and you can’t call it back again, that’s how serious it is.
So these two Scriptures are read because of the reference to a young man. This young man in the prophet Zechariah—I think it is the prophet himself—is showing interest. He lifted up his eyes and saw—that is, he is looking, he is exercised, he is under exercise to find out something about God, and about God’s people, and about God’s city. God has got a city, you know. It is not like the cities of this world. The cities of this world are men’s masterpiece. How long it has taken them, sometimes centuries to build up their cities in their pride, and culture, and whatnot. God has got a city, it’s not like men’s cities.
Men’s cities are dark, and deceitful, and full of evil; full of opportunities for evil; full of opportunities for sin, to express my own will and cater to it—that is the second Scripture. It’s under the figure of a woman, and she is a harlot; that is, she is an unfaithful person, she is faithless, she is untrue, she is deceitful, clamorous, it says, unmanageable, other things, you see. She has an impudent face, very bold and brash—that is this world in this character. Scripture has chosen certain figures in writing to men to portray certain elements, and one is a woman who is a harlot. She portrays this world with all its opportunity for evil, and deceit.
Perhaps you don’t see the world that way, like this young man—simple one, void of understanding. Why should that be? I don’t think it means he was unintelligent. I don’t think it means that he couldn’t pass his examinations at school. I don’t think it means that. I don’t think it means he couldn’t gain a useful occupation and be of some value. I don’t think it means that. I think it means he didn’t understand the difference between good and evil. He’d failed to take advantage of counsel in the way of understanding admonition, reproof, instruction. That’s what this book of Proverbs is full of—instructions of life, admonition, counsel, discipline, so that you know how to go a way for good, not for evil. That’s what this man was void of; he had not paid attention, he wasn’t interested, he was interested in other things, catering to his own lust and his own ambition, his own self-will.
You say, Well, I can satisfy the teachers, I get a good report. You are just the person the world wants. We are not advertising, or advocating that you should not do your studies well, I am not thinking about that; but, you see, the world must have young men and young women, the devil must have them. The god and prince of this world builds his world up by young men and young women. God is building His world up with young men and young women; that’s how valuable you are. You only have one youth, I have tried to say that; only got one opportunity in youth, and you will go one way or the other.
What this young man did in Zechariah, he showed interest in Jerusalem, he asks a question. He says, Whither are you going? He saw a man with a measuring line, and he is interested, you see. That is the application of God’s mind to any situation; and this man says, What are you going to do about it? He says, I’m going to measure Jerusalem, to see what’s the breadth thereof, and what’s the length thereof, and then the angel that talked with him—it says, Another angel went forth to meet him and said, Run, speak to this young man. See, heaven had heard this question. Heaven was paying attention to what this young man was saying and heard his question. If you show any interest in God’s things, He will have the whole of heaven active on your behalf. That’s far better than all the possibilities in this world which can only lead to destruction.
I read that final word in Proverbs—it says, Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. It says that he didn’t know that the dead were there. He didn’t know, you see, he didn’t know that it was for his life, he didn’t know that. The pleasure, the enticement, all the allurements, all the attractions of this world with its glitter and glamour, it’s a cloak, it’s a facade, it’s a veneer, it’s a sham. What’s behind it? Awful corruption, destitution, despair, sorrow, grief, loss and death. That’s all that this world can offer. It’s got a cloak over it, you see, it hides it, it hides its real character.
That’s why Satan is a deceiver, the god of this world is a deceiver. He is a master at it, he is a master. He has studied men for six thousand years, and he knows the very thing that will be the most deceitful in your case, it might be different in my case. He has studied you all your lifetime to ascertain what it is you are attracted by, away from God, away from Jesus, away from God’s people, away from good, away from blessing, away from life. He doesn’t make it obvious to you what’s going to happen, but this Scripture exposes it to us. It says, an arrow goes through his liver, right through the very seat of his being; an arrow strikes through his liver: as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for its life.
So I am seeking just to present the glad tidings in all its simplicity to you; it’s a way of good, a way of blessing, a way of salvation, a way of holiness apart from this world. You put your foot in it and go one foot after another, one step after another, and what you will find is salvation, and blessing. Eternity of bliss, an eternity of blessing, and a lifetime of happiness here in confidence in Jesus. Think of Jesus as the Saviour, think of how well He knew men. I don’t like to say things that are out of place, but He understands men better than Satan does. Satan understands you better than you do, but he doesn’t understand you like Jesus does.
Jesus died for you. He gave His life for you. He gave everything for you. God has done it; spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. Think of the very best and greatest, and most glorious of heaven given for your salvation—that’s Jesus, and now He lives there for you. He ever liveth to make intercession for you; to appear in heaven in the presence of God for you. Think of a Person up there, the greatest Person, the greatest Man in the universe, He’s up there in heaven in your favour. See, it makes you independent of the allurements of this world, the attractions of this world, the way Satan can dress it up to advantage for the present, but there is no future to it. You read this chapter privately and see what the sequel was, what the result was to this young man void of understanding.
In the other case, it is beautiful, the prophecy of Zechariah, this man comes in. I didn’t read it all for want of time, but how delightful it is to God. You see these wonderful words, Ho, ho! Ho, escape. It’s God calling out from the heavens, He knows everything, He knows everything about you, He knows the end from the beginning, He knows what’s the very best for you, and He will do only the very best for you. Give up trying to do the best for yourself, it’ll turn out to be the worst; do the best that God wants you to do, and it will be for your eternal blessing, and your salvation now.
I am not so much concerned about heaven in the future, we know that will be all right, we’ve got no doubts about that. I can’t tell you too much about it, but we know that Jesus fills heaven, but He can bring heaven right down into your heart now, and set you as free of this world as heaven is. He can make your heart like a home of heaven—for who? For Christ, that’s how valuable you are. Ever thought you could be that great to Christ that He would make His home in your heart? That’s what it says, Christ dwelling in the heart by faith. What does it mean? He likes it there. He loves to be in your heart, and find a home there, and He can give you the peace of heaven, right now.
It doesn’t matter what troubles, it doesn’t matter what sorrows, it doesn’t matter what tribulations will overtake you, Christ is there as the Prince of peace, in your heart. He has made peace by the blood of His cross. Think of it, Satan can’t bring a thing against you, not a thing. He can look back in all those dark areas of your life, and my life, and can bring up nothing against you. Why? Because of the blood of Jesus, a perfect, sufficient, eternal answer to every accusation of the foe, and you go forward in confidence. Confidence in Jesus, confidence in the blessed Spirit. He will put the Holy Spirit in your heart, the love of God, it says, shed abroad in our hearts. You feel afraid, you’re worried, you’re disturbed, you’re distressed, wake up in the middle of the night anxious, just turn to Christ, turn to the blessed Spirit, He’s right there in your heart and He will fill it with God’s love. If you think of the greatest thing in the universe, if you can speak that way, it’s God’s love, and He will fill your heart with it, keep you free from trouble.
It doesn’t mean you won’t have sorrow, it doesn’t mean you won’t have adversity, it doesn’t mean you won’t have disappointments, but they’ll all be in the realm of nature and this world; you will get no disappointments in heaven, I promise you that. Once you step in there, you’ll be a little surprised; you haven’t been there before, we haven’t been to heaven yet, not in the full sense. Only one Man in heaven yet, all these other beloved saints of God that have died in Jesus, where are they? They are with Christ, they’re not exactly in heaven, there is only one Man in heaven yet and that is Jesus. When you get in there you’ll be a little surprised, but you’ll know Jesus and He will show you round and you’ll feel at home at once. Why shouldn’t you live your life with the home of heaven in your heart as Christ is King? For His name’s sake.
Proverbs 30: 29–31; There are three [things] which have a stately step, and four are comely in going: The lion, mighty among beasts, which turneth not away for any; a [horse] girt in the loins; or the he-goat; and a king, against whom none can rise up.
John 11: 53, 54; From that day therefore they took counsel that they might kill him. Jesus therefore walked no longer openly among the Jews, but went away thence into the country near the desert, to a city called Ephraim, and there he sojourned with the disciples.
John 18: 4–6; Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon him, went forth and said to them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus the Nazaræan. Jesus says to them, I am [he]. And Judas also, who delivered him up, stood with them. When therefore he said to them, I am [he], they went away backward and fell to the ground.
The wonder of God’s universe, I think, is presented in these verses. Men have wonders, they write books about them. Men themselves are regarded in that way, but they have all, without exception, gone into oblivion. The wonders of the world, mostly, have ended in ruin, ruin! It is happening currently, it is taking place right at this very moment, but men pride themselves in it. What men pride themselves in is going into ruin. But the wonder of God’s universe, as I am thinking of it right now, is the movements of Jesus into death. It is the centre of God’s universe. Everything, everything looked forward to it, now everything hangs on it.
I think it is suggested in these verses. These things that are referred to in Proverbs: it says, There are three things which have a stately step, and four are comely in going. Movements, power for movement. Think of the greatness of it, think of what is brought on to view—the lion, mighty among beasts, which turneth not away for any; nothing can divert a lion. Think of Jesus in His movements in John’s gospel. We see Him right through John’s gospel coming face to face with the enemy; personal confrontation with the enemy, and the enemy exposed. It is prefiguring what He will do to the man of sin—the wonder of man’s world. It is all heading up to it, it is fast heading up to it. You can see signs of it developing, see signs which are making way for the emergence of the man of sin. The ideal of man as without Christ; his every hope, his only hope, his last hope. Think of the long history it has been of men rising up, leaders of nations, of empires, and what it will culminate in—the man of sin who will assert that he is God. That’s how audacious he will be, he will be believed; he will be an arch-deceiver, master deceiver. He will deceive the whole world. You say, Is it possible? It is going to happen, it is happening.
I only refer to that just to show the contrast. When Jesus came face to face with His enemies in John’s gospel, He tells them they were liars, they were liars. They took up stones to stone Him, but they didn’t dare throw them. It says, He walked no more among them—that’s not because He was afraid of them, He is like a lion which turneth not away for any—what He was coming to deal with was the arch-foe of humanity, whose greatest instrument is death. The greatest power the enemy had is death. That was the sentence on man, and the enemy has capitalised on it ever since; he deceived man and deceived woman. How solemn that is. Right at the outset the enemy deceived, and he has been doing it ever since—six thousand years deceiving men. Are you deceived? Are you blinded? Are you ignorant? Are you indifferent? Are you unaware of what is happening? Have you got any idea of what’s occurring, what’s taking place? What Jesus has done!
So He goes on His way undeterred, unmoved, undiverted; couldn’t be held up, couldn’t be hastened, couldn’t be moved aside. In chapter 10 they again take up stones that they might throw them at Him. They couldn’t do it, it wasn’t the divine time. That wasn’t the divine way for Jesus to die. He wasn’t going to die by stoning; that was not the way the divine counsels had planned that Jesus should die. Everything, you see, infinitely accurate in divine timing. At other points—it says in the Scripture in Proverbs: a horse girt in the loins; that is, he goes forward to the battle, goes right into the enemy’s domain to plunder him, plunder the enemy. Have you allowed Christ to plunder the enemy yet in your case, to rob him of his power over your soul? What simple thing in life is holding you in its power, away from the love of Jesus?
Think of the infinitude of the love of Jesus. Think of persons who have taken refuge in the love of Christ down the ages of time. That lovely woman in Luke 7, she took refuge in the love of Jesus. She hadn’t a doubt about it. What it drew out of her was love, much love, much love. She was a great lover in response to the greatness of Christ’s love. Christ came so near, she could touch Him; you could touch Him today. It is no different now, He is no further away than He was from that woman. She had faith—have you got faith in Jesus? Think of the irresistible power of Jesus to draw broken hearts. Have you got a stern heart, stiff heart, hard heart? Jesus can break that down. There was no harder heart than Saul of Tarsus’. How did Jesus break it down? With a sword? No. With a hammer? No. How did He break it down?—with a question, with a question. Why persecutest thou Me? Why are you doing what you are doing? Why are you doing it? Why do you keep doing it? What are you up against? It broke him down; the hardest heart, the strongest will, the most rebellious spirit was broken by a question. It changed his life. It can change yours just as greatly, just as mightily, just as truly, just as certainly, if you will only come in faith to Jesus. Paul tells us later: I, myself, thought to do many things against the name of Jesus Christ the Nazaræan. I suppose he was planning, devising, counselling; I suppose he was taking measures of every kind to plot what he could do against Christ.
That’s what these Jews were doing in John’s gospel. It says, They took counsel therefore that they might kill Him. How were they going to do it? How were they going to bring it about? Other gospels indicate. They didn’t want to do it at the feast. They reckoned on Christ thinking the way they thought. What did they do when the time came? See John 18—beautiful—Jesus knowing all that was coming upon Him—He knew why He had come, He had come to die, He had come as a mighty sacrifice for sin. God so loved the world—that’s why Jesus came. God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him may not perish, but have everlasting life. That’s why Jesus came to die. Nothing could deter Him, nothing could divert Him, nothing could hold Him up.
And the he-goat, you see, the he-goat retires—that’s what Jesus did at this point. He walked no longer openly among the Jews. They hadn’t reckoned on Him, they hadn’t reckoned on His power, His skill, they hadn’t reckoned on His wisdom. He was waiting for the exact moment when He was to be delivered up. And what did He do? It says, He went forth and said, Whom seek ye? They said, Jesus the Nazaræan. And He said, I am He. And it says, when He said that, They went away backward and fell to the ground. They couldn’t take Him. They couldn’t lift one finger against Christ until it was the divine time to do it. That is the wonder of God’s universe. I’d like an impression of it to lay hold of you—that Jesus went forth to die. He wasn’t taken. No power in the universe could have laid a finger on Jesus unless it was the divine timing. And He surrendered, He submitted. He submitted to be taken to die. It’s beyond human language to describe it. I can only speak of it as the wonder of God’s universe.
Will you allow the power of it, the faith of it, to enter your soul, take possession of you? Jesus went into death, we read of it later, He went forth bearing His cross; a crown of thorns. They couldn’t touch Him, they couldn’t do a thing to Him, He set it out for Pilate. He says, Thou hadst no authority whatever against Me if it were not given to thee from above. He witnessed to the truth. Think of Jesus dying on His own testimony. Thou art then a King? I have been born for this, and for this I have come into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth. Pilate says, What is truth? He went away, he didn’t wait, he was too afraid. Think of the awful dilemma of that poor man, Pilate. The crowd clamouring for Christ, asserting he would lose Cæsar’s friendship unless he delivered Him up. What did he lose? He lost everything, and you will lose everything if you don’t surrender to Jesus. I am not threatening, not preaching glad tidings of terror, or judgment, I am just telling you the plain facts—you’ll lose everything if you don’t submit to Christ.
So you can read it at your leisure, read it privately, watch this mighty Person, in all the stateliness of His going, proceeding into death to deal with death. He, by dying, slew death, overcame it, overcame the one who had the might of it, made him look foolish. Death fled in the presence of Christ. When the time came He arose from among the dead, ascended up on high, and sent the Holy Spirit. That is the majesty of Christianity. Do you want to have to do with anything that is so weak, and mean, and beggarly as worldliness in the presence of the supremacy of Christ going into death, coming out in glory? That’s Christianity. Lay hold of it. For His name’s sake.
Revelation 19: 11–16; And I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and one sitting on it, [called] Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war in righteousness. And his eyes are a flame of fire, and upon his head many diadems, having a name written which no one knows but himself; and [he is] clothed with a garment dipped in blood; and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which [are] in the heaven followed him upon white horses, clad in white, pure, fine linen. And out of his mouth goes a sharp [two-edged] sword, that with it he might smite the nations; and he shall shepherd them with an iron rod; and he treads the wine-press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. And he has upon his garment, and upon his thigh, a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
This Scripture is presenting us with a scene of great events that haven’t yet taken place. It’s not exactly the time of the gospel depicted here, but it’s brought into this book in view of salvation, in view of taking advantage of this present time of grace, present time of repentance, time of forgiveness, time of healing, time of salvation. The Person presented in this section is none other than Jesus, the Saviour of sinners. It’s the very same Person. He is seen in various presentations in this book, but here He is seen in something that’s final. He is not in this Scripture appearing in view of salvation, but He’s appearing in view of judgment. He hasn’t entered on that yet, He’s still the Saviour, still the great, glorious, blessed Person of the gospel, the Person that each of us has to do with, will have to do with Him finally—God’s commanded it, that every knee should bow to Him, every tongue confess Him Lord. It doesn’t matter who it is, or where they come from, what their circumstances are, what their station in life is, every one will bow the knee to Jesus. He is given a name, it says, that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. It won’t be the time for it in this passage. Persons who have been affected by the gospel, persons who have believed in it, persons who have taken advantage of the time of repentance and remission of sins are included in these persons that follow, the armies which are in the heavens, they are following on white horses. It’s an army different from what we are used to in armies—these persons are clad in white, pure, fine linen—they are unimpeachable, there’s not a fault can be found with them. Would you like to be in that company?
Think of that history each of us has had, and how it comes up at times, very stark and dark, sorrowful. The Lord would call it up, not in judgment. He is not calling it up in judgment now, that’s the great glory of the glad tidings. If He’s calling it up, He is calling it up in order to take it away, in salvation, by the gospel. It is the power of God to salvation. And this Jesus, He is the great Leader, the great Leader for men. The great need of the moment in every nation is to find the man that will be a leader. That’s the objective in every nation, to find someone that can solve the problems, remedy the damage, remedy the troubles, and there’s only One. There’s only one Man for God, only one Man for men, and that is the one Man, Jesus Christ. Spoken of as the Leader—no other man is spoken of as the leader like Jesus is—the Originator, or Leader, of life. He is the Leader and Saviour. He has appeared to give repentance and remission of sins, He has got the means to do it, that’s what it means. Every other leader that’s appeared among men has served for a time, and then the usefulness wanes and finally they die. All the great men of history, where have they gone? They’ve gone into oblivion. But this Man, Jesus, He’s living today and is the Leader and Saviour. He is the Leader of salvation and He is the Leader and Completer of faith. If you put your trust in Him, He will carry you right through, right through into eternity, and glory.
You won’t find a leader like that among men—not that we want to discredit the leaders of the nations, rather we should be on our knees about them, about the awful conditions in every nation, the awful helplessness and hopelessness of humanity away from Christ, unregenerate men, the situation worsening by the moment. We should be on our knees about it constantly, and live our lives as a testimony to the glad tidings. We are not to be a testimony to the will of man, not to be a testimony to the independence and self-will and lusts of men, not a testimony to the condition of things that prevails in this world. As having been enlightened by the gospel, we are here to be a testimony to Jesus. That’s what our calling is, to be a testimony to Jesus, that He’s a Saviour, a Saviour for men, currently. Not only a Saviour from wrath, but a present Saviour, living Saviour. Saved by the power of His blood, that is from wrath; but saved in the power of His life, that’s now, so that we’re not a prey to sin and temptation and the world, and all the wickedness that’s appearing. Believers are meant to be free of that; it’s possible, that’s the gospel. It’s possible, it’s not an impossibility, it’s a possibility; it’s a present, real possibility to be free of the power of sin. And here He is in this great movement, it is out of heaven; He is sitting on a white horse, He is Faithful and True, think of that! Every word will stand, every word of Jesus will stand inviolate, won’t have to be changed, couldn’t be called in question. If you want to have to do with Him today, you can get your matters settled eternally, to the glory of God.
That’s how Jesus had to say to sin. It’s not the scene in this Scripture, but He has already had to do with blood—His own blood. The blood here is not His own blood, it’s the blood of His enemies. He’s going to have His garments, according to the prophet, sprinkled with blood, that’s the blood of His enemies. He is coming out in violence as a Plunderer to deal with His enemies. Oh, don’t find your place among His enemies. There’s no need for anyone to be among the enemies of Jesus. He is the Friend of sinners, Friend of tax-gatherers and sinners, that is, they can find their need met. That’s what it means, every need. Every one of us would have needs and some of them are unmet, unsatisfied; turning to other things won’t meet them, won’t solve them, can’t possibly do it, it can only worsen them. If you turn to the world, or sin, or self-indulgence or what-not, it will only make it worse by the moment. But here’s the glad tidings, presented in Jesus.
I only refer to this figure, this picture, to show how great He is. His eyes are as a flame of fire, on His head many diadems, having a name written which no one knows but Himself, that’s who He is. He is God over all, blessed for ever. But think of how great He is, that’s Jesus, the One who went so low at the cross, but think of Him being prepared to be the song of the drunkards. He said, They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture. Think of Him being sold by one of His disciples for thirty pieces of silver—think of Him submitting Himself to be taken by the hands of wicked men and crucified, and slain! But no resistance, He turned not away back. Who, when reviled, it says, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not; but gave Himself over into the hands of Him who judges righteously. That’s Jesus, as becoming the Sin-bearer, but in this Scripture it’s Jesus as going out in judgment upon His enemies. Oh, be warned, be wise in time. The scene in this Scripture is going to take place, it’s as sure as can be that it will come, it’ll come soon, and Jesus will have to say, He will have the final word about everything. Think of that, think of Him having to do with the man of sin. A personal personification of man’s lawlessness against God will rise up in a man, and Christ will have to say to him, and consign him to eternal judgment. Think of that, that’s the solemn time we are in. He hasn’t arisen yet, he won’t arise till believers are gone, but it’s heading up that way. Don’t let’s be caught by it, don’t let’s be deceived by the way things are going in the world. Don’t look that way for guidance, don’t look that way for help or satisfaction—look to Christ. The final word will be from Jesus.
Oh friend, why not get a final word from Him today? His name is The Word of God—how beautiful that is. What He will make us to understand, what He will give us to know—the armies which followed and so on. And then it says, He will smite the nations, shepherd them with an iron rod; He treads the wine-press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. That’s the final movement in judgment by Jesus. Just think of it for a moment, the lowly Jesus who went to Calvary, hung on a cross, on His way to judgment. Oh, let’s be drawn to Him today, the Saviour, the Leader and Saviour, the Originator, the Leader of faith, let’s find our place, following Him. It says, and upon His garment, and upon His thigh, a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is superior to every other power in the universe, under God. Oh, make certain today you have to do with Him personally. For His name’s sake.
Isaiah 55: 1, 2; Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat: yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price! Wherefore do ye spend money for [that which is] not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye [that which is] good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Psalm 145: 16; Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
John 7: 37–39; In the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this he said concerning the Spirit, which they that believed on him were about to receive; for [the] Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
You will see that I have in mind to say something about what will satisfy. Something that will secure abiding satisfaction, not something that satisfies for a time and then fails. The Lord says in chapter 4 of John, Every one who drinks of this water shall thirst again; that is, there is no abiding satisfaction, no settlement, no security, no sense of what is permanent. It’s possible to get something that’s permanent, something that will never run out. So the prophet appeals to persons who weren’t doing that. He says, Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? There is no result, no abiding result, no yield. Temporary, temporary, something like what’s spoken of as the temporary pleasure of sin, temporary.
How brief, how brief are the pleasures of sin? How brief are they? What’s the longest time they can endure? The ache only gets greater, the ache of dissatisfaction, the nagging sense of being unsatisfied only gets stronger. He that drinks of this water shall thirst again, it’s bound to happen. Are you trying something that’s not satisfying? Satisfying temporarily, momentarily, just for a time, a week, a month, a year? Or have you got over to an order of things that’s permanent, abiding, lasting, enduring, resistant to every influence of danger, every influence that will spoil? It speaks in another place of he that earneth wages for a bag with holes; nothing permanent, nothing secure, nothing stable.
And this is the appeal in the prophet, the longings of this beautiful prophet over persons who were going after what wouldn’t satisfy. Can’t possibly yield. Some device, some plan you’ve got, some scheme, some dark well-laid scheme you’ve got hidden, known only to yourself perhaps. Something you’re working at, set your heart on, determined to go after, you’re determined to do it, you’ll surrender everything to get it. That’s what men do in this world, they’ll give everything to get their heart’s desire, they’ll let go of everything to gain their heart’s desire. When they get it, what is it? It’s labour for that which satisfieth not. What passing satisfaction there is, history records many instances of this very thing.
Somebody very rich is supposed to have said when they were dying—who denied God, refused every appeal, immensely wealthy—they’re supposed to have cried, A million of money for a moment of time. Couldn’t buy it. All this world’s wealth couldn’t buy one moment, couldn’t buy one moment of time. There is no place you can go to and buy time. It will run out, it will run out; think of how solemn that is. So I’d like to appeal to somebody, anybody, who may be dissatisfied, discontented, disgruntled, disappointed, because you haven’t got what will satisfy. You’ve been going after something that won’t satisfy, can’t yield pleasure, lasting pleasure. The only lasting pleasure can be found in peace towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and peace towards God.
Think of the priceless peace, think of the pricelessness of peace towards God, Therefore having peace towards God. You can have it, you can get it, it’s available, it’s preached, Jesus has come preaching peace to them that are nigh and to them that are afar off. It wouldn’t matter how remote you are, how distant, how aloof, how detached, how determined you are to stay that way. Peace is being preached, glad tidings of peace, peace towards God. Think of the wonder of having peace towards God, and boasting in the hope of the glory of God. Think of a person so free of the claims of sin, the bondage of sin, the bind of sin, that is, self-satisfaction, sin is self-satisfaction, it’s as simple as that. If you’re going in for something just to satisfy yourself, that’s sin. You say that’s severe, but it’s the truth. Whatever is not of faith is sin, there is no in-between, there is no middle ground, there is no neutral position; I’m quoting Holy Scripture, Whatever is not of faith is sin. Faith honours God, serves God, bows to God’s will, faith does. Faith reckons with God, repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
How solemn that is, sin is satisfying self, that’s all it is. It may be very complicated, it may be very illustrious looking, it may be very magnificent in its appeal for the time; but you’re satisfying yourself—it’s sin. And it can yield nothing but the temporary pleasures of sin. Moses had a judgment of it, think of that long ago, how long ago was Moses? What a wise man he was, esteeming the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. Egypt in Moses’ day represents the greatness of the then known world. And he esteemed the reproach of the Christ greater riches. What a wise man, he had to do with God, he’d been taught of God. And so this prophet is appealing.
I just read the word in the Psalm to point to what somebody had found out. It’s a Psalm of David, I can’t go into the Psalm in detail, but how full he is of God. I will extol Thee, my God, O King, and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless Thee, and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever. David has obtained perfect, complete and final satisfaction in his knowledge of God in Jesus, anticipatively. David didn’t live in the day of favour that we live in, but he anticipated it. He speaks of the blessedness, he anticipated the blessedness of a person unto whom God doesn’t reckon iniquity. The blessedness, think of the blessedness, would you like that blessedness? Come into the area of blessedness; Blessed is the man unto whom God doesn’t reckon sin, whose sin is covered, who has no iniquity, that’s blessed.
How can you get free of it? Get free of it by confession, bring it out, bring it up, bring it to the light. It’ll dissipate, it’ll dissolve in the presence of the light, your sin will vanish in the presence of the light. Satan works in the dark, men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. He that loves the truth loves light, he practises the truth and comes to the light. Come to the light tonight. Don’t have something dark, concealed, something that you’re planning, something that you’re desiring, something that you’re going after, in the dark, hidden, concealed.
Don’t go in for that, it can only yield death, the end of it is death. There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is the ways of death. There is no hope for it. If you’re pursuing a line of self-satisfaction, it doesn’t matter who you are, how important you are, how successful you are; if you’re pursuing a line of self-satisfaction, it can only end one way—that’s death. The wages of sin is death. They’re full wages, that’s what beloved Mr. Percy Lyon stood up and preached once when there was conflict on over the wages, he says, No reduction in wages, the wages of sin is death. The act of favour, it’s God bestows it, it’s His beneficence, what we were speaking of the other night, His magnificent generosity, His extravagant generosity, act of favour of God, eternal life. Where? In Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now, that’s what this word is in John 7. In the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any one thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He that believes on Me, he that believes on Me, that’s the point of satisfaction, to come to Christ in confidence, look to Him for everything. What He could say about Himself in this gospel, He says, The water which I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life. Then He says in John 6, I am the living bread which has come down out of heaven; which I will give for the life of the world. Think of how broad, think of how magnificent God is in His outlook towards men and the world. Jesus has come in from God; what to do? To bring the life of God within the range of men, the life of heaven. Think of the peerlessness of peace and grandeur and glory and love and light and life, of heaven. Think of what heaven is. And Jesus says, I have brought that down within the range of man, within a position of proximity, you can have it right now. He that believes on Me, that means finds Me an object of confidence. Would you put your confidence in Jesus? You are going after something that you can’t get, and if you get it, it won’t satisfy. Would you put your confidence in Christ and know that He satisfiest the desire of every living thing?
That’s what the psalmist came to, Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing; that is, every impulse Godward is requited, satisfied, and there is perfect peace, tranquillity. A peerless peace will come into your soul, the peace of heaven will come into your soul, and you’ll know it, there is no mistake about it. It’s come within the range of many who have accepted Christ as Saviour, as Redeemer, as Creator, as Lover. Think of Jesus as a lover, think of what He will be to your soul. We were quoting that beautiful word in Romans 8 during the week to someone who rang in deep, deep distress; I said, I was just going over that word in Romans 8 to try and get to sleep, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Think of anything else you could that could separate you from the love of Christ, and it can’t do it.
Think of Jesus as a lover, Jesus, lover of my soul. Somebody understood it, somebody was gripped by it, and it’s possible for you to be gripped by it, and every dissatisfaction will go. You’ll find perfect peace and perfect satisfaction, and further than that, you will be a source of satisfaction for others. Instead of thinking only of self, in the selfishness of sin, you’ll be thinking of others in the grandeur of living water, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. The person himself is the source of it, gained from Christ by the Spirit, that’s the glory of Christianity. It takes a man in want, in need, in destitution, and sets him up as a source of satisfaction for others. Do you want it? Will you have it? You can have it. For His name’s sake.
Mark 10: 21, 22; And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, One thing lackest thou: go, sell whatever thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, [taking up the cross]. But he, sad at the word, went away grieved, for he had large possessions.
Mark 10: 51, 52; And Jesus answering says to him, What wilt thou that I shall do to thee? And the blind [man] said to him, Rabboni, that I may see. And Jesus said to him, Go, thy faith has healed thee. And he saw immediately, and followed him in the way.
These two men that I’ve read about, I realise I’ve read about them before, and more than once, but I’ve some certain measure of sense of constraint to read about them again because of what’s entered into our day; certain touches we’ve had as to God’s concern about humanity, about the race, the whole history of the race, the feelings of God in respect of the race. And then the need of the race, the need of every person in it. And I’ve read about these two men because they, in a certain sense, represent the whole scope of the race as to their conditions. We’re not told what their nationality was, we’re not told what their race was, what their colour was, we’re not told about their ancestry. But we’re told enough about them to know that they represent in a certain sense the whole span of the race. The first man was rich. One of the gospels writes about him, speaks about him, as a ruler, a young man and a ruler; and it’s clear from the testimony in each that he was possessed of large territory. He had large material possessions. He was what we’d call a very rich man. It would seem only reasonable to conclude that he was completely satisfied with what he had. He wasn’t asking for more than what he had, and you can only conclude from that that he had everything his heart could have possibly wanted. I thought of that man in Ecclesiastes. He had the power to do that, too. And he got everything his heart was set on. He could do it, he had the means for it. And this man was like that.
The second man, it’s clear that he had nothing, he had nothing. He was a beggar, sitting by the wayside begging. He had other disabilities as well; he was blind. And it doesn’t seem as though anyone was taking much interest in him. That’s not to be unexpected. It’s not to be unexpected that men generally would have very little interest in a blind beggar sitting by the wayside. It’s just remarkable how Scripture can compass humanity just in two men. It’s the same with women. It’s not a question of men or women, it’s the same thing. So every one of us here fits in somewhere in this scale. You fit in somewhere. And each had a need, you see, each had a need, but their approach was totally different, totally different. They came in touch with Christ. Couldn’t have had a greater opportunity, couldn’t have been in a position of more advantage in the universe than to come into touch with Christ. Think of who He is, you know; just think of who He is. The Mediator of God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; that’s who He is. There’s only One. There could only be One, could only be One, and this is He.
Think of what He is as Creator, upholding all things by the word of His power, keeping it going; all these wonderful hills and mountains and valleys and rivers and streams; they never looked so lovely. Jesus is keeping it going, you know. He made it and He’s keeping it going. When He’s finished with it He’s going to wrap it all up and put it away, it’s served its purpose. How many are using it for present pleasure to eternal loss. Think of that. Think of taking advantage of what Christ has provided in His infinite wisdom for men. That’s how He made it, that’s why He made it; He made it for men. Why? To gain their hearts, to win men’s hearts. He came, you see, He came for that purpose, to secure what was due to God. And what happened? He was cast out, rejected, crucified, done away with. Man was so content with having the world as it was, without God, that he cast out the Prince of life, the Saviour of the world; cast Him out, wouldn’t allow any place or space for Jesus. Have you ever been like that? Have you ever found out from soul experience that that’s what you’ve been doing? Thinking only for self and of self, no room for Christ, no provision for Him? Have you ever been like that, ever come to that in your own soul’s experience?
See, this first man, he calls Him, Good Teacher. The Lord wouldn’t accept that, the Lord wouldn’t accept that. Why callest thou Me good? See, he was just patronising the Lord. You can see him, can’t you? He was just patronising the Lord: Good Teacher. The second man didn’t say that. He said, O Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me, have mercy on me. This man was at the very depths of human wretchedness: a beggar. Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever in any time in your life, have you ever felt that you were the very epitome of human wretchedness? You won’t really get the full blessing till you do, beloved. You say, Well, that’s a very miserable picture. Not really! It’s the only way of hope. You see the contrast between these two men. The first man didn’t ask Jesus for anything, he didn’t say, Lord, will You give me something? All he said was, You tell me how I can earn eternal life. I suppose he thought he could do anything. If he had to pay for it, he could have paid for it. Ever met anybody like that? That’s this man. He didn’t ask the Lord for anything. The second man, the Lord asked him what He could do for him. He says, What wilt thou, What wilt thou that I shall do to thee? He didn’t ask Him for money. He could have asked anybody for money. Very, very few people have got no money. Just a coin, just toss a coin; I wouldn’t despise it. You wouldn’t notice it. It would add up to something, wouldn’t it? He didn’t ask Jesus for money, he didn’t ask Him for eternal life, he didn’t ask Him for any possessions, he only asked Him for one thing, a need that only Jesus could fulfil.
Have you ever felt that way? Knew you were wretched, knew you were at extremity, wasted every opportunity, resisted every appeal, every approach, every offer of help, refused it, rejected it, steeled yourself against every overture that was made to offer help. Ever felt like that? And then suddenly something happens, you see, something happened. He heard that this Jesus was passing by. And this man threw away his garment. He wanted no more of it, he wanted no further connection with what had marked him, what had distinguished him. He threw it away, came to Jesus. And the Lord says to him, What wilt thou that I shall do to thee? He says, Rabboni, that I may see. He knew, he knew what he needed, and he asked Christ about it. And the result is so fine. He says, Thy faith has saved thee. Go, thy faith has healed thee. And he saw immediately, and followed Him in the way. It’s so beautiful.
The other man, the Lord said, One thing you’re lacking, only one thing you’re lacking. Would you like the Lord to say that to you today? He’s looked over the whole situation, all the circumstances, and He says, One thing lackest. I think it’s Luke says, One thing lackest to thee yet. It’s still outstanding. What did He say? Go and sell all that you have and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me, follow Me. Do you think he’d have a need? Do you think he would ever have been in want, in company with Jesus? See, you can’t have eternal life without Jesus. This man wanted eternal life by himself, to enjoy his possessions, so as he’d never have to leave them. You couldn’t have eternal life without Jesus. Can’t possibly. You could get the whole world, and you still couldn’t have eternal life without Jesus. And if you had Jesus in eternal life you wouldn’t want the world. That’s the secret, beloved, of salvation. It’s possible to so come into touch with Jesus that He can so meet the need of my soul that all these other things are unwanted.
This man followed, this blind man, he’s not blind any longer. It doesn’t say anything about him begging. He didn’t go on begging, he followed Jesus in the way. O beloved, let’s get to grips today, in company with Christ, with the depth of my need, that He’ll put His finger on, He’ll touch it for every one of us. What it may be, He’ll know, and He’ll make you know what it is. But submit, just submit; at whatever cost, submit to His scrutiny, to His counsel. Come into the gain of it today, and you’ll find you’ll go a free man or a free woman or a free child, you’ll be trustworthy. The Lord told him to go, you’ll notice, told him to go. But he didn’t go; he stayed and followed. That’s a trustworthy person. Have you ever known what it is in your life to come to a depth of extremity and wretchedness, and then found an answer in the person you’d most been set against, and find that that’s the answer? This man found it in Jesus; Rabboni, that I may see. O beloved, let’s today submit to His scrutiny, to His probing, to His searching. Let Him put His finger right on it, and submit, and find what it is to be in the enjoyment of eternal life in the company of Christ. For His name’s sake.
Romans 5: 8; but God commends his love to us, in that, we being still sinners, Christ has died for us.
The thought of substitution—I think this verse brings this out. The apostle says ‘we’ including all men, we being still sinners. This ‘we’ is inclusive—sinners. He could say that Christ has died for all; that is how extensive it is. How great the glory of the gospel is to think that God is thinking of all men! To touch this matter of substitution should be very affecting to us, as of course all the truth connected with the cross should. The teaching then in these chapters, involving the death of Christ; His blood, that is chapter 3 as we know—it is faith in the blood. Well, it is the Lord’s death, of course; the blood refers to His death, but to bring forward that idea, that it is an object of faith, that the blood is that, the life given up. So when it says here, He died for us, it is the life given up; but the point is, in one sense, substitution. The old man is inclusive of all, all men; the idea of the old man is inclusive of us all. The Lord gave a description of man’s heart, what came out of it, including all these wretched things. I would understand when Paul says, O wretched man, he would have in mind these things, the wretchedness that the Lord discloses that is in the human heart.
And so, as we think of the Lord on the cross, we begin with ourself: you say, When He hung there He included what I am. So it is a wide line of thought because of the myriads of men there have been, and all in a sense different, yet all bringing out some form of wickedness. And that that should strike home to you, that what you are, what I am, is what was included when the Lord hung on the cross. But think of the variety of persons in Scripture which are brought forward to just disclose or bring out, the distinction of this point. You begin with Adam, what was in him; as sin came into him, how full it was! It is not that Adam brought out all the matter of the old man or of sin, it is not that; or Eve either; but what was there was set out in Scripture, and the fifth chapter of this book enforces it—disobedience. Well, that was what the Lord substituted for on the cross: disobedience. One would think of what that meant to Him, as the obedient One; that it was absolutely foreign to Him to be disobedient. But the substitution involved that, all the varied things that happened in men since then. Further on we have the murder of Abel by Cain, then right on in Scripture, bringing out all the wretchedness that is in man. But the Lord substituted for everything. We say, O wretched man that I am! then you are thinking of yourself as being substituted for. A substitute could be the only one that could do it; there is no other substitute that could take this on and deal with it. So it brings out, I think, as we think on this line, our devotedness to the One who did it, being the substitute. Not only that He suffered, and not only that His blood was able to meet the requirements of God, but that He took all on—what each one of us is. It is to penetrate into us.
As you run right down in Scripture you find all these varied things, especially as you come to chapter 6 of Genesis, where we have these further wicked things. Any one of them—take Cain, for instance—that the Lord was a substitute for that; the wickedness of Cain, hatred of a brother, that the Lord substituted for that, because it says, He took away the sin of the world. That includes the sin of such wicked people. It does not mean that they are saved at all, but the sin is taken away. He put away sin, it says, by the sacrifice of Himself. So there is the idea of sin and sins. The more you think of Paul’s word, Who am chief, I am chief, he said—that is the present state of things in his mind, that the Lord was substitute for that. I think it’s a very penetrating line of things for us, to think that there was One able to substitute for all.
I think that is the force of this chapter, from one point of view, that we being still sinners, Christ died for us: that is, the sinners have the objective of One who died for them, who substituted for them. So the Lord on the cross; chapter 8 of this book shows that we have such a law: The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free. The apostle changes from the thought of ‘we’ to the thought of ‘me’; so you have been substituted for. How much of sin has developed in one—it would be the more you would think of your forgiveness and what you have been forgiven—is really in a sense how you measure what you have been. So it says, She was forgiven much, therefore she loved much. So I think the point of affection for Christ is in a way measured by your own measure of the ‘I am’ or ‘I am chief’ or ‘has set me free’. This line, I think, will help us in ceasing from sin. Shall we continue in it, it says, that grace may abound? Far be the thought—when you come to chapter 6, verse 1. And then that portion of chapter 7, O wretched man that I am! it is just to feel that that has been answered to in the Substitute.
So all the way down in Scripture you find certain persons outstanding in sin. Finally it will be the man of sin, the full development of sin in a man. But the Lord takes away all sin; every vestige of it will be taken away. How complete the gospel is, yet there are such persons that are not saved! Yet sin is taken away. We will be judged for them, we are judged for our sins. The judgment-seat of Christ is that you are judged for your sins, to receive the things done in the body, whether good or bad. The great white throne is for the persons who have died, as I understand it, because they are all dead there, and they stand, the dead stand before God: they are all consumed, they are consigned to the lake of fire. There is no salvation at the great white throne. Sin, I suppose, in a final sense is disposed of in the lake of fire; that is, the persons.
How important it is for us thus, as we have had the Supper, that these things have been the basis of our souls, that the Lord just is substituting! He suffered; He is substituting. He bore our sins—a substitute: all the way through it is. So it says, Our old man is crucified with Christ; that means the totality of man, the old man. It is not seen in its fulness in one person. The man of sin may be it. But we each have had our part in sin, and that you see, well, that the Lord just took that on. How He was able to view it, the power to do it, the view, what He took on. So we find, as you run through Scripture, these wicked persons, some more and some less; but everything, the Lord substituted for. Think of that wicked woman Jezebel—all that the Lord substituted for. Not that that person was saved at all. The Lord took that on, the whole thing, wicked men, wicked women. That woman that ordered the death of John the baptist, what wickedness, and the Lord took that on. She is not a saved person. The Lord, it says, appeared once to put away sin by His sacrifice of Himself. And so how full the gospel is that we should see the clearance, that it was through One that took our place, because there on the cross was our place.
So we rightly should take on this thought of being crucified with Christ, take that thought on. It will help you to understand more the dying of Jesus when you take on the facts of His crucifixion. You go, in a sense you go backwards, in reverse: from the grave to the cross to the dying of Jesus. You learn then that the One who substituted for you is the One that substituted for you in the grave and lay there. But, as we have said, what an honour it is to be buried in Christ’s grave! What a grave it was! And God saw to it where He was buried. Man had some other idea, but God’s thought was where He should be buried. So, as the truth begins to lay hold on you, I think you go in reverse. And the fact that you are buried, and perhaps starting with the fact that perhaps you know something about resurrection, and you know something too about ascension; take the reverse, and you go back all the way, through the grave to the cross, through the dying of Jesus, and that is, I think, how you are helped to bear about in your body the dying of Jesus. That you are not a worldly person; that you are not showing in any sense that you are, you are dying. The Lord then had no aspirations that man in the flesh had; absolutely a heavenly Person, therefore His thoughts were God’s thoughts. We have the mind of Christ. What is that mind, but the mind of a Man that had God’s thoughts in Him? It is possible then to have His mind. The Supper, if it does anything to you, you find that your thoughts can be excluded that you have been in, your faculty of the mind is full of Christ, and in these connections; they are full of Christ in these connections, that is, the One who has ascended, the One who descended. How the thing goes in reverse, you see, in Ephesians; and we must do that continually.
We have got up, so to speak, to the presence of God this morning, right there where He is, where He has revealed Himself, that heaven from which the voice came—that is most interesting—such a voice from the heavenly glory. From the glory—I think that is the point in revelation, where the Lord went back to. If He came out from God, what does it mean but that, that He came out from a position that God took up in revelation? I do not think it has any force in regard to God being in the absolute, or that Christ goes back to the absolute; He never left it. The Lord is always absolute, but the condition into which He came involved the revelation of God. So a Man in heaven is not only that we know that Christ is there as Man; that kind of man that was a substitute is now free of what He bore and there in all the blessedness of manhood, and men with Him. What a glory is in the gospel! And so we are rightly, I think—have been—will crown the day with it, that what He did is the force of the glad tidings. How delightful it is to God to go on with that! In one way you can understand that God is not terminating this time, you can understand that, in a sense you can, because God finds such delight in the proclamation of His Son, and also, I think, He finds great delight in the means whereby we get into His presence now. It will not be the same, I do not think, in the literal thought. And so I believe God is just delighting in the means He has in the Spirit to just get us to where this revelation is. So our hymns help us; we had that hymn this morning, it just seemed to touch the point as to what we had reached, and no doubt the other meetings found the same, as to something reached. And what you reach, then descend. The Lord descended; we can do it in our minds what He did actually. You can descend in the sense of resurrection, burial, the cross, the dying of Jesus, will keep us right.
So what we might fill out in these things, if there is time, is how the feelings of a man would say, Who shall deliver me out of this body of death? You reach that in your soul, you want to be out—well, you get out. We were out this morning, what else was it? We are out yet in a sense, still out. Paul speaks about not knowing whether in the body or out, he did not know. Well, the point was, Where did he reach to? He reached into paradise, the third heaven. I think we touch that; even if it is only a glimpse of it, you have got it. Now it is for us to be in this day in the light of that, where Christ has gone, then descending; the descending mind is what is needed in our local meetings, you know. Something is brought to you; you might say, I do not want to do it—Oh yes, I will descend, Christ did. Not My will, He says, but Thine. That is the coming down mind which is so essential to the faculty of Christ, that we have His mind. The truth of union has been discussed many times, and it is, I can see, more and more that brethren get His mind. Then you get to the point of going out, and on the way it is this fulness that is in this conversation between Christ and His church, in which is equal terms. He says, You know just what I think; you are answering just what I am thinking about, and that is the thoughts of God.
So there is much more, there is all this, you know, the gospel is, and our brethren will fill out in their own way, as they follow. They will do it in their own way, but their own way is part of this matter, it is the way of Christ. The variety that God has in the twelve is extended to the company universally. So we have now at this time persons distinguishing themselves in the testimony. If it is a distinguishment at all, it is Christ coming out, that is all. That is what does come out where we find we are absent from the body but present with the Lord, in the sense that He is active in what is being done. So we have a wonderful order of things that we are in, and there is no comparison at all with anything else. We just find we are in a scene of things which is absolutely out of the world. You can understand that servant saying what he did: the out-of-the-world heavenly condition of relationship and being. That was a thing he was in, and these men were in it, and I think every minister gets into it. And so he is not in an old mould then; he is in this freshness of what Christ everything is. If that is a mould, well, stay in it. I think it is a good one to find, that Christ is becoming everything in your mannerisms. Of course, I do not know how the Lord would use His hands, but He probably did use them; but everything He did was to bring out something. That Christ is everything—that comes into the gospel; the Man is everything, Christ is everything in him, coming out in that way, God glorified.
So you see we get on to the truth of God, and that is such a condition that it is right to pause, pause in the area of the Spirit to what is ahead. What is ahead of us but these things of which Paul says, It is not allowed of man to speak? It is not that it can be conveyed, the things are so great. So that, I think, we are touched by the greatness of the day, the greatness of the crown of it. If Christ is dwelling in your heart, you know, by faith, that means He is the crown of the day; He is just leading everything to God, and leading everything out from God to men in the glad tidings.
I would like to refer to ‘the way’ in these four Scriptures. We can refer to the first, in Matthew, as the way of suffering; to the second, in Mark, as the servant’s way; to the third, in Luke, as the way of peace; and to the fourth, in John, as the way of love. These four gospels help us in all phases of the truth. We might consider ‘the way’ as presented by them.
In regard to the way of suffering, this gospel begins with suffering in children and in mothers. Herod ordered all the children under two years to be slain; so that suffering is in one way stamped upon this gospel. It shows that, as Christ is introduced as the King, the way to His kingship is through suffering; and the way to the assembly is through suffering. The King is presented to us as the Sufferer, and His assembly as the suffering vessel. We have the pattern set out in Christ in the way that He suffered. We are to take on the path of suffering, accepting it as in the ways of God. As we remarked, the little children suffered; they were slain. This brings out the dreadful conditions amongst men, in those who may be in authority. This is seen later in the beheading of John the baptist, which was instigated by a woman. We find both man and woman bringing in suffering in regard to what God was doing; so we can never expect much from the government of men. There may be modifications, as in Egypt through Pharaoh’s daughter; it was modified in some sense in Pilate’s wife; but we cannot expect much from government in the hands of men, as relating to the testimony.
We have referred to suffering in children. Children have a great place in this gospel; first in the way the Lord Himself is referred to as “the little child”; then how little children suffered through being slain; and later as the Lord took little children into His arms, and again as He called a little child to Him; and, later again, when He refers to the little children as praising the Lord. This gospel should greatly help us as to our children, showing the divine interest in them; but that they must accept suffering, and the mothers, too. We can understand the feelings of the mothers in Israel whose children were slain. We are apt to forget this line of things, but this is what has happened; and, more recently, in what has happened in these wars, we see the cruelty of men, bringing out into the fullest relief what Satan has done in men in certain governments. We want to be with God about it in view of His government in Christ coming into display. The time is near for that; but Matthew would instruct that it is a way of suffering. It begins with the suffering of women and children; it has them especially in mind in regard to the households, in view of the children being brought up in the spirit of suffering, in view of their being a testimony here for God. The household, therefore, is of great importance in regard to the way of suffering. We have to deny our children the things of the world. While we deny them the things of the world, we are to instruct them in regard of the kingdom of the heavens. Perhaps there is nothing more attractive to children than the idea of the heavens. We are to instruct them in regard to the government of God that originates in the heavens; then that this government supersedes every other government, and that we are to wait in faith for its display.
In the meantime, the elements of this kingdom are to be put before children, involving all that God is in righteousness, in view of things being done rightly. Righteousness enters into our histories, and, as we practise it, the children will come into suffering. They will be reproached, but the reproach will bring out in them the work of God; it will strengthen it in view of the assembly; for Matthew has the assembly in mind, and the women and the children have a great deal to do with it. We are to maintain rule in the household. Matthew would stress that, so that, when we come into the assembly, we are ready for it, as subject persons. The women are to learn subjection as being in relation to man, and thus to Christ, and thus to God, as is seen in 1 Corinthians 11. There is the place of man in the assembly, and there is the place of woman in the assembly. Man has a prominent place in the assembly; then woman is in her place, as answering in silence in regard of all that God is setting forth. So we can see how Matthew relates to the epistle to the Corinthians. We must have rule, but it is a rule of love, though Matthew is not stressing love; he is stressing rule.
Man is to have the prominent place. Therefore the Lord is instructing His disciples in these chapters in view of rule. Later on the apostles will be seen on the twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, and they are worthy of it. They have qualified for it, as the book of the Acts shows. So we are all to qualify for our place in the kingdom, for we shall all have a place in the kingdom, and it will be in accord with our place in the testimony now in faithfulness. The moral side is to be seen now in view of the kingdom to come, but the great thought of God is now that there is to be rule in the assembly. This is greater than the millennium, because it is rule in the midst of adversity. The millennium will not be adversity; all evil will have been put down. We are in the greatest time now, and it is for every one of us to be qualifying for the assembly.
We arrive in this chapter at what the Lord had wrought in His disciples. They were being qualified for the assembly. Peter represents all the disciples, and he shows that he is qualified by the revelation which he received; in a similar manner all of us qualify for the assembly. The work of God in us is what can be entrusted with rule. In other words, we can be entrusted with Christ; because God will not entrust Christ to disobedient people. To qualify to receive Christ as testimony we must be obedient. Peter represents this, and while it is concrete in him, for he shines, so to speak, in what he says, we have to notice that the flesh is still the flesh. While Peter said the greatest things, he takes a wrong turn; that is, he lost his way; because the way is the way of suffering. The Lord is pointing that out to them. He shows His disciples that He must go away to Jerusalem; the way from this point was to Jerusalem, and the full idea of suffering would come out in Jerusalem. He is instructing His disciples that that is the case; that is what He is teaching us, and we want to get hold of the fact that the way is the way of suffering.
Now, are we going to miss the way? Peter missed it; he missed the way of suffering. He wanted to take the nice way, the easy way. That is the feeling of every natural heart; we want to take the easy way, we do not want to take the way of suffering. Now it is a question of decision—whether you are going to get on to the right road, or whether you are going to continue on the easy road. The flesh will keep on the easy road, and Satan would keep you there; for Satan has his part in all these things. The Lord identifies the matter, and we should. Who is it who has set you on this wrong road? Who has shown you the easy way? Satan. You must see the matter clearly. If you are on the easy way, if you are not on the path of separation, you are taking the easy way. Who has helped you there? Satan. So the Lord does not say, ‘Peter.’ He is not going to say your name; He is going to say “Satan” to you, if you are on the easy path.
You may have said many good things, as Peter did; you may have confessed Jesus as the Son of God, but you have taken the easy way. We can find out where we are now. There are those on the suffering way; they have heard what the Lord has said, and they have found it out themselves. There must be suffering. We want to get to the facts here, and get on the right way, because the way is to glory. The way of ease is to the world. Have you lust for the world? The world is under judgment. It looks very nice at a distance. You go into New York harbour, and see there the big city. It looks very nice: in one hour is her destruction, and so with every city. Let us face the facts. God’s city is the assembly. Outwardly it looks like the tabernacle in the wilderness; it does not look glorious. You have to go inside to see the glory. You get your eyes opened inside: the glory shines inside, and everywhere you see the cherubim, that is people doing the will of God. That is where the glory shines.
So this gospel is to help us to maturity. Peter is going to get on the right road. He is going to get into the way of suffering, as we see in the Acts. Peter knew what it was to be scourged with thirty-nine stripes on his back. Paul was scourged later, but Peter was scourged; they all were scourged. The Lord Jesus was scourged. They came into the path of suffering in the Acts. These men were now qualified to render testimony, and they qualified for the kingdom; but that is not what they were looking for so much; it was that they might be with Jesus. That is the great end that suffering has in view, and He is the answer to all the suffering, because He makes sweet all the things that are bitter. As we see Christ coming into the matter, we find how it becomes sweet, as accepting the way of suffering.
Now we have read from Mark, which is the servant’s way. In Mark’s gospel you get the word “way” more than anywhere else, and the servant is to mark it out. The Lord marked out the way: He said, “I am the way,” John 14: 6. So, in a similar sense, the servant marks out the way; he follows in the steps of Jesus. Peter tells us this: “Leaving you a model that ye should follow in his steps,” 1 Peter 2: 21. Whilst that is the servant’s way, it is the way for all Christians.
This person who ran up to Jesus was a young man; he was a man who could be used in the service. The Lord is looking for young men and young women to use in the service. There is nothing more blessed than to be in this way of service. The little maid who gave the instruction about Naaman was in the way of service; there are many women in the gospels who are in the way of service, and their object is Christ. This is the substance of the servant: he has Christ before him. But this young man had a different idea. What was the bent of his mind? He wanted to live for ever just the way he was. Is that your idea, to live the way you are, having everything you want? How many young people are like that! They want to live for ever, and to enjoy the world as it is. What did God do to Adam? He drove him out of Eden. He did not want Adam to live for ever the way he was. God would not have him, so He drove him out. This young man had to learn that, and every one of us has to learn that, that we are not to live for ever, enjoying this world. He missed his way, too; it does not seem that he was like Peter in finding the right road.
What about you? Are you going away sorrowful, or are you going to find the right way? That is the way of service. That means that you give your body over to Christ. If you study the epistle to the Romans, which every young person should do, you find the greatest thing you have to give is your body, and that is the way of service. You put your body on the altar, and you do not change your mind about it. People change their minds too much. It does not help you when you change your mind; when you go back into the world. What we want is a change of mind in the right direction. You find that this is a wonderful service, that you have committed your body to Christ. You use your hands and your feet in His service; you use your mind in His service. There is a great need for young people not to go away sorrowful, but to go away joyful as having surrendered to Christ, becoming a soldier in His army. That is really what Mark’s gospel means. You know how a soldier has to suffer, how rigid are the requirements, how severe are the penalties when you do not do what you are told. The Lord is a wonderful Master, but He requires that we do what He tells us, and His commandments are not grievous. You soon find that you love to do them; you so love Him that you do anything He says. You soon find that you lay down your life for His brethren. This is the way of service, and you have all the faculties in full control by the Spirit to be used in the service of God; those faculties are not to be used to build up the world. You have to make a living, but can get through on very little. Our difficulty is that we want too much, and we get burdened down by what we have. You will find that it is a narrow way that leads to life. The point is to give your body to Christ; it is very simple. You can just find out in yourself if you are doing it.
Now we will speak about the way of peace. Luke is bringing us to a wonderful conclusion right at the beginning of his gospel: he says, “the way of peace.” You may say that it is all trouble: you may say, “I have one trouble after another.” If you learn Matthew’s gospel, you will learn that it is affliction’s way, and you will not be complaining about the discipline and about the suffering; you will find in the midst of it that there is a way of peace. No matter how much pressure is upon you, your soul is in peace. “Thou wilt keep in perfect peace the mind stayed on thee,” Isaiah 26: 3. You might say, ‘These things are contrary to one another: the way of suffering conflicts with the way of peace.’ But there is no conflict between the way of suffering and the way of peace, because it means that your soul is in the presence of God. As to actual work here, you are in the midst of suffering, but secretly you are with God. Have you found that this is so? It is for you. This gospel proceeds to show a woman who was told to go in peace; that is what she did, and that way is the same way now. It is a way that has been established, for the Lord Jesus established it.
I would like to be like John the baptist. It is said of him that he should “go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways.” That is the object of every prophet, to make ready ways for Christ; for, when Christ is in your soul, there is peace. Luke is showing us that in the midst of all the terrible conditions of humanity, amidst all the sorrows that face people because of sickness and death and the pressure of all the things in the world, Christ is the answer to it. So the thing is to follow what is being said, and to let our feet be guided into the way of peace. There are many in it. Those that are in the way of suffering are in the way of peace. This is true; there are those who can testify to this. They are persons who have to do with church sorrows, they are accepting suffering and in the sorrows they are at peace, because they know the Prince of Peace.
This gospel is the gospel which deals with the great needs of the race of man. God is showing in the gospel that there is a way of peace in the midst of all the ways of trouble in this world. There is not a nation that is not in trouble, there is not a ruler that is not in anxiety; but our King is not in anxiety, He is restful on the Father’s throne. There is the way of peace down here, and those in it are not overcome by the troubles of the world; their feet are guided into the way of peace. So you might write ‘peace’ across this gospel. People’s sins no longer trouble them; death no longer troubles them; peace is written across their lives. As you speak to them, you find that they are walking in that way. They are always ready with a word for the weary; their feet are in the way of peace; they have a word for the weary, to give comfort to persons who need comfort. There is such a way here as the way of peace, and you can find relief through all your troubles by finding your feet in this way. Your feet never did anything better than to get into that way; you are using your feet all the time, and you are using this way. You will never forget the result, because it brings a lasting thing into your soul, the blessed thing about it is that you find there are many more in that way, and it leads to the way of worship.
That is what we find at the end of this gospel, and we are all going in that same way; we must be in peace before we can worship. The path of suffering is the church path; the way of peace runs with it. If we are going to worship tomorrow, we have to be in peace before we do it. What do you come for? Is there peace there? Is there worship there? Could you get to heaven from there? The way of peace is the way to heaven. Let us not be on the wrong way. The way of peace is for us. You just need to do a little weeping, come to the Lord and tell Him about it, and you will soon find that you are on this way. So do not miss this way. Let us go on as ready for the path of suffering, in the way of peace, and ready to serve as committing our bodies to Christ.
The last Scripture, of course, is in one sense the most exalted character of this way. It is the same way, but it is spoken about here as love. It says, “Jesus… having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end.” Who are these persons? These are the persons who have been in the suffering way. These are the persons who have yielded their bodies to Christ. These are the persons who are in the way of peace. These are the ones whom the Lord loves. It is the way of love, showing what was in the divine mind. God is love, and the Lord has brought Him into full expression in the way in which He has come. So we might say that this way alludes to life, and the life of the believer is love. You can find in yourself whether you love God. Are you in the way of love? Christ has marked out the way for you. It is not only that He began to love us, but He loved us to the end. That love may be pent up in regard to persons going on in self-will; we cannot regard them as in the active love of Christ. The Lord is seen in that way in the book of Revelation: His love is pent up because of the conditions amongst men. It is not that God does not still love, because He commends His love to the sinner, but, if you are going on in self-will, God does not love that. What God loves is obedience.
So we find it in these ways we have spoken about: it is the obedient person who accepts the suffering, who is yielding his body to God; his soul is in perfect peace and he begins to love as God does. He just adds to this way. Would you like to add to the way of love in that you are an expression of love yourself? This is the greatest idea; it is behind it all. Behind all that your heart is engaged with is that you are a lover of God, you are a lover of Christ, you love the Spirit, and you love Christ’s brethren; in one way, you love all men in view of their salvation. You are wholly with God, and love never fails. This is one thing that never fails. Things will fail here materially; even what we are physically will fail, but love does not fail. Would we not all like to be in such a system—a wonderful order of things which God has marked out distinctly for us? There is no need for any of us to miss it. He would have us all fully in it, and amongst the worshippers; that is the great end in view, from one point of view, that we worship God. And then we begin to see all that God is towards us. How infinite it is, this wonderful way of love! May God encourage and strengthen us, for His name’s sake!
I believe that:
The Lord Jesus Christ is God, and that He is man (but no mere man). Matthew 1: 23, Luke 2: 11, John 1: 1, Romans 9: 5, 1 Timothy 2: 5.
He was acquitted by Pilate, but given up by him to be crucified. Matthew 27: 22–26, Luke 23: 13–25, John 18: 37–40, 19: 1–6.
While He was on the cross, God made Him sin: ‘Him who knew not sin He has made sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness in Him.’ 2 Corinthians 5: 21.
While He was on the cross and dead, a soldier pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. John 19: 33–34.
Through faith in Him and in His blood, I am justified from sin. Romans 3: 25.
He was raised again for my justification. Romans 4: 25.
He bore our sins in His body on the tree. 1 Peter 2: 24.
I am separated from the world by His cross. Galatians 6: 14. This is the narrow gate that leads to life. Matthew 7: 13–14.
He is in a body of glory and will change my body to be like His when He comes. Philippians 3: 21.
He manifests Himself to those who keep His word. John 14: 21.
God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. Acts 5: 32.
Departure from evil is the only way to reach unity amongst Christians. 2 Timothy 2: 19.
The Church has failed publicly, and the many various denominations (sects) are a proof of this.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ:
I follow Him as the Leader. Hebrews 12: 2.
I obey His commands. John 14: 15.
I follow His teachings. I quote from Luke: ‘Think ye that I have come to bring peace in the earth? Nay, I say to you, but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided; three shall be divided against two, and two against three: father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.’ Luke 12: 51–53. ‘And great crowds went with Him, and turning round, He [Christ] said to them, If any man come to Me, and shall not hate his own father and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life too, he cannot be My disciple.’ Luke 14: 25–26.
I follow the teachings and commands of His apostle Paul. I quote from 2 Timothy 2: 19–21: ‘Yet the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, The Lord knows those that are His; and, Let every one who names the name of the Lord withdraw from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also wooden and earthen; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If therefore one shall have purified himself from these in separating himself from them, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, serviceable to the Master, prepared for every good work’, and 2 Corinthians 6: 14: ‘Be not diversely yoked with unbelievers; for what participation is there between righteousness and lawlessness? or what fellowship of light with darkness?’
I do not have communion, 1 Corinthians 10: 16, with anyone who does not obey Paul’s command in 2 Timothy 2 and 2 Corinthians 6.
I do have communion with everyone who obeys Paul. 2 Timothy 2.
In conclusion, I would remark that:
Scripture is the authority as indited by the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3: 16–17. Persons who are convicted by them, depart from evil (iniquity). 2 Timothy 2: 19. No one is forced to do so, but if they do not obey Paul’s command, 2 Timothy 2, I withdraw from them. ‘Shall two walk together except they be agreed?’ Amos 3: 3.
The quotations are from Scripture which is the law of God to me.
Matthew 27: 19; Luke 23: 39–43; Matthew 27: 54
From these Scriptures I hope, with the Lord’s help, to show how light shines out of darkness. The apostle says in 2 Corinthians 4, that God commanded light to shine out of darkness, and that He has shone into men’s hearts in order that there might be a shining forth now “of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” How great is this fact!
The Lord Jesus left Nazareth and dwelt in Capernaum—a great light shone in that dark city, as it says in Isaiah, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined,” chapter 9: 2.
In the histories of believers it will be found that in the time of greatest darkness light shines. So we should not be discouraged; in a sense the very darkness shows that light is going to shine—the darkest hour is that which precedes the dawn. In the history of the Church there has been much darkness. For an extended period before the Reformation there was intense darkness, but then the light shone—light from which we are all benefiting now. So also in the history of souls. Darkness is the work of the devil, but God causes the light to shine out of it. When David numbered Israel it was a dark period, but God spoke to David through Gad; it is said that Gad was David’s seer. What God has in mind is to bring in light. Through our self-will, it may be, darkness has set in in our souls, but if we are truly the Lord’s He has means whereby to reach our consciences, so David was convicted and light shone into his soul. Immediately before Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt there was a time of deepest darkness, a darkness which could be felt, but the light of Israel’s deliverance followed.
Three persons are mentioned in the Scriptures I read, for whom light shone out of darkness. The darkest hour in the history of this world was that in which the Lord Jesus was taken by wicked hands and crucified. He had walked and served in this scene—shone in it; and now He stood before Pilate to be judged and crucified. The world was doing its best to put out the greatest light. That light had shone in darkness, but the darkness apprehended it not. The world put Jesus to death, but He was raised again and shone more extensively than ever. It was morally as absurd an act as if men were to combine today to put out the sun! The Lord was arraigned before Pilate and was condemned to die—a dark hour indeed, as I said, but light shone out of it.
Men’s hearts were in deep darkness. The Lord said to the chief priests and captains of the temple as they came to take Him, “This is your hour and the power of darkness.”
The first person called attention to in these Scriptures is Pilate’s wife. She had a dream, and God spoke to her soul as she slept. He had done this in other cases before. It is one way that God uses to address men and women. In deep sleep in the night God speaks to men once, yea twice, but they perceive it not, Job 33. But He does get a hearing sometimes. He got one that day from Pilate’s wife, and in the dream she suffered. It is important to notice that she suffered. She says, “I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him.” I believe that many who receive light from God and who are counted as Christians are very shallow because they do not suffer at their conversion. It may be that some of us have never suffered on account of Jesus, but Pilate’s wife did. He was about to suffer on her account. He, the Just, suffered for us the unjust, that He might bring us to God, 1 Peter 3: 18. Her sufferings were trivial; His were infinite. She “suffered many things.” One might ask, What did she suffer? We may be sure she did not sleep comfortably, and it was because God would enlighten and bless her soul. If God works with us there will be suffering on account of Jesus. This prepares a good soil for divine developments in us, and it enables us to appreciate what He suffered for us.
Pilate’s wife does not say that the Lord suffered for her, but that she suffered because of Him. From the way the Spirit of God speaks of her one cannot doubt that she was converted and so would know afterwards that He suffered for her. No one can know forgiveness unless he knows that Christ suffered for him. “He bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” We offer you this Saviour.
I would point out that Pilate’s wife called the Lord Jesus “a just Man.” Nearly everyone in Jerusalem said that He was unrighteous and ought to be killed as a malefactor, but she said to her husband, who was about to send Him to the cross, “Have thou nothing to do with that just Man.” What a testimony for Pilate!—especially as his wife had said that she suffered because of Jesus. No doubt he would ordinarily have complied with his wife’s request, for he would have freed the Lord if he could; but he represents a man to whom testimony is presented and who refuses it. Instead of accepting the testimony of Jesus he refuses it and puts Him to death. He puts himself on the side of the lost, for we could not think of Pilate as saved. The washing of his hands did not make him innocent or righteous. That is what I had to say about Pilate’s wife. She called Jesus “a just Man”—she suffered because of Him, and she testified to His righteousness to her husband, who was already on the judgment-seat. When Pilate is brought before the throne of God he will remember that: He will not be able to deny it. The same applies to us: if we reject Christ now we shall have to answer for it before the throne of God. Many meetings at which you were present will come before you then; many gospel booklets which you have read will come to your remembrance. Will you now, like Pilate, still reject the testimony? God presents Christ to you as a Saviour, who, as you call upon Him, saves you: for it is written, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Romans 10: 13. It is a solemn matter if there is one here who has not confessed the Lord. This meeting will come before you at the judgment-seat of Christ. Pilate’s wife shone out in that hour of darkness in testifying to the righteousness of Jesus.
In Luke 23 we have another light shining out, and that only a few hours after the events of which we have been speaking. The two malefactors were hanging, one on each side of Jesus. What a picture! Three men hanging there, enduring the most excruciating suffering, and One of them was righteous. The fact that He was there makes the scene darker outwardly; and as if to add to it, one of the thieves reviled Jesus. Another evangelist tells us that both the thieves reviled Him, which shows, as compared with what we have here, how quickly the work of God can take effect in a soul. One moment the thieves were mocking Jesus; and the next, one of them was calling Him “Lord.” Pilate’s wife confessed Him as “a just Man”; the thief called Him “Lord” a moment after he had been reviling Him. He changed his mind. What caused him to do so? The Spirit of God.
To be converted to God is an instantaneous thing and often happens in gospel meetings. That is what they are held for. “The wind blows where it will.” It is blowing tonight; you may be converted as you sit there. It was so with this thief—a glorious ray of light shone into his soul as he hung by the side of Jesus. What joy it brought to the heart of Jesus! And if one turns to Him from the world tonight it will afford Him great joy.
I am sure there was never a moment more important to heaven and to earth than the one before us. This blessed Man was put to death with malefactors, and for three hours there was darkness over all the land. But light shone in in the conversion of the thief. His glorious confession was taken account of in heaven: there was “joy in the presence of the angels.” I would urge you tonight to confess the Lord Jesus. You will give great joy to His heart, as I said, and to the heart of everyone here who belongs to Him. The thief asked the Lord to remember him when He came into His Kingdom, but the Lord says, as it were, I will do something for you today—“Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” He was to leave his suffering body and enter into paradise and be there in the company of his Saviour. He went straight to paradise. What a Saviour! What a salvation! Note here that Jesus was not dying a natural death; He died in power. He cried with a loud voice and gave up the ghost; He died before the malefactor. Jesus stayed long enough on the Cross to make propitiation. He cried aloud, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and He gave up the ghost. He says, “I lay down My life of Myself.” He did not die the same death as the malefactors. When Pilate sent he marvelled to find that Jesus was already dead, and so no bone of His body was broken. The malefactors were not dead so the soldiers broke their legs. Jesus entered paradise before the malefactor.
The third person I wish to speak about is the centurion. He was a military man on guard over Jesus. That is to say, he was an officer in charge of some soldiers who were keeping guard by the cross. He represents the authority of Rome. Is it possible that such a man is to be converted? Yes, God can convert a man in military uniform. If He can convert and take to heaven a malefactor, He can convert a centurion. The soldiers with him were not insulting the Lord; fear came into their hearts, Matthew 27: 54. Could you have stood there without fear? Are you not afraid now of missing the opportunity of being saved—are you not afraid of the consequences? The centurion had had to do with the death of the Son of God. Is that a light matter? The centurion did not think so. When he went out from Jerusalem to Golgotha he was not afraid; doubtless he had seen men put to death before, without giving much thought to their sufferings, but see the change now! “They feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” Maybe your parents are converted, and your sister and your brother—they have been affected by what is presented here: is it nothing to you? The centurion was greatly stirred; he saw the earthquake and what followed, and he feared greatly. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” These military men in the presence of Jesus change their countenance, they become serious, they say, “Truly this was the Son of God.” They are confessing the Son of God. Only the Son of God could produce such a result. So we see Jesus confessed as “a just Man” by Pilate’s wife, as “the Lord” by the thief, and the “Son of God” by the centurion.
Thus in an outwardly dark scene we have, so to speak, a galaxy of stars, radiating heavenly light, suddenly appearing. By the work of God light as to the glorious Saviour, who was that day undergoing His atoning sufferings of Calvary, came to these persons and they made this three-fold confession as to Him.
Will you not now join in this confession? As the gospel is presented to you there is at this very moment the immense opportunity open to you of confessing Jesus as the just One who died for you, as the Lord, enthroned in heaven, and as the Son of God, who has annulled death, and whose voice now appeals to you, that you might live. May God grant it!
Matthew 21: 28–32; But what think ye? A man had two children, and coming to the first he said, Child, go to-day, work in [my] vineyard. And he answering said, I will not; but afterwards repenting himself he went. And coming to the second he said likewise; and he answering said, I [go], sir, and went not. Which of the two did the will of the father? They say [to him], The first. Jesus says to them, Verily I say unto you that the tax-gatherers and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the tax-gatherers and the harlots believed him; but ye when ye saw [it] repented not yourselves afterwards to believe him.
2 Kings 5: 9–15; And Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
And Naaman was wroth, and went away and said, Behold, I thought, He will certainly come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Jehovah his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper. Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, rivers of
Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them and be clean? And he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants drew near, and spoke to him and said, My father, [if] the prophet had bidden thee [do some] great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he says to thee, Wash and be clean? Then he went down, and plunged himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God. And his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came and stood before him; and he said, Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; and now, I pray thee, take a present of thy servant.
Genesis 28: 16–19; And Jacob awoke from his sleep, and said, Surely Jehovah is in this place, and I knew [it] not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had made his pillow, and set it up [for] a pillar, and poured oil on the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el; but the name of that city was Luz at the first.
These Scriptures present three persons who changed their minds. That is why I read them, because the reception of Christ truly implies a change of mind. Naturally our minds are otherwise, but acceptance of Christ implies a change of mind as to oneself—not only a change of mind as to Christ, but also as to oneself. As born into this world, and as we grow up into boyhood and girlhood, manhood and womanhood, we all think well of ourselves. One young man of whom we have often heard, Saul of Tarsus, thought very highly of himself, and he had good reason, as men speak, for he was of exceptional ancestry, had exceptional attainments, and possessed exceptional character, and he valued all these things, as all men do, and himself accordingly.
If one has an ancestor of distinction, or if one has money or special ability or education, one thinks of oneself accordingly. All these things converge on an individual; indeed they all exist on account of him, because it is remarkable how each one focuses the view upon self, and makes the most of whatever enhances one’s glory.
In truth, that is the world; and, as I said, this young man Saul had immense advantages from this point of view, and valued them as men do, but HE CHANGED HIS MIND. In his account of his change of view, he says that he had been an insolent, overbearing man (1 Timothy 1: 13), and that he was not fit to be called an apostle (although he was an apostle, and a great one)—because he persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15: 9). He had changed his mind about himself—he repented. That is really what I have in mind.
Repentance towards God implies a change of mind as to God and as to oneself. This change of mind revolutionises one’s whole outlook. It did in Paul’s case certainly, and in the case of millions of others, it revolutionises the whole being and outlook; so much so in Paul’s case that he said, ‘For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’. There is not one in this room who would venture to say that, but he said it, and spoke the truth. For him, to live was Christ and to die was gain. Offer him all the world could offer (what the Devil offered Christ) and he would not take it, he would refuse it. I have reached my ideal, he would say, ‘For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’. That is complete victory! What can Satan do against a man like that? If he persecutes him it is gain. If he kills him it is gain.
You may say to me, Do not talk to us about Paul; he was an exceptional person. Of course he was; and I have brought him forward as presenting the full thought. It is well to present in the gospel the full thought. What one man experienced from it is presented in him, and if those were his experiences, then why are they not mine?
Well, in the Scriptures read, I began, not with Paul, but with an ordinary boy. A certain man had two children, and he had a vineyard and he said to one, ‘Son, go work today in my vineyard’. Fathers are a test to us sometimes. We may think them severe, not knowing that our fathers are God-given, and our mothers too, but to pull away the shoulder from a believing father, even although you may think he is a bit severe, is to pull yourself away from what God has provided for you.
This young man did not even speak respectfully to his father, but said, ‘I will not’. Think of him, brought up by his father, and provided with all that he needed, and here is a simple, reasonable request, and the young man just says, ‘I will not’.
There may be some young people here who are in that very position; then your attitude towards your father is rebellious. You may think you have good reason for it, but that is the fact.
Well, this lad’s father left him; he did not say anything, nor urge him. The Scripture is written to bring out what is in the young man. Our fathers may be a test to us, but when they ask reasonably in this way, they certainly should be respected. This young man did not respect his father. He did not even say, Sir, or, Excuse me. He just replied, ‘I will not’. That is full blown modernism—seen in all nominal Christian countries—disregard of parents, disobedience to parents, a mark of modern apostasy.
Then the father went to the other boy and said likewise, and he replied, ‘I go, sir’, but he went not. He was not honest. The first boy was outspoken, but it was impudent disobedience to refuse his father. This other boy said he would go, but did not go.
Now what about the first one? He says to himself, I have made a mistake. I feel I am wrong. My father’s request was reasonable, and I will just go, and work, and he did so.
You can see that father looking out on the vineyard (the one son had said he would not go, and the other had said he would), and he sees one of them go. Why did the one that said he would not go, go? He changed his mind; in other words, he repented. He repented and went. The gospel is for obedience, not ordinary obedience, but the obedience of faith. This young man obeyed, he changed his mind and went, and as the father sees his boy wending his way to the vineyard, how cheered he would be!
God is looking out on young men and young women who have been deliberately, methodically, resisting the gospel week after week, and now there is a change of mind! At a given period the self-will gives way, and good sense comes into evidence, and the person says, Well, I have been foolish; there is so-and-so—he confessed the Lord Jesus some time back and he is prospering and is happy and free, and I am holding back. God is watching your heart. We may bow our heads like bulrushes, and appear to recognise God, but Scripture says, God looks at our hearts. He looks on your countenance and He looks on your heart.
At a meeting like this, God is looking at the heart of one who has been resisting and even saying, ‘I will not’, and there may be a change of mind creeping over you at this very moment. I have been foolish, you are thinking to yourself, as you look around and see this one and that one has come in and confessed the Lord. They are happy and I am not, and it is time for me to begin to change my mind in these matters. There have been times when you have been almost persuaded, and yet you just walked out and retained your attitude, ‘I will not’. It may be that God is working with you now, and you will change your mind. May it be so!
The Lord asked His enemies, Which of these two young men did the will of his father? They answer, The first. The Lord uses that to emphasise that others have been changing their minds, others have been repenting, the publicans and the harlots were entering into the kingdom of God, and yet those who were listening to Him were not doing so. You have been saying all along, ‘I will not’. You have remained in your attitude of opposition to God, while wicked people have changed their minds and have confessed their sins and been baptised. These wicked people, as you call them, are going into the kingdom of God before you.
Now you see the point of this; others have been repenting, others have confessed the Lord, others have changed their mind and got blessing, but their example has not altered your mind one bit. The Lord is calling upon you now not to resist any longer. Take account of all you know who have been confessing their sins, and follow their example. In truth people are like sheep. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray’. Young people follow one another, and when a young man or woman repents and confesses and accepts Christ, there is a lead given in the right direction, and it is for you to follow their good example. The drift in this world is to do your own will, and it is therefore a great advantage when exercised persons come into a meeting like this, because the current is all in their favour. Outside in the street the current is all against them. Here it is all in their favour. The Spirit of God is working here. It is an excellent opportunity to fall in with the examples of your acquaintances. That is the point the Lord makes. They repented and they got forgiveness. Why not you?
There may be some old persons here who have also been refusing the gospel for years! Your acquaintances have accepted Christ, and you still refuse. Is God not calling upon you now to change your mind? It is time you did. God has not changed His mind towards you. This is a wonderful period in which the world is said to be in reconciliation, Romans 11: 15. That is how God is looking at it. God says, I am not suggesting sins are not there, but I am not charging you with them; I am offering you forgiveness instead. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Is that because sins are not there? No, the world is full of sins, but God, in order to remove everything that is in your way, is not imputing your sins.
The world is in reconciliation, and hence God’s mind is favourable to every one, but it is not always to be so. He is going to change His attitude, and the world will then cease to be in reconciliation. It is to come into judgment. ‘For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth’, 2 Thessalonians 2: 11, 12. He has not yet changed His mind. This gospel meeting is a proof that He has not. He is calling upon you to change your mind about Him, and about yourself—to repent and believe the gospel, as the word says, ‘Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’, Acts 20: 21.
Naaman is an excellent example of this very thing. The passage I read is one of the most used of the gospel Scriptures. I read it just to bring out this particular point. This man changed his mind. He is not a young man, so I would now speak to the middle-aged who have not confessed the Lord. I am always free to speak to Christians because Christians are the best listeners, but there may be some middle-aged people here who have not confessed the Lord, who have not changed their minds about God, about Christ, about themselves or about the world.
Now, this man was rich and a leading man in Syria, a man indeed whom God had actually used, and now he came down to the king of Israel on account of what the little servant maid had said, but she had not spoken about the remedy, but about the person who had it. She did not say a word about the king of Israel, in Samaria. She said there was a prophet, and told him where he was, but Naaman went to the king of Israel, but so as to intercept the enemy’s efforts to rob Naaman of the blessings, Elisha sent a message to the king saying, ‘let him come now to me’.
In some little way we here tonight are possessed of an evangelical spirit, and would like to be of service to you. Naaman came to the door of Elisha’s house; that is why many miss the Lord. It does not say that he came to Elisha. The gospel clearly directs you to Christ. The Philippian jailor was told, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’, and he believed exactly what was said. The counsel given to Naaman was clear, but he would not act upon it. He first went to the king of Israel which was a mistake, for the king of Israel could do nothing to help him, and then he came to Elisha’s house. The little maid did not say a word about the house. She said, ‘Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy’.
All this shows that this man was a distinguished man in his own mind, and he had not changed his mind about himself. He was a great man in the eyes of the world, and everyone who knew him regarded him as a man of distinction, and he regarded himself in the same light, and says, ‘Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand… and strike his hand over the place and recover the leper’. He evidently thought that Elisha did not know who he was, what a great man he was. He stands at the door of the house of Elisha. If I wanted to get cured of my leprosy I would go inside, and make no delay in going inside, but he did not do that. He did not go to the man. There are thousands who do not go to Jesus. They may go to the Priest, the Pope, or the Oxford Group, but you see the gospel does not speak of any of these persons. It speaks about Jesus. It is the gospel of God concerning His Son. Instead of going to Elisha he went to Elisha’s house, but he did not go to him personally. He did not even knock at the door. He said, ‘he will surely come out to me’.
That is pride, and that keeps thousands of people away from the Lord. They do not change their minds. He turned away in a rage. His leprosy and his rage were a poor combination. It is the working of the will and pride, and that is what keeps many away from the Lord Jesus—turning away with rage.
Thank God, Naaman had wise men in his retinue of servants, and he doubtless did thank God many times afterwards that he had such good servants. They treated him respectfully, but they were truly evangelical in spirit. They wanted to save their master, and that is a word for every Christian. You want to save a man, and in order to save, it is well worth humbling yourself.
I remember hearing of a man who got converted by a little tract that was handed to him. Speaking of his conversion afterwards to the person who gave him the tract, he said, ‘It was not exactly the reading of the tract that helped me, but I was affected by the great exercise I noticed in your spirit when you gave the tract to me. I saw that you were genuinely affected on my account and it was your exercise that led to my blessing.’ I mention this so that we all may be more concerned about the need around us, and seek to meet it.
The incident shows what God does when people see you are in earnest, you are concerned about them, and it is not natural with you, but against your will. As the apostle Paul said, ‘If against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me’, 1 Corinthians 9: 17. It was against his will. He did not like it naturally, for he was proud. Yet, as an evangelist, no one was more used than Paul. Think of how he reasoned with big people, such as the Roman governor, Felix, and king Agrippa! What courage he had! It was God who helped him to speak to them.
Well, Naaman’s servants made bold and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?’—and he changed his mind.
If I could get you to change your mind now it would be worthwhile—a change of mind as to what you have been, as to what you are, as to what God is towards you. Christ died for you, and gave Himself for you. Change your mind about these things, and then what a victory! Naaman changed his mind. That is the simplicity of the gospel. Like the young man who said to his father, ‘I will not’, he repented and went. Naaman changed his mind and went to apply the remedy, and he did not simply go into the Jordan; he plunged himself seven times. Do you not see his pace quickening as he went down to the Jordan. It is the going that saves you. Just as the blind man in John 9 says, ‘Jesus… said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam and wash; and I went and washed, and I received sight’. He went and applied repentance with faith. Naaman went to Jordan and his flesh became as the flesh of a little child. Now, that is beautiful. The Lord brings a great man down to a little child. Look at the difference in the man. The flesh of that distinguished captain was leprous, loathsome; he really was not fit for the company of anyone; whereas what is more acceptable than the flesh of a little child? This incident depicts conversion—the complete change that comes over a man by the power of God, but all in faith.
Naaman comes back, ‘he and all his company’—not a word now about the chariots and horses. He comes back to the man of God, not merely to his house. It is to Him—Jesus—we invite you. Come to Jesus!
What we observe in the third Scripture I read is that Jacob called the house of God a dreadful place. Sleeping in the open, with a stone for his pillow, he awakes during the night, following upon a dream, and he becomes conscious that God is near him, though he had not previously realised it. As it was with Jacob, so it is perhaps with you—the proximity of God makes you feel uncomfortable. Jacob had not sought after God, but He came to him.
God comes to man. ‘God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night… that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man’, Job 33: 14, 15, 17.
At dawn there is a confused mind with Jacob. He took the stone that he had for his pillow, set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on top of it, and he called the name of that place ‘Bethel’, which means, ‘House of God’. He definitely called it ‘Bethel’, but he said it was a dreadful place.
Nowhere else in Scripture is the house of God called dreadful. When Jacob first touched it he spoke thus of it, but a change of mind took place in him. In his subsequent journeyings ‘Bethel’ had a great place in his mind and he finally came back to it. There God spoke with him and blessed him, also changed his name to Israel, making him a prince (Genesis 35: 9, 10).
There may be someone here who has said in his heart, I would rather be somewhere else tonight; my mind is elsewhere. Before you leave we would urge you to change your mind, so that the house of God may be no longer a dreadful place, but that it may become attractive to you. In that change of mind you will find that God is your best friend, and will accomplish in you the end reached in Jacob. You will no longer be a stranger and foreigner, but a fellow-citizen of the saints and of the household of God (Ephesians 2: 19).
May God bless His word!
Daniel 5: 5; 1 Kings 18: 44, 45
These passages present the idea of a man’s hand—firstly, in the way of judgment, and, secondly, in the way of blessing. A man’s hand represents his power for the accomplishment of things. In the fingers of the hand coming into evidence, when that which is to be accomplished is judgment, we are confronted with the suggestion of detail. All judgment is committed into the hands of Christ, because He is the Son of man. He purposes to go into the occasion or cause for the judgment in the minutest detail.
God is infinitely just and fair, and, so, in undertaking the solemn matter of judgment, which, indeed, is His strange work, He would give us to understand that He does so on the ground of the most careful examination and enquiry. And this examination and enquiry involves each man and woman on the face of the earth—not only those who are now on the face of the earth, but all who have been upon it from the very outset of the history of the race. No one can undertake to say what the total number may be, what the population of the antediluvian [before the flood] world may have been, or what the subsequent populations may have been. But, if God enters into judgment with men, He will take them up one by one—an undertaking that seems impossible to us finite creatures, for the trial of one criminal oft-times takes a long period in the courts of law, but when God undertakes to judge, He works in His own way, and He does so in righteousness, and, hence, He reminds us of the fingers. We all know how our fingers come into use, as we have to look into books, and, as God takes up the question of judgment, He will have recourse to books, and those fingers of a man’s hand will be employed, whether directly or indirectly, to bring into evidence the doings—not only the name or names of all in the race—but their doings, so that you read of the books being opened.
I suppose that, as each one is born into this world, his name is recorded, and the book is closed until another entry has to be made, and so as one enters on the period of responsibility, account is taken of his conduct, and the most minute records are made. But, again, the books are closed, for we are not living in days of judgment; we are living in the most auspicious period in the history of our race. We are living in a day when God is not imputing trespasses. It does not say that He is not recording trespasses, for He is. The books are all there, and records are being made constantly. It does not say, as I said, that He is not recording trespasses, but it does say that He is not imputing trespasses, so that we are living in a wonderful time. God is presented to us in the gospel as righteous, as just, and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. He is presented to us in the Lord’s own language to Simon, in which He says: “Having nothing to pay he frankly forgave them both”. It is a wonderful time—the time in which God in not imputing but, on the contrary, is proposing forgiveness for all. “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached… among all nations”, says the Lord. That is this moment in which we live. It is like the south wind. It is the period of the south wind—a favourable period, in which men are held in reconciliation. ‘What!’ you say, ‘reconciliation?’ Yes, dear friends, through the fall of the Jews the world is in reconciliation, so that it is the time of closed books, but these books shall not remain closed. The time is fast approaching when the Lord Jesus, who is now presented to you in the gospel, in whose name salvation is announced, in whose name forgiveness is announced, in whose name peace is announced, the time is fast approaching when He shall become the Judge. As the prophet says: “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God”. I say to you, sinner, think of standing before God in your sins. Some young ones may be afraid to stand before their parents in their sins, but think of having to stand before God in your sins. “I saw the dead”, he says, “small and great, stand before God”. You see, that is the end of the course of those who “neglect so great salvation” as is presented to us now, in Christ, and so, it says, “the books were opened”. They are not open now. We are not yet arrived at the time of opened books. The books exist, as I have said, how many I cannot say, but enough to contain all the records of the race. All the untold millions and billions of people are taken account of, and not only the persons are there, but their deeds are in the books. These records are all kept with divine accuracy. They are kept, not for present reference, but for future reference, but kept securely, so that, as the time arrives for opening books of judgment, the books are opened.
Think of it, friends, as I present Christ to you, a Saviour, whose hand is stretched out to you. Think of that hand opening those books—those fingers. Think of them by way of contrast as He stood there in the synagogue of Nazareth, and they handed Him the book, the Bible as it was then, how He turned over roll after roll. He found the place where His ministry of grace was recorded. Those blessed fingers of Christ turned over those leaves until He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor”. He read down the Scripture until He arrived at the place of judgment, and then He closed the book—He closed the book. He arrives at the place where the gospel is found, where the prophet announces Him as the Anointed Preacher, and He says: “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears”. What a wonderful opportunity for those ears!—as is your case, sinner, today. This day is this Scripture, the one He read, the one He had carefully found—this Scripture—the announcement of the gospel fulfilled in your ears.
The gospel is being fulfilled in your ears at this moment, but it is one thing to have it fulfilled in your ears, and another thing in your heart. It has to go down into the heart, and we see in the instance at Nazareth, that it was only in their ears, for when He spoke to them about God going outside and blessing the gentile, they all rose up, we are told (it was a general, spontaneous movement), and they thrust Him out of the synagogue, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built to cast Him down therefrom. So you see, you may have the gospel fulfilled in your ears, and your heart be untouched. Hence, the Lord appeals to the heart. He says: “Son, give me thine heart”. Unless the word enters the heart nothing is accomplished. But then, as I said, He closed the book, and the book of judgment remains closed. But that does not mean, as I have already said, that records, that entries are not made in them. I dwell on this, because we have arrived at a time in which men are rejecting the idea of divine wrath and judgment. The apostle is most explicit when he says: “the books were opened”, and every one, the dead, were judged according to their works. So that God, as I said, is fair. No one shall be consigned to eternal punishment without being convicted. If you remain unconvicted now, you shall be convicted then. There shall be such a mass, an ordered mass, of evidence against you, that your conscience will have to assent to the righteousness of the divine verdict, so that as we are told: “Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire… and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”. So that you see the import of this remarkable Scripture in the book of Daniel. It deals with conditions such as we find ourselves in at the present time.
The world, having been favoured by the gospel all these centuries, has turned away from it, even as Belshazzar did, who had the advantage of an enlightened, yes, of a converted father. Daniel says: ‘You knew’; and so I say to you young people: ‘You know’. Your fathers have believed in Christ, your mothers have believed in Christ, and you are without excuse, if you are rejectors of Christ. If you turn aside into the world, and partake of its follies, and worship its gods, there is no excuse for you. As Daniel said to Belshazzar: “Thou knewest all this”. He knew that Nebuchadnezzar had been converted—one of the most remarkable conversions of which we have any record. It was not done in a corner, it was a matter of public history, and Belshazzar, of all others, knew what God had done for his father, Nebuchadnezzar, but he had neglected his opportunities, and had turned away from them. He had turned to his gods of silver, of gold, and of iron, and of stone. He had turned to wine, to worldly pursuits, and there he is, like thousands of young people who have been born into the light. Daniel says: “Thou knewest all this”; and so I say to you young people here, how are you going to face those fingers? How are you going to stand up before them in that day? Your mouth shall be stopped then. You shall have ceased to criticise the people of God. You shall have nothing to say. You shall be convicted. The evidence against you will be overwhelming, and you shall go into perdition, into the lake of fire, prepared for the devil, and his angels. So I beg of you to face this matter. Those blessed fingers of Jesus would turn over the Scriptures for you, and show you the way of salvation.
Well, now, I go to Elijah for a moment, so that you may see how the man’s hand appears there. Elijah represents the ministry that asserts the rights of God. That is what Elijah represents. He appears suddenly in Israel, and he asserts that there shall be no rain except at his word. He was a man of great authority, and, as the epistle of James tells us, he was a man of prayer. He represents the Lord Jesus Christ in his great solicitude for the welfare of man, and his ministry results in the recognition by all that “The Lord, he is God”. It is not now a question of judgment, dear friend. His assertion of the rights of God at the present time does not mean judgment. It means salvation. I can thank God constantly that He asserted His sovereign right over me, and so can hundreds of Christians who are living today. You say: ‘What does it mean to assert the rights of God?’ Well, He has a right, as I said, to cast you into perdition, but that is not the assertion of the rights of God at the present time. God asserts His right over you in commanding you to repent. He “commands all men everywhere to repent”. It is not that He asks you to do so, but commands you to do so. Are you prepared to recognise His rights? That command belongs to the rights of God in mercy. That is a matter of the greatest importance to every sinner. If God has a right to judge, He has also a right to show mercy, and He does. So Elijah represents the assertion of the rights of God, and in asserting His rights he brings God into evidence. But how, dear friends, is He brought into evidence? In a sacrifice! Who is the sacrifice? Why, the Son of God is the sacrifice. God asserts His right to give His Son for you and for me. Are you prepared to quarrel with such rights as these? Think of what it means for us that God should assert His rights, even if He shuts up the heavens for three years and six months, to save you. As we read, Elijah prayed, and the heavens were shut up for three years and six months. It was a preparatory measure. Do you not think that God has reverted to preparatory measures at the present time? I may say that there is not a Christian that would have been a Christian, were it not for the preparatory measures of God. Think of how He is watching us from our very beginnings. He has ordered things. He has “hedged us about”, as He says to Israel. Why? That we might turn to Him! So, as I said, in the assertion of His rights God shows that He is God. “The Lord”, it says, “He is God”. How has God come out to us, dear friend? In the gift of Christ. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son”. How majestically He asserts Himself in the gift of His Son, so that we are made to say: “He is God”. Elijah builds an altar, and in that altar he had in his mind every one of God’s people. The twelve tribes were all in it, but when we come to our altar, when we come to Christ, dear friend, not only did He die for that nation, but that the children of God that were scattered abroad might be gathered into one, yea, more than that: He gave Himself a ransom for ALL. So that every one in the human race is in view on the altar on which Christ laid down His life. He gave Himself a ransom for all. Can anyone emphasise that too much? Every member of the race was in view when the Son of man, as it says, the Man Christ Jesus, gave Himself a ransom for all. It is one of the greatest statements that can be made. Every member of the race, I repeat, was in view in that offering, and, in that offering, He has brought out the greatness of God, not only the rights of God in mercy, but the rights of God in love. He has brought out the righteousness of God, the love of God, and the power of God, and all these are available in the Mediator, for every member of the race of man.
Is it not marvellous? And so, as I said, Elijah brought out in asserting the rights of God in Israel that: “The Lord, he is God”. It is part of the gospel to make clear how that God has asserted Himself, and how that He stands out before men as a God that justifies. He justifies the ungodly. It is possible to justify the ungodly. He can do so. He has been glorified in the offering of Christ. As we see in the type of Elijah’s burnt-offering, the fire, we are told, came down and consumed the offering and the water. Heaven accepted the offering.
One feels, in seeking to announce the gospel, how little one knows of it, for I know of nothing greater to present than to present God in His assertion of Himself according to His nature, in the death of Christ. No one can lift up a voice against Him. “The Lord, he is God”. How majestically it stands out in that hour of Israel’s apostasy. God stands out in mercy in the sacrifice, and so Elijah says: “There is a sound of abundance of rain”. Oh! there is, friend—not a sound of judgment, now, but of abundance of rain. The prophets of Baal were judged, and it was right, but God is going to show, in the assertion of Himself, that He means to bless, and so there is a sound of rain. All of us who have been through a drought understand it a little, but, three years and six months! Think of what that meant to man. I do not suppose any one of us has had any such experience as that. Think of a drought of three years and six months! The heavens shut up, no rain, and then think of the sound of rain!
Oh, I say, if your soul is thirsty, the sound of rain is sweet in your ears. But the sound of it is not enough. We need more than the sound of it, and, hence, the great agony of Elijah brings before us the great solicitude of Christ for the welfare of our souls. Think of what a Head we have, we men, in the Son of man. He is on our side. He yearns for the race. He has given Himself for it. I think of that instance in which Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. You may say it served him right. Oh, beloved friend, that servant of the high priest was a man, he belonged to the race, he belonged to the race for which Christ died. You say, but he was Christ’s enemy. Yes, my friend, so have you been, and so have I, but He died for us, nevertheless. He died for the wickedest, and so He puts forth His hand, you see, His hand is for the race. It is for the wickedest of the race. You are His opponent; you are His murderer; but He puts forth His hand, and touches your ear, and heals it. He will not give up His rights as the Head of the race. He will see to it that the race comes in for what he died for. That is the gospel.
And so, Elijah’s great exercise here. Look at him, as he puts his face between his knees. If you are indifferent about the welfare of your soul, the Lord Jesus is not indifferent about it. He is yearning for you, and so are others. It is most pathetic to see young people, and old ones, too, indifferent about their eternal welfare, and others putting their faces between their knees for them. What a spectacle! It is the solicitude of Christ for you. He died for you, and He wants you. The servant says: “There is nothing”. We do not give you up because there is no sign. The very prolongation of the day of grace means that God is not giving you up. Notwithstanding the absence of signs, God knows, and the prayer goes on, and the gospel goes on, and the solicitude goes on, for we want you, as Christ wants you. As Paul says: “I seek not yours, but you”; and so Elijah prayed, and the seventh time, as the messenger goes up, he sees a cloud rising out of the sea, as, he said, the size of a man’s hand. What news! It may be that it is just coming into your soul now in that dimension, but presently it will fill your whole being. So, as we see in Luke’s gospel, the Babe, how small outwardly—how small—but, nevertheless, Simeon, as he takes Him in his arms, says: “A light for revelation of the Gentiles”. The whole gentile world should be unveiled by that Person. So the heavens are covered with clouds. They are not clouds of judgment. The book of Job speaks of God loading the thick clouds with plentiful moisture, Job 37: 11. Universal blessing has come down from heaven through the death of Christ, and is announced in the gospel. James says that Elijah prayed again and the heavens gave forth their rain, and the earth yielded its fruit—a beautiful touch in the book of James that we do not get here. One can understand it, for Christianity is the fruit of the Old Testament. The fruit is appearing now, dear friend, and I appeal to you: Is it going to appear in you? The earth brought forth its fruit. It is a solemn thing that the rain should be descending on you day after day and there should be no fruit. The end of those in whom there is no fruit from the rain is spoken of in the epistle to the Hebrews. How is it going to be with you young people? You have been to hear the gospel, and you have been brought up under it. God has lavished His rain, so to speak, upon you—what about the fruit?
Let me entreat you now, as you look up, as it were, and see that man’s hand. It is the hand of Jesus. By His hand the rain has come down, for He received from the Father the promise of the Spirit, and He shed it forth. Have you confessed the Lord? The confession of Christ means that He will give you the Spirit. The most wonderful thing conceivable is given to us. The Son of God has been given FOR us, the Spirit given TO us, and God proposes now that you will submit yourself to Christ. The Holy Spirit, it says, is given to all those that obey Him. Will you not join with us now? There are those who have obeyed Christ—have received the Spirit, and, by the Spirit, have borne fruit for God, and intend, by the grace of God, to continue to do so.
Let us entreat you to come. You see the rain is in abundance for you. Let it enter your soul. Let thoughts of Christ, thoughts of heaven, enter your soul.
May God grant this! One yearns for the young ones. It is not a question of property now, it is a question of persons, and the gospel is for persons, and the Lord is craving for persons.
What strikes one as the great witness of the Scriptures being the Word of the living God, is the one great voice that is speaking all through them in powerful moral accents. It is clearly from beginning to end the same voice, speaking different things, but never things that are really inconsistent with one another. It is a mighty voice with no uncertain sound, always addressing itself to men. Had sin not come into the world, there might not have been the necessity for this voice to speak, but since the time that man departed from God, this voice has never been silent. This voice will at times address the most solemn questions to man, questions to which man must at some point or other furnish an answer. It may be well to consider the earliest of such questions, which indicated an estrangement of man from God.
The first is that addressed by God to Adam, when the latter had in the sense of shame hidden himself from the voice of the Lord God in the trees of the garden in which God had placed him. It was a very pertinent question “Where art thou?” Nothing could be more strange than that the man that God had just created should be hiding himself from God. It indicated an immense moral revolution in the man. And it was a very poor answer that he could return; he could but give an answer that exposed him. He was afraid, what a change! He had no reason to be, for he had had good proof of the goodness and consideration of God. But when once estrangement from God had come in, sin made rapid progress, and we soon come to another question that God had to address to man, not indeed to the same man, but to his immediate descendant. Here the question is of a different character, “What hast thou done?” Cain was not in the garden, nor could he hide himself amid the trees of the garden; perhaps he had no mind to do so, for he was a man of violence. The only true answer that he could have returned was, ‘I have hated my brother, and murdered him.’
How sad that there should have been the necessity for these questions to come in. But they have come in and everyone is concerned to find an answer to them. My object is to point out the only satisfactory answer that can be found.
If we might suppose for a moment these questions being addressed to the younger son in the parable of Luke 15, they would have been sufficiently pertinent, and what answers could he have given? To the first he must have said, ‘I have come into the far country that I may be out of reach of my father so that I may do my own will.’ And to the second, ‘I have wasted the goods that my father gave me in riotous living.’ No other answers were possible for him, and these would have been self-condemnatory. And the truth is that every man will have to find an answer to these questions, and his answer cannot ever be other than such as will condemn himself. Nothing can be more certain than that man is well content to be in darkness and ignorance of God, and to use the means and opportunities that God has given him, not for the praise of God, but for his own pleasure and according to his own will.
Now what I would point out, is the answer that God in grace has found for man to these questions, in Christ. In the warning to the serpent, there was an intimation on the part of God that He had in His mind purpose of mercy to the man and woman that He had created. All was bound up with the seed of the woman. And in due time, the seed of the woman appeared, who was found to be the Son of God, and He was manifested to undo the works of the devil. Man was to find in Him the answer to the two solemn questions in which he was concerned. The truth is that in Christ, God came out of His place to seek man in his distance from God, so that He might find him, and not only so, but that an answer might be found in redemption to all that lay on man. The two issues that God had raised with man were thus to find a perfect solution in Christ, the Son of God. Christ entered in spirit into the sense of man’s distance from God, and suffered all that that distance entailed, becoming thus the propitiation for our sins. This was the way in which God intervened in grace on man’s behalf. And now, as the answer to it, Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, the witness that the work of offering is done, and He is there as the Head of every man, so as to be available to every man.
He has accomplished redemption, so that every right of God has been discharged and, through redemption, man may receive remission of sins. Such is the position of Christ at the present moment, and the testimony is going out to all the world to show men that God has furnished answers to the questions that at the outset He had put. But if God has furnished the answers, it remains for each one to find the answers in their application to himself. The questions are there whether one has found the answers or not, but there are no answers apart from Christ, and it is a great point when we have come to God, having found them in Christ. Of necessity we must have the answer to the second question first, for there can be no change of place for us till we have remission of sins, the blessed answer to the question, ‘What hast thou done?’ This is received through the gospel, it is made known in the gospel as the mind of God in regard to all; and if a man believes the testimony of Christ, he turns by it to God and finds that he is without his sins in the sight of God, he has remission of sins. And now, being with God, he has a perfect answer to the question ‘Where art thou?’
In all this we see the blessed way in which God has come out in grace to meet the questions which, if man had had to answer, he could only have answered to his own condemnation. It is in the apprehension of this that we confess Christ as Lord, and so come into the reality of salvation; we desire the sincere milk of the word that we may grow thereby unto salvation, having tasted that the Lord is gracious. We find that God has not only provided righteousness, but that He is our Saviour, to deliver our souls from all the entanglements in which sin has bound us.
May God lead us into the great reality of that grace that brings salvation to all men.
John 8: 1–11; But Jesus went to the mount of Olives.
And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down and taught them. And the scribes and the Pharisees bring [to him] a woman taken in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they say to him, Teacher, this woman has been taken in the very act, committing adultery. Now in the law Moses has commanded us to stone such; thou therefore, what sayest thou? But this they said proving him, that they might have [something] to accuse him [of]. But Jesus, having stooped down, wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they continued asking him, he lifted himself up and said to them, Let him that is without sin among you first cast the stone at her. And again stooping down he wrote on the ground. But they, having heard [that], went out one by one beginning from the elder ones until the last; and Jesus was left alone and the woman standing there. And Jesus, lifting himself up and seeing no one but the woman, said to her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Has no one condemned thee? And she said, No one, sir. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
There is in all persons a certain knowledge of good and evil; such and such things they say are good, and such and such things are evil. But perhaps no two persons fix exactly the same standard either of good or evil. What people do is to fix such a standard of good as they can come up to themselves, and such a standard of evil as shall just exclude themselves, and include others. For instance, the drunkard thinks there is no great harm in drinking, but would consider it a great sin to steal. The covetous man, who is every day perhaps practising some cheating or deception ‘in the way of trade’, satisfies himself by thinking ‘it is necessary and customary to do so in business, and at all events I do not get drunk or curse and swear as others do’. The profligate person prides himself upon being generous and kind-hearted to others, or, as he says, ‘he does nobody any harm but himself’. The upright, moral man and the domestic, amiable man satisfies himself with doing what he calls his duty, and looks round and pities the open sinners that he sees; but he never considers how many an evil thought, how many a sinful desire, he may have cherished, unknown to others, in his bosom: and that God judges the heart, though man looks only at the outward conduct. Thus each congratulates himself upon his not having done some evil, and compares himself with someone else who has committed the sin which he thinks he has managed to avoid.
Now all this proves that men do not judge themselves by one regular fixed standard of right and wrong, but just take that which suits themselves and condemns others. But there is a standard, with which all will be compared, and according to which all will be judged—a standard of righteousness, all who fall short of which will be eternally condemned; and that is no less than the righteousness of God. When a person begins to find that it is not by comparing himself with others that he is to judge, but by comparing himself with God, then his conscience begins to be awakened to think of sin as before God, then indeed he finds himself guilty and ruined; he will not then attempt to justify himself by trying to find out someone that is worse than himself, but he will be anxious to know whether it is possible that God, before whom he knows himself condemned, can pardon or forgive him.
Now the Scribes and Pharisees, mentioned in this eighth chapter of John, were very moral and religious people, and were greatly shocked when they found out a wretched woman taken in open sin, and very indignant against her. Justice and the law of Moses, thought they, demand that she should be made an example of—it is not fit that such a sinner should live. It comforts and quiets the depraved heart of man if he can only find a person worse than himself; he thinks the greater sin of another excuses himself; and whilst accusing and vehemently blaming another he forgets his own evil. He thus rejoices in iniquity.
But this is not all; for not only do men thus glory and exult in the fall and ruin of another, but they cannot bear to see, or think of, God exhibiting grace. Grace—which means the full and free forgiveness of every sin, of every evil, without God demanding or expecting anything from the one so forgiven—is a principle so opposed to all man’s thoughts and ways, so far above man, that he dislikes it; his own heart often secretly calls it injustice. He does not himself deal in this way, and does not like to think of God doing so. It is very humbling to be obliged to own that we are dependent upon grace entirely for salvation; and that nothing we have done and nothing we can in future do, has made us, or will make us, fit subjects even for grace; but that our misery and sin and ruin are the only claim we have upon grace. The Scribes and Pharisees could not understand this; and not liking to own that they were themselves sinners, they wished to perplex Jesus and if He acquitted the woman, then say He was unjust; or if he condemned her, then say He was not merciful. “Such should be stoned”, say they; “but what sayest thou?”
True, the sentence was just, the proof of the woman’s guilt was undoubted, and the law was clear; but who was to execute the law? Man may easily condemn, but who has a right to execute? “He that is without sin… let him first cast a stone at her.” Who could say “without sin”? And if not one of them could say, ‘I am without sin’, there was not one of them but was under the same sentence as the woman, that is, death, for “the wages of sin is death”.
Here, then, was a strange situation—the accused and her accusers alike involved in the same ruin—criminals all. Not now such should be stoned, but all should be stoned. From the eldest to the last, all convicted sinners.
Have you thought of that—that you and all the world are guilty before God? It is not what your amount of sin, in man’s account, is; but can you say you are “without sin” before God? If not, death, then, is your sentence. “The soul that sinneth it shall die”. And in this sad condition what have you done? Perhaps the same as the Scribes and Pharisees did, when they were convicted by their own conscience—left the presence of the only One who can pronounce the forgiveness. Adam in the garden had done the same before; he went and hid himself from God when he knew himself guilty; he turned away from his only Friend just when he most needed His help. And so it is still. Man is afraid of the only One who is ready to pardon. You may be able to persuade yourself that you are not so bad; you may find others manifestly worse; but are you a sinner at all? What is God’s thought concerning you? Does not even your own conscience say, ‘I am not quite without sin’. Well, then, death is the sentence. God cannot lie. It is His sentence. And if we only heard that God was just there could be no hope. But He is “a just God and a Saviour”. He has condemned, and He has also the power to execute; the only question that remains is, Can He pardon?
“And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst”. She was standing before One who could say, “Without sin”, and who therefore could cast the stone. She was alone with One whom she owned as Lord; and what would be His sentence? The law had already condemned her; would He execute it? What a moment of intense anxiety must it have been for her! How all surrounding objects must have been as nothing in her sight! She was alone with One who had the power of life and death. Everything rested on His word. What would He say? Man had not dared to cast the stone; now what would God do? “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more”.
Such is still the gracious message to the ruined sinner, pronounced by the very Judge Himself. But it is only to the ruined sinner, standing consciously convicted before the Judge, that it is spoken. The righteous Pharisees heard it not. They were indeed convicted; but they liked not to confess their sin, and they sought to get rid of their convictions, to bury them in some good works of their own; and they would not put themselves in the same condemnation with the wretched woman, who got this blessed word of peace. And so it is still. If you desire to have God’s full and free pardon, it must be your place to stand first as the guilty sinner. To be alone with Jesus, consciously self-condemned. To have no one else to trust, no one else to compare yourself with. Not to make resolutions of amendment, not to try to get better first, before you come to Him; but to be brought to Him by your very sins, to stand in the very place of condemnation, and before the very Person who has the power to condemn. To make your very guilt the reason of being alone with Him.
And the Lord gave her no conditional pardon. He did not say, ‘Neither will I condemn you, if you will not sin any more’. No, He gives her full and complete forgiveness first, and that He knew would enable her to avoid the sin in future. If you desire to have power over your sins, you must first know them all pardoned by God through Christ. But if you try to master your evil before you know the forgiveness of God, you will obtain neither the one nor the other. Through faith in Jesus you must be justified freely from all things, before you will ever be cleared as before God. Now, some who really believe on Jesus do not clearly see this, and they are seeking to have peace by holiness of life, or the fruits of the Spirit, instead of first acknowledging themselves as ruined sinners fully and freely pardoned, and then letting their life and conduct be guided by the knowledge of that pardon, and the love of God which the knowledge of His mercy must necessarily create. Begin with, “Neither do I condemn thee”. Let your peace come from faith in the blood of His cross, by which He has made peace. God’s knowledge and estimate of your sin is much deeper than your own, but He has provided the blood of His Son. He says that blood cleanses from all sin. The more I see and know my own sin, the more I shall value that precious blood by which it is put away; and the more anxious shall I be not to grieve the heart of Him who, in His own love, has provided such a wonderful sacrifice on account of my sins. Hence, the deeper I know my own guilt, the more secure will be my peace; for the greater will be my value of the blood, through which peace has been made.
May you know the peace and joy of having all your sins forgiven through faith in the blood of Jesus, and the consequent victory over the power of those very sins by which you have been led captive.
Luke 15: 3–6
Many years ago he was asked to see a poor boy who was dying in a lonely district in Ireland.
He says: After upwards of an hour’s toilsome walking (for the roads which in some place led over steep hills were in others scarcely passable on account of the heavy marshes), on entering the little cottage I looked round me and at first found no sign of any inhabitant, except an old woman who sat crouching over the embers of a peat fire. She rose as I entered, and with the natural courtesy of the Irish poor offered me the low chair or rather stool on which she had been seated.
I thanked her, and passing on to the object of my visit discovered in one corner of the hut a heap of straw on which lay the poor sufferer. Some scanty covering, probably his own wearing apparel, had been thrown over him, but as to bed or bed clothes there was none discernible in this humble dwelling.
I approached, and saw a young lad about seventeen or eighteen years of age evidently in a state of extreme suffering and exhaustion, and it was to be feared in the last stage of consumption. His eyes were closed, but he opened them on my approach and stared at me with a kind of wild wonder, like a frightened animal.
I told him as quietly as possible who I was, and for what purpose I had come, and put a few of the simplest questions to him respecting his hope of salvation. He answered nothing, he appeared totally unconscious of my meaning.
On pressing him further, and speaking to him kindly and affectionately, he looked up, and I ascertained from the few words he uttered that he had heard something of a God and future judgment, but he had never been taught to read. The Holy Scriptures were a sealed book to him, and he was consequently altogether ignorant of the way of salvation as revealed to us in the gospel. His mind on the subject was truly an utter blank. I was struck with dismay and almost with despair. Here was a fellow-creature whose immortal soul, apparently on the verge of eternity, must be saved or lost for ever; and he lay before me now, the hand of death close upon him; not a moment was to be lost and what was I to do? What way was I to take to begin to teach him, as it were at the eleventh hour, the first rudiments of Christianity?
I had scarcely ever before felt such a sinking within me. I could do nothing, that I knew full well, but on the other hand God could do all; I therefore raised up my heart and besought my heavenly Father for Christ’s sake to direct me in the most difficult and trying position, and to open to me by His Spirit of wisdom a way to set forth the glad tidings of salvation so as to be understood by this poor benighted wanderer.
I was silent for a few moments whilst engaged in inward prayer and gazing with deep anxiety on the melancholy object before me. It struck me that I ought to try to discover how far his intelligence in other things extended, and whether there might not be reasonable hope of his understanding me when I should commence to open to him (as I was bound to do) the gospel message of salvation. I looked down upon him with an eye of pity, which I most sincerely felt, and I thought he observed that compassionate look, for he softened towards me as I said: ‘My poor boy, you are very ill, I fear you suffer a great deal!’
‘Yes, I have a bad cold; the cough takes away my breath and hurts me greatly.’
‘Have you had this cough long?’ I asked.
‘Oh, yes, a long time; near a year now.’
‘And how did you catch it? A Kerry boy, I should have thought, would have been reared hardily and accustomed to this sharp air!’
‘Ah,’ he answered, ‘and so I was until that terrible night—it was about this time last year when one of the sheep went astray. My father keeps a few sheep upon the mountains and this is the way we live. When he reckoned them that night there was one wanting, and he sent me to look for it.’ ‘No doubt,’ I replied, ‘you felt the change from the warmth of the peat fire in this close little hut, to the cold mountain blast.’ ‘Oh! that I did; there was snow upon the ground, and the wind pierced me through; but I did not mind it much, as I was so anxious to find father’s sheep.’
‘And did you find it?’ I asked, with increased interest.
‘Oh, yes, I had a long, weary way to go, but I never stopped until I found it.’
‘And how did you get it home? You had trouble enough with that too, I dare say. Was it willing to follow back?’
‘Well, I did not like to trust it, and besides, it was dead beat and tired, so I laid it on my shoulders and carried it home that way.’
‘And were they not all at home rejoiced to see you when you returned with the sheep?’
‘Sure enough, and that they were,’ he replied. ‘Father and mother, and the people round that heard of our loss, all came in the next morning to ask about the sheep, for the neighbours in these matters are mighty kind to each other. Sorry they were, too, to hear that I was kept out the whole dark night; it was morning before I got home, and the end of it was I caught this cold. Mother says I will never be better now, God knows best; anyways, I did my best to save the sheep.’
Wonderful! I thought, here is the whole gospel history. The sheep is lost, the father sends his son to seek for and recover it. The son goes willingly, suffers all without complaining, and in the end sacrifices his life to find the sheep, and when recovered he carries it home on his shoulders to the flock, and rejoices with his friends and neighbours over the sheep which was lost, but is found again. My prayer was answered, my way was made plain, and by the grace of God I availed myself of this happy opening. I explained to this poor dying boy the plan of salvation, making use of his own simple and affecting story. I read to him the few verses in Luke 15, where the care of the shepherd for the strayed sheep is so beautifully expressed, and he at once perceived the likeness, and followed me with deep interest while I explained to him the full meaning of the parable.
The Lord mercifully opened not only his understanding, but his heart also, to receive the things spoken. He himself was the lost sheep, Jesus Christ the good Shepherd, who was sent by the Father to seek for him, and who left all the joys of that Father’s heavenly glory to come down to earth and search for him and other lost ones like himself; and as the poor boy had borne without murmuring the freezing snowstorm and piercing wind, so has the blessed Saviour endured the fierce contradictions of sinners against Himself, and the bitter scorn and insults heaped upon Him, without opening His mouth to utter one word of complaint, and at last laid down His precious life, that we might be rescued from destruction and brought safe to our everlasting home. Neither will He trust His beloved ones, when rescued, to tread a perilous path alone, but bears them on His shoulders rejoicing to the heavenly fold.
My poor sick lad seemed to drink it all in. He received it all; he understood it all. I never saw a clearer proof of the power of the divine Spirit to apply the word of God.
He survived our first meeting but a few days. I had no time to read or expound to him any other portion of the Scripture. At times we could hear nothing but stifling, rending cough; at times he slumbered heavily for a little, but whenever he was able to think and listen, these verses in Luke 15 satisfied and cheered him. He accepted Christ as his Saviour, he earnestly prayed to be carried home like the lost sheep in the heavenly Shepherd’s arms. He died humbly, peacefully, almost exulting, with the name of Jesus, my Saviour and my Shepherd, the last upon his lips.
‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.’ (Luke 19: 10)
2 Timothy 3: 16
I have a profound, unfeigned (I believe divinely-given) faith in the Bible. I have, through grace, been by it converted, enlightened, quickened, saved. I have received the knowledge of God by it, to adore His perfections—of Jesus, the Saviour, joy, strength, comfort of my soul. Many have been indebted to others as the means of their being brought to God, to ministers of that gospel which the Bible contains, or to friends who delight in it. This was not my case. That work, which is ever God’s, was wrought in me through the means of the written word. He who knows what the value of Jesus is will know what the Bible will be to such a one. If I have, alas! failed it, in nearly thirty years’ arduous and varied life and labour—at least such, as far as the service of an unknown and feeble individual usually leads, I have never found it fail me: if it has not for the poor and needy circumstances of time, through which we feebly pass, I am assured it never will for eternity. ‘The word of the Lord abides for ever.’ If it reaches down even to my low estate, it reaches up to God’s height because it comes thence: as the love that can reach even to me, and apply to every detail of my feebleness and failure, proves itself divine in doing so: none but God could, and hence it leads me up to Him. As Jesus came from God and went to God, so does the book that divinely reveals Him come from and elevate to Him. If the truth in it be received, it has brought the soul to God, for He has revealed Himself in it. Its positive proofs are all in itself. The sun needs no light to see it by.
I beg to avow, in the fullest, clearest and distinctest manner here, my deep, divinely-taught conviction of the inspiration of the Scriptures. That is, while of course allowing, if need be, for defect in the translation and the like, when I read the Bible, I read it as of absolute authority for my soul as God’s word. There is no higher privilege than to have communications direct from God Himself.
My joy, my comfort, my food, my strength, for near thirty years, have been the Scriptures received implicitly as the word of God. In the beginning of that period I was put through the deepest exercise of soul on that point. Did heaven and earth, the visible church, and man himself crumble into nonentity, I should, through grace, since that epoch, hold to the word as an unbreakable link between my soul and God. I am satisfied that God has given it me as such. I do not doubt that the grace of the Holy Spirit is needed to make it profitable, and to give it real authority to our souls, because of what we are; but that does not change what it is in itself. To be true when it is received, it must have been true before it was so. And here I will add, that although it requires the grace of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit to give it quickening power, yet divine truth, God’s word, has a hold on the natural conscience from which it cannot escape. The light detects the ‘breaker-up,’ though he may hate it. And so the word of God is adapted to man, though he be hostile to it—adapted in grace (blessed be God!) as well as in truth. This is exactly what shows the wickedness of man’s will in rejecting it. And it has power thus in the conscience, even if the will be unchanged. This may increase the dislike of it; but it is disliked because conscience feels it cannot deny its truth. Men resist it because it is true. Did it not reach their conscience they would not need to take so much pains to get rid of and disprove it. Men do not arm themselves against straws, but against a sword whose edge is felt and feared.
Reader, it speaks of grace as well as truth. It speaks of God’s grace and love, who gave His only-begotten Son that sinners like you and me might be with Him, know Him deeply, intimately, truly know Him—and enjoy Him for ever, and enjoy Him now; that the conscience, perfectly purged, might be in joy in His presence, without a cloud, without a reproach, without fear. And to be there in His love, in such a way is perfect joy. The word will tell you the truth concerning yourself; but it will tell you the truth of a God of love, while unfolding the wisdom of His counsels.
Let me add to my reader, that by far the best means of assuring self of the truth and authority of the word is to read the word itself.
I learn from the Scriptures that there is one living God,1 fully revealed to us in Christ,2 and known through Him as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,3 in the unity of the Godhead,4 but revealed as distinctly willing,5 acting,6 sending, sent,7 coming,8 distributing,9 and other actings; or, as habitually expressed amongst Christians, three persons in one God, or Trinity in Unity. God is the Creator of all things; but the act of creating is personally attributed to the Word and the Son, and the operation of the Spirit of God.10
I learn that the Word, who was with God and was God, was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us,11 the Father sending the Son to be the Saviour of the world.12 That He, as the Christ, was born of a woman,13 by the power of the Holy Spirit coming on the virgin Mary,1 true man,2 without sin,3 in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,4 the promised seed of David according to the flesh,5 the Son of man,6 and Son of God,7 determined to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead,8 one blessed Person, God and man,9 the man Christ Jesus,10 the anointed man,11 Jehovah the Saviour.12
I learn that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures,13 having appeared once in the consummation of ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself;14 that He has borne our sins in His own body on the tree, suffering for sins the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God;1 and that He is our righteousness before God.2
I learn that He is risen from the dead,3 raised by God, by Himself, by the glory of the Father,4 and ascended up on high,5 having by Himself purged our sins, and sits at the right hand of God.6
I learn that after Christ’s ascension the Holy Ghost has been sent down to dwell in His people individually and collectively, so that in both ways they are the temple of God.7 We are sealed8 and anointed with this Spirit,9 the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts;10 we are led by Him,11 and he is the earnest of our inheritance;12 we cry, Abba, Father, knowing we are sons.13
I learn that Christ will come again to receive us to Himself,1 raising those that are His, or changing them if living, fashioning their bodies like His glorious body, according to the power by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself,2 and that those of them who die meanwhile will depart and be with Him.3
I learn that God has appointed a day in which He will judge this habitable world in righteousness by that man whom He has ordained, whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead,4 and that at the end He will sit on the great white throne, and judge the dead, small and great.5
I learn that every one of us shall give an account of himself to God,6 and receive the things done in the body, whether they be good or evil;7 and as the righteous inherit eternal life,8 so the wicked shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, will go into everlasting punishment, be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels; and that whosoever is not found in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire.1
I learn that this blessed one, the Lord Jesus Christ, died for all, has given Himself a ransom for all, testified in due time,2 that He has made propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the whole world.
I learn that He has thereby obtained an eternal redemption,3 and that by one offering of Himself once for all the sins of all that believe on Him are purged,4 and that by faith in Him their consciences are also purged,5 and God remembers their sins and iniquities no more;6 that being called of God, they receive the promise of an eternal inheritance,7 being perfected for ever, so that we have boldness to enter into the holiest by His blood, by the new and living way He has consecrated for us.1
I learn that to enter into the kingdom of God we must be born of water and the Spirit, born again,2 being naturally dead in sins, and by nature children of wrath.3 That which God employs in order to our being born again is His word.4 Hence it is by faith that we become His children.5
I learn that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting life,6 but that to this end, God being a righteous and holy God, the Son of man had to be lifted up upon the cross;7 that there He bore our sins in His own body on the tree,8 and was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.9
I learn that He loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.1
I learn that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and without blame before Him in love.2
I learn that those that believe are sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the earnest of our inheritance till the redemption of the purchased possession;3 that by Him the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts,4 that we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father;5 that they who have received this Spirit not only cry, Abba, Father, but know that they are in Christ, and Christ in them; that thus not only He appears in the presence of God for them, but they are in Him who is sitting at the right hand of God, expecting till His enemies be made His footstool;6 that they are dead to sin in God’s sight, and to reckon themselves so; having put off the old man, and put on the new; alive to God through Jesus Christ (Christ is their new life); crucified to the world, and dead to the law.1
I learn thus that if they are in Christ, Christ is in them and they are called upon to manifest the life of Jesus in their mortal flesh,2 and to walk as He walked,3 God having set them in the world as the epistles of Christ,4 whose grace is sufficient for them, and whose strength is made perfect in their weakness.5
I learn that they are converted to wait for God’s Son from heaven,6 and taught to do so; and that they have the promise that they shall never perish, nor shall any man pluck them out of Christ’s hand,7 but that God will confirm them to the end, that they may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.8
I learn that they have part in these privileges through faith in Christ Jesus, in virtue of which righteousness is imputed to them;1 that Christ, who has obeyed even unto death, and wrought a perfect work upon the cross for them,2 is now their righteousness, made such of God to them,3 and that we are made the righteousness of God in Him;4 that as His precious blood cleanses us from all sin, so we are personally accepted in the beloved,5 that as by one man’s disobedience many were constituted sinners, so by the obedience of One many shall be constituted righteous.6
I learn that we are sanctified, or set apart to God, by God the Father, through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all, and by the operation and power of the Holy Ghost through the truth, so that all Christians are saints,7 and that in our practical state we have to follow after holiness,1 and grow up to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, being changed into His image, to whom we are to be perfectly conformed in glory.2
I learn that the Lord has left two rites, or ordinances, both significative of His death; one initiatory, the other of continual observance in the church of God—baptism and the Lord’s Supper.3
I learn that, when Christ ascended up on high, He received gifts for men, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; and that from Christ the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, maketh increase of the body, to the edifying of itself in love.4
I learn that, as the grace and sovereign love of God is the source and origin of all the blessing,1 so continual and diligent dependence on that grace is that by which we can walk after Him and to His glory, who has left us an example that we should follow His steps.2
I learn from the example and authority of the Lord and His apostles that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are inspired of God, and are to be received as the word of God, having His authority attached to it, and which works effectually in those that believe;3 and that the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart, being understood, not by the wisdom of man, but by the teaching of God, being spiritually discerned, they are revealed, communicated, and discerned by the Spirit.1
I learn that, while God alone is immortal in and by Himself,2 the angels are not subject to death,3 and that the death of a man does not affect the life of his soul, be he wicked or renewed, but that all live still as to God, though dead,4 and that the wicked will be raised again as well as the just.5
I learn that every assembly of God is bound by the exercise of discipline, according to the word, to keep itself pure in doctrine and godly walk.6
11 Tim. 2: 5; 4: 10. 2John 1: 18. 3Matt. 3: 16, 17; 28: 19; Eph. 2: 18. 4John 5: 19; 1 Cor. 12: 6. 5John 6: 38–40; 5: 21; 1 Cor. 12: 11. 6John 5: 17; 1 Cor. 12: 11. 7John 14: 26; 15: 26; 5: 24, 37; 1 Pet. 1: 12; 1 John 4: 14. 8John 15: 26; 16: 7, 8, 13. 91 Cor. 12: 11. 10Gen. 1: 1, 2; Job 26: 13; John 1: 1, 3; Col. 1: 16; Heb. 1: 2. 11John 1: 1, 2, 14. 121 John 4: 14. 13Gal. 4: 4.
1Luke 1: 35. 2Phil. 2: 7; Heb. 2: 14, 17; 1 John 4: 2; 2 John 7. 3Luke 1: 35; 1 John 3: 5. 4Col. 2: 9. 5Rom. 1: 3; Acts 2: 30; 13: 23; 2 Tim. 2: 8. 6Matt. 16: 13. 7John 1: 18, 34. 8Rom. 1: 4. 9Phil. 2: 6–10; 2 Cor. 5: 19–21; Heb. 1: 1–14; 2: 1–18; 1 John 2: 23–29; 3: 1–3; 5: 20; Rev. 22: 12, 13; John 1: 1, 14; 8: 58, and many others. 101 Tim. 2: 5. 11Acts 10: 38. 12Matt. 1: 21. The word Christ or Messiah means anointed, and Jesus or Joshua, Jehovah or Jah the Saviour. 131 Cor. 15: 3. 14Heb. 9: 26.
11 Pet. 2: 24; 3: 18. 21 Cor. 1: 30; Heb. 9: 24. 31 Cor. 15: 20; Matt. 28: 6; and many others. 4Acts 3: 15; John 2: 19; Rom. 6: 4; Eph. 1: 20. 5Mark 16: 19; Luke 24: 51; Eph. 4: 8–10, and others. 6Heb. 1: 3; 10: 12; Eph. 1: 20, 21, and others. 7John 16: 7; 7: 39; Rom. 8: 9; the Father sends, John 14: 26; Christ sends from the Father, John 14: 16, 17, 26; Rom. 8: 11; 1 Cor. 6: 19; 3: 16; Eph. 2: 22; 1 Cor. 12: 13; Eph. 5: 30; 1: 23, etc. 8Eph. 1: 13; 2 Cor. 1: 22. 92 Cor. 1: 21; 1 John 2: 20, 27. 10Rom. 5: 5. 11Rom. 8: 14. 12Eph. 1: 14; 2 Cor. 1: 22; 5: 5. 13Rom. 8: 15; Gal. 4: 6.
1John 14: 3. 21 Thess. 4: 16, 17; 1 Cor. 15: 23, 51, 52; Phil. 3: 20, 21. 32 Cor. 5: 8; Luke 23: 43; Acts 7: 59. 4Acts 17: 31. 5Rev. 20: 11, 12. 6Rom. 14: 12. 72 Cor. 5: 10. 8Rom. 6: 22, 23; Matt. 25: 46.
12 Thess. 1: 7–9; Matt. 25: 46; Rev. 20: 15. 22 Cor. 5: 14; 1 Tim. 2: 6; 1 John 2: 2. 3Heb. 9: 12. 4Heb. 1: 3; 9: 22; 10: 2. 5Heb. 9: 14; 10: 2. 6Heb. 10: 17. 7Heb. 9: 15.
1Heb. 10: 14, 19, 20. 2John 3: 3, 5. 3Eph. 2: 1, 3; 2 Cor. 5: 14. 4James 1: 18; 1 Pet. 1: 23. 5Gal. 3: 26. 6John 3: 16. 7John 3: 14, 15. 81 Pet. 1: 24. 92 Cor. 5: 21.
1Eph. 5: 25–27. 2Eph. 1: 4. 3Eph. 1: 13, 14; 2 Cor. 1: 22. 4Rom. 5: 5. 5Rom. 8: 15; Gal. 4: 6; John 14: 20. 6Eph. 2: 6; Heb. 9: 24; 10: 12, 13.
1Col. 3: 3, 4, 9, 10; Rom. 6: 6, 11; Gal. 2: 20; 6: 14. 2John 14: 20; Rom. 8: 10; 2 Cor. 4: 10. 31 John 2: 6. 42 Cor. 3: 3. 52 Cor. 12: 9. 61 Thess. 1: 10; Titus 2: 12, 13; Luke 12: 35–37. 7John 10: 29. 81 Cor. 1: 7–9.
1Rom. 5: 1, 2; Gal. 3: 24–26; 3: 11, 14; Rom. 4: 16; Eph. 2: 8; 2 Cor. 5: 7; Gal. 2: 20; Heb. 11: 4; Acts 13: 39; Gal. 3: 9, 6; Rom. 4: 24, 25, and many others. 2Phil. 2: 8; John 17: 4; Heb. 7: 27; 9: 25–28; 10: 12, 18. 31 Cor. 1: 30. 42 Cor. 5: 21. 5Eph. 1: 6. 6Rom. 5: 19. 7Jude 1; Heb. 10: 10; 2 Thess. 2: 13; 1 Cor. 6: 11; John 17: 17, 19; 1 Pet. 1: 22; Rom. 1: 7; 1 Cor. 1: 2; Eph. 1: 1.
1Heb. 12: 14; 2 Pet. 3: 14. 2Eph. 4: 13, 15; 2 Cor. 3: 18; 1 John 3: 2, 3; Eph. 4: 1; Col. 1: 10; 1 Thess 2: 12; 5: 23. 3Matt. 28: 19; Mark 16: 16; Acts 2: 38; 8: 12, 16, 36; 9: 18; Eph. 4: 5; 1 Cor. 1: 17; 1 Pet. 3: 21; Rom. 6: 3; Col. 2: 12; Matt. 26: 26–28; Mark 14: 22, 23; Luke 22: 19, 20; 1 Cor. 11: 23–26; 10: 3, 4. 4Eph. 4: 6–13; Acts 2: 33; 1 Cor. 12: 28; Rom. 12: 6; 1 Pet. 4: 10, 11; Matt. 25: 14; Luke 19: 13.
1John 3: 16, 27; 1 Cor. 2: 12; 4: 7; Eph. 2: 7–10; Titus 2: 11. 2John 15: 5; Phil. 2: 12, 13; 1 Thess. 5: 17; Rom. 12: 12; Luke 18: 1; 2 Pet. 1: 5–10, and many others. John 8: 12; 10: 4; 12: 26; 17: 10; 2 Cor. 5: 15; 1 Cor. 6: 19, 20; Rom. 14: 7, 8; 1 Cor. 10: 31; Col. 3: 17; 1 John 2: 6; 1 Pet. 2: 2. 3Matt. 4: 4, 7, 10; Luke 24: 25–27, 44–46; John 5: 39; 10: 35; Matt. 5: 17, 18; John 20: 9; Matt. 1: 23; and a multitude of passages. Matt. 26: 54; 2 Pet. 1: 20, 21; Gal. 3: 8; 2 Tim. 3: 14–17; 1 Thess. 2: 13; 1 Cor. 15: 2, 3; 2: 13; 14: 36, 37; Rom. 16: 26, where it is not “the Scriptures of the prophets,” that is, at any rate Scriptures, but New Testament, not Old; 2 Pet. 3: 16.
1Psa. 19: 7; Heb. 4: 12, 13; Luke 24: 45; 1 Cor. 2: 10; 1 John 2: 20, 27; John 6: 45; 1 Cor. 2: 12–14. 21 Tim. 6: 16. 3Luke 20: 36. 4Luke 12: 4, 5; Matt. 10: 28; Luke 16: 23; 20: 38. 5John 5: 28, 29; Acts 24: 15. 6Heb. 12: 15–17; 1 Tim. 3: 15; Titus 3: 10, 11; 1 Cor. 5: 7, 13.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
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