CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 18 July The Chief End of Man and the Purpose of the Church By Dan Cartwright The chief End of Man, The Purpose of the Church 0 Comment The first question asked by the Westminster Shorter Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?”. Some of us know the answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In the Catechism itself, there are nearly a dozen passages of scripture provided to support the answer. If you visit many of today’s evangelical churches, or even visit their websites, you might come away thinking that the chief goal of most believers is to find one’s special purpose, dream destiny, or most fulfilling life while occupying planet earth. If you doubt my assumption, just listen to some of the sermons from the most popular broadcasters on Christian television, or visit church websites. Listen to almost any sermon/sermon series and what hear is all about you. Even when scripture is used to support a lot of these sermons, they still end up being all about you instead of expositing/exegeting/explaining the actual text of scripture. And then there are church web site ‘vision statements’. I can’t tell you how many vision statements I’ve seem that set as a goal of the church to help you find your ‘purpose’, or discover your ‘destiny’ on earth. While you might find a ‘What We Believe’ section with sound statements of belief, sometimes you have to dig deep to find them. The church vision statement is often boldly stated on a home page while a belief statement is several layers deep. The church vision is clearly a higher priority than the core beliefs of the church. I suggest that what we believe is far more important than a ‘vision statement’. While the find your purpose/dream destiny goal sounds great and definitely attracts people, is it a biblical goal for the church? What does the Bible have to say about priorities in the life of the church and in the lives of individual believers? Interestingly enough, we have a particular passage that dates back to Pentecost, when 3,000 heard the gospel proclaimed, repented and believed in Jesus as the Messiah (were ‘saved’). Acts 2:42 describes the principle activities of these new believers; “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (KJV) “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (ESV) “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NASB) Note the three activities of these new believers ‘continued steadfastly in’ or ‘were devoted to’: The apostles doctrine/teaching Fellowship Prayer Is it a stretch to assume that all three of these activities glorify God? The purpose of the church, made up of individual believers, is described in Ephesians, Chapter 4: " 11And he (God)gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. We are told that God gifted the church with apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers (sometimes called the five-fold ministry) for specific reasons: “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all (saints/believers)) attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood ,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”(emphasis mine). Note for whom the gifts are given; “the saints”, believers in Christ. Note also that the gifts given to the church are “for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” There is nothing here, or anywhere else in scripture (trust me) about the church existing for non-believers. There is also nothing here, or elsewhere in scripture, that even remotely suggests that those with the aforementioned gifts are to help folks in the pews (or theater seats) have their best lives now, discover special purposes, or achieve dream destinies. Would it be a stretch to assume that the purpose of those so gifted might be to teach the ‘doctrine of the apostles’, the object of devotion for the new believers in Acts? I think not. How does that translate to today – the apostle’s doctrine? A no-brainer? It must refer to what is contained in scripture, that which was inspired (breathed out by God)! So, getting back to the chief end of man and the purpose of the church. When the subject matter being taught by evangelical leaders becomes all about you, who exactly is being ‘glorified’? I’ll leave it right there. Oh, there’s one other little thing. Something that Jesus said: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’.” (Matthew 16:25) I’ll leave that one there too. Any questions? _________________ P.S. If you don’t know much about church catechisms, here is a link that lists some, along with additional links to the actual texts. The first question asked by the Westminster Shorter Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?”. Some of us know the answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In the Catechism itself, there are nearly a dozen passages of scripture provided to support the answer. If you visit many of today’s evangelical churches, or even visit their websites, you might come away thinking that the chief goal of most believers is to find one’s special purpose, dream destiny, or most fulfilling life while occupying planet earth. If you doubt my assumption, just listen to some of the sermons from the most popular broadcasters on Christian television, or visit church websites. Listen to almost any sermon/sermon series and what hear is all about you. Even when scripture is used to support a lot of these sermons, they still end up being all about you instead of expositing/exegeting/explaining the actual text of scripture. And then there are church web site ‘vision statements’. I can’t tell you how many vision statements I’ve seem that set as a goal of the church to help you find your ‘purpose’, or discover your ‘destiny’ on earth. While you might find a ‘What We Believe’ section with sound statements of belief, sometimes you have to dig deep to find them. The church vision statement is often boldly stated on a home page while a belief statement is several layers deep. The church vision is clearly a higher priority than the core beliefs of the church. I suggest that what we believe is far more important than a ‘vision statement’. While the find your purpose/dream destiny goal sounds great and definitely attracts people, is it a biblical goal for the church? What does the Bible have to say about priorities in the life of the church and in the lives of individual believers? Interestingly enough, we have a particular passage that dates back to Pentecost, when 3,000 heard the gospel proclaimed, repented and believed in Jesus as the Messiah (were ‘saved’). Acts 2:42 describes the principle activities of these new believers; “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (KJV) “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (ESV) “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NASB) Note the three activities of these new believers ‘continued steadfastly in’ or ‘were devoted to’: The apostles doctrine/teaching Fellowship Prayer Is it a stretch to assume that all three of these activities glorify God? The purpose of the church, made up of individual believers, is described in Ephesians, Chapter 4: " 11And he (God)gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. We are told that God gifted the church with apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers (sometimes called the five-fold ministry) for specific reasons: “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all (saints/believers)) attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood ,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”(emphasis mine). Note for whom the gifts are given; “the saints”, believers in Christ. Note also that the gifts given to the church are “for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” There is nothing here, or anywhere else in scripture (trust me) about the church existing for non-believers. There is also nothing here, or elsewhere in scripture, that even remotely suggests that those with the aforementioned gifts are to help folks in the pews (or theater seats) have their best lives now, discover special purposes, or achieve dream destinies. Would it be a stretch to assume that the purpose of those so gifted might be to teach the ‘doctrine of the apostles’, the object of devotion for the new believers in Acts? I think not. How does that translate to today – the apostle’s doctrine? A no-brainer? It must refer to what is contained in scripture, that which was inspired (breathed out by God)! So, getting back to the chief end of man and the purpose of the church. When the subject matter being taught by evangelical leaders becomes all about you, who exactly is being ‘glorified’? I’ll leave it right there. Oh, there’s one other little thing. Something that Jesus said: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’.” (Matthew 16:25) I’ll leave that one there too. Any questions? _________________ P.S. If you don’t know much about church catechisms, here is a link that lists some, along with additional links to the actual texts. Related The Head and the Body The Head and the Body That we may grow up into Him in all things, Which is the head, even Christ; from Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15, 16. Great S. Mary’s Church, 22nd Sunday after Trinity, 1870. My text last Sunday appealed to the secret experience of the individual heart: my text to-day refers to the mutual relations and interdependencies of a vast and varied society. The theme then was necessarily concentrative; the theme now will be essentially diffusive. I introduced the text as taken from the Epistle to the Ephesians. At the very outset this statement needs amendment; for, if true, it is only partially true. We know now that the Epistle, which we are accustomed so to designate, was addressed to a much wider circle of readers. As S. Peter later writes to the strangers scattered throughout several districts in Asia Minor, as S. John later still addresses the Divine message to the principal Churches of the Roman province called Asia, so (there is good reason to think) the destination of S. Paul’s letter was not Ephesus only, the metropolis of the region, but all the Christian communities established in the several populous centres—perhaps throughout the province, perhaps extending over a still wider area. This result we may consider to be established by recent investigation and criticism. In the copies used by more than one of the ancient fathers, the words ‘in Ephesus’ were absent from the opening verse. They are wanting in the two oldest MSS which time has spared to us. Plainly these copies were derived from an archetype, in which a blank had been left for the name of the Church and had never been filled in. Another still more ancient writer called this the Epistle to the Laodiceans. Clearly he fell in with a copy addressed, not to Ephesus, but to Laodicea. And, if it be asked, how the common title prevailed, how the Church came to receive this as an Epistle to the Ephesians, the answer is simple. From Ephesus, the most populous city and the most important Church, the political and ecclesiastical metropolis of the region, the most numerous copies would be disseminated; and as some definite title was necessary, Ephesus, occupying this vantage ground, usurped the room and displaced the name of the other Churches in the heading of the Epistle. The Epistle was an encyclical, a catholic Epistle. This hypothesis, as it is demanded by external testimony, is necessary also to explain the internal character of the letter. Critics had observed that there was an entire absence of all personal and local allusions in it, and they had objected that in a communication written to a Church, with which the Apostle was on the closest and most affectionate terms, in which he had resided three whole years, labouring night and day, this silence was most strange and inexplicable. They were therefore disposed to question the Apostolic authorship. Certainly, if it had been addressed to the individual Church of Ephesus, I do not know how we could explain the absence of all marks of individuality, or what answer could be given to the objection founded thereupon. But criticism has solved the difficulties, which itself created. It has pulled down, only to build up on a broader and stronger basis. It has vindicated the Epistle to S. Paul, but it has denied the claims of Ephesus as the exclusive destination. Copies then of this circular letter were entrusted to the bearer, Tychicus, who (as you will remember) is charged in the letter itself to deliver orally the special messages, the special information, which S. Paul desired to communicate to each Church severally. Thus one copy would be left at Ephesus, another at Sardis, a third at Thyatira, a fourth at Laodicea, and so with the remaining Churches to which the several transcripts were addressed. Laodicea was the chief city of the district in which the smaller town of Colossæ was situated. The Epistle to the Colossians was despatched at the same time, and by the same messenger, as this circular letter. Hence the Colossians are charged to get and read the copy which was sent to the neighbouring Laodicea. If there was any obscurity in the terms of this brief message, Tychicus, the bearer of both letters, was at hand to clear it up. This is perhaps one of the most instructive results of Biblical criticism. But I should not have dwelt so long upon the subject merely for the sake of its critical interest. In all S. Paul’s Epistles the subject-matter is determined by the destination. This is especially the case with the letter before us. Its encyclical character explains its main theme—the Church as one, and yet manifold; one, as united in Christ; manifold, as comprising various members, various functions. The Churches, to which the letter was addressed, had their several capacities, their distinct interests, their special advantages and their special temptations. The respective messages addressed in the Apocalypse to the Seven Churches enable us to appreciate the different tempers and conditions of these several communities. Side by side were the Church of Smyrna which in spite of poverty was rich, and the Church of Laodicea which boasting of its wealth was miserably poor; side by side, the Church of Ephesus which had left its first love, and the Church of Thyatira whose last works were more than the first; side by side, the Church of Pergamos where prevailed the doctrine of Balaam, the excess of Gentile sensuality, and the Church of Philadelphia where was established the synagogue of Satan, the excess of Jewish formalism. Addressing these various communities, the Apostle cannot occupy himself with the refutation of individual errors, with the remedy of individual needs. Rather he seeks for some one grand comprehensive theme, which shall correspond to the comprehensive destination of the Epistle. This theme he finds in the idea of the Church as embracing all the Churches, the ideal community regarded as one harmonious whole, but comprising diverse branches, diverse offices, diverse members. Starting from the phenomenon of variety, he arrives at the idea of unity. He seeks the centre of union, the principle of cohesion, in Christ the Head. They all are one body, animated by one spirit; they all acknowledge one faith, into which they have been admitted by one baptism; they all are united in the one Lord, and through Him draw near to the one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in all. This then—the relation of the many to the One, of the Christians and the Churches to Christ and to one another through Christ—is the main theme of the Epistle. In one form or another it will be discerned running through paragraph after paragraph, inspiring alike the doctrinal statements and the practical injunctions; and it culminates in the words of the text. Under three images especially this relation is developed. 1. The Church is the Bride; Christ is the Bridegroom. Here a special aspect of this connexion is figured. The purity of love, the singleness of devotion, the perfection of obedience, the entire oneness of interests and aims—these are the features especially brought out. ‘They twain shall be one flesh.’ ‘This is a great mystery.’ ‘I speak concerning Christ and the Church.’ 2. The Church is a Temple; Christ the Chief Corner-Stone. This again, though a very expressive image, is yet partial. The compactness, the coherence, are prominent in it. The succession of layers, the stratification of the edifice, is also significant. And lastly, the object of the erection, the indwelling of the Spirit, finds its proper place. 3. But far more expressive and more full is the third and remaining image, the image of the text. Christ is the Head; the Church is the Body; each individual is a member, a limb, of the whole. This image supplies what was deficient in the last, the idea of mobility, vigorous life, diffused through the whole from one central, guiding, inspiring, vivifying power, the idea of an internal principle of growth, the idea of infinite variety of conditions, functions, needs, in the several parts, and combined with this the idea of the closest sympathy and interdependency, so that each is sensitive to the action of the other, and each necessary to the well-being of the whole. The language of the text is not free from exceptional difficulties. Of these, however, I need not speak. They do not affect the significance of the image, either as a whole or in its several parts; and therefore they may well be neglected. Setting aside these minor points as unimportant, we may paraphrase the passage thus. The Church of Christ is one colossal being, a single body animated by a single soul. It has not yet attained its maturity; its powers are still undeveloped; its growth still imperfect; it has hardly yet passed its infancy. But grow it will, and grow it must, for growth is the law of its being. And this growth can only be attained in one way. Connexion with the Head is the indispensable condition; obedience to the Head the inseparable accompaniment. As in the human body there is an almost infinite variety of parts—bones, muscles, veins, arteries, nerves; so likewise in the Church you have the same manifold combination of diverse elements—different individuals, different capacities, different communions, different nationalities. Each one of these supplies some distinct want, performs some distinct office, which is necessary to the well-being of the whole. We speak of a good constitution. If a man has a good constitution, we say, he will rally after this or that attack, he will survive this or that wound. What is implied by this? That the setting together of the different parts, which combine to form the body, is harmonious; that the machinery of the human frame, as a whole, works well, works without any jarring or any entanglement; that not only each part has its proper development, but that the relative adjustment of the parts is true; that they preserve their separate independence, and yet respect their mutual interdependence. In like manner the different branches, functions, capacities in the Church work separately, but work for and into each other. They are knit together in one compact whole. Nay, more than this. They cannot exist separately. It is this very connexion that preserves their vitality. It is by adaptation and contact with the neighbouring parts, and through these with the whole body, that each receives that degree and that kind of nutriment which is necessary to sustain it. But the centre of this cohesion, this correlation, this cooperation, is the Head. Here resides the power which controls, commands, animates, harmonizes the whole. Through orders transmitted from this central government, each part receives its directions, and in obedience thereto fulfils its work. Each acts singly; each performs its own task. The eye sees, and the feet walk, and the hands handle; and, so far as regards the particular action of each, there is no direct connexion between them. It is just because there is a centre of union, to which each severally refers, that the functions of all are directed to some one definite end, and that an adequate result is achieved. Thus composed, thus united, thus controlled, the body grows—grows towards its ideal limit, the full moral stature, the perfect standard, of which the Person and the Life of Christ are the measure; while, throughout, the pervading element in which it moves, which it breathes, from which it derives sustentation and strength, is love. This image of the Head and the Body must have had a speaking significance to the Apostle’s contemporaries. To ourselves it presents itself with even greater vividness and force, in the light of later discoveries. The two main points in this relation are summed up in the two prepositions used to describe it in the text—‘into Him’ and ‘from Him.’ There is a concentrative energy tending towards the Head; and there is a diffusive energy spreading from the Head. The head, the brain, is the initiative centre of our actions; and it is also the receptive centre of our sensations. From it all the various motions of the body are originated; and to it the manifold impressions of the senses are communicated. By two sets of nerves, as by two sets of telegraphic wires, this twofold communication with the head, as the central office, the seat of government in the human frame, is maintained. By the one set, the brain, the thinking, planning, originating power, transmits its orders to the furthest member; the order is received; the muscle contracts; the joint is moved; and the hand holds, or the foot walks. By the other set, the reverse process is carried on; the grasp which presses the hand, the rays which strike the eye, the pulsations which beat on the ear, all these are transmitted to the centre, and the corresponding sensation is thereby and there produced. Such also is the relation of Christ to the Church. His control guiding the various members, and His sympathy feeling with the various members—these are the functions which this image brings clearly out. 1. There is the controlling power. The direction, the influence, the illuminating, guiding energy of the Eternal Word of God, is infinitely varied and extends throughout mankind. Of this however I do not intend to speak, though in these Epistles of S. Paul it assumes a prominent place. But it is rather the more definite, concentrated form of this control, which the same Word exerts, as the Incarnate Christ, not as the Head only of Universal Nature, but as the Head of the Church specially, that we are led by the text to consider. His teaching, His example, His Incarnation and Passion are the manifestation of the Father’s love, His Resurrection is the manifestation of the Father’s power—these are the outward agency; the Spirit, Which the Father sendeth in His name—this is the invisible medium, through which He controls and enlightens and directs His Church. Thus He communicates the Almighty Will to us. Not veiling but revealing the Father, not interposing between man and God, but reflecting God to man, He acts upon the Church. And it is just according as we, the individual members of His Body, preserve our communication with Him; according as (in the language of the parallel passage in the Epistle to the Colossians) we ‘hold fast the Head,’ that is, according as our life is conformed to His life, our spirit interpenetrated with His Spirit, our being incorporated in His Being, that His orders are duly received, prompt, healthy, vigorous action ensues, and the will of the Father is done. The joint may be dislocated by worldly indulgence and distraction; or the limb may be paralysed by spiritual carelessness. If so, there will be no response, or no adequate response, to the message transmitted. But if the communication is intact, then, by a necessary spiritual law, action must follow, obedience must be complete. 2. But, secondly, the sympathetic office of Christ is suggested by the image. As the natural body, so also the spiritual body has its system of nerves, which communicate the sensations of its lowest, most distant, members to the Head. This entire sympathy of Christ is no after-thought of the Apostle’s, no idle fancy of an overwrought imagination, or outgrowth of unrestrained metaphor. The ‘crucifying of the Son of God afresh’ has its parallel in Christ’s own declarations. No language of S. Paul or of the Epistle to the Hebrews can express this truth more strongly than His own words—recorded (be it observed) not in this instance by S. John, but by the other Evangelists—‘Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me.’ ‘Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto Me.’ With the humblest member of His body He suffers: with the humblest member also He rejoices. The image of the human body, as representing a society with its many members and various functions, was not new. The newness consisted in the significance of the Head. This was necessarily so; for the revelation of the Person, Who was the Head, was new. In the familiar apologue, addressed to the Roman crowd, the ‘kingly-crowned head,’ though it may be mentioned, means nothing, adds nothing, to the moral of the story. And if the popular application was defective, the philosophic was equally so. For the Stoic too spoke of society, of the world, of the universe, as one vast body of which individual parts and individual men were members. He went so far as to imagine it animated by one soul. But the image was vague, inarticulate, fruitless. It made no appeal to the experience, none to the heart, none to the consciences of men. He said nothing, could say nothing, of the Head. The body was to him a huge, headless, shapeless trunk, living a sort of unconscious, vegetable life, hanging together by a loose, uncertain, inappreciable bond. This defect, which attended the popular and the philosophical application alike, was first supplied by the teaching of the Apostles, as it first became possible by the revelation of the Gospel. The Son of Man, the Pattern and Ideal of humanity, the Chief of His race, the Son of God, the Image of the Father, the Incarnation of the Divine Word—He Who centred in Himself both natures, He and He only could claim this place. From Him all the members must draw their inspiration, their strength; to Him all the members must direct their actions, must render their account. To hold fast to Him, to grow into Him, this has been the secret of the highest life. Above all the jarring conflicts of creeds, amid all the distracting forms of Church polity, this presence, this consciousness, this intimate relation, has been the one constant, guiding, inspiring, strengthening, renovating energy. And, in and by His name, lives of unsullied saintliness have been lived, and works of transcendent heroism wrought, by men in different ages, of different Churches, in different lands; because through Him they all alike have grown into a more perfect knowledge of the truth and the perfections of the Eternal Father. But the image in the text speaks especially of the diversity resulting in unity. It tells of a harmony which comes from the due performance by each several member of its special function, the energetic working of every part in its proper measure or relation—for so it would seem we should translate the words κατʼ ἐνέργειαν ἐν μέτρῳ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου μέρους. There is an ideal of the Church, which confuses unity with uniformity, which would force every section and every individual into the same mould, which would exact of every age the same work, and is disappointed in not finding what it exacts. This is not the Apostle’s conception. Uniformity would be fatal to the higher harmony which he requires. The unvaried repetition of the same function would be comparatively barren. The richness and the fulness of the result depend on the countless variety of the energies thus working together. ‘All the members have not the same office.’ ‘If they were all one member, where were the body?’ The examples, which the Apostle selects, are necessarily limited to the experience of the infant Church; but the principle is of the widest application. To us, who can look back on a history of eighteen centuries, the image will speak with much fuller significance than to S. Paul’s immediate hearers. We may observe, how each great subdivision of the human race in turn has contributed its special work to the building of the Church; how the intellectual subtlety of the Greek was instrumental in drawing up her creeds and elucidating her doctrines; how the instinct of organization and the respect for order in the Latin moulded and strengthened her political and social life; how the self-devoting enthusiasm of the Celt gave the immediate impulse to her greatest missionary labours; how the truthfulness and stedfastness of the Teuton reformed her corruptions and brought her into harmony with the intellectual and the social acquisitions of a more enlightened age. We might turn from Churches to individuals; and we might point out, how an Origen, an Athanasius, a Benedict of Nursia, a Francis of Assisi, a Luther, each in his generation by his special gift, his special energy, introduced a distinct element, did a distinct work in the Church. Nay, we might even appeal to sects, and shew that however one-sided, however erroneous, each nevertheless has contributed something, has brought into prominence some neglected or half-forgotten aspect of truth. In this and diverse ways we might illustrate the Apostle’s image of ‘the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth.’ But the task would be long. And the time which remains will be better employed in directing the lesson of the image to ourselves. We here are all members of one body, of a whole compacted of various parts, are members of an University. An University may be regarded as a Church within a Church, a Church viewed especially from its intellectual side. The name, and the thing alike, imply the same idea as the image of the text—multiplicity and unity—not manifoldness only, but manifoldness resulting in harmony and in oneness. (1) This is an University of sciences. Such is the original idea of the term. It aims, or it should aim, at teaching every branch of knowledge. Each of us selects, or should select, his own study or studies, as the object of all the energies and powers of his mind. If I venture to urge the lesson of the text in connexion herewith, it is because I feel that these our studies will be pursued most truthfully and most profitably in the spirit there recommended, and that the consecration of the intellect to God thus attained is the highest achievement of man. And by pursuing our studies in the spirit of this image I mean two things; first, that each individually should follow his own pursuit with all his might; and secondly, that there should be no jealousy, no impatience, no contempt, of the studies of others. I do not think either caution unneeded at the present time. As the sphere of human knowledge enlarges, it becomes more and more necessary, that each should make choice of his pursuit and concentrate himself on this. He should make his choice, and he should believe in his work. No branch of study is contemptible, none is fruitless. Each has its place, each conduces to the well-being of the whole. ‘Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.’ Not to make a brilliant display, not to satisfy an appetite for diffusive reading, not to dissipate our intellectual energies, but to achieve something, to add something—however little—to the store of human knowledge—this should be the aim of all. But this caution is not complete without the other. It is not only necessary that we should believe in our own work, but also that we should leave room for the work of others. This conflict between the old studies and the new, between theologians and men of science, between the investigation of the faculties of mind and the investigation of the phenomena of nature, should have no place with us. There is need of all; there is room for all; there must be no jealousy or depreciation of any, for none can be spared. Reason tells us, as S. Paul tells us, that ‘if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.’ Reason shews us, as S. Paul shews us, a more excellent way, a comprehensive charity in the intellectual as in the social community, which ‘beareth all things, believeth all things.’ Thus bearing and thus believing, content ‘to labour and to wait,’ we shall look forward in faith to the time when the unity to which science, not less than religion, points, shall be attained, when the manifold cords of human knowledge shall be knotted in one, and attached to the throne of Heaven. (2) But this is not only an University of studies; it is also an University of men. We bring to this place our different trainings, different experiences, different capacities. We each contribute something, and we receive much in turn. Here, if anywhere, the lesson of the text is exhibited in daily life, written in large characters that he may run that reads. This our body is large enough to afford the requisite variety, and small enough to be sensitive throughout to the healthy or unhealthy working of each individual part. A good example is more immediately felt here than elsewhere; a bad example spreads with fatal rapidity. Here, if anywhere, the moral interdependence of the members is close and sympathetic. Here no man can evade responsibility, no man can live to himself. If he is not a centre of light and health, he must become a centre of darkness and disease. He may count many a habit innocent, because he does not trace any immediate evil consequences to his own character. Could he hold it so, if he saw its effect on others? A lavish personal expenditure, for instance, seems to him very allowable, if it does not exceed his means; but extravagance in one calls forth extravagance in others, and the disease thus feeds itself, and his expensive tastes beget a fashion of expenditure which may prove the ruin of many a poorer man, both body and soul. Or he is reckless in his language, talks lightly of moral obligations, talks scoffingly of religious truths or religious men. To himself this does not mean much; it is a random shaft shot idly into the air; but it has lodged in another’s breast, has poisoned his thoughts, has mortally wounded his moral nature. ‘I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.’ It is enough, more than enough, to answer for our own ill deeds. It will be an intolerable, crushing load, if we have to bear also the burden of another’s sins. The curse of one thus misled, thus degraded, thus lost by our carelessness, might well ‘drag to hell a spirit from on high.’ Remember this now. Resolve thus much at least, that through your influence, your example, no member of the body shall suffer. And to render this your resolution effectual, you will not forget that one safe way, and one only, is open; that, if you would do your duty to the members, you—each one of you individually,—must preserve healthy, vigorous, intimate connexion with the Divine Head. So only will you do your several parts. So only will harmonious action ensue. So only will the whole body grow ever more and more to the edifying of itself in love. Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) Romans 1:13 - Purposed and Prevented Romans 1:13 "I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles." (NASB) "Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles." (KJV) "I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles." (NLT) Act 19:21 "Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, 'After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'" (NASB) Rom 15:22-24 "For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain--for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while--" (NASB) 2Th 2:7 "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way." (KJV) 2Th 2:7 "For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way." (NASB) "One of those undesigned coincidences which strongly show that both books are genuine; compare Romans 15:23-24 with Acts 19:21. A forger of these books would not have thought of such a contrivance as to feign such a purpose to go to Rome at that time, and to have mentioned it in that manner. Such coincidences are among the best proofs that can be demanded, that the writers did not intend to impose on the world." Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) Paul both purposed and was prevented. A desire of the heart restrained for many years. I find myself in this world where everything is instant, appreciative of desires that are restrained. Many desires, many good and noble opportunities pass by each day. But are they the desires of the Savior for my life? Sometimes the circumstances of life dictate our actions for a season. I had many things planned to accomplish yesterday but was prevented by the trash truck tore down the phone and data lines and took CMF of the air. Purposed and prevented. I have more to do in any given day than I can ever hope to accomplish. Yet sometimes circumstances bring a restraint that gives birth to an unseen opportunity. I received a letter from someone serving in the war that was suffering mightily from the things that no eyes should ever have to see. My heart was broken for this person's suffering and I was able to pray for them in a way that does not always avail itself. Thanks dear Heavenly Father that our days are held safe in your arms. My sight is short but you see the great beyond. My understanding dim but your wisdom created the universe. My heart selfish but your Son died on the cross for my salvation. Farm Labourers Farm Labourers "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry."—1 Corinthians 3:6–9. I SHALL begin at the end of my text, because I find it to be the easiest way of mapping out my discourse. We shall first remark that the church is God’s farm: "Ye are God’s husbandry." In the margin of the revised version we read, "Ye are God’s tilled ground," and that is the very expression for me. "Ye are God’s tilled ground," or farm. After we have spoken of the farm we will next say a little upon the fact that the Lord employs labourers on his estate: and when we have looked at the labourers—such poor fellows as they are—we will remember that God himself is the great worker: "We are labourers together with God." I. We begin by considering that the church is God’s farm. The Lord has made the church his own by his sovereign choice. He has also secured it unto himself by purchase, having paid for it a price immense. "The Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." Every acre of God’s farm cost the Saviour a bloody sweat, yea, the blood of his heart. He loved us, and gave himself for us: that is the price he paid. Henceforth the church is God’s freehold, and he holds the title deeds of it. It is our joy to feel that we are not our own, we are bought with a price. The church is God’s farm by choice and purchase. And now he has made it his by enclosure. It lay exposed aforetime as part of an open common, bare and barren, covered with thorns and thistles, and the haunt of every wild beast; for we were "by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Divine foreknowledge surveyed the waste, and electing love marked out its portion with a full line of grace, and thus set us apart to be the Lord’s own estate for ever. In due time effectual grace came forth with power, and separated us from the rest of mankind, as fields are hedged and ditched to part them from the open heath. Hath not the Lord declared that he hath chosen his vineyard and fenced it? "We are a garden wall’d around, Chosen and made peculiar ground; A little spot, enclosed by grace Out of the world’s wide wilderness." The Lord has also made this farm evidently his own by cultivation. What more could he have done for his farm? He has totally changed the nature of the soil: from being barren he hath made it a fruitful land. He hath ploughed it, and digged it, and fattened it, and watered it, and planted it with all manner of flowers and fruits. It hath already brought forth to him many a pleasant cluster, and there are brighter times to come, when angels shall shout the harvest home, and Christ "shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." This farm is preserved by the Lord’s continual protection. Not only did he enclose it, and cultivate it by his miraculous power, to make it his own farm, but he continually maintains possession of it. "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." If it were not for God’s continual power her hedges would soon be thrown down, and wild beasts would devour her fields. Wicked hands are always trying to break down her walls and lay her waste again, so that there should be no true church in the world; but the Lord is jealous for his land, and will not allow it to be destroyed. A church would not long remain a church if God did not preserve it unto himself. What if God should say, "I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down"? What a wilderness it would become. What saith he? "Go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel." Go ye to Jerusalem, where of old was the city of his glory and the shrine of his indwelling, and what is left there to-day? Go ye to Rome, where once Paul preached the gospel with power: what is it now but the centre of idolatry? The Lord may remove the candlestick, and leave a place that was bright as day to become black as darkness itself. Hence God’s farm remains a farm because he is ever in it to prevent its returning to its former wildness. Omnipotent power is as needful to keep the fields of the church under cultivation as to reclaim them at the first. Inasmuch as the church is God’s own farm, he expects to receive a harvest from it. The world is waste, and he looks for nothing from it; but we are tilled land, and therefore a harvest is due from us. Barrenness suits the moorland, but to a farm it would be a great discredit. Love looks for returns of love; grace given demands gracious fruit. Watered with the drops of the Saviour’s bloody sweat, shall we not bring forth a hundredfold to his praise? Kept by the eternal Spirit of God, shall there not be produced in us fruits to his glory? The Lord’s husbandry upon us has shown a great expenditure of cost, and labour, and thought; ought there not to be a proportionate return? Ought not the Lord to have a harvest of obedience, a harvest of holiness, a harvest of usefulness, a harvest of praise? Shall it not be so? I think some churches forget that an increase is expected from every field of the Lord’s farm, for they never have a harvest or even look for one. Farmers do not plough their lands or sow their fields for amusement; they mean business, and plough and sow because they desire a harvest. If this fact could but enter into the heads of some professors, surely they would look at things in a different light; but of late it has seemed as if we thought that God’s church was not expected to produce anything, but existed for her own comfort and personal benefit. Brethren, it must not be so; the great Husbandman must have some reward for his husbandry. Every field must yield its increase, and the whole estate must bring forth to his praise. We join with the bride in the Song in saying, "My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred." But I come back to the place from which I started. This farm is, by choice, by purchase, by enclosure, by cultivation, by preservation, entirely the Lord’s. See, then, the injustice of allowing any of the labourers to call even a part of the estate his own. When a great man has a large farm of his own, what would he think if Hodge the ploughman should say, "Look here, I plough this farm, and therefore it is mine: I shall call this field Hodge’s Acres"? "No," says Hobbs, "I reaped that land last harvest, and therefore it is mine, and I shall call it Hobbs’s Field." What if all the other labourers became Hodgeites and Hobbsites, and so parcelled out the farm among them? I think the landlord would soon eject the lot of them. The farm belongs to its owner, and let it be called by his name; but it is absurd to call it by the names of the men who labour upon it. Shall insignificant nobodies rob God of his glory? Remember how Paul put it: "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos?" "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" The entire church belongs to him who has chosen it in his sovereignty, bought it with his blood, fenced it by his grace, cultivated it by his wisdom, and preserved it by his power. There is but one church on the face of the earth, and those who love the Lord should keep this truth in mind. Paul is a labourer, Apollos is a labourer, Cephas is a labourer; but the farm is not Paul’s, not so much as a rood of it, nor does a single parcel of land belong to Apollos, or the smallest allotment to Cephas; for "Ye are Christ’s." The fact is that in this case the labourers belong to the land, and not the land to the labourers: "For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake." II. We have now to notice, as our second head, that the great husbandman employs labourers. By human agency God ordinarily works out his designs. He can, if he pleases, by his Holy Spirit get directly at the hearts of men, but that is his business, and not ours; we have to do with such words as these: "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." The Master’s commission is not, "Sit still and see the Spirit of God convert the nations;" but, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Observe God’s method in supplying the race with food. In answer to the prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," he might have bidden the clouds drop manna, morning by morning, at each man’s door; but he sees that it is for our good to work, and so he uses the hands of the ploughman and the sower for our supply. God might cultivate his chosen farm, the church, by miracle, or by angels; but in great condescension he blesses her through her own sons and daughters. He employs us for our own good; for we who are labourers in his fields receive much more good for ourselves than we bestow. Labour develops our spiritual muscle and keeps us in health. "Unto me," says Paul, "who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." Our great Master means that every labourer on his farm should receive some benefit from it, for he never muzzles the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. The labourer’s daily bread comes out of the soil. Though he works not for himself, but for his Master, yet still he has his portion of food. In the Lord’s granary there is seed for the sower, but there is also bread for the eater. However disinterestedly we may serve God in the husbandry of his church we are ourselves partakers of the fruit. It is a great condescension on God’s part that he uses us at all, for we are poor tools at the best, and more hindrance than help. The labourers employed by God are all occupied upon needful work. Notice: "I have planted, Apollos watered." Who beat the big drum, or blew his own trumpet? Nobody. On God’s farm none are kept for ornamental purposes. I have read some sermons which could only have been meant for show, for there was not a grain of gospel in them. They were ploughs with the share left out, drills with no wheat in the box, clod-crushers made of butter. I do not believe that our God will ever pay wages to men who only walk about his grounds to show themselves. Orators who display their eloquence in the pulpit are more like gipsies who stray on the farm to pick up chickens, than honest labourers who work to bring forth a crop for their master. Many of the members of our churches live as if their only business on the farm was to pluck blackberries or gather wild flowers. They are great at finding fault with other people’s ploughing and mowing; but not a hand’s turn will they do themselves. Come on, my good fellows. Why stand ye all the day idle? The harvest is plenteous, and the labourers are few. You who think yourselves more cultivated than ordinary people, if you are indeed Christians, must not strut about and despise those who are hard at work. If you do, I shall say, "That person has mistaken his master; he may probably be in the employ of some gentleman farmer, who cares more for show than profit; but our great Lord is practical, and on his estate his labourers attend to needful labour." When you and I preach or teach it will be well if we say to ourselves, "What will be the use of what I am going to do? I am about to teach a difficult subject: will it do any good? I have chosen an abstruse point of theology: will it serve any purpose?" Brethren, a labourer may work very hard at a whim of his own, and yet it may be all waste labour. Some discourses do little more than show the difference between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee, and what is the use of that? Suppose we sow the fields with sawdust, or sprinkle them with rosewater, what of that? Will God bless our moral essays, and fine compositions, and pretty passages? Brethren, we must aim at usefulness: we must as labourers together with God be occupied with something that is worth doing. "I," says one, "have planted": it is well, for planting must be done. "I," answers another, "have watered:" that also is good and necessary. See to it that ye can each bring in a solid report; but let no man be content with the mere child’s-play of oratory, or the getting up of entertainments and such like. On the Lord’s farm there is a division of labour. Even Paul did not say, "I have planted and watered." No, Paul planted. And certainly Apollos could not say, "I have planted as well as watered." No, it was enough for him to attend to the watering. No man has all gifts. How foolish, then, are they who say, "I enjoy So-and-so’s ministry because he edifies the saints in doctrine; but when he was away the other Sunday I could not profit by the preacher because he was all for the conversion of sinners." Yes, he was planting; you have been planted a good while, and do not need planting again; but you ought to be thankful that others are made partakers of the benefit. One soweth and another reapeth, and therefore instead of grumbling at the honest ploughman because he did not bring a sickle with him, you ought to have prayed for him that he might have strength to plough deep and break up hard hearts. Observe that, on God’s farm, there is unity of purpose among the labourers. Read the text. "Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one." One Master has employed them, and though he may send them out at different times, and to different parts of the farm, yet they are all one in being used for one end, to work for one harvest. In England we do not understand what is meant by watering, because the farmer could not water all his farm; but in the East a farmer waters almost every inch of his ground. He would have no crop if he did not use all means for irrigating the fields. If you have ever been in Italy, Egypt, or Palestine, you will have seen a complete system of wells, pumps, wheels, buckets, channels, little streamlets, pipes, and so on, by which the water is carried all over the garden to every plant, otherwise in the extreme heat of the sun it would be dried up. Planting needs wisdom, watering needs quite as much, and the piecing of these two works together needs that the labourers should be of one mind. It is a bad thing when labourers are at cross purposes, and work against each other, and this evil is worse in the church than anywhere else. How can I plant with success if my helper will not water what I have planted; or what is the use of my watering if nothing is planted? Husbandry is spoiled when foolish people undertake it, and quarrel over it; for from sowing to reaping the work is one, and all must be done to one end. Let us pull together all our days, for strife brings barrenness. We are called upon to notice in our text that all the labourers put together are nothing at all. "Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth." The workmen are nothing at all without their master. All the labourers on a farm could not manage it if they had no one at their head, and all the preachers and Christian workers in the world can do nothing unless God be with them. Remember that every labourer on God’s farm has derived all his qualifications from God. No man knows how to plant or water souls except the Lord teaches him from day to day. All these holy gifts are grants of free grace. All the labourers work under God’s direction and arrangement, or, they work in vain. They would not know when or how to do their work if their Master did not guide them by his Spirit, without whose help they cannot even think a good thought. All God’s labourers must go to him for their seed, or else they will scatter tares. All good seed comes out of God’s granary. If we preach, it must be the true word of God, or nothing can come of it. More than that, all the strength that is in the labourer’s arm to sow the heavenly seed must be given by the Master. We cannot preach except God be with us. A sermon is vain talk and dreary word-spinning unless the Holy Spirit enlivens it. He must give us both the preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue, or we shall be as men who sow the wind. When the good seed is sown the whole success of it rests with God. If he withhold the dew and the rain the seed will never rise from the ground; and unless he shall shine upon it the green ear will never ripen. The human heart will remain barren, even though Paul himself should preach, unless God the Holy Ghost shall work with Paul and bless the word to those that hear it. Therefore, since the increase is of God alone, put the labourers into their place. Do not make too much of us; for when we have done all we are unprofitable servants. Yet, though inspiration calls the labourers nothing, it says that they shall be rewarded. God works our good works in us, and then rewards us for them. Here we have mention of a personal service, and a personal reward: "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour." The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labour. Many discouraged workers may be comforted by that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavours. You may have a stiff bit of clay to plough, or a dreary plot of land to sow, where stones, and birds, and thorns, and travellers, and a burning sun may all be leagued against the seed; but you are not accountable for these things; your reward shall be according to your work. Some put a great deal of labour into a little field, and make much out of it. Others use a great deal of labour throughout a long life, and yet they see but small result, for it is written, "One soweth, and another reapeth"; but the reaping man will not get all the reward, the sowing man shall receive his portion of the joy. The labourers are nobodies, but they shall enter into the joy of their Lord. Unitedly, according to the text, the workers have been successful, and that is a great part of their reward. "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." Frequently brethren say in their prayers, "A Paul may plant, an Apollos may water, but it is all in vain unless God gives the increase." This is quite true; but another truth is too much overlooked, namely, that, when Paul plants and Apollos waters, God does give the increase. We do not labour in vain. There would be no increase without God; but then we are not without God: when such men as Paul and Apollos plant and water, there is sure to be an increase; they are the right kind of labourers, they work in a right spirit, and God is certain to bless them. This is a great part of the labourers’ wages. III. So much upon the labourers. Now for the main point again. God himself is the great Worker. He may use what labourers he pleases, but the increase comes alone from him. Brethren, you know it is so in natural things: the most skilful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate, and grow, and ripen. He cannot even preserve a single field till harvest time, for the farmer’s enemies are many and mighty. In husbandry there’s many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip; and when the farmer thinks, good easy man, that he shall reap his crop, there are blights and mildews lingering about to rob him of his gains. God must give the increase. If any man is dependent on God it is the husbandman, and through him we are all of us dependent upon God from year to year for the food by which we live. Even the king must live by the produce of the field. God gives the increase in the barn and the hayrick; and in the spiritual farm it is even more so, for what can man do in this business? If any of you think that it is an easy thing to win a soul I should like you to attempt it. Suppose that without divine aid you should try to save a soul—you might as well attempt to make a world. Why, you cannot create a fly, how can you create a new heart and a right spirit? Regeneration is a great mystery, it is out of your reach. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." What can you and I do in this matter? it is far beyond our line. We can tell out the truth of God; but to apply that truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. I have preached Jesus Christ with my whole heart, and yet I know that I have never produced a saving effect upon a single unregenerate man unless the Spirit of God has opened the heart and placed the living seed of truth within it. Experience teaches us this. Equally is it the Lord’s work to keep the seed alive when it springs up. We think we have converts, and we are not long before we are disappointed in them. Many are like blossoms on our apple trees; they are fair to look upon, but they do not come to anything; and others are like the many little apples which fall off long before they have come to any size. He who presides over a great church, and feels an agony for the souls of men, will soon be convinced that if God does not work there will be no work done: we shall see no conversion, no sanctification, no final perseverance, no glory brought to God, no satisfaction for the passion of the Saviour, unless the Lord be with us. Well said our Lord, "Without me ye can do nothing." Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important truth: the first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively to the great Master Worker, and the labourers are worth nothing without him, let this promote unity among all whom he employs. If we are all under one Master, do not let us quarrel. It is a miserable business when we cannot bear to see good being done by those of a different denomination who work in ways of their own. If a new labourer comes on the farm, and he uses a hoe of a new shape, shall I become his enemy? If he does his work better than I do mine, shall I be jealous? Do you not remember reading in the Scriptures that, upon one occasion, the disciples could not cast out a devil? This ought to have made them humble; but to our surprise we read a few verses further on that they saw one casting out devils in Christ’s name, and they forbade him because he followed not with their company. They could not cast out the devil themselves, and they forbade those who could. A certain band of people are going about winning souls, but because they are not doing it in our fashion, we do not like it. It is true they have odd ways; but they do really save souls, and that is the main point. Instead of cavilling, let us encourage all on Christ’s side. Wisdom is justified of her children, though some of them are far from handsome. The labourers ought to be satisfied with the new ploughman if their Master smiles upon him. Brother, if the great Lord has employed you, it is no business of mine to question his choice. Can I lend you a hand? Can I show you how to work better? Or can you show me how I can improve? This is the proper behaviour of one workman to another. This truth, however, ought to keep all the labourers very dependent. Are you going to preach, young man? "Yes, I am going to do a great deal of good." Are you? Have you forgotten that you are nothing? "Neither is he that planteth anything." A divine is coming brimful of the gospel to comfort the saints. If he is not coming in strict dependence upon God, he, too, is nothing. "Neither is he that watereth anything." Power belongeth unto God. Man is vanity and his words are wind; to God alone belongeth power and wisdom. If we keep our places in all lowliness our Lord will use us; but if we exalt ourselves he will leave us to our nothingness. Next notice that this fact ennobles everybody who labours in God’s husbandry. My soul is lifted up with joy when I mark these words, "For we are labourers together with God:" mere labourers on his farm, and yet labourers with him. Does the Lord work with us? We know he does by the signs following. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," is language for all the sons of God as well as for the great Firstborn. God is with you, my brethren, when you are serving him with all your heart. Speaking to your class concerning Jesus, it is God that speaks by you; picking up that stranger on the way, and telling him of salvation by faith, Christ is speaking through you even as he spoke with the woman at the well; addressing the rough crowd in the open air, young man, if you are preaching pardon through the atoning blood, it is the God of Peter who is testifying of his Son, even as he did on the day of Pentecost. But, lastly, how this should drive us to our knees. Since we are nothing without God, let us cry mightily unto him for help in this our holy service. Let both sower and reaper pray together, or they will never rejoice together. If the blessing be withheld, it is because we do not cry for it and expect it. Brother labourers, come to the mercy-seat, and we shall yet see the reapers return from the fields bringing their sheaves with them, though, perhaps, they went forth weeping to the sowing. To our Father, who is the husbandman, be all glory, for ever and ever. Amen. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) CHRIST the Believer’s Husband Christ the Believer’s Husband Isaiah 54:5 For thy Maker is thy Husband. ALTHOUGH believers by nature, are far from God, and children of wrath, even as others, yet it is amazing to think how nigh they are brought to him again by the blood of Jesus Christ. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of any man living, fully to conceive, the nearness and dearness of that relation, in which they stand to their common head. He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Behold, says the blessed Jesus in the days of his flesh, "my mother and my brethren." And again after his resurrection, "go tell my brethren." Nay sometimes he is pleased to term believers his friends. "Henceforth call I you no longer servants, but friends." "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." And what is a friend? Why there is a friend that is nearer than a brother, nay, as near as one’s own soul. And "thy friend, (says God in the book of Deuteronomy) which is as thy own soul." Kind and endearing appellations these, that undoubtedly bespeak a very near and ineffably intimate union between the Lord Jesus and the true living members of his mystical body! But, methinks, the words of our text point out to us a relation, which not only comprehends, but in respect to nearness and dearness, exceeds all other relations whatsoever. I mean that of a Husband. "For thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall he be called." These words were originally spoken to the people of the Jews, considered collectively as a peculiar people, whom our Lord had betrothed and married to himself; and they seem to be spoken, when religion was on the decline among their churches; when they had, in a great measure, lost that life and power, which they once experienced; and their enemies began to insult them with a "where is now your God?" Such a state of things must undoubtedly be very afflicting to the true mourners in Zion; and put them upon crying unto the Lord, in this their deep distress. He hears their prayer, his bowels yearn towards them; and in the preceding verse, he assures them, that though the enemy had broken in upon them like a flood, yet their extremity should be his opportunity to lift up a standard against him. "Fear not, (says the great Head and King of his church) for thou shalt not be ashamed (finally or totally); neither be thou confounded, (dissipated or dejected, giving up all for gone, as though thou never shouldst see better days, or another revival of religion) for thou shalt not (entirely) be put to shame;" though for a while, for thy humiliation, and the greater confusion of thy adversaries, I suffer them to triumph over thee: "For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widow-hood any more;" i. e. I will vouchsase you such another glorious gale of my blessed Spirit, that you shall quite forget your former troubled widow-state, and give your enemies no more occasion to insult you, on account of your infant-condition, but rather to envy you, and gnash their teeth, and melt away at the sight of your unthought-of glory and prosperity. And why will the infinitely great and condescending Jesus deal thus with his people? Because the church is his spouse; "For, (as in the words just now read to you) thy Maker is thy husband; thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel;" and therefore he loves thee too well, to let thy enemies always trample thee under foot, "The Lord of Hosts is his name, the God of the whole earth shall he be called;" and therefore he is armed with sufficient power to relieve his oppressed people, and overcome and avenge himself of all their haughty and insulting foes. This seems to be the prime and genuine interpretation of the text and context, especially if we add, that they may have a further view to the latter-day glory, and that blessed state of the church, which the people of God have been looking for in all ages, and the speedy approach of which, we undoubtedly pray for, when we put up that petition of our Lord’s, "thy kingdom come." But, though the words were originally spoken to the Jews, yet they are undoubtedly applicable to all believers in all ages, and, when inlarged on in a proper manner, will afford us suitable matter of discourse both for sinners and for saints; for such as know God, as well as for such who know him not; and likewise for those, who once walked in the light of his blessed countenance, but are now backslidden from him, have their harps hung upon the willows, and are afraid that their beloved is gone, and will return to their souls no more. Accordingly, without prefacing this discourse any farther, as I suppose that a mixed multitude of saints, unconverted sinners, and backsliders, are present here this day, I shall endeavour so to speak from the words of the text, that each may have a proper portion, and none be sent empty away. In prosecuting this design, I will, I. Endeavour to shew, what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, "that our Maker is our husband." II. The duties of love which they owe to our Lord, who stand in so near a relation to him. III. The miserable condition of such as cannot yet say, "their Maker is their husband." And IV. I shall conclude with a general exhortation to all such unhappy souls, to come and match with the dear Lord Jesus. And O! may that God who blessed Abraham’s servant, when he went out to seek a wife for his son Isaac, bless me, even me also, now I am come, I trust, relying on divine strength, to invite poor sinners, and recal backsliders, to my Master Jesus! And First, I am to shew, what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls before we can say, "Our Maker is our husband." But before I proceed to this, it may not be improper to observe, that if any of you, amongst whom I am now preaching the kingdom of God, are enemies to inward religion, and explode the doctrine of inward feelings, as enthusiasm, cant and nonsense, I shall not be surprized, if your hearts rise against me whilst I am preaching; for I am about to discourse on true, vital, internal piety; and an inspired apostle hath told us, "that the natural man discerneth not the things of the spirit, because they are spiritually discerned." But, however, be noble as the Bereans were; search the Scriptures as they did; lay aside prejudice; hear like Nathaniel, with a true Israelitish ear; be willing to do the will of God; and then you shall, according to the promise of our dearest Lord, "know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." I would further observe, that if any here do expect fine preaching from me this day, they will, in all probability, go away disappointed. For I came not here to shoot over people’s heads; but, if the Lord shall be pleased to bless me, to reach their hearts. Accordingly, I shall endeavour to cloath my ideas in such plain language, that the meanest negro or servant, if God is pleased to give a hearing ear, may understand me; for I am certain, if the poor and unlearned can comprehend, the learned and rich must. This being premised, proceed we to shew what must pass between Jesus Christ and our souls, before we can say, "our Maker is our husband." Now, that we may discourse more pertinently and intelligibly upon this point, it may not be amiss to consider, what is necessary to be done, before a marriage between two parties amongst ourselves, can be said to be valid in the sight of God and man. And that will lead us in a familiar way, to shew what must be done, or what must pass between us and Jesus Christ, before we can say, "our Maker is our husband." And First, In all lawful marriages, it is absolutely necessary, that the parties to be joined together in that holy and honourable estate, are actually and legally freed from all pre-engagements whatsoever. "A woman is bound to her husband, (faith the apostle) so long as her husband liveth." The same law holds good in respect to the man. And so likewise, if either party be betrothed and promised, though not actually married to another, the marriage is not lawful, till that pre-engagement and promise be fairly and mutually dissolved. Now, it is just thus between us and the Lord Jesus. For, we are all by nature born under, and wedded to the law, as a covenant of works. Hence it is that we are so fond of, and artfully go about, in order to establish a righteousness of our own. It is as natural for us to do this, as it is to breathe. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, even after the covenant of grace was revealed to them in that promise, "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head," reached out their hands, and would again have taken hold of the tree of life, which they had forfeited, had not God drove them out of paradise, and compelled them, as it were, to be saved by grace. And thus all their descendants naturally run to, and want to be saved, partly at least, if not wholly, by their works. And even gracious souls, who are inwardly renewed, so far as the old man abides in them, find a strong propensity this way. Hence it is, that natural men are generally so fond of Arminian principles. "Do and live," is the native language of a proud, self-righteous heart. But before we can say, "our Maker is our husband," we must be divorced from our old husband the law; we must renounce our own righteousness, our own doings and performances, in point of dependence, whether in whole or part, as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. For thus speaks the apostle Paul to the Romans, chap. 7:4. "Ye also are become dead to the law (as a covenant of works) by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him, who is raised from the dead." As he also speaketh in another place, "I have espoused you, as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ." This was the apostle’s own case. Whilst he depended on his being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and thought himself secure, because, as to the outward observation of the law, he was blameless; he was an entire stranger to the divine life: but when he began to experience the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we find him, in his epistle to the Philippians, absolutely renouncing all his external privileges, and all his pharisaical righteousness; "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, nay but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Jesus Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." And thus it must be with us, ere we can say, "our Maker is our husband." Though we may not be wrought upon in that extraordinary way in which the apostle was, yet we must be dead to the law, we must be espoused as chaste virgins to Jesus Christ, and count all external privileges, and our most splendid performances (as was before observed) only "as dung and dross, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord." But further; before a marriage among us can stand good in law, both parties must not only be freed from all pre-engagements, but there must be a mutual consent on both sides. We are not used to marry people against their wills. This is what the Jews called betrothing, or espousing, a thing previous to the solemnity of marriage. Thus we find, the Virgin Mary is said to be espoused to Joseph, before they actually came together, Mat. 1:18. And thus it is among us. Both parties are previously agreed, and, as it were, espoused to each other, before we publish, what we call the banns of marriage concerning them. And so it will be in the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and our souls. Before we are actually married or united to him by faith; or, to keep to the terms of the text, before we assuredly can say, that "our Maker is our husband," we must be made willing people in the day of God’s power, we must be sweetly and effectually persuaded by the Holy Spirit of God, that the glorious Emmanuel is willing to accept of us, just as we are, and also that we are willing to accept of him upon his own terms, yea, upon any terms. And when once it comes to this, the spiritual marriage goes on apace, and there is but one thing lacking to make it compleat. And what is that? An actual union. This is absolutely necessary in every lawful marriage among men. There must be a joining of hands before witnesses, ere they can be deemed lawfully joined together. Some men in deed of corrupt minds, are apt to look upon this as a needless ceremony, and think it sufficient to be married, as they term it, in the fight of God. But whence men get such divinity, I know not. I am positive, not from the Bible; for we there read that even at the first marriage in paradise, there was something of outward solemnity; God himself (if I may so speak) being there the priest. For we are told, Gen. 2:22. that, after God had made the woman, "he brought her unto the man." And indeed, to lay aside all manner of outward ceremony in marriage, would be to turn the world into a den of brute beasts. Men would then take, or forsake as many wives as they pleased, and we should soon sink into as bad and brutal a state, as those nations are, amongst whom such practices are allowed of, and who are utterly destitute of the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Whoever has experienced the power of his resurrection, I am persuaded will never plead for such a licentious practice. For the terms made use of in Scripture, to represent the mystical union between Christ and his church, such as, our being "joined to the Lord," and "married to Jesus Christ," are all metaphorical expressions, taken from some analogous practices amongst men. And as persons when married, though before twain, are now one flesh; so those that are joined to the Lord, and can truly say, "our Maker is our husband," are in the apostle’s language, one spirit. This was typified in the original marriage of our first parents. When God brought Eve to Adam, he received her with joy at his hands, and said, "this is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." They had there, primarily, but one name. For thus speaks the sacred Historian, Gen. 5:1, 2. "In the day that God created man, he blessed them, and called their name Adam." and why? because they were one flesh, and were to have but one heart. The self-same terms are made use of in Scripture, to express the believer’s union with Jesus Christ. We are called Christians, after Christ’s name, because made partakers of Christ’s nature. Out of his fulness, believers receive grace for grace. And therefore, the marriage state, especially by the apostle Paul, is frequently made use of, to figure out to us the real, vital union, between Jesus Christ and regenerate souls. This is termed by the apostle, Eph. 5:32. "A great mystery." But great as it is, we must all experience it, before we can say assuredly, that "our Maker is our husband." For what says our Lord, in that prayer he put up to his Father before his bitter passion? "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me, shall be where I am, that they may be one with thee; even as thou, O Father, and I are one, I in them, and they in me, that we all may be made perfect in one." O infinite condescension! O ineffable union! Hence it is, that believers are said to be members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Hence it is, that the apostle speaking of himself, says, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." What an expression is that? How much does it comprehend? And, that we might not think this was something peculiar to himself, he puts this close question to the Corinthians; "Know ye not, that Christ is in you, unless you be reprobates?" Agreeable to what he says in his epistle to the Colossians, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," And hence it is, that our church, in the communion-office, directs the minister to acquaint all those who receive the sacrament worthily, that they are one with Christ, and Christ with them; that they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them. Words that deserve to be written in letters of gold, and which evidently shew, what our reformers believed all persons must experience, before they could truly and assuredly say, that "their Maker is their husband." From what has been delivered, may not the poorest and most illiterate person here present easily know whether or not he is really married to Jesus Christ. Some indeed, I am afraid, are so presumptuous as to affirm, at least to insinuate, that there is no such thing as knowing, or being fully assured, whilst here below, whether we are in Christ or not. Or at least, if there be such a thing, it is very rare, or was only the privilege of the primitive believers. Part of this is true, and part of this absolutely false. That this glorious privilege of a full assurance is very rare, is too, too true. And so it is equally too true, that real christians, comparatively speaking, are very rare also. But that there is no such thing, or that this was only the privilege of the first followers of our blessed Lord, is directly opposite to the word of God. "We know (says St. John, speaking of believers in general) that we are his, by the spirit which he hath given us;" and, "He that believeth hath the witness in himself;" "because you are sons (saith St. Paul) God hath sent forth his Spirit into your hearts, even the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Not that I dare affirm, that there is no real christian, but what has this full assurance of faith, and clearly knows, that his Maker is his husband. In speaking thus, I should undoubtedly condemn some of the generation of God’s dear children, who through the prevalence of unbelief, indwelling sin, spiritual sloth, or it may be, for want of being informed of the privileges of believers, may walk in darkness, and see no light: therefore, though I dare not affirm, that a full assurance of faith is absolutely necessary for the very being, yet I dare assert, that it is absolutely necessary, for the well being of a christian. And for my own part, I cannot conceive, how any persons, that pretend to christianity, can rest satisfied or contented without it. This is stopping short, on this side Jordan, with a witness. And gives others too much reason to suspect, that such persons, however high their profession may be, have, as yet, on true saving grace at all. Men, whose hearts are set on this world’s goods, or, to use our Lord’s language, "the children of this world," act not so. I suppose there is scarce a single merchant in this great congregation, especially in these troublous times, that will venture out either his ship or cargo, without first insuring, both against the violence of an enemy, or a storm. And I suppose there is scarce a single house, of any considerable value, in any populous town of city, but the owner has taken out a policy from the fire-office, to insure it, in case of fire. And can I be so irrational as to think, that there is such a thing as securing my goods, and my house, and that there is no such thing as insuring, what is infinitely more valuable, my precious and immortal soul? Or if there be such a thing, as undoubtedly there is, what foolishness of folly must it needs be in men, that pretend to be men of parts, of good sense, and solid reasoning, to be so anxious to secure their ships against a storm, and their houses against a fire, and at the same time, not to be unspeakably more solicitous, to take a policy out of the assurance-office of heaven; even the seal and witness of the blessed Spirit of God, to insure their souls against that storm of divine wrath, and that vengeance of eternal fire, which will at the last decisive day come upon all those, who know not God, and have not obeyed his gracious gospel? To affirm therefore, that there is no such thing as knowing, that "our Maker is our husband;" or that it was privilege peculiar to the first christians, to speak in the mildest terms, is both irrational and unscriptural. Not that all who can say, their Maker is their husband, can give the same clear and distinct account of the time, manner and means of their being spiritually united and married by faith, to the blessed bridegroom of the church. Some there may be now, as well as formerly, sanctified from the womb. And others in their insancy and non-age, as it were silently converted. Such perhaps may say, with a little Scotch maiden, now with God, when I asked her, whether Jesus Christ had taken away her old heart, and given her a new one? "Sir, it may be, (said she,) I cannot directly tell you the time and place, but this I know, it is done." And indeed it is not so very material, though no doubt it is very satisfactory, if we cannot relate all the minute and particular circumstances, that attended our conversion; if so be we are truly converted now, and can say, the work is done, and that, "our Maker is our husband." And I question, whether there is one single adult believer, now on earth, who lived before conversion, either in a course of secret or open sin, but can, in a good degree, give an account of the beginning and progress of the work of grace in his heart. What think ye? Need I tell any married persons in this congregation, that they must go to the university, and learn the languages, before they can tell whether they are married or not? Or, if their marriage was to be doubted, could they not, think you, bring their certificates, to certify the time and place of their marriage; and the minister that joined them together in that holy state? And if you are adult, and are indeed married to Jesus Christ, though you may be unlearned, and what the world terms illiterate men, cannot you tell me the rise and progress, and consummation of the spiritual marriage, between Jesus Christ and your souls? Know you not the time, when you were first under the drawings of the Father, and Jesus began to woo you for himself? Tell me, O man, tell me, O woman, knowest thou not the time, or at least, knowest thou not, that there was a time, when the blessed Spirit of God stripped thee of the fig-leaves of thy own righteousness, hunted thee out of the trees of the garden of thy performances, forced thee from the embraces of thy old husband the law, and made thee to abhor thy own righteousness, as so many filthy rags? Canst thou not remember, when, after a long struggle with unbelief, Jesus appeared to thee, as altogether lovely, mighty and willing to save? And canst thou not reflect upon a season, when thy own stubborn heart was made to bend; and thou wast made willing to embrace him, as freely offered to thee in the everlasting gospel? And canst thou not, with pleasure unspeakable, reflect on some happy period, some certain point of time, in which a sacred something (perhaps thou couldst not then well tell what) did captivate, and fill thy heart, so that thou could say, in a rapture of holy surprize, and extacy of divine love, "My Lord and my God! my beloved is mine, and I am his; I know that my Redeemer liveth;" or, to keep to the words of our text, "My Maker is my husband." Surely, amidst this great and solemn assembly, there are many that can answer these questions in the affirmative. For these are transactions, not easily to be forgotten; and the day of our espousals is, generally, a very remarkable day; a day to be had in everlasting remembrance. And can any of you indeed, upon good grounds say, that your Maker is your husband? May I not then (as it is customary to wish persons joy who are just entered into the marriage state) congratulate you upon your happy change, and with you joy, with all my heart? Sure am I that there was joy in heaven on the day of your espousals: and why should not the blessed news occasion joy on earth? May I not address you in the language of our Lord to the women that came to visit his sepulchre, "All hail!" for ye are highly favoured. Blessed are ye among men, blessed are ye among women! All generations shall call you blessed. What! "is your Maker your husband? the holy one of Israel your Redeemer?" Sing, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! What an amazing stoop is this! What a new thing has God created on the earth! Do not your hearts, O believers, burn within you, when meditating on this unspeakable condescension of the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity? Whilst you are musing, does not the sacred fire of divine love kindle in your souls? And, out of the abundance of your hearts, do you not often speak with your tongues, and call upon all that is within you, to laud and magnify your Redeemer’s holy name? Is not that God exalting, self-abasing expression frequently in your mouths, "Why me, Lord, why me?" And are you not often constrained to break out into that devout exclamation of Solomon, when the glory of the Lord filled the temple, "And will God indeed dwell with man?" ungrateful, rebellious, ill, and hell-deserving man! O, my brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you! Tears, while I am speaking, are ready to gush out. But they are tears of love and joy. How shall I give it vent? How shall I set forth thy happiness, O believer, thou bride of God! And is thy Maker thy husband? Is his name "The Lord of hosts?" Whom then shouldst thou fear? And is thy Redeemer the holy one of Israel? the God of the whole earth should he be called! of whom then shouldst thou be afraid? He that toucheth thee, toucheth the very apple of God’s eye. "The very hairs of thy head are all numbered;" and "it is better that a man should have a milstone tied round his neck, and be drowned in the sea, than that he should justly offend thee." All hail, (I must again repeat it) thou Lamb’s bride! For thou art all glorious within, and comely, through the comeliness thy heavenly bridegroom hath put upon thee. Thy garment is indeed of wrought gold; and, ere long, the King shall bring thee forth with a raiment of needle-work, and present thee blameless before his Father, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. In the mean while, well shall it be with you, and happy shall you be, who are married to Jesus Christ: for all that Christ has, is yours. "He is made of God to you, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal redemption". "Whether Paul, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours." All his attributes are engaged for your preservation, and all things shall work together for your good, who love God, and, by being thus married to the Lord Jesus, give an evident proof that you are called according to his purpose. What say you? When you meditate on these things, are you not frequently ready to cry out, What shall we render unto the Lord for all these mercies, which, of his free unmerited grace, he hath been pleased to bestow upon us? For, though you are dead to the law, as a covenant of works, yet you are alive to the law as a rule of life, and are in, or under the law (for either expression seems to denote the same thing) to your glorious husband, Jesus Christ. Pass we on therefore to the Second general head, under which I was to shew, what duties of love they owe to Jesus Christ, who are so happy as to be able to say, "My Maker is my husband." I say, duties of love. For being now married to Jesus Christ, you work not for life, but from life. The love of God constrains you, so that, if there was no written law, or supposing Jesus would set you at liberty from his yoke, so far as grace prevails in your hearts, you would say, we love our blessed bridegroom, and will not go from him. And what does the Lord require of you? That we may speak on this head as plainly as may be, we shall pursue the method we begun with; and, by carrying on the allegory, and examining what is required of truly christian wives, under the gospel, infer what our Lord may justly demand of those who are united to him by faith, and can therefore say, "our Maker is our husband." And here let us go to the law and to the testimony. What says the scripture? "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband." It is, no doubt, the duty of married women to think highly of their husbands. From whom may husbands justly command respect, if not from their wives? The apostle’s expression is emphatical. "Let the wife see that the reverence her husband;" thereby implying, that women, some of them at least, are too prone to disrespect their husbands; as Michal, Saul’s daughter, despised David in her heart, when she tauntingly said, 2 Sam. 6:20. "How glorious was the king of Israel to-day, who uncovered himself to-day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamlesly uncovereth himself." This is a source and fountain, from whence many domestic evils frequently flow. Women should remember the character that husbands sustain in scripture. They are to them, what Christ is to the church. And it is mentioned to the honour of Sarah, that she called Abraham "Lord." "Shall I have a child who am old, my Lord being old also?" It is remarkable, there are but two good words in that whole sentence, "my Lord," (for all the others are the language of unbelief) and yet those two words the Holy Ghost mentions to her eternal honour, and buries, as it were, the rest in oblivion. "Even as Sarah (says St. Peter) obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord." An evident proof how pleasing it is in the sight of God, for women in the married state to reverence and respect their husbands. Not that husbands therefore should Lord it over their wives, or require too much respect at their hands. This would be unchristian, as well as ungenerous, indeed. They ought rather, as God has taken such care to keep up their authority, commanding their wives to reverence and respect them; they ought, I say, to be doubly careful, that they live so holy and unblameable, as to lay their wives under no temptation to despise them. But to return from this digression. Does the apostle say, "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband?" May I not pertinently apply this caution to you who are married to Jesus Christ? See so it that you reverence and respect your husband. I say, see to it. For the devil will be often suggesting to you hard and mean thoughts against your husband. It was thus he beset our mother Eve, even in a state of innocence. He would fain persuade her to entertain hard thoughts of her glorious benefactor. "What, has God said, ye shall not eat of the trees of the garden?" Has he been so cruel to put you here in a beautiful garden only to vex and seize you? This he made use of as an inlet to all his succeeding insinuations. And this trade he is still pursuing, and will be pursuing to the very end of time. Besides, in the eyes of the world, Jesus Christ has no form or comeliness that they should desire him; and therefore, unless you "watch and pray," you will be led into temptation, and not keep up such high thoughts of your blessed Jesus as he justly deserves. In this you can never exceed. Women, perhaps, may sometimes think too highly of, and, through excess of love, idolize their earthly comforts. But it is impossible for you to think too highly of your heavenly husband, Jesus Christ. Farther, what says the apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians? Speaking of the marriage state, he says, "The wife is the glory of her husband:" as though he had said, a christian wife should so behave, and so walk, as to be a credit to her husband. As Abigail was an honour to Nabal, and by her sweet deportment made up in some degree, for her husband’s churlishness. This is to be a help-meet indeed. Such a woman will be praised in the gate; and her husband get glory, and meet with respect on her account. And ought a woman to be the glory of her husband? How much more ought you, that are the Lamb’s bride, so to live, and so to walk, as to bring glory, and gain respect, to the cause and interest of your husband Jesus? This is what the apostle every where supposes, when he would draw a parallel between a temporal and spiritual marriage. "The woman, is the glory of her husband, even as the church is the glory of Christ." Agreeable to this, he tells the Corinthians, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God;" and as he also speaks to the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 2:11, 12. "As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you (as a father doth his children) that you would walk worthy of God who hath called you to his kingdom, and his glory." What an expression is here! "That you would walk worthy of God." O! how ought this, and such like texts, to stir up your pure minds, O believers, so to have your conversation in this world, that you may be what the apostle says some particular persons were, even "the glory of Christ." You are his glory; he rejoices over you with singing; and you should so walk, that all who know and hear of you, may glorify Christ in you. Subjection, is another duty, that is enjoined married women, in the word of God. They are to "be subject to their own husband in every thing," every lawful thing: "For, the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church." And knowing how unapt some base minds would be to submit to the husband’s authority, he takes care to enforce this duty of subjection by many cogent and powerful arguments." "For Adam was first made, and not Eve. Neither was the man made for the woman, but the woman for the man." And again, "The man was not first in the transgression, but the woman." Upon which accounts, subjection was imposed on her as part of her punishment. "Thy desire (says God) shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule (though not tyrannize) over thee." So that, to use the words of pious Mr. Henry, those who attempt to usurp authority over their husbands, not only contradict a divine command, but thwart a divine curse. And if women are to be subject to their own husbands in every thing, how much more ought believers, whether men or women, to be subject to Jesus Christ: for he is the head of the church. He has bought her by his blood. Believers therefore are not their own, but are under the highest obligations to glorify and obey Jesus Christ, in their bodies and their souls, which are his. Add to this, that his service, as it is admirably expressed in one of our collects, is perfect freedom. His commandments holy, just, and good. And therefore it is your highest privilege, O believers, to submit to, and obey them. Earthly husbands may be so mean as to impose some things upon their wives, merely to shew their authority; but it is not so with Jesus Christ. He can and does impose nothing, but what immediately conduces to our present, as well as future good. In doing, nay, in suffering for Jesus Christ, there is a present unspeakable reward. And therefore I may say to believers, as the blessed Virgin said to the servants at the marriage in Cana, "Whatsoever he says unto you, do it." "For his yoke is easy, and his burden is light." And I believe it might easily be proved in a few minutes, that all the disorders which are now in the world, whether in church or state, are owing to a want of being universally, unanimously, chearfully, and perseveringly conformed to the laws and example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Again, Faithfulness in the marriage state, is strictly enjoined in the scriptures of truth. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled. But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Nay, adultery is an iniquity to be punished by the earthly judges; it dissolves the marriage relation. "For the man has not power over his own body, but the woman; neither has the woman power over her own body, but the man." The heathens themselves have been taught this by the light of nature; and adultery, among some of them, is punished with immediate death. And ought married persons to be thus careful to keep the marriage-bed undefiled, how carefully then ought believers to keep their souls chaste, pure, and undefiled, now they are espoused to Jesus Christ? For there is such a thing as spiritual adultery; "O ye adulterers and adulteresses," saith St. James. And God frequently complains of his people’s playing the harlot. Hence it is, that St. John, in the most endearing manner, exhorts believers to "keep themselves from idols." For the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and pride of life, are always ready to steal away our hearts from Jesus Christ. And every time we place our affections upon any thing more than Christ, we do undoubtedly commit spiritual adultery. For we admit a creature to rival the Creator, who is God over all, blessed for evermore. "Little children, therefore, keep yourselves from idols." But it is time for me to draw towards the close of this head. Fruitfulness was a blessing promised by God to the first happy pair; "Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth." "Lo, children, and the fruit of the womb, (says the Psalmist) are a gift and heritage, which cometh of the Lord." And so, if we are married to Jesus Christ, we must be fruitful. In what? In every good word and work: for thus speaks the Apostle, in his epistle to the Romans: "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead." What follows? "That we should bring forth fruit unto God." Glorious words, and proper to be considered in a peculiar manner, by such who would explode the doctrine of free justification, as an Antinomian doctrine, and as though it destroyed good works. No; it establishes, and lays a solid foundation, whereon to build the superstructure of good works. Titus is therefore commanded to "exhort believers to be careful to maintain good works." And "herein (says our Lord) is my Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven;" with a multitude of passages to the same purpose. Moreover, it is required of wives, that they not only love and reverence their husbands, but that they also love and respect their husband’s friends. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall not only reverence the bridegroom, but we shall also love and honour the bridegroom’s friends. "By this, shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." "By this we know, (says the beloved disciple) that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren." Observe, the brethren, indefinitely, of whatever denomination. And this love must be "without dissimulation, and with a pure heart servently." This was the case of the primitive christians. They were all of one heart, and of one mind. It was said of them (O that it could be said of us!) "See how these christians love one another!" They were of the same spirit as a good woman of Scotland was, who, when she saw a great multitude, as is customary in that country, coming from various parts to receive the blessed sacrament, saluted them with a "Come in, ye blessed of the Lord, I have an house that will hold an hundred of you, and a heart that will hold ten thousand." Let us go and do likewise. Once more. Persons that are married, take one another for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, to love and to cherish each other in sickness and in health. And if we are married to Jesus Christ, we shall be willing to bear his cross, as well as to wear his crown. "If any man will come, after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." Neither will they be compelled to do this, as Simon of Cyrene was, but they will be volunteers in his service; they will cry out, Crown him, crown him, when others are crying out, "Crucify him, crucify him." They will never leave or forsake him, but willingly follow the Captain of their salvation, though it be through a sea of blood. I might run the parallel still further, and also enlarge upon the hints already given; but I fear I have said enough already to reproach most believers; I am sure I have said more than enough to abash and upbraid myself. For alas! how vilely, treacherously, and ungratefully have we behaved towards our spiritual husband, the dear Lord Jesus, ever since the day of our espousals? Had our friends, or even the wives of our own bosoms, behaved to us as we have behaved to our great and best friend, our glorious husband, we should have broken off our friendship, and sued for a bill of divorcement long ago. Under our first love, what promises did we make to him? But how forwardly have we behaved ourselves in this covenant? How little have we reverenced him? How often has our Beloved been no more to us than another beloved? How little have we lived to his glory? Have we not been a shame and reproach to his gospel? Have we not crucified him afresh, and has he not been sorely wounded in the house of his friends? Nay, has not his holy name been blasphemed through our means? For alas! how little have we obeyed him? How careless and indifferent have we been, whether we pleased him or not? We have often said, indeed, when commanded by him to go work in his vineyard, We go, Lord; but alas! we went not. Or if we did go, with what reluctance has it been? How unwilling to watch with our dear Lord and Master, only one hour? And of his sabbaths, how often have we said, What a weariness is this? As for our adulteries, and spiritual fornications, how frequent, how aggravated have they been? Have not idols of all sorts, been suffered to fill up the room of the ever-blessed Jesus in our hearts? You that love him in sincerity, will not be offended if I tell you, that the xvith chapter of Ezekiel gives, in my opinion, a lively description of our behaviour towards our Lord. We were, like base-born, children, cast out in the field to the loathing of our persons: no eye pitied or had compassion on us. Jesus passed by, saw us polluted in our own blood, and said unto us, "Live," i. e. preserved us, even in our natural state, from death. And when his time of love was come, he spread the skirt of his imputed righteousness over us, and covered the nakedness of our souls, entered into covenant with us, and we became his. He washed us also with water, even in the laver of regeneration, and thoroughly washed us by his precious blood, from the guilt of all our sins. He cloathed us also with broidered work, and decked us with ornaments, even with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. We did eat fine flour and honey at his ordinances, and we fed on Jesus Christ in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving. In short, we were made exceeding beautiful, and the kingdom of God was erected in our hearts. We were renowned among our neighbours for our love to God, and all that knew us took knowledge of us, that we had been with Jesus. But alas! how have we fallen, who were once sons of the morning! How have we trusted in our own beauty, have grown spiritually proud, and provoked our patient and unspeakably long-suffering Lord to anger? Where is that ardent love we spake of, when we told him, that, though we should die for him, we would not deny him in any wife? How desperately wicked, and deceitful above all things, have we proved our hearts to be, since we have done all these things, even the work of an imperious woman? These are great and numerous charges; but great and numerous as they are, there is not a single believer here present, but, if he knows his own heart, may plead guilty to some, or all of them. But this is a tender point: I see you concerned: your tears, O believers, are a proof of the anguish of your souls. And can any of us give any reason, why Jesus Christ should not give us a bill of divorcement, and put us away? May he not justly speak to us as he did to his adultress Israel, in the forementioned xvith of Ezekiel, "Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord; I will judge thee as women that break wedlock, and shed blood, are judged. I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy, because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things. Behold, therefore, I also will recompence thy way upon thy head. I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised the oath, in breaking the covenant, the marriage contract that was between us." This, I am persuaded, you will confess to be the treatment which we all most justly deserve. But be not overwhelmed with overmuch sorrow: for though the Lord our God is a jealous God, and will certainly vsit our offences with a rod, and our backslidings with a spiritual scourge, yet his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from us, nor suffer his truth to fail. Though we have changed, yet he changeth not: He abideth faithful: his loving-kindness abideth for evermore. Hark! how sweetly he speaks to his backsliding people of old; "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help. I will heal their backsliding, and love them freely." And in the verses immediately following the words of the text, how comfortably does he address his espoused people! "In a little wrath, I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, faith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn, that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn, that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, faith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." O that this goodness may lead us to repentance! O that this unparalleled, infinite, unchangeable love, may constrain us to an universal, uniform, chearful, unanimous, persevering obedience to all the commands of God! Brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you, and I could dwell a long while upon the many great and precious invitations that are made to backsliders, to return to their first love, and do their first works: but it is high time for me, if, as was proposed, III. I give to every one their proper portion; to speak to those poor souls, who know nothing of this blessed Bridegroom of the church, and consequently cannot yet say, "My Maker is my husband." Ah! I pity you from my inmost soul; I could weep over, and for you, though perhaps you will not weep for yourselves. But surely you would weep, and howl too, did you know the miserable condition those are in, who are not married to Jesus Christ. Will you give me leave (I think I speak it in much love) to inform you, that if you are not married to Jesus Christ, you are married to the law, the world, the flesh, and the devil, neither of which can make you happy; but all, on the contrary, concur to make you miserable. Hear ye not, ye that are married to the law, and seek to be Justified in the sight of God, partly, at least, if not wholly, by your own works, what the law faith to those that are under it, as a convenant of works? "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them." Every word breathes threatening and slaughter to poor fallen creatures. Cursed, both here and hereafter, be this man, and every one, naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, without exception, that continueth not, even to the very end of life, in all things; not only in some, or many, but in all things, that are written in the book of the law, to do them, in the utmost perfection: for "he that offendeth in one point, is guilty of all." So that, according to the tenor of the covenant of works, whosoever is guilty of one wicked thought, word, or action, is under the curse of an angry sin-avenging God. "For as many as are under the law, are under the curse." And do you know what it is to be under the curse of God, and to have the wrath of God abide upon you? If you did, I believe you would not be so unwilling to be divorced from the law, and be espoused, as chaste virgins, to Jesus Christ. And why are ye so wedded to the world? Did it ever prove faithful or satisfactory to any of its votaries? Has not Solomon reckoned up the sum total of worldly happiness? And what does it amount to? "Vanity, vanity, faith the preacher, all is vanity," nay he adds, "and vexation of spirit." And has not a greater than Solomon informed us, that a man’s life, the happiness of a man’s life, doth not consist in the things which he possesseth? Besides, "know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God; so that whosoever will be a friend to the world, (to the corrupt customs and vices of it) is an enemy to God?" And what better reasons can you give for being wedded to your lusts? Might not the poor slaves in the gallies, as reasonably be wedded to their chains? For do not your lusts fetter down your souls from God? Do they not lord it, and have they not dominion over you? Do not they say, Come, and ye come; Go, and ye go; Do this, and ye do it? And is not he or she that liveth in pleasure, dead, whilst he liveth? And above all, how can ye bear the thoughts of being wedded to the devil, as every natural man is: for thus speaks the scripture, "He now ruleth in the children of disobedience." And how can ye bear to be ruled by one, who is such a professed open enemy to the most high and holy God? Who will make a drudge of you, whilst you live, and be your companion in endless and extreme torment, after you are dead? For thus will our Lord say to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." But, IV. Will you permit me, O sinners, that I may draw towards a close of this discourse, to propose a better match to your souls. This is a part of the discourse which I long to come to, it being my heart’s desire, and earnest prayer to God, that your souls may be saved. "And now, O Lord God Almighty, thou Father of mercies, and God of all consolations, thou God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hast promised to give thy Son the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, send me good speed this day, O Lord, send me now prosperity. Behold, I stand here without the camp, bearing a little of thy dear Son’s sacred reproach! Hear me, O Lord, hear me, and according to thy word, let thy dear, thine only begotten Son, see of the travel of his soul, and be satisfied! O help me so to speak, that many may believe on, and cleave unto thy blessed, thine holy child Jesus!" But who am I, that I should undertake to recommend the blessed Jesus to others, who am myself altogether unworthy to take his sacred name into my polluted lips? Indeed, my brethren, I do not count myself worthy of such an honour; but since it has pleased him, in whom all fulness dwells, to count me worthy, and put me into the ministry, the very stories would cry out against me, did I not attempt, at least, to lisp out his praise, and earnestly recommend the ever-blessed Jesus to the choice of all. Thus Abraham’s faithful servant behaved, when sent out to fetch a wife for his master Isaac. He spake of the riches and honours, which God had conferred on him; but what infinitely greater honours and riches, has the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, conferred on his only Son, to whom I now Invite every christless sinner! To you, therefore, I call, O ye sons of men, assuring you, there is every thing in Jesus that your hearts can desire, or hunger and thirst after. Do people in disposing of themselves or their children in marriage, generally covet to be matched with persons of great names? Let this consideration serve as a motive to stir you up to match with Jesus. For God the Father has given him a name above every name; he has upon his vesture, and upon his thigh, a name written, "The King of kings, and the Lord of lords;" and here in the text we are told, "The Lord of Hosts is his name." Nor has he an empty title, but power equivalent; for he is a prince, as well as a saviour. "All power is given unto him, both in heaven and on earth:" "The God of the whole earth, (says our text) he shall be called." The government of men, of the church, and of devils, is put upon his shoulders: "Thrones, principalities and powers, are made subject unto him; by him kings reign, and princes decree justice; he setteth up one, and putteth down another: and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Will riches be an inducement unto you to come and match with Jesus? Why then, I can tell you, the riches of Jesus are infinite: for unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach to poor sinners, the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. I appeal to you that are his saints, whether you have not found this true, by happy experience; and though some of you, may have been acquainted with him thirty, forty, fifty years ago, do you not find his riches are yet unsearchable, and as much past finding out, as they were the very first moment in which you gave him your hearts! Would you match with a wise husband? Haste then, sinners, come away to Jesus: He is the fountain of wisdom, and makes all that come unto him, wife unto salvation; "He is the wisdom of the Father: the Lord possessed him in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. When he prepared the heavens, he was there; when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then was he with him, as one brought up with him; he was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him." As he is wife, so is he holy; and therefore, in the words of our text, he is stiled, "The Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:" and by the angel Gabriel, "That holy Thing." The apostles, addressing God the Father, stile him his "holy child Jesus:" and the spirits of just men made perfect, and the angels in heaven, cease not day or night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy." Nor is his beauty inferior to his wisdom or holiness; the seraphs veil their faces, when they appear before him: "He is the chiefest among ten thousand, nay, he is altogether lovely." And, as he is altogether lovely, so is he altogether loving: his name and his nature is Love. God, God in Christ is love: love in the abstract. And in this has he manifested his love, in that, whilst we were yet sinners, nay open enemies, Jesus, in his own due time, died for the ungodly. He loved us so as to give himself for us. O what manner of love is this! What was Jacob’s love to Rachel, in comparison of the love which Jesus bore to a perishing world! He became a curse for us. For it is written; "Cursed is every man that hangeth upon a tree." What Zipporah said to her husband improperly, Jesus may say properly to his spouse the church, "A bloody wife hast thou been to me, because of the crucifixion." For he has purchased her with his own blood. And having once loved his people, he loves them unto, the end. His love, like himself, is from everlasting to everlasting. He hates putting away: though we change, yet he changeth not: he abideth faithful. When we are married here, there comes in that shocking clause, to use the words of holy Mr. Boston, "Till death us doth part;" but death itself shall not separate a true believer from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus his Lord: for he will never cease loving his Bride, till he has loved her to heaven, and presented her before his Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Nay, his love will, as it were, but be beginning, through the endless ages of eternity. And now, Sirs, what say you? Shall I put that question to you, which Rebecca’s relations, upon a proposal of marriage, put to her? "Will ye go with the man?" With the God-man, this infinitely great, this infinitely powerful, this all-wise, all-holy, altogether lovely, ever-loving Jesus? What objection have you to make against such a gracious offer? One would imagine, you had not a single one; but it is to be feared, through the prevalency of unbelief, and the corruption of your desperately wicked deceitful hearts, you are ready to urge several. Methinks I hear some of you say within yourselves, "We like the proposal, but alas! we are poor." Are you so? If that be all, you may, not withstanding, be welcome to Jesus: "For has not God chosen the poor of this world, to make them rich in faith, and heirs of his everlasting kingdom?" And what says that Saviour, to whom I am now inviting you? "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And what says his Apostle concerning him? "Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his Poverty might be made rich. But say you, "We are not only poor, but we are in debt; we owe God ten thousand talents, and have nothing to pay;" but that need not keep you back: for God the Father, from the Lord Jesus, his dearly beloved Son, has received double for all believers sins: the blood of Jesus cleanseth from them all. But you are blind, and miserable, and naked; to whom then should you fly for succour, but to Jesus, who came to open the eyes of the blind, to seek and save the miserable and lost, and cloath the naked with his perfect and spotless righteousness. And now, what can hinder your espousals with the dear and ever-blessed Lamb of God? I know but of one thing, that dreadful sin of unbelief. But this is my comfort, Jesus died for unbelief, as well as for other sins, and has promised to send down the Holy Spirit to convince the world of this sin in particular: "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will send the Comforter, and he will convince the world of sin." What sin? of unbelief; "because they believe not on me." O that this promise may be so fulfilled in your hearts, and Jesus may so become the author of divine faith in your souls, that you may be able to send me the same message as a good woman in Scotland, on her dying bed, sent me by a friend: "Tell him, (says she) for his comfort, that at such a time he married me to the Lord Jesus." This would be comfort indeed. Not that we can marry you to Christ: No; the Holy Ghost must tie the marriage knot. But such honour have all God’s ministers; under him they espouse poor sinners to Jesus Christ. "I have espoused you (says St. Paul) as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ." O that you may say, We will go with the man; then will I bow my head, as Abraham‘s servant did, and go with joy and tell my Master, that he has not left his poor servant destitute this day: then shall I rejoice in your felicity. For I know, my Master will take you into the banqueting-house of his ordinances, and his banner over you shall be love. That this may be the happy case of you all, may the glorious God grant, for the sake of Jesus his dearly beloved Son, the glorious bridegroom of his church; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and for evermore. Amen, and Amen. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Offenses Offenses (Stumbling Blocks; Temptations) It must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Matthew 18:7. Great S. Mary’s Church, 19th Sunday after Trinity, 1876. This passage belongs at once to the most transparent and the most abstruse of our Lord’s sayings. On the one hand, it is a simple statement of fact and a plain lesson of duty. Here it is so clear, that a little child may read and understand. On the other, it involves a startling antithesis, which has been the great enigma of all moral and religious philosophy from the beginning of time. There it is so inscrutable, that the most profound intellects have vainly sought to fathom its depths. Offences are a necessity, and yet offences must not be. Scandals are permitted, and yet they are forbidden. God’s government presupposes evil; for otherwise no moral probation were possible. And yet God’s righteousness punishes evil, for otherwise God would no longer be God. There is a law of averages, which teaches that in a given state of society a certain number of crimes will be committed in a fixed time; and yet there is a law of Divine retribution, which condemns each individual offender who contributes his quota to this aggregate. God hates sin, and yet God allows sin. This is the contradiction involved in the text. The enigma is stated, but it is not explained. Christianity did not create the difficulty, and Christianity does not offer to solve it. But I have no desire to enter into these dark problems of religious philosophy. Standing now on the threshold of a new Academical year, and meeting together as we have met to-day in this church, many of us for the first time, we can ill afford to devote this Sunday of all Sundays to fruitless speculation. To one, who has been resident in this place and watched the ceaseless ebb and flow of University life now for nearly thirty years; who has witnessed generation after generation of young men come and go in rapid sequence; who, amidst many moral victories achieved here in each successive generation, has seen not a few glorious hopes disappointed, not a few brilliant promises unfulfilled, not a few noble characters (or such as might have been noble) debased, and who therefore feels with an intensity which younger men cannot be expected to share, that this first entrance on Academic life, like all great opportunities, is in the truest sense to each man, according as he may use it, either a savour of life unto life or a savour of death unto death; to one, I say, upon whom the occasion forces such thoughts as these, the text cannot but suggest a simpler treatment. It must needs be that the evil example of older students—the idleness, the dissipation, the moral recklessness, the religious indifference—shall lead many astray; but woe alike to those who are led astray, and to those who lead them astray. It must needs be that many a father’s reasonable hope will be belied, and many a mother’s earnest prayer will be frustrated, that the dearest sanctities of many a home will be spurned; but woe unto that son nevertheless by whom they are spurned. It must needs be that many a bright intellect will be darkened by indolence or by dissipation; but woe unto him in whom it is darkened. It must needs be that many a religious faith will be lost by apathy and neglect; but woe unto him by whom it is lost. It must needs be that God’s choicest gift of youth, with its bright hopes and its magnificent possibilities, will be sullied and trampled under foot as a vile thing, when it should have been consecrated to its Giver in all the freshness of its glory; but woe unto him who tramples it under foot. It must needs be that God’s image, stamped on many a soul, will be ruthlessly effaced; but woe nevertheless, thrice woe, to him by whom it is effaced. And so, with this fatal necessity and this unequivocal warning—thus illustrated by each successive year of Academic history—in his mind, the preacher will not aspire on this day to argue as a wise man with wise men. His ambition will be rather to speak as a little child to little children; content, and more than content, if some one word thrown out at a venture shall have served to warn, to deter, to sustain, to encourage, one single hearer, and thus have helped him forward to the attainment of those priceless blessings, moral, intellectual, spiritual, which lie within the reach of such as use the opportunities of their residence here aright. As a little child to little children. Forgive me the comparison. I can frame no better prayer for you and for myself, than that we should approach this subject in this spirit. Is there something jarring and dissonant in this language at a season which is regarded by so many as the initiation into the freedom and the privileges of manhood? Nay; if there is a seeming contradiction in terms, there is entire harmony in thought. Believe it; the poet’s saying is true in more senses than one that ‘the child is father to the man.’ There can be no true manliness, where the childlike nature is absent. The little child is the hero of Christ’s panegyric in the context. The little child is the type of the citizen of God’s kingdom. Its simplicity, its innocence, its frankness, its truthfulness, are the badges of civic privilege in this heavenly polity. And, as the child is the subject of the encomium in the context, so is it also the occasion of the warning in the text. It is the stumbling-block placed in the way of Christ’s little ones, that calls down the denunciation of woe. We may resent the imputation of a childish nature. We may throw off its noble characteristics; but its feebler qualities will cling to us still. All—even the strongest—have some element of weakness in their character, which renders them dependent on others. Imitation is the law of the child’s nature. The most powerful instrument in moulding its character is example. It cannot understand abstract principles; but it is keenly sensible to personal influence. Its ideal is to be like its father or its mother; its constant effort is to copy an elder brother or an elder sister. In this respect the childlike never will be outgrown either in the Church or in mankind at large. The force of example will always be more potent than the most earnest appeals of the preacher and the most convincing logic of the apologist. Personal influence is as contagious as the atmosphere which envelopes us. We drink it in at every breath. We are bathed in it day and night. Precept and exhortation are momentary and fitful; but this is at all times and in all places. We can none of us escape from it. Hence the category of Christ’s little ones is as wide as the Church is wide, as mankind is wide. We are all exposed to the force of some stronger nature than our own—stronger in intellect, or stronger in moral character and definiteness of purpose, or stronger (it may be) in mere passion of temperament—attracting us to the good, or impelling us to the evil. Thus in all ages doing has been more eloquent than preaching. The blood of the martyrs, not the ink of the apologists, was declared to be the seed of the Church. Hence the severity of the language in the woe denounced against those who offend Christ’s little ones. It is better for all such that they should be sunk countless fathoms deep in the sea; better that they should be put out of sight for ever; better for themselves and for others that they should be annihilated, if that were possible, than that they should any longer vex the earth with their presence. And with the accumulated experience of eighteen centuries, who will venture to say that this warning was unneeded? The annals of the Church are blackened with crimes, committed not only by Christians but committed in the sacred name of Christ Himself. The scandals of Christendom have been far more deadly to the souls of men than the fiercest onslaughts of persecution. The one may have slain its thousands, but the other has slain its tens of thousands. We Englishmen have listened of late with a shudder of abhorrence to the reports of wholesale barbarities committed by men of an alien race and an alien religion. These butcheries, and worse than butcheries, have called forth a cry of righteous indignation throughout the country. It was an intolerable thought that Christian England should be charged with complicity, however remote, in such inhuman crimes. But is there not a danger lest this sentiment, however healthy in itself, should encourage in us Christians a self-complacency, to which the history of the past challenges our right? Are the pages even of our ecclesiastical annals so clean, that we can arrogate to ourselves a monopoly of humane sentiments and impulses? Have we forgotten the sarcasm of the Apostate Emperor, when he claims the gratitude of the ‘Galileans’ for restoring peace to many’ provinces, which under his predecessors had been devastated by their own internal feuds, whole villages having been razed to the ground in these deadly quarrels of the Christians? Have we overlooked the cynical close of a famous chapter in the ‘Decline and Fall,’ where it is reckoned that ‘the number of Protestants who were executed’ for their religion in the sixteenth century ‘in a single province and a single reign far exceeded that of the primitive martyrs in the space of three centuries and of the Roman Empire?’ There may be much exaggeration in both these indictments; but the main fact is beyond contradiction. Pudet haec opprobria nobis. Shame on us Christians, that these things could be said, and could not be refuted. Cast your eye down the columns of Christian history, and see how century after century they are reddened with the stains of blood. The Church had scarcely been enfranchised, when the civilized world was scandalized by the riots which accompanied the election of the chief bishop of Christendom. Churches were turned into fortresses and strewn with corpses; the streets of Rome streamed with the blood of the rival partizans; while the heathen looked on with impartial scorn. Advance from the fourth century to the fifth, from Rome to Alexandria; and mark the deadly tumults which have left an indelible stain on the Church, and in which the murder of Hypatia was only an isolated, though a prominent, incident. Follow the stream of history through the succeeding centuries; and see how the powerful sovereigns, the champions of Christendom, carried the Gospel of peace everywhere at the point of the sword. Of Charles the Great it is recorded, as a merit, that he offered to his heathen foes the alternative of Christianity or extinction. And this programme was rigorously carried out. Whole tribes were ruthlessly slaughtered by this ‘Mohammedan Apostle of the Gospel.’ Go forward still through the centuries, and see what scenes rise up before your eyes. I say nothing of those religious wars waged against the Saracen in the East, because with all their crimes they were redeemed in part by a noble spirit of chivalry and self-devotion. But witness that so-called Crusade against the Albigenses in the early years of the thirteenth century. What would be the cry of horror throughout Europe if in to-morrow’s telegrams we should read this announcement, ‘A general massacre was permitted; men, women and children were cut to pieces, till there remained nothing to kill except the garrison and others reserved for a more cruel fate. Four hundred were burned in one great pile, which made a wonderful blaze and caused universal rejoicing in the camp?’ And yet this is only one incident in that terrible war of extermination against the heretics, which counted its victims by tens of thousands, which made no distinction of age or sex, which shrunk from no atrocities, till the spiritual chief of Christendom himself stood aghast at the excesses of the champions whom he had hounded on, but whom he was powerless to control. And these horrors were perpetrated in the name of Him, Who refused to call down fire on that churlish Samaritan village. This diabolical energy of persecution raged under the shadow of the Cross, the very symbol of patient suffering and self-denying love. And, if it were not sickening to wade through lakes of Christian blood, I would ask you to pass with me from the thirteenth century to the sixteenth, and witness the atrocities of that terrible period—the wholesale executions in the Netherlands, whether fifty thousand or a hundred thousand, it matters not; the ceaseless flames of the Inquisition in Spain; the one terrible night of butchery in Paris, a combination of treachery and ferocity, such as the world has rarely witnessed: gigantic horrors these, before whose glare the fires of Smithfield pale into nothing, notwithstanding that they have lighted in the heart and the intelligence of England a candle which shall never be put out. Why have I dwelt so long on these painful incidents? Not, assuredly, because the Gospel is chargeable with any portion of these crimes. Those who have studied Church history with care will see for themselves, that the barbarities of half-savage nations would have been still more barbarous, and the passions of lawless men still more passionate, if its influence had been withdrawn. Not, certainly, because these facts, truly weighed, are any argument in the hands of unbelievers. I know no stronger evidence of the inherent power and vitality of Christianity, than that it should have triumphed over these scandals of Christendom. But it is well that at a time like the present these painful memories should step in, and check our self-complacency. The atrocities of Islam have copied only too faithfully the atrocities of Christendom. And they can at least plead consistency. We did these things in defiance of our creed; while they have done them in obedience to their creed. Surely never was there a time, when Christendom was more directly called to humble herself in the dust than when this painful likeness—this hideous caricature, if you will—of her own misdeeds is flaunted before her eyes. And to each of us individually his share of the humiliation must fall. We would fain hope that a repetition of scandals on this vast scale among Christian nations is henceforward impossible. But still the terrible catalogue of offences is lengthening day by day. Still Christ’s little ones are falling by thousands on all sides. Still the woe is gathering strength and volume for discharge. For, though the form of the scandal may change, the spirit which creates it remains; the partisanship, the falsehood, the insincerity, the bigotry, the cruelty, the pride, the self-seeking, the self-indulgence, thwarting and neutralising by its example the faith which it professes. There is the Christian apologist, who wields the weapons of disingenuousness and fraud in defence of the truth; there is the Christian preacher, whose words are words of lofty self-denial and devotion, and whose life is worldliest of the worldly; there is the Christian philanthropist, whose sympathy for the suffering and oppressed classes is unbounded, and whose bearing is morose, selfish, intolerable, in his own household; there is the Christian colonist, whose rapacity or whose lawlessness or whose tyranny makes the Sacred Name, which he bears, a byword and an abomination to the heathen among whom he dwells. These and a thousand other forms of scandal are working their deadly work; while with ever-growing importunity the cry of Christ’s little ones fallen and engulfed rises up to the Eternal Throne, ‘Lord, how long?’ And surely nowhere else should the warning in the text find a prompter hearing than in this place. It is declared to be the natural constitution of the Church of Christ, that when one member suffers, all the members shall suffer with it. A University, still more a College is, as it were, a Church within a Church. The connexion of the members is closer. The contagion of sympathy, whether for good or for evil, is more immediate. The force of personal example is more directly felt. The freedom and the closeness of intercourse combines with the age of the great majority of its members to render it keenly susceptible of such influences. And let no man think that he can escape responsibility in this matter. There is some element of strength in all, even the very weakest. It may be superior intellectual power or higher mental culture; it may be a wider acquaintance with the world; it may be more enlarged religious views; it may be a capacity of winning affection or of commanding popularity; it may be superior age or longer residence in this place. In some way or other each man possesses in himself a force, which gives him a power over others, and invests him with a responsibility towards Christ’s little ones. One may well shudder to think how much injury will be done to the moral well-being of a large number within the first few weeks of their residence here from forgetfulness of this charge; how many good principles may be undermined, how many noble resolves shaken, how many latent vices developed. I say nothing of the coarser forms of temptation. These wear no disguise, and therefore they condemn themselves. But reflect how much evil is inflicted from inconsiderateness, from levity, from insensibility to the effects of our commonest words and deeds. I will take one instance out of many which might be imagined. A man comes up here with certain religious views. He has been brought up, as we think, in a narrow school of theology. He pays undue regard to points which we consider nonessentials; he clings to certain religious watchwords with which we have no sympathy. Let it be granted for the moment that we are right and he is wrong. Yet his observance may be to him the sacrament of his highest moral duties; his watchword may be to him the embodiment of his truest spiritual convictions. Is it right, is it generous, is it kind, to laugh at his weakness, to pour scorn upon his scrupulousness? May not his error be better than our truth, his narrowness than our largeness of view? Is there no danger, lest while plucking up a prejudice, we may not root out a principle also? Men are apt to talk lightly of shocking prejudices, sometimes as if it were a matter of infinitely small moment, sometimes as if they were fulfilling an absolute duty, or at least acting an honest and upright part. What, if the veil were withdrawn, and they could see things as they are? What, if the cry of agony from Christ’s little ones, whom they have wronged, should penetrate at length to their ears? The subject is a wide one, and there is no time to pursue it further. Yet I cannot forbear saying a few words in reference to friendship. Friendship is the association of the stronger with the weaker. I do not say that the strength will be all on one side. Friendship in its very nature implies mutual dependence. Each has an element of power, which the other lacks; each therefore has a responsibility to the other, as to a little one in Christ. I do not forget (how could I ever forget?) that the friendships formed or cemented during residence here are valued as beyond all price by those who have known their blessings. I can hardly suppose that there is one man in this church to whom friendship is not a very sacred name. I cannot imagine any one here so base that he would not sooner cut off his right hand, than knowingly inflict a moral injury on his heart’s best brother. But that which he would loathe to do intentionally he may do from carelessness. He feels his friend’s strictness inconvenient to him; it interferes with the freedom of their intercourse; it leaves less time for amusement; at all events it acts as a barrier between them. It is an easy matter to weary or to laugh him out of it. And it seems a light matter too. But it may be terrible enough in its consequences. For it may be the first shock given to his moral nature; the first step taken on the downward incline. Or again, a man may be given to profane or idle talking. To himself it may mean little or nothing. But this is no measure of its significance to another. What glances off the surface harmlessly with him, may wound the soul of another deeply. And the wound festers, and spreads, and mortifies, and refuses to be healed. And thus from sheer recklessness he has sown the seeds of his friend’s ruin. Can any agony be conceived more keen than the agony of a generous spirit, when the revelation is flashed in upon him, whether in this world or beyond the grave, of the cruel wrong he has done to one, whom he loved with more than a brother’s love? Against such perils as these I know only one security, the purification, the discipline, the consecration of the man’s self. Be assured, if there is any taint of corruption within, it will spread contagion without. It is quite impossible to isolate the inward from the outward. No man can be always on his guard. ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ Each one of us carries about with him a moral atmosphere, which takes its character from his inmost self. And this discipline, this purification of self, is best summed up in the Apostle’s precept, ‘In vice be ye children; howbeit in understanding be ye men.’ The manly in the childlike, and the childlike in the manly—this is the true livery of the citizens of Christ’s kingdom. Be men in the cultivation of your minds, in the vigour of your actions, in the courage of your lives, in the promptness to do and to suffer. But be children in frankness and simplicity; do nothing which you would care to conceal. Be children in natural affection; let home remain still the chief sanctuary of your heart. Be children in reverence; reverence is the body-armour of the young man’s warfare. Be children, last of all, in faith and trustfulness; in all your trials and all your temptations, in your hopes and your fears, in your disappointments and your successes, in your weakness and your strength, seek repose in the embrace of the everlasting arms, confident of a Father’s love. This do, and you will run no risk of offending Christ’s little ones. This do, and the very God of peace will sanctify you wholly, that your spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) The Folly and Danger of being not righteous enough The Folly and Danger of being not righteous enough Eccles. 7:16 Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself? NOTHING is more frequent, than while people are living in a course of sin, and after the fashion and manner of the world, there is no notice taken of them; neither are their ways displeasing to their companions and carnal relations: but if they set their faces Zion-ward, and begin to feel the power of God on their hearts; then they are surrounded with temptations from their friends, who thus act the devil’s part. The enemies, the greatest enemies a young convert meets with, my dear brethren, are those of his own house. They that will be godly, must suffer persecution; so it was in Christ’s time, and so it was in the Apostles time too; for our Lord came not to send peace, but a sword. Our relations would not have us sit in the scorner’s chair; they would not have us be prodigals, consuming our substance upon harlots; neither would they have us rakes or libertines, but they would have us be contented with an almost christianity. To keep up our reputation by going to church, and adhering to the outward forms of religion, saying our prayers, reading the word of God, and taking the sacraments; this, they imagine, is all that is necessary for to be christians indeed; and when we go one step farther than this, their mouths are open against us, as Peter’s was to Christ: "Spare thyself, do thyself no harm." And of this nature are the words of the text. They are not the words of Solomon himself, but the words of an infidel speaking to him, whom he introduces in several parts of this book; for Solomon had been shewing the misfortunes which attended the truly good, as in the verse before our text. Upon this the infidel says, "Be not righteous over-much, neither be thou over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" i. e. Why shouldst thou bring these misfortunes upon thyself, by being over-strict? Be not righteous over-much; eat, drink, and be merry, live as the world lives, and then you will avoid those misfortunes which may attend you, by being righteous over-much. This text has another meaning; but take it which way you will, my brethren, it was spoken by an unbeliever; therefore it was no credit for the person who lately preached upon this text, to take it for granted, that these were the words of Solomon: the words of an infidel was not a proper text to a christian congregation. But as David came out against Goliah, not armed as the champion was, with sword and spear, but with a sling and stone, and then cut off his head with his own sword; so I come out against these letter learned men, in the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ; and, my dear brethren, I trust he will direct me to use my sling, so that our enemies may not gainsay us; and by the sword of God’s word, cut off the heads of our Redeemer’s enemies. But though they are not the words of Solomon, yet we will take them in the same manner the late writer did; and, from the words, shall, First, Shew you what it is, not to be righteous over-much, that we may not destroy ourselves. Secondly, I shall let you see what it is to be righteous over-much. And then, Thirdly, Conclude with an exhortation to all of you, high and low, rich and poor, one with another, to come to the Lord Jesus Christ. First, The first thing proposed, is shew you what it is not to be righteous over-much, And here, It is by no means to be righteous over-much, to affirm we must have the same Spirit of God as the first Apostles had, and must feel that Spirit upon our hearts. By receiving the Spirit of God, is not to be understood, that we are to be inspired to shew outward signs and wonders, to raise dead bodies, to cure leprous persons, or to give sight to the blind: these miracles were only of use in the first ages of the church; and therefore christians (nominal christians, for we have little else but the name) may have all the gifts of the Spirit, and yet none of the graces of it: Thou, O man, mayest be enabled by faith to remove mountains; thou, by the power of God, mayest cast out devils; thou, by that power, mayest speak with the tongues of men and angels; yea, thou mayest, by that power, hold up thy finger and stop the fun in the firmament; and if all these are unsanctified by the Spirit of God, they would be of no service to thee, but would hurry thee to hell with the greater solemnity. Saul received the spirit of prophesying, and had another heart, yet Saul was probably a cast-away. We must receive the Spirit of God in its sanctifying graces upon our souls; for Christ says, "Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." We are all by nature born in sin, and at as great a distance from God, as the devils themselves. I have told you often, and now tell you again, that you are by nature a motley mixture of the beast and devil, and we cannot recover ourselves from the state wherein we have fallen, therefore must be renewed by the Holy Ghost. By the Holy Ghost, I mean, the third Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, co-equal, co-essential, co-eternal, and consubstantial with the Father and the Son; and therefore, when we are baptized, it is into the nature of the Father, into the nature of the Son, and into the nature of the Holy Ghost: and we are not true christians, till we are sanctified by the Spirit of God. Though our modern preachers do not actually deny the Spirit of God, yet they say, "Christians must not feel him;" which is in effect to deny him. When Nicodemus came to Christ, and the Lord Jesus was instructing him, concerning the new birth, says he to our Lord, "How can these things be?" Nicodemus, though a master of Israel, acts just as our learned Rabbi’s do now. The answer that Christ gave him should stop the mouths of our letter-learned pharisees: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth." Now till the Spirit of God is felt on our souls as the wind on our bodies, indeed, my dear brethren, you have no interest in him: religion consists not in external performance, it must be in the heart, or else it is only a name, which cannot profit us, a name to live whilst we are dead. A late preacher upon this text, seems to laugh at us, for talking of the Spirit in a sensible manner, and talks to us as the Jews did to Christ: They said, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So he asks, "What sign or proof do we give of it?" We do not imagine, that God must appear to us, and give it us: no; but there may be, and is, a frequent receiving, when no seeing of it; and it is as plainly felt in the soul, as any impression is, or can be, upon the body. To what a damnable condition should we bring poor sinners, if they could not be sensible of the Spirit of God; namely, a reprobate mind and past feeling? "What proof do they give?" says the writer. What sign would they have? Do they expect us to raise the dead, to give sight to the blind, to cure lepers, to make the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear? If these are what they expect, I speak with humility, God, by us, hath done greater things than these: many, who were dead in sin, are railed to scripture-life: those, who were leprous by nature, are cleansed by the Spirit of God; those, who were lame in duty, now run in God’s commands; those, who were deaf, their ears are unstopped to hear his discipline, and hearken to his advice; and the poor have the gospel preached to them. No wonder people talk at this rate, when they can tell us, "That the Spirit of God, is a good conscience, consequent thereupon." My dear brethren, Seneca, Cicero, Plato, or any of the heathen philosophers, would have given as good a definition as this: It means no more, than reflecting that we have done well. This, this is only Deism refined: Deists laugh at us, when we pretend to be against their notions, and yet these men use no other reason for our differing from them, than what is agreeable to Deifts principle. This writer tells us, "It is against common-sense to talk of the feeling of the Spirit of God." Common-sense, my brethren, was never allowed to be a judge; yea, it is above its comprehension, neither are, nor can the ways of God be known by common-sense. We should never have known the things of God at all by our common senses: no; it is the revelation of God which is to be our judge; it is that we appeal to, and not to our weak and shallow conceptions of things. Thus we may see, it is by no means to be righteous over-much, to affirm we must have the Spirit of God as the Apostles had. Nor, Secondly, Is it to be righteous over-much to frequent religious assemblies. The preacher, upon this text, aims at putting aside all the religious societies that are in the kingdom: Indeed, he says, "You may go to church as often as opportunity serves, and on Sundays; say your prayers, read the word of God; and, in his opinion, every thing else had better be let alone: and as for the Spirit of God upon your souls, you are to look upon it as useless and unnecessary." If this, my brethren, is the doctrine we have now preached, christianity is at a low ebb indeed: but God forbid you should thus learn Jesus Christ. Do you not forbear the frequenting of religious assemblies; for as nothing helps to build up the devil’s kingdom more than the societies of wicked men, nothing would be more for pulling of it down, than the people of God meeting to strengthen each others hands; and as the devil has so many friends, will none of you be friends to the blessed Jesus? Yes, I hope many of you will be of the Lord’s side, and build each other up in christian love and fellowship. This is what the primitive christians delighted in; and shall not we follow so excellent an example? My brethren, till christian conversation is more agreeable to us, we cannot expect to see the gospel of Christ run and be glorified. Thus it is by no means to be righteous over-much, to frequent religious assemblies. Nor, Thirdly, Is it to be righteous over-much, to abstain from the diversions and entertainments of the age. We are commanded to "abstain from the appearance of evil," and that "whatsoever we do, whether we eat or drink, we shall do all to the glory of God." The writer upon this text tells us, "That it will be accounted unlawful to smell to a rose:" no, my dear brethren, you may smell to a pink and rose too if you please, but take care to avoid the appearance of sin. They talk of innocent diversions and recreations; for my part, I know of no diversion, but that of doing good: if you can find any diversion which is not contrary to your baptismal vow, of renouncing the pomps and vanities of this wicked world; if you can find any diversion which tends to the glory of God; if you can find any diversion, which you would be willing to be found at by the Lord Jesus Christ, I give you free licence to go to them and welcome; but if, on the contrary, they are found to keep sinners from coming to the Lord Jesus Christ; if they are a means to harden the heart, and such as you would not willingly be found in when you come to die, then, my dear brethren, keep from them: for, indeed, the diversions of this age are contrary to christianity. Many of you may think I have gone too far, but I shall go a great deal farther yet: I will attack the devil in his strongest holds, and bear my testimony against our fashionable and polite entertainments. What satisfaction can it be, what pleasure is there in spending several hours at cards? Strange! that even people who are grown old, can spend whole nights in this diversion: perhaps many of you will cry out, "What harm is there in it?" My dear brethren, whatsoever is not of faith, or for the glory of God, is a sin: Now does cards tend to promote this? Is it not mispending your precious time, which should be employed in working out your salvation with fear and trembling? Do play-houses, horse-racing, balls and assemblies, tend to promote the glory of God? Would you be willing to have your soul demanded of you, while you are at one of those places? Many of these are, (I must speak, I cannot forbear to speak against these entertainments; come what will, I will declare against them) many, I say, of these are kept up by public authority: the play-houses are supported by a public fund, and our newspapers are full of horse-races all through the kingdom: these things are sinful; indeed they are exceeding sinful. What good can come from a horse-race; from abusing God Almighty’s creatures, and putting them to that use he never designed for them: the play-houses, are they not nurseries of debauchery in the age? and the supporters and patrons of them, are encouragers and promoters of all the evil that is done by them; they are the bane of the age, and will be the destruction of those who frequent them. Is it not high time for the true ministers of Jesus Christ, who have been partakers of the heavenly gift, to lift up their voices as a trumpet, and cry aloud against these diversions of the age? Are they not earthly, sensual, devilish? If you have tasted of the love of God, and have felt his power upon your souls, you would no more go to a play, than you would run your head into a furnace. And what occasions these places to be so much frequented, is the clergy’s making no scruple to be at these polite places: they frequent play-houses, they go to horse races, they go to balls and assemblies, they frequent taverns, and follow all the entertainments that the age affords; and yet these are the persons who should advise their hearers to refrain from them; but instead thereof, they encourage them by their example. Persons are too apt to rely upon, and believe their pastors, rather than the scriptures; they think that there is no crime in going to plays or horse-races, to balls and assemblies; for if there were, they think those persons, who are their ministers, would not frequent them: but, my dear brethren, observe they always go disguised, the ministers are afraid of being seen in their gowns and cassocks; the reason thereof is plain, their consciences inform them, that it is not an example fit for the ministers of the gospel to set; thus, they are the means of giving that offence to the people of God, which I would not for ten thousand worlds: they lay a stumbling-block in the way of their weak brethren, which they will not remove, though it is a stumbling-block of offence. "Woe unto the world because of offences, but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh." The polite gentlemen of the age, spend their time in following these diversions, because the love of God is not in their hearts; they are void of Christ, and destitute of the Spirit of God; and not being acquainted with the delight there is in God and his ways, being strangers to these things, they run to the devil for diversions, and are pleased and delighted with the silly ones he shews them. My dear brethren, I speak of these things, these innocent diversions, as the polite part of the world calls them, by experience; perhaps none, for my age, hath read or seen more plays than I have: I took delight in, and was pleased with them. It is true, I went to church frequently, received the sacrament, and was diligent in the use of the forms of religion, but I was all this while ignorant of the power of God on my heart, and unacquainted with the work of grace; but when God was pleased to shine with power upon my soul, I could no longer be contented to feed on husks, or what the swine did eat: the Bible then was my food; there, and there only I took delight: and till you feel this same power, you will not abstain from the earthly delights of this age, you will take no comfort in God’s ways, nor receive any comfort from him; for you are void of the love of God, having only the form of godliness, while you are denying the power of it; you are nominal christians, when you have not the power of christianity. The polite gentlemen say, "Are we to be always upon our knees? Would you have us be always at prayer, and? reading or hearing the word of God?" My dear brethren, the fashionable ones, who take delight in hunting, are not tired of being continually on horseback after their hounds; and when once you are renewed by the Spirit of God, it will be a continual pleasure to be walking with, and talking of God, and telling what great things Jesus Christ hath done for your souls; and till you can find as much pleasure in conversing with God, as these men, do of their hounds, you have no share in him; but when you have tasted how good the Lord is, you will shew forth his praise; out of the abundance of your heart your mouth will speak. This brings me to the second thing proposed, which is an extream that very seldom happens: Secondly, To shew what it is to be righteous over-much. And here, First, When we confine the Spirit of God to this or that particular church; and are not willing to converse with any but those of the same communion; this is to be righteous over-much with a witness: and so it is, to consine our communion within church-walls, and to think that Jesus could not preach in a field as well as on consecrated-ground; this is judaism, this is bigotry: this is like Peter, who would not go to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, till he had a vision from God: and when his conduct was blamed by the disciples, he could not satisfy them till he had acquainted them with the vision he had seen. And, therefore, we may justly infer, the Spirit of God is the center of unity; and wherever I see the image of my Master, I never enquire of them their opinions; I ask them not what they are, so they love Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, but embrace them as my brother, my sister, and my spouse: and this is the spirit of christianity. Many persons, who are bigots to this or that opinion, when one of a different way of thinking hath come where they were, have left the room or place on the account: this is the spirit of the devil; and if it was possible that these persons could be admitted into heaven with such tempers, that very place would be hell to them. Christianity will never flourish, till we are all of one heart and of one mind; and this would be the only means of seeing the gospel of Jesus to flourish, more than ever it will by persecuting those who differ from us. This may be esteemed as enthusiasm and madness, and as a design to undermine the established church: No; God is my judge, I should rejoice to see all the world adhere to her articles; I should rejoice to see the ministers of the Church of England, preach up those very articles they have subscribed to; but those ministers who do preach up the articles, are esteemed as madmen, enthusiasts, schismatics, and underminers of the established church: and though they say these things of me, blessed be God, they are without foundation. My dear brethren, I am a friend to her articles, I am a friend to her homilies, I am a friend to her liturgy; and, if they did not thrust me out of their churches, I would read them every day; but I do not consine the Spirit of God there; for I say it again, I love all that love the Lord Jesus Christ, and esteem him my brother, my friend, my spouse; aye, my very soul is knit to that person. The spirit of persecution will never, indeed it will never make any to love Jesus Christ. The pharisees make this to be madness, so much as to mention persecution in a christian country; but there is as much the spirit of persecution now in the world, as ever there was; their will is as great, but blessed be God, they want the, power; otherwise, how soon would they send me to prison, make my feet fast in the stocks, yea, would think they did God service in killing me, and would rejoice to take away my life. This is not the Spirit of Christ, my dear brethren; I had not come to have thus preached; I had not come into the highways and hedges; I had not exposed myself to the ill treatment of these letter-learned men, but for the sake of your souls: indeed, I had no other reason, but your salvation; and for that (I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not) I would be content to go to prison; yea, I would rejoice to die for you, so I could but be a means to bring some of you to Jesus: I could not bear to see so many in the highway to destruction, and not shew them their danger: I could not bear, my brethren, to see you more willing to learn, than the teachers are to instruct you: and if any of them were to come and preach, to you, I should not envy them, I should not call them enthusiasts or madmen; I should rejoice to hear they had ten thousand times more success than I have met with; I would give them the right-hand of fellowship; I would advise them to go on; I would wish them good luck in the name of the Lord, and say as Christ did, when the disciples informed him of some casting out devils in his name, and were for rebuking of them, "Forbid them not, for they that are not against us are for us;" or as St. Paul says, "Some preach Christ of envy, and some of good-will; notwithstanding, so Christ is but preached, I rejoice; yea, and will rejoice." The gospel of Jesus, is a gospel of peace. Thus you may see, that to be righteous over-much, is to be uncharitable, censorious, and to persecute persons for differing from us in religion. Secondly, persons are righteous over-much, when they spend so much time in religious assemblies, as to neglect their families. There is no licence given by the blessed Jesus, for idleness; for in the very infancy of the world, idleness was not allowed of. In paradise, Adam and Eve dressed the garden, Cain was a tiller of the ground, and Abel was a keeper of sheep; and there is a proverb amongst the Jews, "That he who brings his son up without a business, brings him up to be a thief:" and therefore our Saviour was a carpenter; "Is not this the carpenter’s son," said the Jews: and St. Paul, though brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, was a tent-maker. Labour, my brethren, is imposed on all mankind as part of the divine curse; and you are called to be useful in the society to which you belong: take care first for the kingdom of God, and all things necessary shall be added. To labour for the meat that perisheth, is your duty; only take care, that you do not neglect getting the meat for the soul: that is of the greatest consequence, for this plain reason, the things of this life are temporal, but those of the next are eternal. I would have rich men to work as well as poor: it is owing to their idleness, that the devil hurries them to his diversions; they can be in their beds all the morning, and spend the afternoon and evening in dressing, visiting, and at balls, plays, or assemblies, when they should be working out their salvation with fear and trembling. Such a life as this, occasions a spiritual numbness in the soul; and if Jesus Christ was not to stop those who thus spend their time, they would be hurried into eternity, without once thinking of their immortal souls. But Jesus Christ has compassion upon many of them, and while they are in their blood, he bids them "live." And though I preach this doctrine to you, yet I do not bid you be idle; no, they that do not work should not eat. You have two callings, a general one, and a special one: as we are to regard the one in respect of our bodies, so we are to regard the other on account of our souls. Take heed, my brethren, I beseech you, take heed, lest you labour so for the meat that perisheth, as to forget that meat which endureth for ever. Seek the things of God first; look well to obtain oil in your lamps, grace in your hearts. I am not persuading you to take no care about the things of the world, but only not to be encumbered with them, so as to neglect your duty towards God, and a proper concern for your souls. It is meet, it is right, it is your bounden duty, to mind the callings wherein God hath placed you; and you may be said to be righteous over-much not to regard them. This brings me, Thirdly, To give you another sign of being righteous over-much; and that is, when we fast and use corporal austerities, so as to unfit us for the service of God. This, my brethren, you may think there is no occasion at all to caution you against, and indeed there is not a great necessity for it; however, many persons, upon their first being awakened to a sense of their sin, are tempted to use austerities to that excess which is sinful. It is our duty to fast, it is our duty to fast often, and it is what we are directed to by Jesus Christ himself; but then we are to take care to do it in a proper manner: to bring our bodies under for the service of God, is that which we are commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ. The late preacher upon this text, runs into great extremes, and charges us with saying and acting things, of which we never thought; but I do not regard what he said of me: I do not mind his bitter invectives against my ministry; I do not mind his despising my youth, and calling me novice and enthusiast; I forgive him from my very heart: but when he reflects on my Master; when he speaks against my Redeemer; when Jesus Christ is spoken against, I must speaks, (I must speak indeed, or I should burst:) when he gives liberty to persons to take a chearful glass, and alledges Christ for an example, as in the marriage-feast, saying, "Christ turned water into wine, when it is plain there had been more drank than was necessary before;" what is this, but to charge Christ with encouraging drunkenness? It is true, the Governor says, "Every man in the beginning sets forth good wine, and when men have well drank, that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now:" but it does not at all follow, that it was not necessary, or that there had been a sufficient quantity before: I would not speak thus slightingly of one of my Master’s miracles, for the to whole world. And we may observe, that as Christ chiefly visited poor people, they might not have wherewithal to buy a sufficient quantity of wine; or having more guests than were expected, the wine was expended sooner than they thought; then the Mother of Jesus tells him, "They have no wine;" he answers, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour is not yet come." After this he commanded them to fill the water-pots with water, and they filled them to the brim, and this water he turned into wine: now it does not at all follow, that there was more drank than was necessary; neither would the Lord Jesus Christ have continued in the house if there had. But we have an excellent lesson to learn from this miracle: by the water-pots being empty, we may understand, the heart of man being by nature destitute of his grace, his speaking and commanding to fill them, shews, that when Christ speaks, the heart that was empty of grace before, shall be filled; and the water-pots being filled to the brim, shews, that Christ will fill believers hearts brim full of the Holy Ghost: and from the Governor’s observing, that the last wine was the best, learn, that a believer’s best comforts, shall be the last and greatest, for they shall come with the greatest power upon the soul, and continue longest there: this, this my dear brethren, is the lesson we may learn from this miracle. But one great inconsistency I cannot avoid taking notice of in this late learned preacher. In the beginning of his sermon, he charges us with "laying heavy burthens upon people, which they are not able to bear;" in the latter part he charges us with being Antinomians, whose tenets are, "So you say you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you may live the life of devils." Now, he charges us with being too strict, and by and by with being too loose. Which side, my brethren, will you take? Thus you see, when persons my forsake Christ they make strange mistakes; for there can be no greater opposition of sentiments than this letter-learned writer has made: as opposite as light and darkness, good and evil, sweet and bitter. And, on this account, to find out these lettered-learned gentlemens notions of the new-birth, I put a paragraph in my Journal; and, blessed be God, I have obtained my desires, and have plainly perceived, that the persons who have lately written concerning the new-birth, know no more of it than a blind man does of colours, nor can they have any more notion of it, (by all their learning, falsely so called) than the blind man, who was to give an account what the sun was, and, after a considerable time allowed for study, he said, "It was like the sound of a trumpet." And till they are taught of God, they will be unacquainted with the new-birth: therefore, if you have a mind to know what the devil has to say against us, read Dr. Trapp’s sermons. It is with grief I speak these things, and were not the welfare of your souls, and my Redeemer’s honour at stake, I would not now open my mouth, yea I would willingly die (God is my judge) for the person who wrote such bitter things against me, so it would be a means of saving his soul. If he had only spoken against me, I would not have answered him; but, on his making my Redeemer a pattern of vice, if I was not to speak, the very stones would cry out; therefore, the honour of my Redeemer, and love to you, constrains me to speak. It is of necessity that I speak, when the divinity of Jesus Christ is spoken against, it is the duty of ministers to cry aloud, and spare not. I cannot forbear, come what will; for I know not what kind of divinity we have how among us: we must have a righteousness of our own, and do our best endeavours, and then Christ will make up the deficiency; that is, you must be your own Saviour, in part. This is not the doctrine of the gospel; this is not the doctrine of Jesus: no; Christ is all in all; Jesus Christ must be your whole wisdom; Jesus Christ must be your whole righteousness, Jesus Christ must be your whole sanctification; or Jesus Christ will never be your eternal redemption and sanctification. Inward holiness is looked on, by some, as the effect of enthusiasm and madness; and preachers of the necessity of the new-birth, are esteemed as persons fit for Bedlam. Our polite and fashionable doctrine, is, "That there is a fitness in man, and that God, feeing you a good creature, bestows upon you his grace." God forbid, my dear brethren, you should thus learn Jesus Christ! This is not the doctrine I preach to you: I say, salvation is the free gift of God. It is God’s free grace, I preach unto you, not of works, lest any one should boast. Jesus Christ justifies the ungodly; Jesus Christ passed by, and saw you polluted with your blood, and bid you live. It is not of works, it is of faith: we are not justified for our faith, for faith is the instrument, but by your faith, the active as well as the passive obedience of Christ, must be applied to you. Jesus Christ hath fulfilled the law, he hath made it honourable; Jesus Christ hath made satisfaction to his Father’s justice, full satisfaction; and it is as compleat as it is full, and God will not demand it again. Jesus Christ is the way; Jesus Christ is the truth; and Jesus Christ is the life. The righteousness of Jesus Christ, my brethren, must be imputed to you, or you can never have any interest in the blood of Jesus; your own works are but as filthy rags, for you are justified before God, without any respect to your works past, present, or to come. This doctrine is denyed by the learned rabbi’s; but if they deny these truths of the gospel, they must not be offended, though a child dare speak to a doctor; and, in vindication of the cause of Jesus Christ, a child, a boy, by the Spirit of God, can speak to the learned clergy of this age. If I had a voice so great, and could speak so loud, as that the whole world could hear me, I would cry, "Be not righteous over-much," by bringing your righteousness to Christ, and by being righteous in your own eyes. Man must be abased, that God may be exalted. The imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ is a comfortable doctrine to all real christians; and you sinners, who ask what you must do to be saved? how uncomfortable would it be, to tell you by good works, when, perhaps, you have never done one good work in all your life: this would be driving you to despair, indeed: no; "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved;" therefore none of you need go away despairing. Come to the Lord Jesus by faith, and he shall receive you. You have no righteousness of your own to depend on. If you are saved, it is by the righteousness of Christ, through his atonement, his making a sacrifice for sin: his righteousness must be imputed to you, otherwise you cannot be saved. There is no difference between you, by nature, and the greatest malefactor that ever was executed at Tyburn: the difference made, is all owing to the free, the rich, the undeserved grace of God; this has made the difference. It is true, talking at this rate, will offend the pharisees, who do not like this levelling doctrine, (as they call it); but if ever you are brought to Jesus Christ by faith, you will experience the truth of it. Come by faith to Jesus Christ; do not come, pharisee-like, telling God what you have done, how often you have gone to church, how often you have received the sacrament, fasted, prayed, or the like: no; come to Christ as poor, lost, undone, damned sinners; come to him in this manner, and he will accept of you: do not be rich in spirit, proud and exalted, for there is no blessing attends such; but be ye poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God; they shall be made members of his mystical body here, and shall be so of the church triumphant hereafter. Acknowledge yourselves as nothing at all, and when you have done all, say, "You are unprofitable servants." There is no salvation but by Jesus Christ; there is no other name given under heaven amongst men, whereby we may be saved, but that of the Lord Jesus. God, out of Christ, is a consuming fire; therefore strive for an interest in his Son the Lord Jesus Christ; take him on the terms offered to you in the gospel; accept of him in God’s own way, lay hold on him by faith. Do not think you are christians; do not flatter yourselves with being righteous enough, and good enough, because you lead moral decent lives, do no one any harm, go to church, and attend upon the outward means of grace; no, my brethren, you may do this, and a great deal more, and yet be very far from having a saving, experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ. Beg of Christ to strike home upon your hearts, that you may feel the power of religion. Indeed, you must feel the power of God here, or the wrath of God hereafter. These are truths of the utmost consequence; therefore, do not go contradicting, do not go blaspheming away. Blessed be God, you are not such cowards to run away for a little rain. I hope good thing of you; I hope you have felt the power of God; and if God should bring any of you to himself through this foolishness of preaching, you will have no reason to complain it was done by a youth, by a child: no; if I could be made an instrument to bring you to God, they may call me novice, enthusiast, or what they please, I should rejoice; yea, and I would rejoice. O that some sinner might be brought to Jesus Christ! Do not say I preach despair: I despair of no one, when I consider God had mercy on such a wretch as I, who was running in a full career to hell: I was hasting thither, but Jesus Christ passed by and stopped me; Jesus Christ passed by me while I was in my blood, when I was in polluted with filth; he passed by me, and bid me live. Thus I am a monument of God’s free grace; and therefore, my brethren, I despair of none of you, when I consider, I say, what a wretch I was. I am not speaking now out of a false humility, a pretended fanctity, as the pharisees call it: no, the truth in Christ I speak, and therefore, men and devils do your worst; I have a gracious Master will protect me; it is his work I am engaged in, and Jesus Christ will carry me above their rage. Those who are come here this night out of curiosity to hear what the babbler says; those who come to spend an idle hour to find something for an evening-conversation at a coffee-house; or you who have stopped in your coaches as you passed by, remember that you have had Jesus Christ offered to you; I offer Jesus Christ to every one of you: perhaps you may not regard it because it is in a field. But Jesus Christ is wherever his people meet in sincerity and truth to worship him: he is not confined to church walls: he has met us here; many, very many of you know he has; and therefore you may believe on him with greater confidence. Can you bear to think of a bleeding, panting, dying Jesus, offering himself up for sinners, and you will not accept of him? Do not say, you are poor, and therefore are ashamed to go to church, for God has sent the gospel out unto you. Do not harden your hearts: oppose not the will of Jesus. O that I could speak to your hearts, that my words would centre there. My heart is full of love to you. I would speak, till I could speak no more, so I could but bring you to Christ. I may never meet you all, perhaps, any more. The cloud of God’s providence seems to be moving. God calls me by his providence away from you, for a while. God knows whether we shall ever see each other in the flesh. At the day of judgment we shall all meet again. I earnestly desire your prayers. Pray that I may not only begin, Jehu-like, in the spirit, but that I may continue in it. Pray that I may not fall away, that I may not decline suffering for you, if I should be called to it. Be earnest, O be earnest with God in my behalf, that while I am preaching to others, I may not be a cast-away. Put up your prayers for me, I beseech you. Go not to the throne of grace, without carrying me upon your heart for you know not what influence your prayers may have. As for you, my dear brethren, God knows my heart, I continually bear you on my mind, when I go in and out before the Lord; and it is my earnest desire, you may not perish for lack of knowledge, but that he would send out more ministers to water what his own right-hand hath planted. May the Antient of Days come forth upon his white horse, and may all opposition fall to the ground. As we have begun to bruise the serpent’s head, we must expect he will bruise our heel. The devil will not let his kingdom fall without raging horribly. He will not suffer the ministers of Christ to go on, without bringing his power to stop them. But fear not, my dear brethren, David, though a stripling, encountered the great Goliah; and if we pray, God will give us strength against all our spiritual enemies. Shew your faith by your works. Give the world the lye. Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark see before you. Fight the good fight of faith, and God will give you spiritual mercies. I hope we shall all meet at the right-hand of God. Strive, strive to enter in at the strait gate, that we may be borne to Abraham’s bosom, where sin and sorrow shall cease. No scoffer will be there, but we shall see Jesus, who died for us; and not only see him, but live with him for ever. Which God, of his infinite mercy, &c. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.