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The great Duty of Family-Religion

The great Duty of Family-Religion

The great Duty of Family-Religion

Joshua 24:15

As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.

THESE words contain the holy resolution of pious Joshua, who having in a most moving, affectionate discourse recounted to the Israelites what great things God had done for them, in the verse immediately preceding the text, comes to draw a proper inference from what he had been delivering; and acquaints them, in the most pressing terms, that since God had been so exceeding gracious unto them, they could do no less, than out of gratitude, for such uncommon favours and mercies, dedicate both themselves and families to his service. "Now therefore, fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth, and put away the God’s which your fathers served on the other side of the flood." And by the same engaging motive does the prophet Samuel afterwards enforce their obedience to the commandments of God, 1 Sam. 12:24. "Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth; with all your heart; for consider how great things he hath done for you." But then, that they might not excuse themselves (as too many might be apt to do) by his giving them a bad example, or think he was laying heavy burdens upon them, whilst he himself touched them not with one of his fingers, he tells them in the text, that whatever regard they might pay to the doctrine he had been preaching, yet he (as all ministers ought to do) was resolved to live up to and practise it himself: "Chuse you therefore, whom you will serve, whether the Gods which your fathers served, or the Gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

A resolution this, worthy of Joshua, and no less becoming, no less necessary for every true son of Joshua, that is intrusted with the care and government of a family in our day: and, if it was ever seasonable for ministers to preach up, or people to put in practice family-religion, it was never more so than in the present age; since it is greatly to be feared, that out of those many housholds that call themselves christians, there are but few that serve God in their respective families as they ought.

It is true indeed, visit our churches, and you may perhaps see something of the form of godliness still subsisting amongst us; but even that is scarcely to be met with in private houses. So that were the blessed angles to come, as in the patriarchal age, and observe our spiritual oeconomy at home, would they not be tempted to say as Abraham to Abimilech, "Surely, the fear of God is not in this place?" Gen. 20:11.

How such a general neglect of family-religion first began to overspread the christian world, is difficult to determine. As for the primitive christians, I am positive it was not so with them: No, they had not so learned Christ, as falsely to imagine religion was to be confined solely to their assemblies for public worship; but, on the contrary, behaved with such piety and exemplary holiness in their private families, that St. Paul often styles their house a church: "Salute such a one, says he, and the church which is in his house." And, I believe, we must for ever despair of seeing a primitive spirit of piety revived in the world, till we are so happy as to see a revival of primitive family religion; and persons unanimously resolving with good old Joshua, in the words of the text, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

From which words, I shall beg leave to insist on these three things.

I. First, That it is the duty of every governor of a family to take care, that not only he himself, but also that those committed to his charge, "Serve the Lord."

II. Secondly, I shall endeavour to shew after what manner a governor and his houshold ought to serve the Lord. And,

III. Thirdly, I shall offer some motives, in order to excite all governors, with their respective households, to serve the Lord in the manner that shall be recommended.

And First, I am to shew that it is the duty of every governor of a family to take care, that not only he himself, but also that those committed to his charge, should serve the Lord.

And this will appear, if we consider that every governor of a family ought to look upon himself as obliged to act in three capacities: as a prophet, to instruct; as a priest, to pray for and with; as a king, to govern, direct, and provide for them. It is true indeed, the latter of these, their, kingly office, they are not so frequently deficient in, (nay in this they are generally too solicitous;) but as for the two former, their priestly and prophetic office, like Gallio, they care for no such things. But however indifferent some governors may be about it, they may be assured, that God will require a due discharge of these officers as their hands. For if, as the apostle argues, "He that does not provide for his own house," in temporal things, "has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel;" to what greater degree of apostasy must he have arrived, who takes no thought to provide for the spiritual welfare of his family!

But farther, persons are generally very liberal of their invectives against the clergy, and think they justly blame the conduct of that minister who does not take heed to and watch over the flock, of which the Holy Ghost has made him overseer: but may not every governor of a family, be in a lower degree liable to the same censure, who takes no thought for those souls that are committed to his charge? For every house is as it were a little parish, every governor (as was before observed) a priest, every family a flock: and if any of them perish through the governor’s neglect, their blood will God require at their hands.

Was a minister to disregard teaching his people publicly, and from house to house, and to excuse himself by saying, that he had enough to do work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, without concerning himself with that of others; would you not be apt to think such a minister, to be like the unjust judge, "One that neither feared God, nor regarded man?" And yet, odious as such a character would be, it is no worse than that governor of a family deserves, who thinks himself obliged only to save his own soul, without paying any regard to the souls of his houshold. For (as was above hinted) every house is as it were a parish, and every master is concerned to secure, as much as in him lies, the spiritual prosperity of every one under his roof, as any minister whatever is obliged to look to the spiritual welfare of every individual person under his charge.

What precedents men who neglect their duty in this particular, can plead for such omission, I cannot tell. Doubtless not the example of holy Job, who was so far from imagining that he had no concern, as governor of a family, with my one’s soul but his own, that the scripture acquaints us, "When the days of his childrens feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and offered burnt-offerings, according to the number of them all; for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts; thus did Job continually." Nor can they plead the practice of good old Joshua, whom, in the text, we find as much concerned for his houshold’s welfare, as his own. Nor lastly, that of Cornelius, who feared God, not only himself, but with all his house: and were christians but of the same spirit of Job, Joshua, and the Gentile centurion, they would act as Job, Joshua, and Cornelius did.

But alas! if this be the case, and all governors of families ought not only to serve the Lord themselves, but likewise to see that their respective housholds do so too; what will then become of those who not only neglect serving God themselves, but also make it their business to ridicule and scoff at any of their house that do? Who are not content with "not entering into the kingdom of heaven themselves; but those also that are willing to enter in, they hinder." Surely such men are factors for the devil indeed. Surely their damnation slumbereth not: for although God, in his good providence, may suffer such stumbling-blocks to be put in his childrens way, and suffer their greatest enemies to be those of their own housholds, for a trial of their sincerity, and improvement of their faith; yet we cannot but pronounce a woe against those masters by whom such offences come. For if those that only take care of their own souls, can scarcely be saved, where will such monstrous profane and wicked governors appear?

But hoping there are but few of this unhappy stamp, proceed we now to the

Second thing proposed; To shew after what manner a governor and his houshold ought to serve the Lord.

1. And the first thing I shall mention, is, reading the word of God. This is a duty incumbent on every private person. "Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life," is a precept given by our blessed Lord indifferently to all: but much more so, ought every governor of a family to think it in a peculiar manner spoken to himself, because (as hath been already proved) he ought to look upon himself as a prophet, and therefore, agreeably to such a character, bound to instruct those under his charge in the knowledge of the word of God.

This we find was the order God gave to his peculiar people Israel: for thus speaks his representative Moses,Deut. 6:6, 7. "These words," that is, the scripture words, "which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children," that is, as it is generally explained, servants, as well as children, "and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house." From whence we may infer, that the only reason, why so many neglect to read the words of scripture diligently to their children is, because the words of scripture are not in their hearts: for if they were, out of the abundance of the heart their mouth would speak.

Besides, servants as well as children, are, for the generallty, very ignorant, and mere novices in the laws of God: and how shall they know, unless some one teach them? And what more proper to teach them by, than the lively oracles of God, "which are able to make them wise unto salvation?" And who more proper to instruct them by these lively oracles, than parents and masters, who (as hath been more than once observed) are as much concerned to feed them with spiritual, as with bodily bread, day by day.

But if these things be so, what a miserable condition are those unhappy governors in, who are so far from seeding those committed to their care with the sincere milk of the word, to the intent they may grow thereby, that they neither search the scriptures themselves, nor are careful to explain them to other? Such families must be in a happy way indeed to do their Master’s will, who take such prodigious pains to know it! Would not one imagine that they had turned converts to the Church of Rome; that they thought ignorance to be the mothers of devotion; and that those were to be condemned as heretics who read their Bibles? And yet how few families are there amongst us, who do not act after this unseemly manner! But shall I praise them in this? I praise them not: Brethren, this thing ought not so to be.

2. Pass we on now to the second means whereby every governor and his houshold ought to serve the Lord, family-prayer.

This is a duty, through as much neglected, yet as absolutely necessary as the former. Reading is a good preparative for prayer, as prayer is an excellent means to reading effectual. And the reason why every governor of a family should join both these exercises together, is plain, because a governor of a family should join both these exercises together, is plain, because a governor of a family cannot perform his priestly office (which we before observed he is in some degree invested with) without performing this duty of family prayer.

We find it therefore remarked, when mention is made of Cain and Abel’s offering sacrifices, that they brought them. But to whom did they bring them? Why, in all probability, to their father Adam, who, as priest of the family, was to offer sacrifice in their names. And of ought every spiritual son of the second Adam, who is entrusted with the care of an houshold, to offer up the spiritual sacrifices of supplications and thanksgivings, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, in the presence and name of all who wait upon, or eat meat at his table.

Thus we our blessed Lord behaved, when he tabernacled amongst us: for it is said often, that he prayed with his twelve disciples, which was then his little family. And he himself has promised a particular blessing to joint supplication: "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." And again, "If two or three are agreed touching any thing they shall ask, it shall be give them." Add to this, that we are commanded by the Apostle to "pray always, with all manner of supplication," which doubtless includes family prayer. And holy Joshua, which he set up the good resolution in the text, that he and his houshold would serve the Lord, certainly resolved to pray with his family, which is one of the best testimonies they could give of their serving him.

Besides, there are no families but what have some common blessings, of which they have been all partakers, to give thanks for; some common crosses and afflictions, which they are to pray against; some common sins, which they are all to lament and bewail: but how this can be done, without joining together in one common act of humiliation, supplication, and thanksgiving, is difficult to devise.

From all which considerations put together, it is evident, that family prayer is a great and necessary duty; and consequently, those governors that neglect it, are certainly without excuse. And it is much to be feared, if they live without family prayer, they live without God in the world.

And yet, such an hateful character as this is, it is to be feared, that was God to send out an angel to destroy us, as he did once to destroy the Egyptian first-born, and withal give him a commission, as then, to spare no houses but where they saw the blood of the lintel, sprinkled on the door-post, so now, to let no families escape, but those that called upon him in morning and evening prayer; few would remain unhurt by his avenging sword. Shall I term such families christians or heathens? Doubtless they deserve not the name of christians; and heathens will rise up in judgment against such profane families of his generation: for they had always their houshold gods, whom they worshipped, and whose assistance they frequently invoked. And a pretty pass those families surely are arrived at, who must be sent to school to pagans. But will not Lord be avenged on such profane housholds as these? Will he not pour out his furry upon those that call not upon his name?

3. But it is time for me to hasten to the third and last means I shall recommend, whereby every governor ought with his houshold to serve the Lord, catechizing and instructing their children and servants, and bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

That this, as well as the two former, is a duty incumbent on every governor of an house, appears from that famous encomium or commendation God gives of Abraham: "I know that he will command his children and his houshold after him, to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." And indeed scarce any thing is more frequently pressed upon us in holy writ, than this duty of catechising. Thus, says God in a passage before cited, "Thou shalt teach these words diligently unto thy children." And parents are commanded in New Testament, to "breed up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The holy Psalmist acquaints us, that one great end why God did such great wonders for his people, was, "to the indent that when they grew up, they should shew their children, or servants, the same." And in Deut. 6 at the 20th and following verses, God strictly commands his people to instruct their children in the true nature of the ceremonial worship, when they should enquire about it, as he supposed they would do, in time to come. And if servants and children were to be instructed in the nature of Jewish rites, much more ought they now to be initiated and grounded in the doctrines and first principles of the gospel of Christ: not only, because it is a revelation, which has brought life and immortality to a fuller and clearer light, but also, because many seducers and gone abroad into the world, who do their utmost endeavour to destroy not only the superstructure, but likewise to sap the very foundation of our most holy religion.

Would then the present generation have their posterity be true lovers and honourers of God; masters and parents must take Solomon’s good advice, and train up and catechise their respective housholds in the way wherein they should go.

I am but of one objection, that can, with any shew of reason, be urged against what has been advanced; which is, that such a procedure as this will take up too much time, and hinder families too long from their worldly business. But it is much to be questioned, whether persons that start such an objection, are not of the same hypocritical spirit as the traitor Judas, who had indignation against devout Mary, for being so profuse of her ointment, in anointing our blessed Lord, and asked why it might not be sold for two hundred pence, and given to the poor. For has God given us so much time to work for ourselves, and shall we not allow some small pittance of it, morning and evening, to be devoted to his more immediate worship and service? Have not people read, that it is God who gives men power to get wealth, and therefore that the best way to prosper in the world, is to secure his favour? And has not our blessed Lord himself promised, that if we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all outward necessaries shall be added unto us?

Abraham, no doubt, was a man of as great business as such objectors may be; but yet he would find time to command his houshold to serve the Lord. Nay, David was a king, and consequently had a great deal of business upon his hands; yet notwithstanding, he professes that he would walk in his house with a perfect heart. And, to instance but one more, holy Joshua was a person certainly engaged very much in temporal affairs; and yet he solemnly declares before all Israel, that as for him and his houshold, they would serve the Lord. And did persons but redeem their time, as Abraham, David, or Joshua did, they would no longer complain, that family duties kept them too long from the business of the world.

III. But my Third and Last general head, under which I was to offer some motives, in order to excite all governors, with their respective housholds, to serve the Lord in the manner before recommended, I hope, will serve instead of a thousand arguments, to prove the weakness and folly of any such objection.

1. And the first motive I shall mention is the duty of gratitude, which you that are governors of families owe to God. Your lot, every must confess, is cast in a fair ground: providence hath given you a goodly heritage, above many of your fellow-creatures; and therefore, out of a principle of gratitude, you ought to endeavour, as much as in you lies, to make every person of your respective housholds to call upon him as long as they live: not to mention, that the authority, with which God has invested you as parents and governs of families, is a talent committed to your trust, and which you are bound to improve to your Master’s honour. In other things we find governors and parents can exercise lordship over their children and servants readily, and frequently enough can say to one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; to a third, Do this, and he doeth it. And shall this power be so often employed in your own affairs, and never exerted in the things of God? Be astonished, O heavens, at this!

Thus did not faithful Abraham; no, God says, that he knew Abraham would command his servants and children after him. Thus did not Joshua: no, he was resolved not only to walk with God himself, but to improve his authority in making all about him do so too: "As for me and my houshold, we will serve the Lord." Let us go and do likewise.

2. But Secondly, If gratitude to God will not, methinks love and pity to your children should move you, with your respective families, to serve the Lord.

Most people express a great fondness for their children: nay so great, that very often their own lives are wrapped up in those of their offspring. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?" says God by his Prophet Isaiah. He speaks of it as a monstrous thing, and scarce credible; but the words immediately following, affirm it to be possible, "Yea, they may forget:" and experience also assures us they may. Father and mother may both forsake their children: for what greater degree of forgetfulness can they express towards them, than to neglect the improvement of their better part, and not bring them up in the knowledge and fear of God?

It is true indeed, parents seldom forget to provide for their childrens bodies, (though, it is to be feared, some men are so far sunk beneath the beasts that perish, as to neglect even that) but then how often do they forget, or rather, when do they remember, to secure the salvation of their immortal souls? But is this their way of expressing their fondness for the fruit of their bodies? Is this the best testimony they can give of their affection to the darling of their hearts? Then was Dalilah fond of Samson, when she delivered him up into the hands of the Philistines: then were those ruffians well affected to Daniel, when they threw him into a den of lions.

3. But Thirdly, If neither gratitude to God, nor love and pity to your children, will prevail on you; yet let a principle of common honesty and justice move you to set up the holy resolution in the text.

This is a principle which all men would be thought to act upon. But certainly, if any may be truly censured for their injustice, none can be more liable to such censure, than those who think themselves injured if their servants withdraw themselves from their bodily work, and yet they in return take no care of their inestimable souls. For is it just that servants should spend their time and strength in their master’s service, and masters not at the same time give them what is just and equal for their service?

It is true, some men may think they have done enough when they give unto their servants food and raiment, and say, "Did not I bargain with thee for so much a year?" But if they give them no other reward than this, what do they less for their very beasts? But are not servants better than they? Doubtless they are: and however masters may put off their convictions for the present, they will find a time will come, when they shall know they ought to have given them some spiritual as well as temporal wages; and the cry of those that have mowed down their fields, will enter into the ears of the the Lord of Sabaoth.

4. But Fourthly, If neither gratitude to God, pity to children, nor a principle of common justice to servants, are sufficient to balance all objections; yet let that darling, that prevailing motive of self-interest turn the scale, and engage you with your respective housholds to serve the Lord.

This weighs greatly with you in other matters: be then persuaded to let it have a due and full influence on you in this: and if it has, if you have but saith as a grain of mustard-feed, how can you avoid believing, that promoting family-religion, will be the best means to promote your own temporal, as well as eternal welfare? For "Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as that which is to come."

Besides, you all, doubtless, with for honest servants, and pious children: and to have them prove otherwise, would be as great a grief to you, as it was to Elisha to have a treacherous Gehazi, or David to be troubled with a rebellious Absalom. But how can it be expected they should learn their duty, except those set over them, take care to teach it to them? Is it not as reasonable to expect you should reap where you had not sown, or gather where you had not strawed?

Did christianity, indeed, give any countenance to children and servants to disregard their parents and masters according to the flesh, or represent their duty to them, as inconsistent with their entire obedience to their father and master who is in heaven, there might then be some pretence to neglect instructing them in the principles of such a religion. But since the precepts of this pure and undefiled religion, are all of them holy, just, and good; and the more they are taught their duty to God, the better they will perform their duties to you; methinks, to neglect the improvement of their souls, out of a dread of spending too much time in religious duties, is acting quite contrary to your own interest as well as duty.

5. Fifthly and Lastly, If neither gratitude to God, love to your children, common justice to your servants, nor even that most prevailing motive self-interest, will excite; yet let a consideration of the terrors of the Lord persuade you to put in practice the pious resolution in the text. Remember, the time will come, and that perhaps very shortly, when we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; where we must give a solemn and strict account how we have had our conversation, in our respective families in this world. How will you endure to fee your children and servants (who ought to be your joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ) coming out as so many swift witnesses against you; cursing the father that begot them, the womb that bare them, the paps which they have sucked, and the day they ever entered into your houses? Think you not, the damnation which men must endure for their own sins, will be sufficient, that they need load themselves with the additional guilt of being accessary to the damnation of others also? O consider this, all ye that forget to serve the Lord with your respective housholds, "lest he pluck you away, and there be none to deliver you!"

But God forbid, brethren, that any such evil should befal you: no, rather will I hope, that you have been in some measure convinced by what has been said of the great importance of family-religion; and therefore are ready to cry out in the words immediately following the text, "God forbid that we should forsake the Lord;" and again, ver. 21, "Nay, but we will (with our several housholds) serve the Lord."

And that there may be always such a heart in you, let me exhort all governors of families, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, often to reflect on the inestimable worth of their own souls, and the infinite ransom, even the precious blood of Jesus Christ, which has been paid down for them. Remember, I beseech you to remember, that you are fallen creatures; that you are by nature lost and estranged from God; and that you can never be restored to your primitive happiness, till by being born again of the Holy Ghost, you arrive at your primitive state of purity, have the image of God restamped upon your souls, and are thereby made meet to be partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light. Do, I say, but seriously and frequently reflect on, and act as persons that believe such important truths, and you will no more neglect your family’s spiritual welfare than your own. No, the love of God, which will then be shed abroad in your hearts, will constrain you to do your utmost to preserve them: and the deep sense of God’s free grace in Christ Jesus, (which you will then have) in calling you, will excite you to do your utmost to save others, especially those of your own houshold. And though, after all your pious endeavours, some may continue unreformed; yet you will have this comfortable reflection to make, that you did what you could to make your families religious: and therefore may rest assured of sitting down in the kingdom of heaven, with Abraham, Joshua, and Cornelius, and all the godly housholders, who in their several generations shone forth as so many lights in their respective housholds upon earth. Amen.

Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain)

The Ploughman

The Ploughman

The Ploughman

"Doth the plowman plow all day to sow?"—Isaiah 28:24.

UNLESS they are cultivated, fields yield us nothing but briars and thistles. In this we may see ourselves. Unless the great Husbandman shall till us by his grace, we shall produce nothing that is good, but everything that is evil. If one of these days I shall hear that a country has been discovered where wheat grows without the work of the farmer, I may then, perhaps, hope to find one of our race who will bring forth holiness without the grace of God. Hitherto all land on which the foot of man has trodden has needed labour and care; and even so among men the need of gracious tillage is universal. Jesus says to all of us, "Ye must be born again." Unless God the Holy Spirit breaks up the heart with the plough of the law, and sows it with the seed of the gospel, not a single ear of holiness will any of us produce, even though we may be children of godly parents, and may be regarded as excellent moral people by those with whom we live.

Yes, and the plough is needed not only to produce that which is good, but to destroy that which is evil. There are diseases which, in the course of ages, wear themselves out, and do not appear again among men; and there may be forms of vice which, under changed circumstances, do not so much abound as they used to do; but human nature will always remain the same, and therefore there will always be plentiful crops of the weeds of sin in man’s fields, and nothing can keep these under but spiritual husbandry, carried on by the Spirit of God. You cannot destroy weeds by exhortations, nor can you tear out the roots of sin from the soul by moral suasion; something sharper and more effectual must be brought to bear upon them. God must put his own right hand to the plough, or the hemlock of sin will never give place to the corn of holiness. Good is never spontaneous in unrenewed humanity, and evil is never cut up till the ploughshare of almighty grace is driven through it.

The text leads our thoughts in this direction, and gives us practical guidance through asking the simple question, "Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow?" This question may be answered in the affirmative, "Yes, in the proper season he does plough all day to sow"; and, secondly, this text may more properly be answered in the negative, "No, the ploughman does not plough every day to sow; he has other work to do according to the season."

I. First, our text may be answered in the affirmative,—"Yes, the ploughman does plough all day to sow." When it is ploughing time he keeps on at it till his work is done; if it requires one day, or two days, or twenty days to finish his fields, he continues at his task while the weather permits. The perseverance of the ploughman is instructive, and it teaches us a double lesson. When the Lord comes to plough the heart of man he ploughs all day, and herein is his patience; and, secondly, so ought the Lord’s servants to labour all day with men’s hearts, and herein is our perseverance.

"Doth the ploughman plough all day?" So doth God plough the heart of man, and herein is his patience. The team was in the field in the case of some of us very early in the morning, for our first recollections have to do with conscience and the furrows of pain which it made in our youthful mind. When we were little children we woke in the night under a sense of sin; our father’s teaching and our mother’s prayers made deep and painful impressions upon us, and though we did not then yield our hearts to God, we were greatly stirred, and all indifference to religion was made impossible. When we were boys at school the reading of a chapter in the Word of God, or the death of a playmate, or an address at a Bible-class, or a solemn sermon, so affected us that we were uneasy for weeks. The strivings of the Spirit of God within urged us to think of higher and better things. Though we quenched the Spirit, though we stifled conviction, yet we bore the marks of the ploughshare; furrows were made in the soul, and certain foul weeds of evil were cut up by the roots although no seed of grace was as yet sown in our hearts. Some have continued in this state for many years, ploughed but not sown; but, blessed be God, it was not so with others of us; for we had not left boyhood before the good seed of the gospel fell upon our heart. Alas! there are many who do not thus yield to grace, and with them the ploughman ploughs all day to sow. I have seen the young man coming to London in his youth, yielding to its temptations, drinking in its poisoned sweets, violating his conscience, and yet continuing unhappy in it all, fearful, unrestful, stirred about even as the soil is agitated by the plough. In how many cases has this kind of work gone on for years, and all to no avail. Ah! and I have known the man come to middle life, and still he has not received the good seed, neither has the ground of his hard heart been thoroughly broken up. He has gone on in business without God: day after day he has risen and gone to bed again with no more religion than his horses, and yet all this while there have been ringing in his ears warnings of judgment to come, and chidings of conscience, so that he has not been at peace. After a powerful sermon he has not enjoyed his meals, or been able to sleep, for he has asked himself, "What shall I do in the end thereof?" The ploughman has ploughed all day, till the evening shadows have lengthened and the day has faded to a close. What a mercy it is when the furrows are at last made ready and the good seed is cast in, to be received, nurtured, and multiplied a hundredfold.

It is mournful to remember that we have seen this ploughing continue till the sun has touched the horizon and the night dews have begun to fall. Even then the long-suffering God has followed up his work—ploughing, ploughing, ploughing, ploughing, till darkness ended all. Do I address any aged ones whose lease must soon run out? I would affectionately beseech them to consider their position. What! Threescore years old and yet unsaved? Forty years did God suffer the manners of Israel in the wilderness, but he has borne with you for sixty years. Seventy years old, and yet unregenerated! Ah, my friend, you will have but little time in which to serve your Saviour before you go to heaven. But will you go there at all? Is it not growing dreadfully likely that you will die in your sins and perish for ever? How happy are those who are brought to Christ in early life; but still remember—

"While the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return."

It is late, it is very late, but it is not too late. The ploughman ploughs all day; and the Lord waits that he may be gracious unto you. I have seen many aged persons converted, and therefore I would encourage other old folks to believe in Jesus. I once read a sermon in which a minister asserted that he had seldom known any converted who were over forty years of age if they had been hearers of the gospel all their lives. There is certainly much need to caution those who are guilty of delay, but there must be no manufacturing of facts. Whatever that minister might think, or even observe, my own observation leads me to believe that about as many people are converted to God at one age as at another, taking into consideration the fact that the young are much more numerous than the old. It is a dreadful thing to have remained an unbeliever all these years; but yet the grace of God does not stop short at a certain age; those who enter the vineyard at the eleventh hour shall have their penny, and grace shall be glorified in the old as well as in the young. Come along, old friend, Jesus Christ invites you to come to him even now, though you have stood out so long. You have been a sadly tough piece of ground, and the ploughman has ploughed all day; but if at last the sods are turned, and the heart is lying in ridges, there is hope of you yet.

"Doth the ploughman plough all day?" I answer,—Yes, however long the day may be, God in mercy ploughs still, he is long-suffering, and full of tenderness and mercy and grace. Do not spurn such patience, but yield to the Lord who has acted towards you with so much gentle love.

The text, however, not only sets forth patience on God’s part, but it teaches perseverance on our part. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" Yes, he does; then if I am seeking Christ, ought I to be discouraged because I do not immediately find him? The promise is, "He that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." There may be reasons why the door is not opened at our first knock. What then? "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" Then will I knock all day. It may be at the first seeking I may not find; what then? "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" Then will I seek all day. It may happen that at my first asking I shall not receive; what then? "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" Then will I ask all day. Friends, if you have begun to seek the Lord, the short way is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Do that at once. In the name of God do it at once, and you are saved at once. May the Spirit of God bring you to faith in Jesus, and you are at once in the kingdom of Christ. But if peradventure in seeking the Lord, you are ignorant of this, or do not see your way, never give up seeking; get to the foot of the cross, lay hold of it, and cry, "If I perish I will perish here. Lord, I come to thee in Jesus Christ for mercy, and if thou art not pleased to look at me immediately, and forgive my sins, I will cry to thee till thou dost." When God’s Holy Spirit brings a man to downright earnest prayer which will not take a denial, he is not far from peace. Careless indifference and shillyshallying with God hold men in bondage. They find peace when their hearts are roused to strong resolve to seek until they find. I like to see men search the Scriptures till they learn the way of salvation, and hear the gospel till their souls live by it. If they are resolved to drive the plough through doubts, and fears, and difficulties, till they come to salvation, they shall soon come to it by the grace of God.

The same is true in seeking the salvation of others. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" Yes, when it is ploughing-time. Then, so will I work on, and on, and on. I will pray and preach, or pray and teach, however long the day may be that God shall appoint me, for—

"’Tis all my business here below
The precious gospel seed to sow."

Brother worker, are you getting a little weary? Never mind, rouse yourself, and plough on for the love of Jesus, and dying men. Our day of work has in it only the appointed hours, and while they last let us fulfil our task. Ploughing is hard work; but as there will be no harvest without it, let us just put forth all our strength, and never flag till we have performed our Lord’s will, and by his Holy Spirit wrought conviction in men’s souls. Some soils are very stiff, and cling together, and the labour is heart-breaking; others are like the unreclaimed waste, full of roots and tangled bramble; they need a steam-plough, and we must pray the Lord to make us such, for we cannot leave them untilled, and therefore we must put forth more strength that the labour may be done.

I heard some time ago of a minister who called to see a poor man who was dying, but he was not able to gain admittance; he called the next morning, and some idle excuse was made so that he could not see him; he called again the next morning, but he was still refused; he went on till he called twenty times in vain, but on the twenty-first occasion he was permitted to see the sufferer, and by God’s grace he saved a soul from death. "Why do you tell your child a thing twenty times?" asked some one of a mother. "Because," said she, "I find nineteen times is not enough." Now, when a soul is to be ploughed, it may so happen that hundreds of furrows will not do it. What then? Why, plough all day till the work is done. Whether you are ministers, missionaries, teachers, or private soul-winners, never grow weary, for your work is noble, and the reward of it is infinite. The grace of God is seen in our being permitted to engage in such holy service; it is greatly magnified in sustaining us in it, and it will be pre-eminently conspicuous in enabling us to hold out till we can say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."

We prize that which costs us labour and service, and we shall set all the higher value upon the saved ones when the Lord grants them to our efforts. It is good for us to learn the value of our sheaves by going forth weeping to the sowing. When you think of the ploughman’s ploughing all day, be moved to plod on in earnest efforts to win souls. Seek—

"With cries, entreaties, tears to save
And snatch them from the fiery wave."

Doth the ploughman plough all day for a little bit of oats or barley, and will not you plough all day for souls that shall live for ever, if saved, to adore the grace of God, or shall live for ever, if unsaved, in outer darkness and woe? Oh, by the terrors of the wrath to come, and the glory that is to be revealed, gird up your loins, and plough all day.

I would beg all the members of our churches to keep their hands on the gospel plough, and their eyes straight before them. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" let Christians do the same. Start close to the hedge, and go right down to the bottom of the field. Plough as close to the ditch as you can, and leave small headlands. What though there are fallen women, thieves, and drunkards in the slums around, do not neglect any of them; for if you leave a stretch of land to the weeds they will soon spread amongst the wheat. When you have gone right to the end of the field once, what shall you do next? Why, just turn round, and make for the place you started from. And when you have thus been up and down, what next? Why, up and down again. And what next? Why, up and down again. You have visited that district with tracts; do it again, fifty-two times in the year—multiply your furrows. We must learn how to continue in well doing. Your eternal destiny is to go on doing good for ever and ever, and it is well to go through a rehearsal here. So just plough on, plough on, and look for results as the reward of continued perseverance. Ploughing is not done with a skip and a jump: the ploughman ploughs all day. Dash and flash are all very fine in some things, but not in ploughing: there the work must be steady, persistent, regular. Certain persons soon give it up, it wears out their gloves, blisters their soft hands, tires their bones, and makes them eat their bread rather more in the sweat of their face than they care for. Those whom the Lord fills with his grace will keep to their ploughing year after year, and verily I say unto you, they shall have their reward. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" Then let us do the same, being assured that one day every hill and valley shall be tilled and sown, and every desert and wilderness shall yield a harvest for our Lord, and the angel reapers shall descend, and the shouts of the harvest-home shall fill both earth and heaven.

II. But, now, somewhat briefly, the text may be answered in the negative. "Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow?" No, he does not always plough. After he has ploughed he breaks the clods, sows, reaps. and threshes. In the chapter before us you will see that other works of husbandry are mentioned, The ploughman has many other things to do beside ploughing. There is an advance in what he does; this teaches us that there is the like on God’s part, and should be the like on ours.

First, on God’s part, there is an advance in what he does. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" No, he goes forward to other matters. It may be that in the case of some of you the Lord has been using certain painful agencies to plough you. You are feeling the terrors of the law the bitterness of sin, the holiness of God, the weakness of the flesh, and the shadow of the wrath to come. Is this going to last for ever? Will it continue till the spirit fails and the soul expires? Listen: "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" No, he is preparing for something else—he ploughs to sow. Thus doth the Lord deal with you; therefore be of good courage, there is an end to the wounding and slaying, and better things are in store for you. You are poor and needy, and you seek water, and there is none, and your tongue faileth for thirst; but the Lord will hear you, and deliver you. He will not contend for ever, neither will he be always wroth. He will turn again, and he will have compassion upon us. He will not always make furrows by his chiding, he will come and cast in the precious corn of consolation, and water it with the dews of heaven, and smile upon it with the sunlight of his grace; and there shall soon be in you, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear, and in due season you shall joy as with the joy of harvest. O ye who are sore wounded in the place of dragons, I hear you cry, Doth God always send terror and conviction of sin? Listen to this,—"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land," and what is the call of God to the willing and obedient but this, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved"? Thou shalt be saved now, find peace now, if thou wilt have done with thyself and all looking to thine own good works to save thee, and wilt turn to him who paid the ransom for thee upon the tree. The Lord is gentle and tender and full of compassion, he will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever. Many of your doubts and fears come of unbelief, or of Satan, or of the flesh, and are not of God at all. Blame him not for what he does not send, and does not wish you to suffer. His mind is for your peace, not for your distress; for thus he speaks—"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned." "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee." He has smitten, but he will smile; he has wounded, but he will heal; he has slain, but he will make alive; therefore turn unto him at once and receive comfort at his hands. The ploughman does not plough for ever, else would he reap no harvest; and God is not always heart-breaking, he also draws near on heart-healing errands.

You see, then, that the great husbandman advances from painful agencies, and I want you to mark that he goes on to productive work in the hearts of his people. He will take away the furrows, you shall not see them, for the corn will cover them with beauty. As she that was in travail remembers no more her sorrow for joy that a man is born into the world, so shall you, who are under the legal rod, remember no more the misery of conviction, for God will sow you with grace, and make your soul, even your poor, barren soul to bring forth fruit unto his praise and glory. "Oh!" says one, "I wish that would come true to me." It will, "Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow?" You expect by-and-by to see ploughed fields clothed with springing corn; and you may look to see repentant hearts gladdened with forgiveness. Therefore, be of good courage.

You shall advance, also, to a joyful experience. See that ploughman; he whistles as he ploughs, he does not own much of this world’s goods, but yet he is merry. He looks forward to the day when he will be on the top of the big waggon, joining in the shout of the harvest home, and so he ploughs in hope, expecting a crop. And, dear soul, God will yet joy and rejoice over you when you believe in Jesus Christ, and you, too, shall be brimful of joy. Be of good cheer, the better portion is yet to come, press forward to it. Gospel sorrowing leads on to gospel hoping, believing, rejoicing, and the rejoicing knows no end. God will not chasten all day, but he will lead you on from strength to strength, from glory unto glory, till you shall be like himself. This, then, is the advance that there is in God’s work among men, from painful agencies to productive work and joyful experience.

But what if the ploughing should never lead to sowing; what if you should be disturbed in conscience, and should go on to resist it all? Then God will make another advance, but it will be to put up the plough, and to command the clouds that they rain no rain upon the land, and then its end is to be burned. Oh! man, there is nothing more awful than for your soul to be left to go out of cultivation; God himself giving you up. Surely that is hell. He that is unholy will be unholy still. The law of fixity of character will operate eternally, and no hand of the merciful One shall come near to till the soul again. What worse than this can happen?

We conclude by saying that this advance is a lesson to us; for we, too, are to go forward. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" No, he ploughs to sow, and in due time he sows. Some churches seem to think that all they have to do is to plough; at least, all they attempt is a kind of scratching of the soil, and talking of what they are going to do. It is fine talk, certainly; but doth the ploughman plough all day? You may draw up a large programme and promise great things; but pray do not stop there. Don’t be making furrows all day; do get to your sowing. I fancy that those who promise most perform the least. Men who do much in the world have no programme at first, their course works itself out by its own inner force by the grace of God: they do not propose, but perform. They do not plough all day to sow, but they are like our Lord’s servant in the parable, of whom he saith, "the sower went forth to sow."

Let the ministers of Christ also follow the rule of advance. Let us go from preaching the law to preaching the gospel. "Doth the ploughman plough all day?" He does plough: he would not sow in hope if he had not first prepared the ground. Robbie Flockart, who preached for years in the Edinboro’ streets, says, "It is in vain to sew with the silk thread of the gospel, unless you use the sharp needle of the law." Some of my brethren do not care to preach eternal wrath and its terrors. This is a cruel mercy, for they ruin souls by hiding from them their ruin. If they must needs try to sew without a needle, I cannot help it; but I do not mean to be so foolish myself; my needle may be old-fashioned, but it is sharp, and when it carries with it the silken thread of the gospel, I am sure good work is done by it. You cannot get a harvest if you are afraid of disturbing the soil, nor can you save souls if you never warn them of hell fire. We must tell the sinner what God has revealed about sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. Still, brethren, we must not plough all day. No, no, the preaching of the law is only preparatory to the preaching of the gospel. The stress of our business lies in proclaiming glad tidings. We are not followers of John the Baptist, but of Jesus Christ; we are not rugged prophets of woe, but joyful heralds of grace. Be not satisfied with revival services, and stirring appeals, but preach the doctrines of grace so as to bring out the full compass of covenant truth. Ploughing has had its turn, now for planting and watering. Reproof may now give place to consolation. We are first to make disciples of men, and then to teach them to observe all things whatsoever Jesus has commanded us. We must pass on from the rudiments to the higher truths, from laying foundations to further upbuilding.

And now, another lesson to those of you who are as yet hearers and nothing more. I want you to go from ploughing to something better, namely, from hearing and fearing to believing. How many years some of you have been hearing the gospel! Do you mean to continue in that state for ever? Will you never believe in him of whom you hear so much? You have been stirred up a good deal; the other night you went home almost broken-hearted; I should think you are ploughed enough by this time; and yet you have not received the seed of eternal life, for you have not believed in the Lord Jesus. It is dreadful to be always on the brink of everlasting life, and yet never to be alive. It will be an awful thing to be almost in heaven, and yet for ever shut out. It is a wretched thing to rush into a railway-station just in time to see the train steaming out; I had much rather be half-an-hour behind time. To lose a train by half-a-second is most annoying. Alas, if you go on as you have done for years, you will have your hand on the latch of heaven and yet be shut out. You will be within a hair’s breadth of glory, and yet be covered with eternal shame. O beware of being so near to the kingdom, and yet lost; almost, but not altogether saved. God grant that you may not be among those who are ploughed, and ploughed, and ploughed, and yet never sown. It will be of no avail at the last to cry, "Lord, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. We had a seat at the chapel, we attended the services on week-nights as well as on Sundays, we went to prayer-meetings, we joined a Bible-class, we distributed tracts, we subscribed our guinea to the funds, we gave up every open sin, we used a form of prayer, and read a chapter of the Bible every day." All these things may be done, and yet there may be no saving faith in the Lord Jesus. Take heed lest your Lord should answer, "With all this, your heart never came to me; therefore, depart from me, I never knew you." If Jesus once knows a man he always knows him. He can never say to me, "I never knew you," for he has known me as his poor dependent, a beggar for years at his door. Some of you have been all that is good except that you never came into contact with Christ, never trusted him, never knew him. Ah me, how sad your state! Will it be always so?

Lastly, I would say to you who are being ploughed, and are agitated about your souls, Go at once to the next stage of believing. Oh! if people did but know how simple a thing believing is, surely they would believe. Alas, they do not know it, and it becomes all the more difficult to them because in itself it is so easy. The difficulty of believing lies in there being no difficulty in it. "If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it?" Oh, yes, you would have done it, and you would have thought it easy too; but when he simply says, "Wash, and be clean," there is a difficulty with pride and self. If you can truly say that you are willing to abase your pride, and do anything which the Lord bids you, then I pray you understand that there is no further preparation required, and believe in Jesus at once. May the Holy Spirit make you sick of self, and ready to accept the gospel. The word is nigh thee, let it be believed; it is in thy mouth, let it be swallowed down; it is in thy heart, let it be trusted. With your heart believe in Jesus, and with your mouth make confession of him, and you shall be saved. A main part of faith lies in the giving up of all other confidences. O give up at once every false hope. I tried once to show what faith was by quoting Dr. Watts’ lines:—

"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On thy kind arms I fall.
Be thou my strength, and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all."

I tried to represent faith as falling into Christ’s arms, and I thought I made it so plain that the wayfaring man could not err therein. When I had finished preaching, a young man came to me and said, "But, sir, I cannot fall upon Christ’s arms." I replied at once, "Tumble into them anyhow; faint away into Christ’s arms, or die into Christ’s arms, so long as you get there." Many talk of what they can do and what they cannot do, and I fear they miss the vital point. Faith is leaving off can-ing and cannot-ing, and leaving it all to Christ, for he can do all things, though you can do nothing. "Doth the ploughman plough all day to sow?" No, he makes progress, and goes from ploughing to sowing. Go, and do thou likewise: sow unto the Spirit the precious seed of faith in Christ, and the Lord will give thee a joyous harvest.

Good Friday 1604 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Good Friday 1604 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Good Friday 1604 — Biship Lancelot Andrewes

Lamentations 1:12

Have ye no regard, O all ye that pass by the way? Consider, and behold, if ever there were sorrow like My sorrow, which was done unto Me, wherewith the Lord did afflict Me in the day of the fierceness of His wrath.

At the very reading or hearing of which verse, there is none but will presently conceive, it is the voice of a party in great extremity. In great extremity two ways: 1. First, in such distress as never was any, "If ever there were sorrow like My sorrow;" 2. And then in that distress, having none to regard Him; "Have ye no regard, all ye?"

To be afflicted, and so afflicted as none ever was, is very much. In that affliction, to find none to respect him or care for him, what can be more? In all our sufferings, it is a comfort to us that we have a sicut;* that nothing has befallen us, but such as others have felt the like. But here, si fuerit sicut; "If ever the like were"—that is, never the like was.

Again, in our greatest pains it is a kind of ease, even to find some regard. Naturally we desire it, if we cannot be delivered,* if we cannot be relieved, yet to be pitied. It sheweth there be yet some that are touched with the sense of our misery, that wish us well, and would give us ease if they could. But this Afflicted here findeth not so much, neither the one nor the other; but is even as He were an out-cast both of Heaven and earth. Now verily an heavy case, and worthy to be put in this book of Lamentations.

I demand then, "Of whom speaketh the Prophet this? of himself, or of some other?" This I find; there is not any of the ancient writers but do apply, yea in a manner appropriate, this speech to our Saviour Christ. And that this very day, the day of His Passion, truly termed here the day of God’s wrath, and wheresoever they treat of the Passion, ever this verse cometh in. And to say the truth, to take the words strictly as they lie, they cannot agree, or be verified of any but of Him, and Him only. For though some other, not unfitly, may be allowed to say the same words, it must be in a qualified sense; for in full and perfect propriety of speech, He and none but He. None can say, neither Jeremy, nor any other, si fuerit dolor Meus, as Christ can; no day of wrath like to His day, no sorrow to be compared to His, all are short of it, nor His to any, it exceedeth them all.

And yet, according to the letter, it cannot be denied but they be set down by Jeremy in the person of his own people, being then come to great misery; and of the holy city, then laid waste and desolate by the Chaldees.* What then? Ex Ægypto vocavi Filium Meum, "out of Egypt have I called My Son,"* was literally spoken of this people too, yet is by the Evangelist applied to our Saviour Christ.* "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" at the first uttered by David; yet the same words our Saviour taketh Himself,* and that more truly and properly, than ever David could; and of those of David’s, and of these of Jeremy’s, there is one and the same reason.

Of all which the ground is that correspondence which is between Christ, and the Patriarchs, Prophets, and people before Christ,* of whom the Apostle’s rule is, omnia in figurâ contingebant illis; "that they were themselves types," and their sufferings forerunning figures of the great suffering of the Son of God. Which maketh Isaac’s offering, and Joseph’s selling, and Israel’s calling from Egypt, and that complaint of David’s, and this of Jeremy’s, appliable to Him; that He may take them to Himself, and the Church ascribe them to Him, and that in more fitness of terms, and more fulness of truth, than they were at the first spoken by David, or Jeremy, or any of them all.

And this rule, and the steps of the Fathers proceeding by this rule, are to me a warrant to expound and apply this verse, as they have done before, to the present occasion of this time; which requireth some such Scripture to be considered by us as doth belong to His Passion, Who this day poured out His most precious Blood, as the only sufficient price of the dear purchase of all our redemptions.

Be it then to us, as to them it was, and as most properly it is, the speech of the Son of God, as this day hanging on the cross, to a sort of careless people, that go up and down without any manner of regard of these His sorrows and sufferings, so worthy of all regard. "Have ye no regard? O all ye that pass by the way, consider and behold, if ever there were sorrow like to my sorrow, which was done unto me, wherewith the Lord afflicted me in the day of the fierceness of His wrath."

Here is a complaint, and here is a request. A complaint that we have not, a request that we would have the pains and Passions of our Saviour Christ in some regard. For first He complaineth, and not without cause, "Have ye no regard?" And then, as willing to forget their former neglect, so they will yet do it, He falleth to entreat, "O consider and behold!"

And what is that we should consider? The sorrow which He suffereth, and in it two things; the quality, and the cause. 1. The quality, Si fuerit sicut; ‘if ever the like were;’ and that either in respect of Dolor, or Dolor Meus, ‘the sorrow suffered,’ or ‘the Person suffering.’ 2. The cause: that is God That in His wrath, in His fierce wrath, doth all this to Him. Which cause will not leave us, till it have led us to another cause in ourselves, and to another yet in Him; all which serve to ripen us to regard.

These two then specially we are moved to regard. 1. Regard is the main point. But because therefore we regard but faintly, because either we consider not, or not aright, we are called to consider seriously of them. As if He should say, Regard you not? If you did consider, you would; if you considered as you should, you would regard as you ought. Certainly the Passion, if it were throughly considered, would be duly regarded. Consider then.

So the points are two: 1. The quality, and 2. the cause of His suffering. And the duties two: 1. To consider, and regard; 2. So to consider that we regard them, and Him for them.

"Have ye no regard," &c.? To ease this complaint, and to grant this request, we are to regard; and that we may regard, we are to consider the pains of His Passion. Which, that we may reckon no easy common matter of light moment, to do or not to do as we list; first, a general stay is made of all passengers, this day. For, as it were from His cross, doth our Saviour address this His speech to them that go to and fro, the day of His Passion, without so much as entertaining a thought, or vouchsafing a look that way. O vos qui transitis! "O you that pass by the way," stay and consider. To them frameth He His speech, that pass by; to them, and to them all, O vos omnes, qui transitis, "O all ye that pass by the way, stay and consider."

Which very stay of His sheweth it to be some important matter, in that it is of all. For, as for some to be stayed, and those the greater some, there may be reason; the most part of those that go thus to and fro, may well intend it, they have little else to do. But to except none, not some special person, is hard. What know we their haste? their occasions may be such, and so urgent, as they cannot stay. Well, what haste, what business soever, pass not by, stay though. As much to say as, Be they never so great, your occasions; they are not, they cannot be so great as this. How urgent soever, this is more, and more to be intended. The regard of this is worthy the staying of a journey. It is worth the considering of those, that have never so great affairs in hand. So material is this sight in His account. Which serveth to shew the exigence of this duty. But as for this point, it needeth not be stood upon to us here at this time; we are not going by, we need not be stayed, we have stayed all other our affairs to come hither, and here we are all present before God, to have it set before us, that we may consider it. Thither then let us come.

That which we are called to behold and consider, is His sorrow. And sorrow is a thing which of itself nature inclineth us to behold,* "as being ourselves in the body," which may be one day in the like sorrowful ease. Therefore will every good eye turn itself, and look upon them that lie in distress.* Those two in the Gospel that passed by the wounded man, before they passed by him, though they helped him not as the Samaritan did, yet they looked upon him as he lay.* But, this party here lieth not, He is lift up as the serpent in the wilderness, that unless we turn our eyes away purposely, we can neither will nor choose but behold Him.

But because, to behold and not to consider is but to gaze, and gazing the Angel blameth in the Apostles themselves,* we must do both—both "behold" and "consider;" look upon with the eye of the body, that is "behold;" and look into with the eye of the mind, that is "consider." So saith the Prophet here. And the very same doth the Apostle advise us to do. First, ἀφορᾷν, to look upon Him, that is, to "behold,"* and then ἀναλογίζεσθαι, to think upon Him, that is, to "consider" His sorrow. Sorrow sure would be considered.

Now then, because as the quality of the sorrow is, accordingly it would be considered—for if it be but a common sorrow the less will serve, but if it be some special, some very heavy ease, the more would be allowed it; for proportionably with the suffering, the consideration is to arise;—to raise our consideration to the full, and to elevate it to the highest point, there is upon His sorrow set a si fuerit sicut, a note of highest eminency; for si fuerit sicut, are words that have life in them, and are able to quicken our consideration, if it be not quite dead; for by them we are provoked, as it were, to "consider," and considering to see whether ever any sicut may be found to set by it, whether ever any like it.

For if never any, our nature is to regard things exceeding rare and strange; and such as the like whereof is not else to be seen. Upon this point then, there is a ease made, as if He should say, ‘if ever the like, regard not this;’ but if never any, be like yourselves in other things, and vouchsafe this, if not your chiefest, yet some regard.

To enter this comparison, and to shew it for such. That are we to do, three sundry ways; for three sundry ways, in three sundry words, are these sufferings of His here expressed, all three within the compass of the verse.

The first is מכאוב, Mac-ob, which we read "sorrow," taken from a wound or stripe, as all do agree.

The second is עולל, Gholcl; we read "Done to me," taken from a word that signifieth melting in a furnace, as St. Hierome noteth out of the Chaldee, who so translateth it.

The third is הוגה, Hoga, where we read afflicted, from a word which importeth renting off, or bereaving. The old Latin turneth it Vindemiavit me, as a vine whose fruit is all plucked off. The Greek, with Theodoret, ἀπεφύλλισέ με, as a vine or tree whose leaves are all beaten off, and is left naked and bare.

In these three are comprised His sufferings—wounded, melted, and bereft leaf and fruit, that is, all manner of comfort.

Of all that is penal, or can be suffered, the common division is, sensus et damni, grief for that we feel, or for that we forego. For that we feel in the two former, wounded in body, melted in soul; for that we forego in the last, bereft all, left neither fruit nor so much as a leaf to hang on Him.

According to these three, to consider His sufferings, and to begin first with the first. The pains of His body, His wounds and His stripes.

Our very eye will soon tell us no place was left in His body, where He might be smitten and was not. His skin and flesh rent with the whips and scourges, His hands and feet wounded with the nails, His head with the thorns, His very heart with the spear-point; all His senses, all His parts laden with whatsoever wit or malice could invent. His blessed body given as an anvil to be beaten upon with the violent hands of those barbarous miscreants, till they brought Him into this case of si fuerit sicut.* For Pilate’s Ecce Homo! his shewing Him with an Ecce, as if He should say, Behold, look if ever you saw the like rueful spectacle; this very shewing of his sheweth plainly, He was then come into woeful plight—so woeful as Pilate verily believed His very sight so pitiful, as it would have moved the hardest heart of them all to have relented and said, This is enough, we desire no more. And this for the wounds of His body, for on this we stand not.

In this one peradventure some sicut may be found, in the pains of the body; but in the second, the sorrow of the soul, I am sure, none. And indeed, the pain of the body is but the body of pain; the very soul of sorrow and pain is the soul’s sorrow and pain. Give me any grief, save the grief of the mind,* saith the Wise Man; for, saith Solomon, "The spirit of a man will sustain all his other infirmities, but a wounded spirit, who can bear?" And of this, this of His soul, I dare make a ease, Si fuerit sicut.

"He began to be troubled in soul,"* saith St. John; "to be in an agony,"* saith St. Luke; "to be in anguish of mind and deep distress,"* saith St. Mark. To have His soul round about on every side environed with sorrow,* and that sorrow to the death. Here is trouble, anguish, agony, sorrow, and deadly sorrow; but it must be such, as never the like: so it was too.

The estimate whereof we may take from the second word of melting,* that is, from His sweat in the garden; strange, and the like whereof was never heard or seen.

No manner violence offered Him in body, no man touching Him or being near Him; in a cold night, for they were fain to have a fire within doors, lying abroad in the air and upon the cold earth, to be all of a sweat, and that sweat to be blood; and not as they call it diaphoreticus, ‘a thin faint sweat,’ but grumosus, ‘of great drops;’ and those so many, so plenteous, as they went through His apparel and all; and through all streamed to the ground, and that in great abundance;—read, enquire, and consider, si fuerit sudor sicut sudor iste; ‘if ever there were sweat like this sweat of His.’ Never the like sweat certainly, and therefore never the like sorrow. Our translation is, "Done unto Me;" but we said the word properly signifieth, and so S. Hierome and the Chaldee paraphrast read it, "melted Me." And truly it should seem by this fearful sweat of His He was near some furnace, the feeling whereof was able to cast Him into that sweat, and to turn His sweat into drops of blood. And sure it was so; for see, even in the very next words of all to this verse, He complaineth of it;* Ignem misit in ossibus meis, "that a fire was sent into His bones" which melted Him, and made that bloody sweat to distil from Him. That hour, what His feelings were, it is dangerous to define; we know them not, we may be too bold to determine of them. To very good purpose it was, that the ancient Fathers of the Greek Church in their Liturgy, after they have recounted all the particular pains, as they are set down in His Passion, and by all, and by every one of them, called for mercy, do after all shut up all with this, Διʼ ἀγνωστῶν κόπων καὶ βασάνων ἐλέησον καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς, ‘By Thine unknown sorrows and sufferings, felt by Thee, but not distinctly known by us, Have mercy upon us, and save us!’

Now, though this suffice not, nothing near, yet let it suffice, the time being short, for His pains of body and soul. For those of the body, it may be some may have endured the like; but the sorrows of His soul are unknown sorrows, and for them none ever have, ever have or ever shall suffer the like, the like, or near the like in any degree.

And now to the third. It was said before, to be in distress, such distress as this was, and to find none to comfort, nay not so much as to regard Him, is all that can be said to make His sorrow a non sicut. Comfort is it by which, in the midst of all our sorrows, we are confortati, that is strengthened and made the better able to bear them all out. And who is there, even the poorest creature among us, but in some degree findeth some comfort, or some regard at some body’s hands? For if that be not left, the state of that party is here in the third word said to be like the tree, whose leaves and whose fruit are all beaten off quite, and itself left bare and naked both of the one and of the other.

And such was our Saviour’s case in these His sorrows this day, and that so as what is left the meanest of the sons of men, was not left Him, not a leaf. Not a leaf! Leaves I may well call all human comforts and regards, whereof He was then left clean desolate.* 1. "His own," they among whom He had gone about all His life long, healing them, teaching them, feeding them, doing them all the good He could, it is they that cry, "Not Him, no, but Barabbas rather;" "away with Him," "His blood be upon us and our children." It is they that in the midst of His sorrows shake their head at Him,* and cry,* "Ah, thou wretch;" they that in His most disconsolate estate cry Eli,* Eli, in most barbarous manner, deride Him and say,* "Stay, and you shall see Elias come presently and take Him down." And this was their regard.

But these were but withered leaves. They then that on earth were nearest Him of all, the greenest leaves and likest to hang on, and to give Him some shade; even of them some bought and sold Him, others denied and forswore Him, but all fell away, and forsook Him. Ἀπεφύλλισέ με, saith Theodoret, not a leaf left.

But leaves are but leaves, and so are all earthly stays. The fruit then, the true fruit of the Vine indeed, the true comfort in all heaviness, is desuper, ‘from above,’ is divine consolation. But Vindemiavit Me, saith the Latin text;—even that was, in this His sorrow, this day bereft Him too. And that was His most sorrowful complaint of all others; not that His friends upon earth, but that His Father from Heaven had forsaken Him; that neither Heaven nor earth yielded Him any regard, but that between the passioned powers of His soul, and whatsoever might any ways refresh Him, there was a traverse drawn, and He left in the state of a weather-beaten tree, all desolate and forlorn. Evident, too evident, by that His most dreadful cry, which at once moved all the powers in Heaven and earth,* "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Weigh well that cry, consider it well, and tell me, si fuerit clamor sicut clamor iste, ‘if ever there were cry like that of His:’ never the like cry, and therefore never the like sorrow.

It is strange, very strange, that of none of the martyrs the like can be read, who yet endured most exquisite pains in their martyrdoms; yet we see with what courage, with what cheerfulness, how even singing, they are reported to have passed through their torments. Will ye know the reason? St. Augustine setteth it down: martyres non eripuit, sed nunquid deseruit? ‘He delivered not His martyrs, but did He forsake them?’ He delivered not their bodies, but He forsook not their souls, but distilled into them the dew of His heavenly comfort, an abundant supply for all they could endure. Not so here. Vindemiavit Me, saith the Prophet; Dereliquisti Me, saith He Himself;—no comfort, no supply at all.

Leo it is that first said it, and all antiquity allow of it, Non solvit unionem, sed subtraxit visionem.* ‘The union was not dissolved: true, but the beams, the influence was restrained,’ and for any comfort from thence His soul was even as a scorched heath-ground, without so much as any drop of dew of divine comfort; as a naked tree—no fruit to refresh Him within, no leaf to give Him shadow without; the power of darkness let loose to afflict Him, the influence of comfort restrained to relieve Him. It is a non sicut this, it cannot be expressed as it should, and as other things may; in silence we may admire it, but all our words will not reach it. And though to draw it so far as some do, is little better than blasphemy, yet on the other side to shrink it so short as other some do, cannot be but with derogation to His love, Who, to kindle our love and loving regard, would come to a non sicut in His suffering; for so it was, and so we must allow it to be. This, in respect of His passion, Dolor.

Now in respect of His Person, Dolor Meus. Whereof, if it please you to take a view even of the Person thus wounded, thus afflicted and forsaken, you shall then have a perfect non sicut. And indeed the Person is here a weighty circumstance, it is thrice repeated—Meus, Mihi, Me, and we may not leave it out. For as is the Person, so is the Passion; and any one, even the very least degree of wrong or disgrace, offered to a person of excellency, is more than a hundred times more to one of mean condition; so weighty is the circumstance of the person. Consider then how great the Person was; and I rest fully assured here we boldly challenge and say, si fuerit sicut.

Ecce Homo! saith Pilate first: a Man He is as we are, and were He but a Man,* nay, were He not a Man, but some poor dumb creature, it were great ruth to see Him so handled as He was.

"A Man," saith Pilate, and a "just Man," saith Pilate’s wife. "Have thou nothing to do with that just Man."* And that is one degree farther. For though we pity the punishment even of malefactors themselves, yet ever most compassion we have of them that suffer and be innocent.* And He was innocent; Pilate and Herod, and "the prince of this world,"* His very enemies, being His judges.

Now among the innocent, the more noble the person, the more heavy the spectacle. And never do our bowels yearn so much as over such.* "Alas, alas for that noble Prince," saith this Prophet;—the style of mourning for the death of a great personage. And He that suffered here is such, even a principal Person among the sons of men, of the race royal, descended from Kings.* Pilate styled Him so in his title, and he would not alter it.

Three degrees. But yet we are not at our true quantus. For He is yet more, more than the highest of the sons of men, for He is the Son of the Most High God. Pilate saw no farther but Ecce Homo!* the centurion did, vere Filius Dei erat Hic,* "now truly This was the Son of God." And here all words forsake us, and every tongue becometh speechless.

We have no way to express it but a minore ad majus;—thus. Of this book, the book of Lamentations, one special occasion was the death of King Josias; but behold a greater than Josias is here.

Of King Josias, as a special reason of mourning, the Prophet saith,* Spiritus oris nostri, christus Domini, "the very breath of our nostrils, the Lord’s anointed," for so are all good Kings in their subjects’ accounts, he is gone. But behold, here is not christus Domini, but Christus Dominus, "the Lord’s christ,"* but the "Lord Christ Himself;" and that not coming to an honourable death in battle as Josias did, but to a most vile reproachful death, the death of malefactors in the highest degree. And not slain outright as Josias was, but mangled and massacred in most pitiful strange manner; wounded in Body, wounded in Spirit, left utterly desolate. O consider this well, and confess the case is truly put, si fuerit Dolor sicut Dolor meus! Never, never the like person; and if as the person is, the passion be, never the like Passion to His.

It is truly affirmed, that any one, even the least drop of blood, even the least pain, yea of the body only, of this so great a Person, any Dolor with this Meus, had been enough to make a non sicut of it. That is enough, but that is not all; for add now the three other degrees; add to this Person those wounds, that sweat and that cry, and put all together, and I make no manner question the like was not, shall not, cannot ever be. It is far above all that ever was or can be, abyssus est. Men may drowsily hear it and coldly affect it, but principalities and powers stand abashed at it. And for the quality both of the Passion and of the Person, that never the like, thus much.

Now to proceed to the cause and to consider it, for without it we shall have but half a regard, and scarce that. Indeed, set the cause aside, and the passion, as rare as it is, is yet but a dull and heavy sight, we list not much look upon spectacles of that kind, though never so strange, they fill us full of pensive thoughts and make us melancholic. And so doth this, till upon examination of the cause we find it toucheth us near; and so near, so many ways, as we cannot choose but have some regard of it.

What was done to Him we see. Let there now be a quest of enquiry to find who was doer of it. Who? who but the "power of darkness," wicked Pilate, bloody Caiaphas,* the envious Priests, the barbarous soldiers? None of these are returned here. We are too low by a great deal, if we think to find it among men. Quæ fecit Mihi Deus, ‘it was God That did it.’ An hour of that day was the hour of the "power of darkness;" but the whole day itself, is said here plainly, was the day of the wrath of God. God was a doer in it; "wherewith God hath afflicted Me."

God afflicteth some in mercy, and others in wrath. This was in His wrath. In His wrath God is not alike to all; some He afflicteth in His more gentle and mild, others in His fierce wrath. This was in the very fierceness of His wrath. His sufferings, His sweat, and cry, shew as much; they could not come but from a wrath si fuerit sicut, for we are not past non sicut, no not here,—in this part it followeth us still, and will not leave us in any point, not to the end.

The cause then in God was wrath. What caused this wrath? God is not wroth but with sin, nor grievously wroth but with grievous sin. And in Christ there was no grievous sin; nay, no sin at all. God did it, the text is plain. And in His fierce wrath He did it. For what cause? For, God forbid, God should do as did Annas the high-priest,* cause Him to be smitten without cause!* God forbid, saith Abraham, "the Judge of the world should do wrong" to any! To any, but specially to His own Son, that His Son, of Whom with thundering voice from Heaven He testifieth, all His joy and delight were in Him,* "in Him only He was well-pleased." And how then could His wrath wax hot to do all this unto Him?

There is no way to preserve God’s justice, and Christ’s innocency both, but to say as the Angel said of Him to the Prophet Daniel,* "The Messias shall be slain," ואין לו ve-en-lo, "shall be slain but not for Himself." "Not for Himself?" For whom then? For some others. He took upon Him the person of others, and so doing, justice may have her course and proceed.

Pity it is to see a man pay that he never took; but if he will become a surety, if he will take on him the person of the debtor, so he must. Pity to see a silly poor lamb lie bleeding to death; but if it must be a sacrifice, such is the nature of a sacrifice, so it must. And so Christ, though without sin in Himself, yet as a surety, as a sacrifice, may justly suffer for others, if He will take upon Him their persons; and so God may justly give way to His wrath against Him.

And who be those others? The Prophet Esay telleth us, and telleth it us seven times over for failing,* "He took upon Him our infirmities, and bare our maladies. He was wounded for our iniquities, and broken for our transgressions: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes were we healed. All we as sheep were gone astray, and turned every man to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all." "All," "all," even those that pass to and fro, and for all this regard neither Him nor His Passion.

The short is, it was we that for our sins, our many great and grievous sins,—Si fuerit sicut, the like whereof never were,—should have sweated this sweat and have cried this cry; should have been smitten with these sorrows by the fierce wrath of God, had not He stepped between the blow and us, and latched it in His own body and soul, even the dint of the fierceness of the wrath of God. O the non sicut of our sins, that could not otherwise be answered!

To return then a true verdict. It is we—we, wretched sinners that we are—that are to be found the principals in this act, and those on whom we seek to shift it, to drive it from ourselves, Pilate and Caiaphas and the rest, but instrumental causes only. And it is not the executioner that killeth the man properly, that is, they; no, nor the judge, which is God in this case; only sin, solum peccatum homicida est, ‘sin only is the murderer,’ to say the truth, and our sins the murderers of the Son of God; and the non sicut of them the true cause of the non sicut both of God’s wrath, and of His sorrowful sufferings.

Which bringeth home this our text to us, even into our own bosoms, and applieth it most effectually to me that speak and to you that hear, to every one of us, and that with the Prophet Nathan’s application; Tu es homo, "Thou art the man," even thou,* for whom God in "His fierce wrath" thus afflicted Him. Sin then was the cause on our part why we, or some other for us.

But yet what was the cause, why He on His part? what was that that moved Him thus to become our surety, and to take upon Him our debt and danger? that moved Him thus to lay upon His soul a sacrifice for our sin? Sure,* oblatus est quia voluit, saith Esay again, "Offered He was for no other cause, but because He would." For unless He would, He needed not. Needed not for any necessity of justice, for no lamb was ever more innocent; nor for any necessity of constraint, for twelve legions of Angels were ready at His command, but because He would.

And why would He? No reason can be given but because He regarded us:—Mark that reason. And what were we? Verily, utterly unworthy even His least regard, not worth the taking up, not worth the looking after.* Cum inimici essemus, saith the Apostle; "we were His enemies," when He did it, without all desert before, and without all regard after He had done and suffered all this for us; and yet He would regard us that so little regard Him. For when He saw us a sort of forlorn sinners, non prius natos quam damnatos, ‘damned as fast as born,’ as being "by nature children of wrath,"* and yet still "heaping up wrath against the day of wrath," by the errors of our life, till the time of our passing hence; and then the "fierce wrath of God" ready to overwhelm us,* and to make us endure the terror and torments of a never dying death, another non sicut yet: when, I say, He was in this case, He was moved with compassion over us and undertook all this for us. Even then in His love He regarded us, and so regarded us that He regarded not Himself, to regard us.

Bernard saith most truly, Dilexisti me Domine magis quam Te, quando mori voluisti pro me: ‘In suffering all this for us Thou shewedst, Lord, that we were more dear to Thee, that Thou regardest us more than Thine ownself;’ and shall this regard find no regard at our hands?

It was sin then, and the heinousness of sin in us, that provoked wrath and the fierceness of His wrath in God; it was love, and the greatness of His love in Christ, that caused Him to suffer the sorrows, and the grievousness of these sorrows, and all for our sakes.

And indeed, but only to testify the non sicut of this His love, all this needed not that was done to Him. One, any one, even the very least of all the pains He endured, had been enough; enough in respect of the Meus, enough in respect of the non sicut of His person. For that which setteth the high price on this sacrifice, is this; that He which offereth it unto God, is God. But if little had been suffered, little would the love have been thought that suffered so little, and as little regard would have been had of it. To awake our regard then, or to leave us excuseless, if we continue regardless, all this He bare for us; that he might as truly make a case of Si fuerit amor sicut amor Meus, as He did before of Si fuerit dolor sicut dolor Meus. We say we will regard love; if we will, here it is to regard.

So have we the causes, all three: 1. Wrath in God; 2. Sin in ourselves; 3. Love in Him.

Yet have we not all we should. For what of all this? What good? Cui bono? That, that, is it indeed that we will regard if any thing, as being matter of benefit, the only thing in a manner the world regardeth, which bringeth us about to the very first words again. For the very first words which we read, "Have ye no regard?" are in the original, לוא אליכם lo alechem, which the Seventy turn, word for word, οὐ πρὸς ὑμᾶς; and the Latin likewise, nonne ad vos pertinet? Pertains it not to you, that you regard it no better? For these two, pertaining and regarding, are folded one in another, and go together so commonly as one is taken often for the other. Then to be sure to bring us to regard, he urgeth this: "Pertains not all this to you?" Is it not for your good? Is not the benefit yours? Matters of benefit, they pertain to you, and without them love and all the rest may pertain to whom they will.

Consider then the inestimable benefit that groweth unto you from this incomparable love. It is not impertinent this, even this, that to us hereby all is turned about clean contrary; that "by His stripes we are healed," by His sweat we refreshed, by His forsaking we received to grace. That this day, to Him the day of the fierceness of God’s wrath, is to us the day of the fulness of God’s favour, as the Apostle calleth it,* "a day of salvation." In respect of that He suffered, I deny not, an evil day, a day of heaviness; but in respect of that which He by it hath obtained for us, it is as we truly call it a good day, a day of joy and jubilee. For it doth not only rid us of that wrath which pertaineth to us for our sins; but farther, it maketh that pertain to us whereto we had no manner of right at all.

For not only by His death as by the death of our sacrifice, by the blood of His cross as by the blood of the paschal lamb,* the destroyer passeth over us, and we shall not perish; but also by His death,* as by the death of our High Priest—for He is Priest and Sacrifice both—we are restored from our exile, even to our former forfeited estate in the land of Promise. Or rather, as the Apostle saith,* non sicut delictum sic donum; not to the same estate, but to one nothing like it, that is, one far better than the estate our sins bereft us. For they deprived us of Paradise, a place on earth; but by the purchase of His blood we are entitled to a far higher, even the Kingdom of Heaven; and His blood,* not only the blood of "remission," to acquit us of our sins, but "the blood of the Testament too," to bequeath us and give us estate in that Heavenly inheritance.

Now whatsoever else, this I am sure is a non sicut, as that which the eye by all it can see, the ear by all it can hear, the heart by all it can conceive, cannot pattern it, or set the like by it. "Pertains not this unto us" neither? Is not this worth the regard? Sure if any thing be worthy the regard, this is most worthy of our very worthiest and best regard.

Thus have we considered and seen, not so much as in this sight we might or should, but as much as the time will give us leave. And now lay all these before you, every one of them a non sicut of itself; the pains of His body esteemed by Pilate’s Ecce; the sorrows of His soul, by His sweat in the garden; the comfortless estate of His sorrows, by His cry on the cross; and with these, His Person, as being the Son of the Great and Eternal God. Then join to these the cause: in God, "His fierce wrath;" in us, our heinous sins deserving it; in Him, His exceeding great love, both suffering that for us which we had deserved, and procuring for us that we could never deserve; making that to appertain to Himself which of right pertained to us, and making that pertain to us which pertained to Him only, and not to us at all but by His means alone. And after their view in several, lay them all together, so many non sicuts into one, and tell me if His complaint be not just and His request most reasonable.

Yes sure, His complaint is just, "Have ye no regard?" None? and yet never the like? None? and it pertains unto you? "No regard?" As if it were some common ordinary matter, and the like never was? "No regard?" As if it concerned you not a whit, and it toucheth you so near? As if He should say, Rare things you regard, yea, though they no ways pertain to you: this is exceeding rare, and will you not regard it? Again, things that nearly touch you you regard, though they be not rare at all: this toucheth you exceeding near, even as near as your soul toucheth you, and will you not yet regard it? Will neither of these by itself move you? Will not both these together move you? What will move you? Will pity? Here is distress never the like. Will duty? Here is a Person never the like. Will fear? Here is wrath never the like. Will remorse? Here are sins never the like. Will kindness? Here is love never the like. Will bounty? Here are benefits never the like. Will all these? Here they be all, all above any sicut, all in the highest degree.

Truly the complaint is just, it may move us; it wanteth no reason, it may move; and it wanteth no affection in the delivery of it to us, on His part to move us. Sure it moved Him exceeding much; for among all the deadly sorrows of His most bitter Passion, this, even this, seemeth to be His greatest of all, and that which did most affect Him, even the grief of the slender reckoning most men have it in; as little respecting Him, as if He had done or suffered nothing at all for them. For lo, of all the sharp pains He endureth He complaineth not, but of this He complaineth, of no regard; that which grieveth Him most, that which most He moaneth is this. It is strange He should be in pains, such pains as never any was, and not complain Himself of them, but of want of regard only. Strange, He should not make request, O deliver Me, or relieve Me! But only, O consider and regard Me! In effect as if He said, None, no deliverance, no relief do I seek; regard I seek. And all that I suffer, I am content with it, I regard it not, I suffer most willingly, if this I may find at your hands, regard.

Truly, this so passionate a complaint may move us, it moved all but us; for most strange of all it is, that all the creatures in Heaven and earth seemed to hear this His mournful complaint, and in their kind to shew their regard of it. The sun in Heaven shrinking in his light, the earth trembling under it, the very stones cleaving in sunder, as if they had sense and sympathy of it, and sinful men only not moved with it. And yet it was not for the creatures this was done to Him, to them it pertaineth not; but for us it was, and to us it doth. And shall we not yet regard it? shall the creature, and not we? shall we not?

If we do not, it may appertain to us, but we pertain not to it; it pertains to all but all pertain not to it. None pertain to it but they that take benefit by it; and none take benefit by it no more than by the brazen serpent, but they that fix their eye on it. Behold, consider, and regard it; the profit, the benefit is lost without regard.

If we do not, as this was a day of God’s "fierce wrath" against Him, only for regarding us; so there is another day coming, and it will quickly be here,* a day of like "fierce wrath" against us, for not regarding Him. "And who regardeth the power of His wrath?" He that doth, will surely regard this.

In that day, there is not the most careless of us all but shall cry as they did in the Gospel, Domine, non ad Te pertinet, si perimus?* "Pertains it not to Thee, carest Thou not that we perish?" Then would we be glad to pertain to Him and His Passion. Pertains it to us then, and pertains it not now? Sure now it must, if then it shall.

Then to give end to this complaint, let us grant Him His request, and regard His Passion. Let the rareness of it, the nearness to us, let pity or duty, fear or remorse, love or bounty; any of them or all of them; let the justness of His complaint, let His affectionate manner of complaining of this and only this, let the shame of the creatures’ regard, let our profit or our peril, let something prevail with us to have it in some regard.

Some regard! Verily, as His sufferings, His love, our good by them are, so should our regard be a non sicut too; that is, a regard of these, and of nothing in comparison of these. It should be so, for with the benefit ever the regard should arise.

But God help us poor sinners, and be merciful unto us! Our regard is a non sicut indeed, but it is backward, and in a contrary sense; that is, no where so shallow, so short, or so soon done. It should be otherwise, it should have our deepest consideration this, and our highest regard.

But if that cannot be had, our nature is so heavy, and flesh and blood so dull of apprehension in spiritual things, yet at leastwise some regard. Some I say; the more the better, but in any wise some, and not as here no regard, none at all. Some ways to shew we make account of it, to withdraw ourselves, to void our minds of other matters, to set this before us, to think upon it, to thank Him for it, to regard Him, and stay and see whether He will regard us or no. Sure He will,* and we shall feel our "hearts pricked" with sorrow, by consideration of the cause in us—our sin; and again,* "warm within us," by consideration of the cause in Him—His love; till by some motion of grace He answer us, and shew that our regard is accepted of Him.

And this, as at all other times, for no day is amiss but at all times some time to be taken for this duty, so specially on this day; this day, which we hold holy to the memory of His Passion, this day to do it; to make this day, the day of God’s wrath and Christ’s suffering, a day to us of serious consideration and regard of them both.

It is kindly to consider opus diei in die suo, ‘the work of the day in the day it was wrought;’ and this day it was wrought. This day therefore, whatsoever business be, to lay them aside a little; whatsoever our haste, yet to stay a little, and to spend a few thoughts in calling to mind and taking to regard what this day the Son of God did and suffered for us; and all for this end, that what He was then we might not be, and what He is now we might be for ever.

Which Almighty God grant we may do, more or less, even every one of us, according to the several measures of His grace in us!

Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

Good Friday 1597 Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Good Friday 1597 Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Good Friday 1597 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Zechariah 12:10

And they shall look upon Me, Whom they have pierced.

That great and honourable person the Eunuch, sitting in his chariot, and reading a like place of the Prophet Esay, asketh St. Philip. "I pray thee,* Of Whom speaketh the Prophet this? of himself, or some other?" A question very material, and to great good purpose, and to be asked by us in all prophecies. For knowing who the party is, we shall not wander in the Prophet’s meaning.

Now, if the Eunuch had been reading this of Zachary, as then he was that of Esay, and had asked the same question of St. Philip, he would have made the same answer. And as he out of those words took occasion, so may we out of these take the like, to preach Jesus unto them. For neither of himself, nor of any other, but of Jesus, speaketh the Prophet this;* and "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of this prophecy."

That so it is the Holy Ghost is our warrant, Who in St. John’s Gospel reporting the Passion, and the last act of the Passion—this opening of the side, and piercing of the heart—our Saviour Christ saith plainly, that in the piercing the very words of the prophecy were fulfilled,* Respicient in Me Quem transfixerunt.

Which term of piercing we shall the more clearly conceive, if with the ancient writers, we sort it with the beginning of Psalm 22. the Psalm of the Passion. For, in the very front or inscription of this Psalm, our Saviour Christ is compared cervo matutino, "to the morning hart;" that is, a hart roused early in the morning, as from His very birth He was by Herod, hunted and chased all His life long, and this day brought to His end, and, as the poor deer, stricken and pierced through side, heart, and all; which is it we are here willed to behold.

There is no part of the whole course of our Saviour Christ’s life or death but it is well worthy our looking on, and from each part in it there goeth virtue to do us good; but of all other parts, and above them all, this last part of His piercing is here commended unto our view. Indeed, how could the Prophet commend it more, than in avowing it to be an act of grace, as in the fore part of this verse he doth? Effundam super cos Spiritum Gratiæ, et respicient, &c.* as if he should say; If there be any grace in us, we will think it worth the looking on.

Neither doth the Prophet only, but the Apostle also, call us unto it,* and willeth us what to "look unto" and regard, "Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith." Then specially, and in that act, when for "the joy of our salvation set before Him He endured the cross, and despised the shame;" that is, in this spectacle, when He was pierced.

Which surely is continually, all our life long, to be done by us, and at all times some time to be spared unto it; but if at other times, most requisite at this time, this very day which we hold holy to the memory of His Passion, and the piercing of His precious side. That, though on other days we employ our eyes otherwise, this day at least we fix them on this object, respicientes in Eum. This day, I say, which is dedicated to none other end,* but even to lift up the Son of Man, as Moses did the serpent in the wilderness, that we may look upon Him and live; when every Scripture that is read soundeth nothing but this unto us, when by the office of preaching Jesus Christ is lively described in our sight, and as the Apostle speaketh,* is "visibly crucified among us;" when in the memorial of the Holy Sacrament,* "His death is shewed forth until He come," and the mystery of this His piercing so many ways, so effectually represented before us. This prophecy therefore, if at any time, at this time to take place, Respicient in Me, &c.

The principal words are but two, and set down unto us in two points. I. The sight itself, that is, the thing to be seen; II. and the sight of it, that is, the act of seeing or looking. Quem transfixerunt is the object, or spectacle propounded. Respicient in Eum, is the act or duty enjoined.

Of which the object though in place latter, in nature is the former, and first to be handled; for that there must be a thing first set up, before we can set our eyes to look upon it.

Of the object generally, first. Certain it is, that Christ is here meant: St. John hath put us out of doubt for that point. And Zachary here could have set down His name, and said, Respice in Christum; for Daniel before had named his name, Occidetur Messias;* and Zachary, being after him in time, might have easily repeated it. But it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to him, rather to use a circumlocution; and suppressing His name of Christ, to express Him by the style or term, Quem transfixerunt. Which being done by choice, must needs have a reason of the doing, and so it hath.

1. First, the better to specify and particularize the Person of Christ, by the kind, and most peculiar circumstance, of His death.* Esay had said, Morietur, "Die He shall, and lay down His soul an offering for sin." 2. Die—but what death? a natural or a violent?* Daniel tells us, Occidetur; He shall die, not a natural, but a violent death. 3. But many are slain after many sorts, and divers kinds there be of violent deaths. The Psalmist, the more particularly to set it down, describeth it thus:* "They pierced My hands and My feet;" which is only proper to the death of the Cross. 4. Die, and be slain, and be crucified. But sundry else were crucified; and therefore the Prophet here, to make up all, addeth, that He should not only be crucifixus, but transfixus; not only have His hands and His feet, but even His heart pierced too. Which very note severs Him from all the rest, with as great particularity as may be; for that, though many besides at other times, and some at the same time with Him were crucified, yet the side and the heart of none was opened, but His, and His only.

2. Secondly, as to specify Christ Himself in Person, and to sever Him from the rest; so in Christ Himself, and in His Person, to sever from the rest of His doings and sufferings, what that is that chiefly concerneth us, and we specially are to look to; and that is this day’s work—Christ pierced. St. Paul doth best express this:* "I esteemed," saith he, "to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." That is, the perfection of our knowledge is Christ; the perfection of our knowledge in, or touching Christ, is the knowledge of Christ’s piercing. This is the chief sight; nay, as it shall after appear, in this sight are all sights; so that know this, and know all. This generally.

Now, specially. In the object, two things offer themselves; 1. The Passion, or suffering itself, which was, to be "pierced." 2. And the Persons, by whom. For if the Prophet had not intended the Persons should have had their respect too, he might have said Respicient in Eum Qui transfixus est;—which passive would have carried the Passion itself full enough—but so he would not, but rather chose to say, Quem transfixerunt; which doth necessarily imply the piercers themselves too. So that we must needs have an eye in the handling, both to the fact, and to the persons, 1. quid, and 2. quibus, both what, and of whom.

In the Passion, we first consider the degree; for transfixerunt is a word of gradation, more than fixerunt, or suffixerunt, or confixerunt either. Expressing unto us the piercing, not with whips and scourges; nor of the nails and thorns, but of the spear-point. Not the whips and scourges, wherewith His skin and flesh were pierced; nor the nails and thorns wherewith His feet, hands, and head were pierced; but the spear-point which pierced, and went through, His very heart itself; for of that wound,* of the wound in His heart, is this spoken. Therefore trans is here a transcendent—through and through; through skin and flesh, through hands and feet, through side and heart, and all; the deadliest and deepest wound, and of highest gradation.

Secondly, as the preposition trans hath his gradation of divers degrees, so the pronoun me hath his generality of divers parts; best expressed in the original. "Upon Me;" not, upon My body and soul. "Upon Me" Whose Person, not Whose parts, either body without, or soul within; but "upon Me," Whom wholly, body and soul, quick and dead, "they have pierced."

Of the body’s piercing there can be no question, since no part of it was left unpierced. Our senses certify us of that—what need we farther witness?

Of the soul’s too, it is as certain, and there can be no doubt of it neither; that we truly may affirm; Christ, not in part, but wholly, was pierced. For we should do injury to the sufferings of our Saviour, if we should conceive by this piercing none other but that of the spear.

And may a soul then be pierced? Can any spear-point go through it? Truly Simeon saith to the blessed Virgin by way of prophecy,* that "the sword should go through her soul," at the time of His Passion. And as the sword through hers, so I make no question but the spear through His. And if through hers which was but anima compatientis, through His much more, which was anima patientis; since compassion is but passion at rebound. Howbeit, it is not a sword of steel, or a spear-head of iron, that entereth the soul, but a metal of another temper; the dint whereof no less goreth and woundeth the soul in proportion, than those do the body. So that we extend this piercing of Christ farther than to the visible gash in His side, even to a piercing of another nature, whereby not His heart only was stabbed, but His very spirit wounded too.

The Scripture recounteth two, and of them both expressly saith, that they both pierce the soul. The Apostle saith it by sorrow:* "And pierced themselves through with many sorrows."* The Prophet, of reproach: "There are whose words are like the pricking of a sword;" and that to the soul both, for the body feels neither. With these, even with both these, was the soul of Christ Jesus wounded.

For sorrow—it is plain through all four Evangelists; Undique tristis est anima Mea usque ad mortem!* "My soul is environed on every side with sorrow,* even to the death." Cœpit Jesus tædere et pavere,* "Jesus began to be distressed and in great anguish."* Factus in agoniâ, "being cast into an agony."* Jam turbata est anima Mea; "Now is My soul troubled." Avowed by them all, confessed by Himself. Yea, that His strange and never else heard of sweat—drops of blood plenteously issuing from Him all over His body, what time no manner of violence was offered to His body, no man then touching Him, none being near Him; that blood came certainly from some great sorrow wherewith His soul was pierced. And that His most dreadful cry, which at once moved all the powers of Heaven and earth,* "My God, My God, &c." was the voice of some mighty anguish, wherewith His soul was smitten; and that in other sort, than with any material spear. For derelinqui a Deo—the body cannot feel it, or tell what it meaneth. It is the soul’s complaint, and therefore without all doubt His soul within Him was pierced and suffered, though not that which—except charity be allowed to expound it—cannot be spoken without blasphemy. Not so much, God forbid! yet much, and very much, and much more than others seem to allow; or how much, it is dangerous to define.

To this edge of sorrow, if the other of piercing despite be added as a point, as added it was, it will strike deep into any heart; especially, being wounded with so many sorrows before. But the more noble the heart, the deeper; who beareth any grief more easily than this grief, the grief of a contumelious reproach.* "To persecute a poor distressed soul, and to seek to vex Him that is already wounded at the heart," why, it is the very pitch of all wickedness; the very extremity that malice can do, or affliction can suffer. And to this pitch were they come, when after all their wretched villanies and spittings, and all their savage indignities in reviling Him most opprobriously, He being in the depth of all His distress, and for very anguish of soul crying, Eli, Eli, &c., they stayed those that would have relieved him; and void of all humanity then scorned,* saying; "Stay, let alone, let us see if Elias will now come and take Him down." This barbarous and brutish inhumanity of theirs, must needs pierce deeper into His soul, than ever did the iron into His side.

To all which if we it add, not only that horrible ingratitude of theirs, there by Him seen, but ours also no less than theirs by Him foreseen at the same time; who make so slender reckoning of these His piercings, and, as they were a matter not worth the looking on, vouchsafe not so much as to spend an hour in the due regard and meditation of them; nay, not that only, but farther by incessant sinning, and that without remorse, do most unkindly requite those His bitter pains, and as much as in us lies,* "even crucify afresh the Son of God, making a mock of Him and His piercings." These I say, for these all and every of them in that instant were before His eyes, must of force enter into, and go through and through His soul and spirit; that what with those former sorrows, and what with these after indignities, the Prophet might truly say of Him, and He of Himself in Me, "upon Me;" not whose body or whose soul, but whom entirely and wholly, both in body and soul, alive and dead, they have pierced and passioned this day on the cross.

Of the persons;—which, as it is necessarily implied in the word, is very properly incident to the matter itself. For it is usual, when one is found slain as here, to make enquiry, By whom he came by his death. Which so much the rather is to be done by us, because there is commonly an error in the world, touching the parties that were the causes of Christ’s death. Our manner is, either to lay it on the soldiers, that were the instruments; or if not upon them, upon Pilate the judge that gave sentence; or if not upon him, upon the people that importuned the judge; or lastly, if not upon them, upon the Elders of the Jews that animated the people; and this is all to be found by our quest of enquiry.

But the Prophet here indicted others. For by saying, "They shall look," &c., "Whom they have pierced," he intendeth by very construction, that the first and second "They," are not two, but one and the same parties. And that they that are here willed to look upon Him, are they and none other that were the authors of this fact, even of the murder of Jesus Christ. And to say truth, the Prophet’s intent is no other but to bring the malefactors themselves that pierced Him, to view the body and the wounded heart of Him, "Whom they have so pierced."

In the course of justice we say, and say truly, when a party is put to death, that the executioner cannot be said to be the cause of his death; nor the sheriff, by whose commandment he doth it; neither yet the judge by whose sentence; nor the twelve men by whose verdict; nor the law itself, by whose authority it is proceeded in. For, God forbid we should indict these, or any of these, of murder. Solum peccatum homicida; sin, and sin only, is the murderer. Sin, I say, either of the party that suffereth; or of some other, by whose means, or for whose cause, he is put to death.

Now, Christ’s own sin it was not that He died for. That is most evident.* Not so much by His own challenge, Quis ex vobis arguit Me de peccato?* as by the report of His judge, who openly professed that he had examined Him, and "found no fault in Him." "No, nor yet Herod," for being sent to him and examined by him also, nothing worthy death was found in Him.* And therefore, calling for water and washing his hands he protesteth his own innocency of the blood of this "Just Man;" thereby pronouncing Him Just, and void of any cause in Himself of His own death.

It must then necessarily be the sin of some others, for whose sake Christ Jesus was thus pierced. And if we ask, who those others be? or whose sins they were? the Prophet Esay tells us,* Posuit super Eum iniquitates omnium nostrûm, "He laid upon Him the transgressions of us all;" who should, even for those our many, great, and grievous transgressions, have eternally been pierced, in body and soul, with torment and sorrows of a never-dying death, had not He stepped between us and the blow, and received it in His own body; even the dint of the wrath of God to come upon us. So that it was the sin of our polluted hands that pierced His hands, the swiftness of our feet to do evil that nailed His feet, the wicked devices of our heads that gored His head, and the wretched desires of our hearts that pierced His heart. We that "look upon," it is we that "pierced Him;" and it is we that "pierced Him," that are willed to "look upon Him." Which bringeth it home to us, to me myself that speak, and to you yourselves that hear; and applieth it most effectually to every one of us, who evidently seeing that we were the cause of this His piercing, if our hearts be not too hard, ought to have remorse to be pierced with it.

When, for delivering to David a few loaves, Abimelech and the Priests were by Saul put to the sword, if David did then acknowledge with grief of heart and say,* "I, even I, am the cause of the death of thy father and all his house;"—when he was but only the occasion of it, and not that direct neither—may not we, nay ought not we much more justly and deservedly say of this piercing of Christ our Saviour, that we verily, even we, are the cause thereof, as verily we are, even the principals in this murder; and the Jews and others, on whom we seek to derive it, but only accessories and instrumental causes thereof. Which point we ought as continually, so seriously to think of; and that no less than the former. The former, to stir up compassion in ourselves, over Him that thus was pierced; the latter, to work deep remorse in our hearts, for being authors of it. That He was pierced, will make our bowels melt with compassion over Christ. That He was pierced by us that look on Him, if our hearts be not "flint," as Job saith, or as "the nether mill-stone,"* will breed remorse over ourselves, wretched sinners as we are.

The act followeth in these words; Respicient in Eum. A request most reasonable, to "look upon Him"—but "to look upon Him," to bestow but a look and nothing else, which even of common humanity we cannot deny, Quia non aspicere despicere est. It argueth great contempt, not to vouchsafe it the cast of our eye, as if it were an object utterly unworthy the looking toward. Truly, if we mark it well, nature itself of itself inclineth to this act. When Amasa treacherously was slain by Joab, and lay weltering in his blood by the way side, the story saith that not one of the whole army, then marching by,* but when he came at him, "stood still and looked on him."

In the Gospel, the party that goeth from Jerusalem to Jericho was spoiled and wounded and lay drawing on, though the Priest and Levite that passed near the place relieved him not, as the Samaritan after did; yet it is said of them, they "went near and looked on,"* and then passed on their way. Which desire is even natural in us; so that even nature itself inclineth us to satisfy the Prophet.

Nature doth, and so doth Grace too. For generally we are bound to "regard the work of the Lord,* and to consider the operations of His hands;" and specially this work, in comparison whereof God Himself saith, the former works of His "shall not be remembered,* nor the things done of old once regarded."

Yea Christ Himself, pierced as He is, inviteth us to it. For in the Prophet here it is not in Eum, but in Me; not ‘on Him,’ but "on Me Whom they have pierced." But more fully in Jeremy; for, to Christ Himself do all the ancient writers apply, and that most properly, those words of the Lamentation;* "Have ye no regard all ye that pass by this way? Behold and sec, if there be any sorrow like My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce wrath."

Our own profit, which is wont to persuade well, inviteth us;* for that as from the brazen serpent no virtue issued to heal but unto them that steadily beheld it, so neither doth there from Christ but upon those that with the eye of faith have their contemplation on this object; who thereby draw life from Him, and without it may and do perish, for all Christ and His Passion.

And if nothing else move us, this last may, even our danger. For the time will come when we ourselves shall desire, that God looking with an angry countenance upon our sins, would turn His face from them and us, and look upon the face of His Christ, that is, respicere in Eum; which shall justly be then denied us, if we ourselves could never be gotten to do this duty, respicere in Eum, when it was called for of us. God shall not look upon Him at ours, Whom we would not look upon at His request.

In the act itself are enjoined three things: 1. That we do it with attention; for it is not Me, but in Me; not only "upon Him," but "into Him," 2. That we do it oft, again and again, with iteration; for respicient is re-aspicient. Not a single act, but an act iterated. 3. That we cause our nature to do it, as it were, by virtue of an injunction, per actum elicitum, as the schoolmen call it. For in the original it is in the commanding conjugation, that signifieth, facient se respicere, rather than respicient.

First then, not slightly, superficially or perfunctorily, but steadfastly, and with due attention, to "look upon Him." And not to look upon the outside alone, but to look into the very entrails; and with our eye to pierce Him That was thus pierced. In Eum beareth both.

1. "Upon Him" if we "look," we shall see so much as Pilate shewed of Him;—ecce Homo, that He is a Man. And if He were not a man, but some other unreasonable creature, it were great ruth to see Him so handled.

2. Among men we less pity malefactors, and have most compassion on them that be innocent. And He was innocent, and deserved it not, as you have heard, His enemies themselves being His judges.

3. Among those that be innocent, the more noble the person, the greater the grief, and the more heavy ever is the spectacle. Now if we consider the verse of this text well, we shall see it is God Himself and no man that here speaketh, for to God only it belongeth to "pour out the Spirit of grace," it passeth man’s reach to do it; so that, if we look better upon Him, we shall see as much as the Centurion saw, that this party thus pierced "is the Son of God."* The Son of God slain!* Surely he that hath done this deed "is the child of death," would every one of us say; Et tu es homo, "Thou art the man," would the Prophet answer us. You are they, for whose sins the Son of God hath His very heart-blood shed forth. Which must needs strike into us remorse of a deeper degree than before; that not only it is we that have pierced the party thus found slain, but that this party, whom we have thus pierced, is not a principal person among the children of men, but even the only-begotten Son of the Most High God. Which will make us cry out with St. Augustine, O amaritudo peccati mei, ad quam tollendam necessaria fuit amaritudo tanta! ‘Now sure, deadly was the bitterness of our sins, that might not be cured, but by the bitter death and blood-shedding Passion of the Son of God.’ And this may we see looking upon Him.

But now then, if we look in Eum, "into Him," we shall see yet a greater thing, which may raise us in comfort, as far as the other cast us down. Even the bowels of compassion and tender love, whereby He would and was content to suffer all this for our sakes.* For that, whereas "no man had power to take His life from Him," for He had power to have commanded twelve legions of Angels in His just defence;* and without any Angel at all, power enough of Himself with His Ego sum, to strike them all to the ground;* He was content notwithstanding all this, to lay down His life for us sinners. The greatness of which love passeth the greatest love that man hath; for "greater love than this hath no man, but to bestow his life for his friends,"* whereas He condescended to lay it down for His enemies. Even for them that sought His death, to lay down His life, and to have His blood shed for them that did shed it; to be pierced for His piercers. Look how the former in Eum worketh grief, considering the great injuries offered to so great a Personage; so, to temper the grief of it, this latter in Eum giveth some comfort, that so great a Person should so greatly love us, as for our sakes to endure all those so many injuries, even to the piercing of His very heart.

Secondly, respicient, that is, re-aspicient; not once or twice, but oftentimes to look upon it; that is, as the Prophet saith here, iteratis vicibus, to look again and again; or, as the Apostle saith, recogitare,* "to think upon it over and over again," as it were to dwell in it for a time. In a sort, with the frequentness of this our beholding it, to supply the weakness and want of our former attention. Surely, the more steadily and more often we shall fix our eye upon it, the more we shall be inured; and being inured, the more desire to do it. For at every looking some new sight will offer itself, which will offer unto us occasion, either of godly sorrow, true repentance, sound comfort, or some other reflection, issuing from the beams of this heavenly mirror. Which point, because it is the chief point, the Prophet here calleth us to, even how to look upon Christ often, and to be the better for our looking; it shall be very agreeable to the text, and to the Holy Ghost’s chief intent, if we prove how, and in how diverse sorts, we may with profit behold and "look upon Him" Whom thus we have "pierced."

First then, looking upon Him, we may bring forth for the first effect that which immediately followeth this text itself in this text, Et plangent Eum:—Respice et plange. First, ‘look and lament,’ or mourn; which is indeed the most kindly and natural effect of such a spectacle. "Look upon Him that is pierced," and with looking upon Him be pierced thyself; respice et transfigere. A good effect of our first look, if we could bring it forth. At leastwise, if we cannot respice et transfigere, ‘look and be pierced,’ yet that it might be respice et compungere, ‘that with looking on Him we might be "pricked in our hearts," ’* and have it enter past the skin, though it go not clean through. Which difference in this verse the Prophet seemeth to insinuate, when first he willeth us to mourn as for one’s only son, with whom all is lost. Or, if that cannot be had, to mourn as for a first-begotten son, which is though not so great, yet a great mourning; even for the first-begotten, though other sons be left.

And,* in the next verse, if we cannot reach to natural grief, yet he wisheth us to mourn with a civil; even with such a lamentation as was made for Josias. And behold a greater than Josias is here. Coming not, as he, to an honourable death in battle, but to a most vile death, the death of a malefactor; and not, as Josias, dying without any fault of theirs, but mangled and massacred in this shameful sort for us, even for us and our transgressions. Verily, the dumb and senseless creatures had this effect wrought in them, of mourning at the sight of His death; in their kind sorrowing for the murder of the Son of God. And we truly shall be much more senseless than they, if it have in us no work to the like effect. Especially, considering it was not for them He suffered all this, nor they no profit by it, but for us it was, and we by it saved; and yet they had compassion, and we none. Be this then the first.

Now, as the first is respice et transfigere, ‘look upon Him and be pierced;’ so the second may be, and that fitly, respice et transfige, ‘look upon Him and pierce;’ and pierce that in thee that was the cause of Christ’s piercing, that is, sin and the lusts thereof. For as men that are pierced indeed with the grief of an indignity offered, withal are pricked to take revenge on him that offers it, such a like affection ought our second looking to kindle in us, even to take a wreak or revenge upon sin, quia fecit hoc, ‘because it hath been the cause of all this.’ I mean, as the Holy Ghost termeth it, a mortifying or crucifying; a thrusting through of our wicked passions and concupiscences, in some kind of repaying those manifold villanies, which the Son of God suffered by means of them. At leastwise, as before, if it kindle not our zeal so far against sin, yet that it may slake our zeal and affection to sin; that is, respice ne respicias, respice Christum ne respicias peccatum. That we have less mind, less liking, less acquaintance with sin, for the Passion-sake. For that by this means we do in some sort spare Christ, and at least make His wounds no wider; whereas by affecting sin anew we do what in us lieth to crucify Him afresh, and both increase the number, and enlarge the wideness of His wounds.

It is no unreasonable request, that if we list not wound sin, yet seeing Christ hath wounds enough, and they wide and deep enough, we should forbear to pierce Him farther, and have at least this second fruit of our looking upon Him; either to look and to pierce sin, or to look and spare to pierce Him any more.

Now, as it was sin that gave Him these wounds, so it was love to us that made Him receive them, being otherwise able enough to have avoided them all. So that He was pierced with love no less than with grief, and it was that wound of love made Him so constantly to endure all the other. Which love we may read in the palms of His hands, as the Fathers express it out of Esay 49:16;* for "in the palms of His hands He hath graven us," that He might not forget us. And the print of the nails in them, are as capital letters to record His love towards us. For Christ pierced on the cross is liber charitatis, ‘the very book of love’ laid open before us. And again, this love of His we may read in the cleft of His heart. Quia clavus penetrans factus est nobis clavis reserans, saith Bernard, ut patcant nobis viscera per vulnera;* ‘the point of the spear serves us instead of a key, letting us through His wounds see His very bowels,’ the bowels of tender love and most kind compassion, that would for us endure to be so entreated. That if the Jews that stood by said truly of Him at Lazarus’ grave,* Ecce quomodo dilexit eum! when He shed a few tears out of His eyes; much more truly may we say of Him, Ecce quomodo dilexit nos! seeing Him shed both water and blood, and that in great plenty, and that out of His heart.

Which sight ought to pierce us with love too, no less than before it did with sorrow. With one, or with both, for both have power to pierce; but specially love, which except it had entered first and pierced Him, no nail or spear could ever have entered. Then let this be the third, respice et dilige; ‘look and be pierced with love of Him’ that so loved thee, that He gave Himself in this sort to be pierced for thee.

And forasmuch as it is Christ His Ownself That, resembling His Passion on the cross to the brazen serpent lift up in the wilderness, maketh a correspondence between their beholding and our believing—for so it is John 3:14.—we cannot avoid,* but must needs make that an effect too; even respice et crede. And well may we believe and trust Him, Whom looking a little before we have seen so constantly loving us. For the sight of that love maketh credible unto us, whatsoever in the whole Scripture is affirmed unto us of Christ, or promised in His Name; so that believe it, and believe all. Neither is there any time wherein with such cheerfulness or fulness of faith we cry unto Him,* "My Lord, and My God," as when our eye is fixed upon "the print of the nails, and on the hole in the side" of Him that was pierced for us. So that this fourth duty Christ Himself layeth upon us, and willeth us from His own mouth, respice et crede.

And believing this of Him, what is there the eye of our hope shall not look for from Him? What would not He do for us, That for us would suffer all this? It is St. Paul’s argument,* "If God gave His Son for us, how shall He deny us any thing with Him?" That is, respice et spera. ‘Look upon Him, and His heart opened, and from that gate of hope promise thyself, and look for all manner of things that good are.’ Which our expectation is reduced to these too: 1. The deliverance from evil of our present misery; 2. and the restoring to the good of our primitive felicity. By the death of this undefiled Lamb, as by the yearly Passover, look for and hope for a passage out of Egypt, which spiritually is our redemption from the servitude of the power of darkness. And as by the death of the Sacrifice we look to be freed from whatsoever evil, so by the death of the High Priest look we for and hope for restitution to all that is good; even to our forfeited estate in the land of Promise which is Heaven itself, where is all joy and happiness for evermore. Respice et spera, ‘look and look for;’ by the Lamb that is pierced to be freed from all misery, by the High Priest that is pierced fruition of all felicity.

Now, inasmuch as His heart is pierced, and His side opened; the opening of the one, and the piercing of the other, is to the end somewhat may flow forth. To which end, saith St. Augustine, Vigilanti verbo usus est Apostolus, ‘the Apostle was well advised when he used the word opening;’* for there issued out "water and blood," which make the sixth effect, Respice et recipe. Mark it running out, and suffer it not to run waste, but receive it.* Of the former, the water, the Prophet speaketh in the first words of the next chapter,* that out of His pierced side God "opened a fountain of water to the House of Israel for sin and for uncleanness;" of the fulness whereof we all have received in the Sacrament of our Baptism. Of the latter, the blood, which the Prophet,* in the ninth chapter before, calleth "the blood of the New Testament," we may receive this day; for it will run in the high and holy mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ. There may we be partakers of the flesh of the Morning Hart,* as upon this day killed. There may we be partakers of "the cup of salvation,"* "the precious blood" "which was shed for the remission of our sins."* Our part it shall be not to account "the blood of the Testament an unholy thing,"* and to suffer it to run in vain for all us, but with all due regard to receive it so running, for even therefore was it shed. And so to the former to add this sixth, Respice et recipe.

And shall we alway receive grace, even streams of grace issuing from Him That is pierced, and shall there not from us issue something back again, that He may look for and receive from us that from Him have, and do daily, receive so many good things? No doubt there shall, if love which pierced Him have pierced us aright. And that is, no longer to hold you with these effects, Respice et retribue. For it will even behove us, no less than the Psalmist, to enter into the consideration of quid retribuam.* Especially since we by this day both see and receive that, which he and many others desired to see, and receive, and could not.* Or if we have nothing to render,* yet ourselves to return with the Samaritan, and falling down at His feet, with a loud voice, to glorify His goodness, Who finding us in the estate that other Samaritan found the forlorn and wounded man, healed us by being wounded Himself, and by His own death restored us to life. For all which His kindness if nothing will come from us, not so much as a kind and thankful acknowledgment, we are certainly worthy He should restrain the fountain of His benefits, which hitherto hath flowed most plenteously, and neither let us see nor feel Him any more.

But I hope for better things—that love, such and so great love, will pierce us, and cause both other fruits, and especially thoughts of thankfulness to issue from us. Thus many, and many more if the time would serve, but thus many several uses may we have of thus many several respects, or reflexed lookings upon Him Whom we have pierced.

Thirdly, facient se respicere. For the Holy Ghost did easily foresee, we would not readily be brought to the sight, or to use our eyes to so good an end. Indeed, to flesh and blood it is but a dull and heavy spectacle. And neither willingly they begin to look upon it, and having begun are never well till they have done and look off of it again. Therefore is the verb by the Prophet put into this conjugation of purpose, which to turn in strict propriety is respicere se facient, rather than respicient. ‘They shall procure or cause, or even enjoin or enforce themselves to look upon it;’ or, as one would say, look that they look upon it.

For some new and strange spectacle, though vain and idle, and which shall not profit us how strange soever, we cause ourselves sometimes to take a journey, and besides our pains are at expenses too to behold them. We will not only look upon, but even cause ourselves to look upon vanities; and in them, we have the right use of facient se respicere. And why should we not take some pains, and even enjoin ourselves to look upon this, being neither far off, nor chargeable to come to, and since the looking on it may so many ways so mainly profit us?* Verily it falleth out oft, that of Christ’s; violenti rapiunt illud, nature is not inclined, and where it is not inclined, force must be offered, which we call in schools actum elicitum. Which very act by us undertaken for God, and as here at His word, is unto Him a sacrifice right acceptable. Therefore facias, or fac facias; ‘do it willingly, or do it by force.’ Do it, I say, for done it must be. Set it before you and look on it; or if you list not, remove it, and set it full before you: though it be not with your ease, respice, ‘look back upon it’ with some pain; for one way or other, look upon it we must.

The necessity whereof, that we may the better apprehend it, it will not be amiss we know, that these words are in two sundry places two sundry ways applied.* 1. Once by St. John in the Gospel, 2. and the second time again by Christ Himself in the Revelation. By St. John to Christ at His first coming, suffering as our Saviour upon the cross. By Christ to Himself at His second coming, sitting as our Judge upon His throne, in the end of the world:* "Behold He cometh in the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, yea, even they that pierced Him;" et plangent se super Eum omnes gentes terræ. The meaning whereof is, Look upon Him here if you will; enjoin yourselves if you think good, either here or somewhere else; either now or then, look upon Him you shall. And they which put this spectacle far from them here, and cannot endure to "look upon Him Whom they have pierced," et plangere Eum, "and be grieved for Him," while it is time; a place and time shall be, when they shall be enforced to look upon Him, whether they will or no, et plangent se super Eum, ‘and be grieved for themselves,’ that they had no grace to do it sooner. Better compose themselves to a little mourning here, with some benefit to be made by their beholding, than to be drawn to it there when it is too late, and when all their looking and grieving will not avail a whit. For there respicientes respiciet, et despicientes despiciet; ‘His look shall be amiable to them that have respected His piercing here, and dreadful on the other side to them that have neglected it.’ And as they that have inured themselves to this looking on here,* shall in that day "look up and lift up their heads with joy, the day of their redemption being at hand;" so they that cannot bring themselves to look upon Him here, after they once have looked upon Him there, shall not dare to do it the second time, but cry to the mountains, "Fall upon us, and to the hills,* Hide us from the face of Him That sits upon the throne." Therefore, respicient is no evil counsel. No, though it be facient se respicere.

In a word, if thus causing ourselves to fix our eyes on Him we ask, How long we shall continue so doing, and when we may give over? let this be the answer; Donec totus fixus in corde, Qui totus fixus in cruce. Or if that be too much or too hard, yet saltem, ‘at the least,’ respice in Illum donce Ille te respexerit, ‘Look upon Him till He look upon you again.’ For so He will.* He did upon Peter, and with His look melted him into tears. He that once and twice before denied Him and never wept, because Christ looked not on him, then denied and Christ looked on him, and "he went out and wept bitterly." And if to Peter thus He did, and vouchsafed him so gracious a regard, when Peter not once looked toward Him, how much more shall He not deny us like favour, if by looking on Him first we provoke Him in a sort to a second looking on us again, with the Prophet, saying; Proposui Dominum coram me,* ‘I have set Thee, O Lord, before me;’* and again, Respice in me, &c. "O look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as Thou usest to do to those that love Thy Name." "That love Thy Name," which is Jesus, "a Saviour;" and which love that sight wherein most properly Thy Name appeareth, and wherein Thou chiefly shewest Thyself to be Jesus "a Saviour."

And to conclude, if we ask, How we shall know when Christ doth thus respect us? Then truly, when fixing both the eyes of our meditation "upon Him That was pierced,"—as it were one eye upon the grief, the other upon the love wherewith He was pierced, we find by both, or one of these, some motion of grace arise in our hearts; the consideration of His grief piercing our hearts with sorrow, the consideration of His love piercing our hearts with mutual love again. The one is the motion of compunction which they felt, who when they heard such things "were pricked in their hearts."* The other, the motion of comfort which they felt, who, when Christ spake to them of the necessity of His piercing, said; "Did we not feel our hearts warm within us?"* That, from the shame and pain He suffered for us; this, from the comforts and benefits He thereby procured for us.

These have been felt at this looking on, and these will be felt. It may be at the first, imperfectly, but after with deeper impression; and that of some, with such as nemo scit, ‘none knoweth,’ but He that hath felt them. Which that we may endeavour to feel, and endeavouring may feel, and so grow into delight of this looking, God, &c.

Romans 8:11 - Christ is in Us

If the Spirit be in us, Christ is in us. He dwells in the heart by faith. Grace in the soul is its new nature; the soul is alive to God, and has begun its holy happiness which shall endure forever. (Matthew Henry)

John 14:17  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. (NET)

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (NASB)

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (KJV)

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (NLT)

Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you. (NET)

Translation. And assuming that the Spirit of the One who raised up Jesus out from among the dead is in residence in you, He who raised out from among the dead Christ Jesus, will also make alive your mortal bodies through the agency of the Spirit who is resident in you.  Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader.

Here we have a conditional statement that, along with a great many other conditional statements, is often overlooked.  In the information age we could easily relate this to and If…then…else statement.  If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead (dwells, houses, cohabitates) in you…then…will also give life…  The question then that should be answered is, "Does the 'Spirit of Him' dwell in me?"  How can I know?  These questions should have been answered textually in chapter six.  But the real question is found in our own hearts.  The person of the Holy Spirit is the only one who can give the answer.  For He is the assurance and earnest of our faith!  This then is speaking of the quickening (regeneration) of our lives that is to be followed by sanctification.  This is not necessarily without struggle.  There have been many who have passed before us in time that have struggle mightily.  Two dear souls that come to mind are John Bunyan and John Newton.  The former wrote the book, "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners," that give an at length account of his personal struggle.  The latter is the author of the time-honored hymn, "Amazing Grace."  So then struggle in victory rather than defeat till the day when all of our struggles are over.  Be earnest in your endeavor so that you will be found faithful to the end not striving in the power of the flesh but confessing the failures of your faith and belief to Him who will  cleanse you from all unrighteousness and give you the power to do those things that please him. (1 John 1:8-9, Philippians 2:13, paraphrase mine).

He who here receives the grace and Spirit of Christ, and continues to live under its influence a life of obedience to the Divine will, shall have a resurrection to eternal life; and the resurrection of Christ shall be the pattern after which they shall be raised. (Dr. Adam Clarke)

Rom 8:11  (13) But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that (o) dwelleth in you.

(13) A confirmation of the former sentence. You have the very same Spirit which Christ has: therefore at length he will do the same in you, that he did in Christ, that is, when all infirmities being utterly laid aside, and death overcome, he will clothe you with heavenly glory.

(o) By the strength and power of him, who showed the same might first in our head, and daily works in his members.

These words are not to be understood as they are by some, of the continued work of sanctification in the heart by the Spirit of God; for regeneration, and not sanctification, is signified by quickening, which quickening occurs when the Spirit of God first takes up his dwelling in the soul; besides, the apostle had spoke of the life of the spirit or soul before; and they are mortal bodies, and not its mortal souls, which are said to be quickened, for these cannot mean the body of sin, or the remains of corruption, as they are said to be, and which are never quickened, nor never can be. To understand the words in such a sense, is not so agreeable to the resurrection of Christ here mentioned; whereas Christ's resurrection is often used as an argument of ours, which is designed here, where the apostle argues from the one to the other. (Dr. John Gill)

What a difference it makes in your body when the Holy Spirit lives within. You experience new life, and even your physical faculties take on a new dimension of experience. When evangelist D.L. Moody described his conversion experience, he said: “I was in a new world. The next morning the sun shone brighter and the birds sang sweeter... the old elms waved their branches for joy, and all nature was at peace.” Life in Christ is abundant life. (The Bible exposition commentary)

This verse affirms one of the most exciting of the Spirit’s ministries. He vitalizes us here and now, even though we are sinful human beings, infusing us with that same power which raised Jesus from the dead, enabling us to live holy lives. Every one of our spiritual failures shouts out, “We can’t.” And every spiritual victory affirms, “But He can!” (The Bible readers companion)

Is That a Bible Verse?

“Is that a Bible verse?”

If I ever write the book ‘Colombo Evangelism’ (some of you will get it), one chapter will have the above title and will discuss what can be called ‘meme theology’.

We’ve all seen them. They have a cute short statement designed to express a Biblical truth. Some do contain truth, but you can’t really ascertain the original author’s intent. I read one like that yesterday morning about this time (5:15AM) while I was likewise engaged in a morning indoor 20 miles of cycle training. It was a post by a long time friend from back in my military days in Berlin. It said:

“God has a better plan for my life than I do.”

Now that is quite true! And as usual, I wanted to ask what it was supposed to mean, as the original author intended. Since it was a repost, I couldn’t do that. Did it speak of God’s provision for our lives in meeting all of our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19), or was it intended to mean that God has a bigger ‘dream destiny’ for us than we do (Joel Osteen, et al.). After all, it seems there are more sermons/teachings out there these days about the latter than the former, if television evangelists and a lot of Christian bookstores are indicators.

Thankfully, when I asked my friend (Tony) “Is that a Bible verse?”, he talked about trusting in God for all of his temporal needs, although he suspected it wasn’t actually a Bible verse. That’s a good thing. At least I was able to find out what the meme meant to Tony.

So now instead of getting upset with all of these low theology memes, I think I’ll just ask a simple question and wait for return comments!

Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac

Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac

Abraham’s offering up his Son Isaac

Genesis 22:12

And he said, Lay not thine Hand upon the Lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from me.

THE great Apostle Paul, in one of his epistles, informs us, that "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the holy scripture might have hope." And as without faith it is impossible to please God, or be accepted in Jesus, the Son of his love; we may be assured, that whatever instances of a more than common faith are recorded in the book of God, they were more immediately designed by the holy Spirit for our learning and imitation, upon whom the ends of the world are come. For this reason, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in the xith chapter, mentions such a noble catalogue of Old Testament saints and martyrs, "who subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions, &c. and are gone before us to inherit the promises." A sufficient confutation, I think, of their error, who lightly esteem the Old Testament saints, and would not have them mentioned to christians, as persons whose faith and patience we are called upon more immediately to follow. If this was true, the apostle would never have produced such a cloud of witnesses out of the Old Testament, to excite the christians of the first, and consequently purest age of the church, to continue stedfast and unmoveable in the profession of their faith. Amidst this catalogue of saints, methinks the patriarch Abraham shines the brightest, and differs from the others, as one star differeth from another star in glory; for he shone with such distinguished lustre, that he was called the "friend of God," the "father of the faithful;" and those who believe on Christ, are said to be "sons and daughters of, and to be blessed with, faithful Abraham." Many trials of his faith did God send this great and good man, after he had commanded him to get out from his country, and from his kindred, unto a land which he should shew him; but the last was the most severe of all, I mean, that of offering up his only son. This, by the divine assistance, I propose to make the subject of your present meditation, and, by way of conclusion, to draw some practical inferences, as God shall enable me, from this instructive story.

The sacred penman begins the narrative thus; verse 1. "And it came to pass, after these things, God did tempt Abraham." After these things, that is, after he had underwent many severe trials before, after he was old, full of days, and might flatter himself perhaps that the troubles and toils of life were now finished; "after these things, God did tempt Abraham," Christians, you know not what trials you may meet with before you die: notwithstanding you may have suffered, and been tried much already, yet, it may be, a greater measure is still behind, which you are to fill up. "Be not high-minded, but fear." Our last trials, in all probability, will be the greatest: and we can never say our warfare is accomplished, or our trials finished, till we bow down our heads, and give up the ghost. "And it came to pass, after these things, that God did tempt Abraham."

"God did tempt Abraham." But can the scripture contradict itself? Does not the apostle James tell us, "that God tempts no man;" and God does tempt no man to evil, or on purpose to draw him into sin; for, when a man is thus tempted, he is drawn away of his own heart’s lust, and enticed. But in another sense, God may be said to tempt, I mean, to try his servants; and in this sense we are to understand that passage of Matthew, where we are told, that, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit (the good Spirit) into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil." And our Lord, in that excellent form of prayer which he has been pleased to give us, does not require us to pray that we may not absolutely be led into temptation, but delivered from the evil of it; whence we may plainly infer, that God sees it fit sometimes to lead us into temptation, that is, to bring us into such circumstances as will try our faith and other christian graces. In this sense we are to understand the expression before us; "God did tempt or try Abraham."

How God was pleased to reveal his will at this time to his faithful servant, whether by the Shechinah, or divine appearance, or by a small still voice, as he spoke to Elijah, or by a whisper, like that of the Spirit to Philip, when he commanded him to go join himself to the eunuch’s chariot, we are not told, nor is it material to enquire. It is enough that we are informed, God said unto him, Abraham; and that Abraham knew it was the voice of God: for he said, "Behold, here I am." O what a holy familiarity (if I may so speak) is there between God and those holy souls that are united to him by faith in Christ Jesus! God says, Abraham; and Abraham said (it should seem without the least surprize) Behold, here I am. Being reconciled to God by the death and obedience of Christ, which he rejoiced in, and saw by faith afar off; he did not, like guilty Adam, seek the trees of the garden to hide himself from, but takes pleasure in converting with God, and talketh with him, as a man talketh with his friend. O that Christ-less sinners knew what it is to have fellowship with the Father and the Son! They would envy the happiness of saints, and count it all joy to be termed enthusiasts and fools for Christ’ sake.

But what does God say to Abraham? Verse 2. "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell thee of."

Every word deserves our particular observation. Whatever he was to do, he must do it now, immediately, without conferring with flesh and blood. But what must he do? "Take now thy son." Had God said, take now a firstling, or choicest lamb or beast of thy flock, and offer it up for a burnt-offering, it would not have appeared so ghastly; but for God to say, "take now thy son, and offer him up for a burnt-offering’ " one would have imagined, was enough to stagger the strongest faith. But this is not all: it must not only be a son, but "thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest." If it must be a son, and not a beast, that must be offered, why wilt not Ishmael do, the son of the bond-woman? No, it must be his only son, the heir of all, his Isaac, by interpretation laughter, the son of his old age, in whom his soul delighted, "whom thou lovest," says God, in whose life his own was wrapped up: and this son, this only son, this Isaac, the son of his love, must be taken now, even now, without delay, and be offered up by his own father, for a burnt offering, upon one of the mountains of the which God would tell him.

Well might the apostle, speaking of this man of God, say, that "against hope he believed in hope, and, being strong in faith, gave glory to God:" For, had he not been blessed with faith which man never before had, he must have refused to comply with this severe command. For how many arguments might nature suggest, to prove that such a command could never come from God, or to excuse himself from obeying it? "What! (might the good man have said) butcher my own child! it is contrary to the very law of nature: much more to butcher my dear son Isaac, in whose seed God himself has assured me of a numerous posterity. But supposing I could give up my own affections, and be willing to part with him, though I love him so dearly, yet, if I murder him, what will become of God’s promise? Besides, I am now like a city built upon a hill; I shine as a light in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: How then shall I cause God’s name to be blasphemed, how shall I become a by-word among the heathen, if they hear that I have committed a crime which they abhor! But, above all, what will Sarah my wife say? How can I ever return to her again, after I have imbrued my hands in my dear child’s blood? O that God would pardon me in this thing, or take my life in the place of my son’s!" Thus, I say, Abraham might have argued, and that too seemingly with great reason, against complying with the divine command. But as before by faith he considered not the deadness of Sarah’s womb, when she was past age, but believed on him, who said, "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed;" so now, being convinced that the same God spoke to and commanded him to offer up that son, and knowing that God was able to raise him from the dead, without delay he obeys the heavenly call.

O that unbelievers would learn of faithful Abraham, and believe whatever is revealed from God, though they cannot fully comprehend it! Abraham knew God commanded him to offer up his son, and therefore believed, notwithstanding carnal reasoning might suggest many objections. We have sufficient testimony, that God has spoken to us by his son; why should we not also believe, though many things in the New Testament are above our reason? For, where reason ends, faith begins. And, however infidels may stile themselves reasoners, of all men they are the most unreasonable: For, is it not contrary to all reason, to measure an infinite by a finite understanding, or think so find out the mysteries of godliness to perfection?

But to return to the patriarch Abraham: We observed before what plausible objections he might have made; but he answered not a single word: no, without replying against his Maker, we are told, verse 3. that "Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up and went unto the place of which God had told him."

From this verse we may gather, that God spoke to Abraham in a dream, or vision of the night: For it is said, he rose up early. Perhaps it was near the fourth watch of the night, just before break of day, when God said, Take now thy son; and Abraham rises up early to do so; as I doubt not but he used to rise early to offer up his morning-sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It is often remarked of people in the Old Testament, that they rose early in the morning; and particularly of our Lord in the New, that he rose a great while before day to pray. The morning befriends devotion; and, if people cannot use so much self-denial as to rise early to pray, I know not how they will be able to die at a stake (if called to it) for Jesus Christ.

The humility as well as the piety of the patriarch is observable: he saddled his own ass (great men should be humble;) and to shew his sincerity, though he took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, yet he keeps his design as a secret from them all: nay, he does not so much as tell Sarah his wife: for he knew not but she might be a snare unto him in this affair; and, as Rebekah afterwards, on another occasion, advised Jacob to flee, so Sarah also might persuade Isaac to hide himself; or the young men, had they known of it, might have forced him away, as in after-ages the soldiers rescued Jonathan out of the hands of Saul. But Abraham sought no such evasion, and therefore, like an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile, he himself resolutely "clave the wood for the burnt-offering, rose up and went unto the place of which God had told him." In the second verse God commanded him to offer up his son upon one of the mountains which he would tell him of. He commanded him to offer his son up, but would not then directly tell him the place where: this was to keep him dependent and watching unto prayer: for there is nothing like being kept waiting upon God; and, if we do, assuredly God will reveal himself unto us yet further in his own time. Let us practice what we know, follow providence so far as we can see already; and what we know not, what we see not as yet, let us only be found in the way of duty, and the Lord will reveal even that unto us. Abraham knew not directly where he was to offer up his son; but he rises up and sets forward, and behold now God shews him: "And he went to the place of which God had told him." Let us go and do likewise.

Verse 4. "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off."

So that the place, of which God had told him, was no less than three days journey distant from the place where God first appeared to him, and commanded him to take his son. Was not this to try his faith, and to let him see that what he did, was not meerly from a sudden pang of devotion, but a matter of choice and deliberation? But who can tell what the aged patriarch felt during these three days? Strong as he was in faith, I am persuaded his bowels often yearned over his dear son Isaac. Methinks I see the good old man walking with his dear child in his hand, and now and then looking upon him, loving him, and then turning aside to weep. And perhaps, sometimes he stays a little behind to pour out his heart before God, for he had no mortal to tell his case to. Then, methinks, I see him join his son and servants again, and talking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, as they walked by the way. At length, "on the third day, he lifts up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." And, to shew that he was yet sincerely resolved to do whatsoever the Lord required of him, he even now will not discover his design to is servants, but "said, verse 5. to his young men," (as we should say to our worldly thoughts, when about to tread the courts of the Lord’s house) "Abide you here with the ass; and I and the lad will go up yonder and worship, and come again to you." This was a sufficient reason for their staying behind; and, it being their master’s custom to go frequently to worship, they could have no suspicion of what he was going about. And by Abraham’s saying, that he and the lad would come again, I am apt to think he believed God would raise him from the dead, if so be he permitted him to offer his child up for a burnt-offering. However that be, he is yet resolved to obey God to the uttermost; and therefore,

Verse 6. "Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and they went both of them together." Little did Isaac think that he was to be offered on that very wood which he was carrying upon his shoulders; and therefore Isaac innocently, and with a holy freedom (for good men should not keep their children at too great a distance) "spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father; and he (with equal affection and holy condescension) said, Here am I, my son." And to shew how careful Abraham had been (as all christian parents ought to be) to instruct his Isaac how to sacrifice to God, like a youth trained up in the way wherein he should go; Isaac said, "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" How beautiful is early piety! how amiable, to hear young people ask questions about sacrificing to God in an acceptable way! Isaac knew very well that a lamb was wanting, and that a lamb was necessary for a proper sacrifice: "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" Young men and maidens, learn of him.

Hitherto, it is plain, Isaac knew nothing of his father’s design: but I believe, by what his father said in answer to his question, that now was the time Abraham revealed it unto him.

Ver. 8. "And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a Lamb for a burnt-offering." Some think, that Abraham by faith saw the Lord Jesus afar off, and here spake prophetically of that Lamb of God already slain in decree, and hereafter to be actually offered up for sinners. This was a lamb of God’s providing indeed (we dared not have thought of it) to satisfy his own justice, and to render him just in justifying the ungodly. What is all our fire and wood, the best preparation and performances we can make or present, unless God had provided himself this Lamb for a burnt-offering? He could not away with them. The words will well bear this interpretation. But, whatever Abraham might intend, I cannot but think he here made an application, and acquainted his son, of God’s dealing with his soul; and at length, with tears in his eyes, and the utmost affection in his heart, cried out, "Thou art to be the lamb, my Son;" God has commanded me to provide thee for a burnt-offering, and to offer thee upon the mountain which we are now ascending. And, as it appears from a subsequent verse, Isaac, convinced that it was the divine will, made no resistance at all: For it is said, "They went both of them together," and again, when we are told, that Abraham bound Isaac, we do not hear of his complaining, or endeavouring to escape, which he might have done, being (as some think) near thirty years of age, and, it is plain, capable of carrying wood enough for a burnt-offering. But he was partaker of the like precious faith with his aged father, and therefore is as willing to be offered, as Abraham is to offer him: And so they went both of them together."

Ver. 9. At length "they came to the place of which God had told Abraham. He built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood."

And here let us pause a while, and by faith take a view of the place where the father has laid him. I doubt not but the blessed angels hovered round the altar, and sang, "Glory be to God in the highest," for giving such faith to man. Come, all ye tender-hearted parents, who know what it is to look over a dying child: fancy that you saw the altar erected before you, and the wood laid in order, and the beloved Isaac bound upon it: fancy that you saw the aged parent standing by weeping. (For, why may we not suppose that Abraham wept, since Jesus himself wept at the grave of Lazarus?) O what pious, endearing expressions passed now alternately between the father and the son! Josephus records a pathetic speech made by each, whether genuine I know not: but methinks I see the tears trickle down the Patriarch Abraham’s checks; and out of the abundance of the heart, he cries, Adieu, adieu, my son; the Lord gave thee to me, and the Lord calls thee away; blessed be the name of the Lord: adieu, my Isaac, my only son, whom I love as my own soul; adieu, adieu. I see Isaac at the same time meekly resigning himself into his heavenly Father’s hands, and praying to the most High to strengthen his earthly parent to strike the stroke. But why do I attempt to describe what either son or father felt? It is impossible: we may indeed form same faint idea of, but shall never fully comprehend it, till we come and sit down with them in the kingdom of heaven, and hear them tell the pleasing story over again. Hasten, O Lord, that blessed time! O let thy kingdom come!

And now, the fatal blow is going to be given. "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son." But do you not think he intended to turn away his head, when he gave the blow? Nay, why may we not suppose he sometimes drew his hand in, after it was stretched out, willing to take another last farewell of his beloved Isaac, and desirous to defer it a little, though resolved at last to strike home? Be that as it will, his arm is now stretched out, the knife is in his hand, and he is about to put it to his dear son’s throat.

But sing, O heavens! and rejoice, O earth! Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity: for behold, just as the knife, in all probability, was near his throat, ver. 11. "the angel of the Lord, (or rather the Lord of angels, Jesus Christ, the angel of the everlasting covenant) called unto him, (probably in a very audible manner) from heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham. (The word is doubled, to engage his attention; and perhaps the suddenness of the call made him draw back his hand, just as he was going to strike his son.) And Abraham said, Here am I."

"And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now know I that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."

Here then it was that Abraham received his son Isaac from the dead in a figure. He was in effect offered upon the altar, and God looked upon him as offered and given unto him. Now it was that Abraham’s faith, being tried, was found more precious than gold purified seven times in the fire. Now as a reward of grace, though not of debt, for this signal act of obedience, by an oath, God gives and confirms the promise, "that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed," ver. 17, 18. With what comfort may we suppose the good old man and his son went down from the mount, and returned unto the young men! With what joy may we imagine he went home, and related all that had passed to Sarah! And above all, with what triumph is he now exulting in the paradise of God, and adoring rich, free, distinguishing, electing, everlasting love, which alone made him to differ from the rest of mankind, and rendered him worthy of that title which he will have so long as the sun and the moon endure, "The Father of the faithful!"

But let us now draw our eyes from the creature, and do what Abraham, if he was present, would direct to; I mean, fix them on the Creator, God blessed for evermore.

I see your hearts affected, I see your eyes weep. (And indeed, who can refrain weeping at the relation of such a story?) But, behold, I shew you a mystery, hid under the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son, which, unless your hearts are hardned, must cause you to weep tears of love, and that plentifully too. I would willingly hope you even prevent me here, and are ready to say, "It is the love of God, in giving Jesus Christ to die for our sins." Yes; that is it. And yet perhaps you find your hearts, at the mentioning of this, not so much affected. Let this convince you, that we are all fallen creatures, and that we do not love God or Christ as we ought to do: for, if you admire Abraham offering up his Isaac, how much more ought you to extol, magnify and adore the love of God, who so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son Christ Jesus our Lord, "that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life?" May we not well cry out, Now know we, O Lord, that thou hast loved us, since thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from us? Abraham was God’s creature (and God was Abraham’s friend) and therefore under the highest obligation to surrender up his Isaac. But O stupendious love! whilst we were his enemies, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might become a curse for us. O the freeness, as well as the infinity, of the love of God our Father! It is unsearchable: I am lost in contemplating it; it is past finding out. Think, O believers, think of the love of God, in giving Jesus Christ to be a propitiation for our sins. And when you hear how Abraham built an altar, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood; think how your heavenly Father bound Jesus Christ his only Son, and offered him upon the altar of his justice, and laid upon him the iniquities of us all. When you read of Abraham’s stretching forth his hand to slay his Son, Think, O think, how God actually suffered his Son to be slain, that we might live for evermore. Do you read of Isaac carrying the wood upon his shoulders, upon which he was to be offered? Let this lead you to mount Calvary (this very mount of Moriah where Isaac was offered, as some think) and take a view of the antitype Jesus Christ, the Son of God, bearing and ready to sink under the weight of that cross, on which he was to hang for us. Do you admire Isaac so freely consenting to die, though a creature, and therefore obliged to go when God called? O do not forget to admire infinitely more the dear Lord Jesus, that promised seed, who willingly said, "Lo, I come," though under no obligation so to do, "to do thy will," to obey and die for men, "O God!" Did you weep just now, when I bid you fancy you saw the altar, and the wood laid in order and Isaac laid bound on the altar? Look by faith, behold the blessed Jesus, our all-glorious Emmanuel, not bound, but nailed on an accursed tree: see how he hangs crowned with thorns, and had in derision of all that are round about him: see how the thorns pierce him, and how the blood in purple streams trickle down his sacred temples! Hark how the God of nature groans! See how he bows his head, and at length humanity gives up the ghost! Isaac is saved, but Jesus, the God of Isaac, dies: A ram is offered up in Isaac’s room, but Jesus has no substitute; Jesus must bleed, Jesus must die; God the Father provided this Lamb for himself from all eternity. He must be offered in time, or man must be damned for evermore. And now, where are your tears? Shall I say, refrain your voice from weeping? No; rather let me exhort you to look to him whom you have pierced, and mourn, as a woman mourneth for her first-born: for we have been the betrayers, we have been the murderers of this Lord of glory; and shall we not bewail those sins, which brought the blessed Jesus to the accursed tree? Having so much done, so much suffered for us, so much forgiven, shall we not love much? O! let us love Him with all our hearts, and minds; and strength, and glorify him in our souls and bodies, for they are his. Which leads me to a second inference I shall draw from the foregoing discourse.

From hence we may learn the nature of true, justifying faith. Whoever understands and preaches the truth, as it is in Jesus, must acknowledge, that salvation is God’s free gift, and that we are saved, not by any or all the works of righteousness which we have done or can do: no; we can neither wholly nor in part justify ourselves in the sight of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness; and if we are accepted with God, it must be only in and through the personal righteousness, the active and passive obedience, of Jesus Christ his beloved Son. This righteousness must be imputed, or counted over to us, and applied by faith to our hearts, or else we can in no wise be justified in God’s sight: and that very moment a sinner is enabled to lay hold on Christ’s righteousness by faith, he is freely justified from all his sins, and shall never enter into condemnation, not withstanding he was a fire-brand of hell before. Thus it was that Abraham was justified before he did any good work: he was enabled to believe on the Lord Christ; it was accounted to him for righteousness; that is, Christ’s righteousness was made over to him, and so accounted his. This, this is gospel; this is the only way of finding acceptance with God: good works have nothing to do with our justification in his sight. We are justified by faith alone, as faith the article of our church; agreeable to which the apostle Paul says, "By grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Notwithstanding, good works have their proper place: they justify our faith, though not our persons; they follow it, and evidence our justification in the sight of men. Hence it is that the apostle James asks, was not Abraham justified by works? (alluding no doubt to the story on which we have been discoursing) that is, did he not prove he was in a justified state, because his faith was productive of good works? This declarative justification in the sight of men, is what is directly to be understood in the words of the text; "Now know I, says God, that thou fearest me, since thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from me." Not but that God knew it before; but this is spoken in condescension to our weak capacities, and plainly shews, that his offering up his son was accepted with God, as an evidence of the sincerity of his faith, and for this, was left on record to future ages. Hence then you may learn, whether you are blessed with, and are sons and daughters of, faithful Abraham. You say you believe; you talk of free grace and free justification: you do well; the devils also believe and tremble. But has the faith, which you pretend to, influenced your hearts, renewed your souls, and, like Abraham’s worked by love? Are your affections, like his, set on things above? Are you heavenly-minded, and like him, do you confess yourselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth? In short, has your faith enabled you to overcome the world, and strengthened you to give up your Isaacs, your laughter, your most beloved lusts, friends, pleasures, and profits for God? If so, take the comfort of it; for justly may you say, "We know assuredly, that we do fear and love "God, or rather are loved of him." But if you are only talking believers, have only a faith of the head, and never felt the power of it in your hearts, however you may bolster yourselves up, and say, "We have Abraham for our father, or Christ is our Saviour;" unless you get a faith of the heart, a faith working by love, you shall never sit with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Jesus Christ, in the kingdom of heaven.

But I must draw one more inference, and with that I shall conclude.

Learn, O saints! from what has been said, to sit loose to all your worldly comforts; and stand ready prepared to part with every thing, when God shall require it at your hand. Some of you perhaps may have friends, who are to you as your own souls! and others may have children, in whose lives your own lives are bound up: all I believe have their Isaacs, their particular delights of some kind or other. Labour, for Christ’s sake, labour, ye sons and daughters of Abraham, to resign them daily in affection to God, that, when he shall require you really to sacrifice them, you may not confer with flesh and blood, any more than the blessed patriarch now before us. And as for you that have been in any measure tried like unto him, let his example encourage and comfort you. Remember, Abraham your father was tried so before you: think, O think of the happiness he now enjoys, and how he is incessantly thanking God for tempting and trying him when here below. Look up often by the eye of faith, and see him sitting with his dearly beloved Isaac in the world of spirits. Remember, it will be but a little while, and you shall sit with them also, and tell one another what God has done for your souls. There I hope to sit with you, and hear this story of his offering up his Son from his own mouth, and to praise the Lamb that sitteth upon the throne, for what he hath done for all our souls, for ever and ever.

Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain)

The Corn of Wheat Dying to Bring Forth Fruit

The Corn of Wheat Dying to Bring Forth Fruit

The Corn of Wheat Dying to Bring Forth Fruit

"And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."—John 12:23–25.

CERTAIN Greeks desired to see Jesus. These were Gentiles, and it was remarkable that they should, just at this time, have sought an interview with our Lord. I suppose that the words "We would see Jesus" did not merely mean that they would like to look at him, for that they could have done in the public streets; but they would "see" him as we speak of seeing a person with whom we wish to hold a conversation. They desired to be introduced to him, and to have a few words of instruction from him.

These Greeks were the advanced guard of that great multitude that no man can number, of all nations, and people, and tongues, who are yet to come to Christ. The Saviour would naturally feel a measure of joy at the sight of them, but he did not say much about it, for his mind was absorbed just then with thoughts of his great sacrifice and its results; yet he took so much notice of the coming of these Gentiles to him that it gave a colour to the words which are here recorded by his servant John.

I notice that the Saviour here displays his broad humanity, and announces himself as the "Son of man." He had done so before, but here with new intent. He says, "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified." Not as "the Son of David" does he here speak of himself, but as "the Son of man." No longer does he make prominent the Jewish side of his mission, though as a preacher he was not sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; but as the dying Saviour he speaks of himself as one of the race, not the Son of Abraham, or of David, but "the Son of man": as much brother to the Gentile as to the Jew. Let us never forget the broad humanity of the Lord Jesus. In him all kindreds of the earth are joined in one, for he is not ashamed to bear the nature of our universal manhood; black and white, prince and pauper, sage and savage, all see in his veins the one blood by which all men are constituted one family. As the Son of man Jesus is near akin to every man that lives.

Now, too, that the Greeks were come, our Lord speaks somewhat of his glory as approaching. "The hour is come," saith he, "that the Son of man should be glorified." He does not say "that the Son of man should be crucified," though that was true, and the crucifixion must come before the glorification; but the sight of those first-fruits from among the Gentiles makes him dwell upon his glory. Though he remembers his death, he speaks rather of the glory which would grow out of his great sacrifice. Remember, brethren, that Christ is glorified in the souls that he saves. As a physician wins honour by those he heals, so the Physician of souls gets glory out of those who come to him. When these devout Greeks came, saying, "Sirs, we would see Jesus," though a mere desire to see him is only as the green blade, yet he rejoiced in it as the pledge of the harvest, and he saw in it the dawn of the glory of his cross.

I think, too, that the coming of these Greeks somewhat led the Saviour to use the metaphor of the buried corn. We are informed that wheat was largely mixed up with Grecian mysteries, but that is of small importance. It is more to the point that our Saviour was then undergoing the process which would burst the Jewish husk in which, if I may use such terms, his human life had been enveloped. I mean this: aforetime our Lord said that he was not sent save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and when the Syrophenician woman pleaded for her daughter he reminded her of the restricted character of his commission as a prophet among men. When he sent out the seventy, he bade them not to go into the cities of the Samaritans, but to seek after the house of Israel only. Now, however, that blessed corn of wheat is breaking through its outer integument. Even before it is put into the ground to die the divine corn of wheat begins to show its living power, and the true Christ is being manifested. The Christ of God, though assuredly the Son of David, was, on the Father’s side, neither Jew nor Gentile, but simply man; and the great sympathies of his heart were with all mankind. He regarded all whom he had chosen as his own brethren without distinction of sex, or nation, or the period of the world’s history in which they should live; and, at the sight of these Greeks, the true Christ came forth and manifested himself to the world as he had not done before. Hence, perhaps, the peculiar metaphor which we have now to explain.

In our text, dear friends, we have two things upon which I will speak briefly, as I am helped of the Spirit. First, we have profound doctrinal teaching, and, secondly, we have practical moral principle.

First, we have profound doctrinal teaching.

Our Saviour suggested to his thoughtful disciples a number of what might be called doctrinal paradoxes.

First, that, glorious as he was, he was yet to be glorified. "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified." Jesus was always glorious. It was a glorious thing for the human person of the Son of man to be personally one with the Godhead. Our Lord Jesus had also great glory all the while he was on earth in the perfection of his moral character. The gracious end for which he came here was real glory to him: his condescending to be the Saviour of men was a great glorification of his loving character. His way of going about his work—the way in which he consecrated himself to his Father and was always about his Father’s business, the way in which he put aside Satan with his blandishments, and would not be bribed by all the kingdoms of the world—all this was his glory. I should not speak incorrectly if I were to say that Christ was really as to his moral nature never more glorious than when throughout his life on earth he was obscure, despised, rejected, and yet the faithful servant of God, and the ardent lover of the sons of men. The apostle says, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," in which he refers not only to the transfiguration, in which there were special glimpses of the divine glory, but to our Lord’s tabernacling among men in the common walks of life. Saintly, spiritual minds beheld the glory of his life, the glory of grace and truth such as never before had been seen in any of the sons of men. But though he was thus, to all intents and purposes, already glorious, Jesus had yet to be glorified. Something more was to be added to his personal honour. Remember, then, that when you have the clearest conceptions of your Lord, there is still a glory to be added to all that you can see even with the word of God in your hands. Glorious as the living Son of man had been, there was a further glory to come upon him through his death, his resurrection, and his entrance within the veil. He was a glorious Christ, and yet he had to be glorified.

A second paradox is this,—that his glory was to come to him through shame. He says, "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified," and then he speaks of his death. The greatest fulness of our Lord’s glory arises out of his emptying himself, and becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. It is his highest reputation that he made himself of no reputation. His crown derives new lustre from his cross; his ever living is rendered more honourable by the fact of his dying unto sin once. Those blessed cheeks would never have been so fair as they are in the eyes of his chosen if they had not once been spat upon. Those dear eyes had never had so overpowering a glance if they had not once been dimmed in the agonies of death for sinners. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl, but their brightest adornments are the prints of the cruel nails. As the Son of God his glory was all his own by nature, but as Son of man his present splendour is due to the cross, and to the ignominy which surrounded it when he bore our sins in his own body. We must never forget this, and if ever we are tempted to merge the crucified Saviour in the coming King we should feel rebuked by the fact that thus we should rob our Lord of his highest honour. Whenever you hear men speak lightly of the atonement stand up for it at once, for out of this comes the main glory of your Lord and Master. They say, "Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe on him." If he did so what would remain to be believed? It is on the cross, it is from the cross, it is through the cross that Jesus mounts to his throne, and the Son of man has a special honour in heaven to-day because he was slain and has redeemed us to God by his blood.

The next paradox is this,—Jesus must be alone or abide alone. Notice the text as I read it: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die," and so gets alone, "it abideth alone." The Son of man must be alone in the grave, or he will be alone in heaven. He must fall into the ground like the corn of wheat, and be there in the loneliness of death, or else he will abide alone. This is a paradox readily enough explained; our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of man, unless he had trodden the winepress alone, unless beneath the olives of Gethsemane he had wrestled on the ground, and as it were sunk into the ground until he died, if he had not been there alone, and if on the cross he had not cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" so that he felt quite deserted and alone, like the buried corn of wheat,—could not have saved us. If he had not actually died he would as man have been alone for ever: not without the eternal Father and the divine Spirit, not without the company of angels; but there had not been another man to keep him company. Our Lord Jesus cannot bear to be alone. A head without its members is a ghastly sight, crown it as you may. Know ye not that the church is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Without his people Jesus would have been a shepherd without sheep; surely it is not a very honourable office to be a shepherd without a flock. He would have been a husband without his spouse; but he loves his bride so well that for this purpose did he leave his Father and become one flesh with her whom he had chosen. He clave to her, and died for her; and had he not done so he would have been a bridegroom without a bride. This could never be. His heart is not of the kind that can enjoy a selfish happiness which is shared by none. If you have read Solomon’s Song, where the heart of the Bridegroom is revealed, you will have seen that he desires the company of his love, his dove, his undefiled. His delights were with the sons of men. Simon Stylites on the top of a pillar is not Jesus Christ; the hermit in his cave may mean well, but he finds no warrant for his solitude in him whose cross he professes to venerate. Jesus was the friend of men, not avoiding them, but seeking the lost. It was truly said of him, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." He draws all men unto him, and for this cause he was lifted up from the earth. Yet must this great attractive man have been alone in heaven if he had not been alone in Gethsemane, alone before Pilate, alone when mocked by soldiers, and alone upon the cross. If this precious grain of wheat had not descended into the dread loneliness of death it had remained alone, but since he died he "bringeth forth much fruit."

This brings us to the fourth paradox,—Christ must die to give life. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit": Jesus must die to give life to others. Persons who do not think confound dying with nonexistence, and living with existence—very, very different things. "The soul that sinneth it shall die:" it shall never go out of existence, but it shall die by being severed from God who is its life. There are many men who exist, and yet have not true life, and shall not see life, but "the wrath of God abideth on them." The grain of wheat when it is put into the ground dies; do we mean that it ceases to be? Not at all. What is death? It is the resolution of anything possessing life into its primary elements. With us it is the body parting from the soul; with a grain of wheat it is the dissolving of the elements which made up the corn. Our divine Lord when put into the earth did not see corruption, but his soul was parted from his body for a while, and thus he died; and unless he had literally and actually died he could not have given life to any of us.

Beloved friends, this teaches us where the vital point of Christianity lies, Christ’s death is the life of his teaching. See here: if Christ’s preaching had been the essential point, or if his example had been the vital point, he could have brought forth fruit and multiplied Christians by his preaching, and by his example. But he declares that, except he shall die, he shall not bring forth fruit. Am I told that this was because his death would be the completion of his example, and the seal of his preaching? I admit that it was so, but I can conceive that if our Lord had rather continued to live on,—if he had been here constantly going up and down the world preaching and living as he did, and if he had wrought miracles as he did, and put forth that mysterious, attracting power, which was always with him, he might have produced a marvellous number of disciples. If his teaching and living had been the way in which spiritual life could have been bestowed, without an atonement, why did not the Saviour prolong his life on earth? But the fact is that no man among us can know anything about spiritual life except through the atonement. There is no way by which we can come to a knowledge of God except through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, by which we have access to the Father. If, as some tell us, the ethical part of Christianity is much more to be thought of than its peculiar doctrines, then, why did Jesus die at all? The ethical might have been brought out better by a long life of holiness. He might have lived on till now if he had chosen, and still have preached, and still have set an example among the sons of men; but he assures us that only by death could he have brought forth fruit. What, not with all that holy living? No. What, not by that matchless teaching? No. Not one among us could have been saved from eternal death except an expiation had been wrought by Jesus’ sacrifice. Not one of us could have been quickened into spiritual life except Christ himself had died and risen from the dead.

Brethren, all the spiritual life that there is in the world is the result of Christ’s death. We live under a dispensation which shadows forth this truth to us. Life first came into the world by a creation: that was lost in the garden. Since then, the father of our race is Noah, and life by Noah came to us by a typical death, burial, and resurrection. Noah went in unto the ark, and was shut in, and so buried. In that ark Noah went among the dead, himself enveloped in the rain and in the ark, and he came out into a new world, rising again, as it were, when the waters were assuaged. That is the way of life to-day. We are dead with Christ, we are buried with Christ, we are risen with Christ; and there is no real spiritual life in this world except that which has come to us by the process of death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. Do you know anything about this, dear friends?—for if you do not, you know not the life of God. You know the theory, but do you know the experimental power of this within your own spirit? Whenever we hear the doctrine of the atonement attacked, let us stand up for it. Let us tell the world that while we value the life of Christ even more than they do, we know that it is not the example of Christ that saves anybody, but his death for our sakes. If the blessed Christ had lived here all these nineteen hundred years, without sin, teaching all his marvellous precepts with his own sublime and simple eloquence, yet he had not produced one single atom of spiritual life among all the sons of men. Without dying he brings forth no fruit. If you want life, my dear hearer, you will not get it as an unregenerate man by attempting to imitate the example of Christ. You may get good of a certain sort that way, but you will never obtain spiritual life and eternal salvation by that method. You must believe on Jesus as dying for you. You have to understand that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanses us from all sin. When you have learned that truth, you shall study his life with advantage; but unless you recognize that the grain of wheat is cast into the ground, and made to die, you will never realize any fruit from it in your own soul, or see fruit in the souls of others.

One other blessed lesson of deep divinity is to be learnt from our text: it is this,—since Jesus Christ did really fall into the ground and die, we may expect much as the result of it. "If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Some have a little Christ, and they expect to see little things come of him. I have met with good people who appear to think that Jesus Christ died for the sound people who worship at Zoar Chapel, and, perhaps, for a few more who go to Ebenezer in a neighbouring town, and they hope that one day a chosen few—a scanty company indeed they are, and they do their best by mutual quarrelling to make them fewer—will glorify God for the salvation of a very small remnant. I will not blame these dear brethren, but I do wish that their hearts were enlarged. We do not yet know all the fruit that is to come out of our Lord Jesus. May there not come a day when the millions of London shall worship God with one consent? I look for a day when the knowledge of the glory of God shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, when kings shall fall down before the Son of God, and all nations shall call him blessed. "It is too much to expect," says one; "missions make very slow progress." I know all that, bat missions are not the seed: all that we look for is to come out of that corn of wheat which fell into the ground and died: this is to bring forth much fruit. When I think of my Master’s blessed person as perfect Son of God and Son of man; when I think of the infinite glory which he laid aside, and of the unutterable pangs he bore, I ask whether angels can compute the value of the sacrifice he offered? God only knows the love of God that was manifested in the death of his Son, and do you think that there will be all this planning and working and sacrifice of infinite love, and then an insignificant result? It is not like God that it should be so. The travail of the Son of God shall not bring forth a scanty good. The result shall be commensurate with the means, and the effect shall be parallel with the cause. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah! Ay, as the groanings of the cross must have astounded angels, so shall the results of the cross amaze the seraphim, and make them admire the excess of glory which has arisen from the shameful death of their Lord. O beloved, great things are to come out of our Jesus yet. Courage, you that are dispirited. Be brave, you soldiers of the cross. Victory awaits your banner. Wait patiently, work hopefully, suffer joyfully, for the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he is the governor among the nations.

Thus have I spoken upon profound divinity.

I close with a few words upon practical instruction. Learn now that what is true of Christ is in measure true of every child of God: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." This is so far applicable to us, as the next verse indicates,—"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."

First, we must die if we are to live. There is no spiritual life for you, for me, for any man, except by dying into it. Have you a fine-spun righteousness of your own? It must die. Have you any faith in yourself? It must die. The sentence of death must be in yourself, and then you shall enter into life. The withering power of the Spirit of God must be experienced before his quickening influence can be known: "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it." You must be slain by the sword of the Spirit before you can be made alive by the breath of the Spirit.

Next, we must surrender everything to keep it. "He that loveth his life shall lose it." Brother, you can never have spiritual life, hope, joy, peace, heaven, except by giving everything up into God’s hands. You shall have everything in Christ when you are willing to have nothing of your own. You must ground your weapons of rebellion, you must drop the plumes of your pride, you must give up into God’s hand all that you are and all that you have; and if you do not thus lose everything in will, you shall lose everything in fact; indeed, you have lost it already. A full surrender of everything to God is the only way to keep it. Some of God’s people find this literally true. I have known a mother keep back her child from God, and the child has died. Wealthy people have worshipped their wealth, and as they were God’s people, he has broken their idols into shivers. You must lose your all if you would keep it, and renounce your most precious thing if you would have it preserved to you.

Next, we must lose self in order to find self. "He that hateth his life shall keep it unto life eternal." You must entirely give up living for yourself, and then you yourself shall live. The man who lives for himself does not live; he loses the essence, the pleasure, the crown of existence; but if you live for others and for God you will find the life of life. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." There is no way of finding yourself in personal joy like losing yourself in the joy of others.

Once more: if you wish to be the means of life to others, you must in your measure die yourself. "Oh," say you, "will it actually come to death?" Well, it may not, but you should be prepared for it if it should. Who have most largely blessed the present age? I will tell you. I believe we owe our gospel liberties mainly to the poor men and women who died at the stake for the faith. Call them Lollards, Anabaptists, or what you will, the men who died for it gave life to the holy cause. Some of all ranks did this, from bishops downward to poor boys. Many of them could not preach from the pulpit, but they preached grander sermons from the faggots than all the reformers could thunder from their rostrums. They fell into the ground and died, and the "much fruit" abides to this day. The self-sacrificing death of her saints was the life and increase of the church. If we wish to achieve a great purpose, establish a great truth, and raise up a great agency for good, it must be by the surrender of ourselves, yea, of our very lives to the one all-absorbing purpose. Not else can we succeed. There is no giving out to others, without taking so much out of yourself. He who serves God and finds that it is easy work will find it hard work to give in his account at the last. A sermon that costs nothing is worth nothing; if it did not come from the heart it will not go to the heart. Take it as a rule that wear and tear must go on, even to exhaustion, if we are to be largely useful. Death precedes growth. The Saviour of others cannot save himself. We must not, therefore, grudge the lives of those who die under the evil climate of Africa, if they die for Christ; nor must we murmur if here and there God’s best servants are cut down by brain exhaustion: it is the law of divine husbandry that by death cometh increase.

And you, dear friend, must not say, "Oh, I cannot longer teach in the Sunday-school: I work so hard all the week that I—I—I"—shall I finish the sentence for you? You work so hard for yourself all the week that you cannot work for God one day in the week. Is that it? "No, not quite so, but I am so fagged." Very true, but think of your Lord. He knew what weariness was for you, and yet he wearied not in well doing. You will never come to sweat of blood as he did. Come, dear friend, will you be a corn of wheat laid up on the shelf alone? Will you be like that wheat in the mummy’s hand, unfruitful and forgotten, or would you grow? I hear you say, "Sow me somewhere." I will try to do so. Let me drop you into the Sunday-school field, or into the Tract-lending acre, or into the Street-preaching parcel of land. "But if I make any great exertion it will half kill me." Yes; and if it shall quite kill, you will then prove the text, "If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Those who have killed themselves of late in our Lord’s service are not so numerous that we need be distressed by the fear that an enormous sacrifice of life is likely to occur. Little cause is there just now to repress fanaticism, but far more reason to denounce to self-seeking. O, my brethren, let us rise to a condition of consecration more worthy of our Lord and of his glorious cause, and henceforth may we be eager to be as the buried, hidden, dying, yet fruit-bearing wheat for the glory of our Lord. Thus have I merely glanced at the text; another day may it be our privilege to dive into its depths.

Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain)

Feed My Sheep

Feed My Sheep

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”.  John 21:15-17 (ESV)

We know with the story:

Seven of Jesus’ Disciples had returned to their previous occupation of fishing (for real fish instead of men), had fished all night and caught nothing. A man (Jesus) on the shore and called out to them and told them to toss their net on the right side of the boat instead of the left, which had not resulted in a single minnow, much less any fish. They obeyed and had such a haul they couldn’t get all the fish into their boat.

Once ashore, the man who had called out to them already had a good breakfast going and invited them to join him. It was then that they recognized their Lord. After a hearty breakfast Jesus took the opportunity to Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Naturally Peter answered in the affirmative all three times, and even might have wondered why Jesus asked so many times! We are not told. We are given Jesus’ direction to Peter after each answer:

“Feed my lambs.”

“Tend my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.”

You might say that Jesus told Peter to become a sheep herder! He told him to take care of sheep, young ones and older ones. Has that ever happened to you? Read a story many times and suddenly something literally jumps out at you?

First of all Jesus said “Feed MY sheep. Those needing care and nurture belong to Christ, not to Peter, not a particular group of believers, but to Jesus himself! Pastors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, you are to care for JESUS property! That knowledge should give you great pause, should it not?

Secondly, Jesus told Peter to “Feed my SHEEP, tending them and nurturing them to maturity. That should tell us in no uncertain terms the purpose of the church, Christ’s church, not yours. The mission of the church is the care and feeding of the sheep of God. Should ‘goats’ be invited and welcome in our churches? By all means! The main reason the church exists however, is for the ‘sheep of God’, not the’ goats of the world’.

I listened to one popular megachurch pastor tell his congregation one Sunday morning “This is the last Sunday this church is about YOU!” No kidding. While most of today’s so called ‘pastors’ won’t go quite that far, they ‘manage’ their churches with the same mindset, offering all sorts of ‘worldly’ enticements to make following Jesus a really cool/hip thing to do. But listen to what Jesus said to his disciples near the very end of his earthly ministry:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

The ‘world’ in Jesus’ time hated him and the world in our time will hate us when we stand for the true gospel that Christ came to save men from their sin, not to fulfill their wildest dreams.

Then we have the Apostle Paul who, by his own admission, preached nothing but Christ crucified for the sins of men:

“For we (gospel messengers) are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor: 15-16)

In other words, the aroma of Christ is sweet to the ‘sheep of God’ but that same aroma of Christ smells like death and destruction to the ‘goats of the world’.

So why do we do what we do? We try to make Christ and his gospel smell sweet to the stony hearted unbeliever to get them through the doors and then tell them that Christ died for their self-fulfillment rather than for their sin. After all, we know that if we start talking about sin the ‘bait and switch’ will be on and oh so obvious to the goats you lured through the church doors. Unless God is doing a supernatural ‘heart work’, they’re walking and they ain’t coming back any time soon!

What’s the answer to this mess? Whether it’s a church setting or personal evangelism, it’s really quite simple.

1. Pray that God open hearts to hear the true gospel.

2. Preach the true gospel.

3. Leave the ‘saving’ to God.

Walking with GOD

Walking with GOD

Walking with God

Genesis 5:24

And Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

VARIOUS are the pleas and arguments, which men of corrupt minds frequently urge against yielding obedience to the just and holy commands of God. But, perhaps, one of the most common objections that they make is this, that our Lord’s commands are not practicable, because contrary to flesh and blood; and consequently, that he is "an hard master, reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he has not strewed." These we find were the sentiments entertained by that wicked and slothful servant mentioned in the xxvth of St. Matthew; and are undoubtedly the same with many which are maintained in the present wicked and adulterous generation. The Holy Ghost foreseeing this, hath taken care to inspire holy men of old, to record the examples of many holy men and women; who, even under the Old Testament dispensation, were enabled chearfully to take Christ’s yoke upon them, and counted his service perfect freedom. The large catalogue of saints, confessors, and martyrs, drawn up in the xith chapter to the Hebrews, abundantly evidences the truth of this observation. What a great cloud of witnesses have we there presented to our view? All eminent for their faith, but some shining with a greater degree of lustre than do others. The proto-martyr Abel, leads the van. And next to him, we find Enoch mentioned, not only because he was next in order of time, but also on account of his exalted piety. He is spoken of in the words of the text in a very extraordinary manner. We have here a short but very full and glorious account, both of his behaviour in this world, and the triumphant manner of his entering into the next. The former is contained in these words, "And Enoch walked with God." The latter in these, "and he was not: for God took him." He was not; i. e. He was not found, he was not taken away in the common manner, he did not see death; for Heb. 11:5. God had translated him. Who this Enoch was, does not appear so plainly. To me, he seems to have been a person of public character. I suppose, like Noah, a preacher of righteousness. And, if we may credit the Apostle Jude, he was a flaming preacher. For he quotes one of his prophecies, wherein he faith, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." But whether a public or private person, he has a noble testimony given him in the lively oracles. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews saith, that before his translation he had this testimony, "that he pleased God;" and his being translated, was a proof of it beyond all doubt. And I would observe, that it was wonderful wisdom in God to translate Enoch and Elijah under the Old Testament dispensation, that hereafter when it should be asserted, that the Lord Jesus was carried into heaven, it might not seem a thing altogether incredible to the Jews; since they themselves confessed, that two of their own prophets had been translated several hundred years before. But it is not my design to detain you any longer, by enlarging, or making observations on Enoch’s short, but comprehensive character. The thing I have in view, being to give a discourse, as the Lord shall enable, upon a weighty and a very important subject; I mean, walking with God. "And Enoch walked with God." If so much as this can be truly said of you and me after our decease, we shall not have any reason to complain, that we have lived in vain.

In handling my intended subject, I shall,

First, Endeavour to shew, what is implied in these words, walked with God.

Secondly, I shall prescribe some means, upon the due observance of which, believers may keep up and maintain their walk with God. And,

Thirdly, Offer some motives to stir us up, if we never walked with God before, to come and walk with God now. The whole shall be closed with a word or two of application.

First, I am to shew what is implied in these words, "walked with God;" or in other words, what we are to understand by walking with God.

And First, Walking with God, implies, that the prevailing power of the enmity of a person’s heart, be taken away by the blessed Spirit of God. Perhaps it may seem a hard saying to some, but our own experience daily proves, what the scripture in many places assert, that the carnal mind, the mind of the unconverted, natural man, nay, the mind of the regenerate, so far as any part of him remains unrenewed, is enmity, not only an enemy, but "enmity itself against God; so that it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be." Indeed one may well wonder that any creature, especially that lovely creature man, made after his Maker’s own image, should ever have any enmity, much less a prevailing enmity against that very God in whom he lives, and moves, and hath his being. But alas! so it is. Our first parents contracted it when they fell from God by eating the forbidden fruit, and the bitter and malignant contagion of it, hath descended to, and quite overspread their whole posterity. This enmity discovered itself, in Adam‘s endeavouring to hide himself in the trees of the garden. When he heard the voice of the Lord God, instead of running with an open heart, saying, Here am I; alas! he now wanted no communion with God; and still more discovered his lately contracted enmity, by the excuse he made to the Most High. "The woman, or this woman, thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." By saying thus, he in effect lays all the fault upon God; as though he had said, if thou hadst not given me this woman, I had not sinned against thee, so thou mayst thank thyself for my transgression. In the same manner this enmity works in the hearts of Adam‘s children. They now and again find something rising against God, and saying even unto God, what doest thou? "It scorns any meaner competitor (says the learned Doctor Owen in his excellent treatise on indwelling sin) than God himself." Its command is like that of the Assyrians in respect to Ahab, Shoot only at the King. And it strikes against every thing that has the appearance of real piety, as the Assyrians shot at Jehosaphat in Ahab’s cloathes. But the opposition ceases when it finds that it is only an appearance, as the Assyyrians left off shooting at Jehosaphat, when they perceived it was not Ahab they were shooting at. This enmity discovered itself in accursed Cain; he hated and slew his brother Abel, because Abel loved, and was peculiarly favoured by his God. And this same enmity rules and prevails in every man that is naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam. Hence that averseness to prayer and holy duties, which we find in children, and very often in grown persons, who have notwithstanding been blessed with a religious education. And all that open sin and wickedness, which like a deluge has overflowed the world, are only so many streams running from this dreadful, contagious fountain; I mean the enmity of man’s desperately wicked and deceitful heart. He that cannot set his seal to this, knows nothing yet, in a saving manner, of the holy scriptures, or of the power of God. And all that do know this, will readily acknowledge, that before a person can be said to walk with God, the prevailing power of this heart-enmity must be destroyed. For persons do not use to walk and keep company together, who entertain an irreconcilable enmity and hatred against one another. Observe me, I say, the prevailing power of this enmity must be taken away. For the inbeing of it will never be totally removed, till we bow down our heads and give up the ghost. The apostle Paul, no doubt, speaks of himself, and that too not when he was a pharisee, but a real christian; when he complains, "that when he would do good, evil was present with him;" not having dominion over him, but opposing and resisting his good intentions and actions, "so that he could not do the things which he would," in that perfection which the new man desired. This is what he calls sin dwelling in him. "And this is that, Φρὸνημας αρκος, which, "(to use the words of the ninth article of our church,) some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affectation, some the desire of the flesh, which doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated." But as for its prevailing power, it is destroyed in every soul that is truly born of God, and gradually more and more weakened as the believer grows in grace, and the spirit of God gains a greater and greater ascendancy in the heart.

But Secondly, Walking with God not only implies, that the prevailing power of the enmity of a man’s heart be taken away, but also that a person is actually reconciled to God the Father, in and through the all-sufficient righteousness and atonement of his dear Son. "Can two walk together, (says Solomon), unless they are agreed?" Jesus is our peace, as well as our peace-maker. When we are justified by faith in Christ, then, but not till then, we have peace with God; and consequently cannot be said till then, to walk with him. Walking with a person, being a sign and token that we are friends to that person, or at least, though we have been at variance, yet that now we are reconciled and become friends again. This is the great errand that gospel ministers are sent out upon. To us is committed the ministry of reconciliation: As ambassadors for God, we are to beseech sinners, in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled unto God; and when they comply with the gracious invitation, and are actually by faith brought into a state of reconciliation with God, then, and not till then, may they be said so much as to begin to walk with God.

Further, Thirdly, Walking with God implies, a settled, abiding communion and fellowship with God, or what in scripture is called, "The Holy Ghost dwelling in us." This is what our Lord promised when he told his disciples, that "the Holy Spirit should be in, and with them;" not to be like a wayfaring-man, to stay only for a night, but to reside and make his abode in their hearts. This I am apt to believe is what the Apostle John would have us understand, when he talks of a person abiding in him, in Christ, "and walking as he himself also walked." And this is what is particularly meant in the words of our text. "And Enoch walked with God." i. e. He kept up and maintained a holy, settled, habitual, though undoubtedly not altogether uninterrupted communion and fellowship with God, in and through Christ Jesus. So that to sum up what has been said on this part of the first general head, walking with God consists especially in the fixed habitual bent of the will for God, in an habitual dependance upon his power and promise, in an habitual voluntary dedication of our all to his glory, in an habitual eying of his precept in all we do, and in an habitual complacence in his pleasure in all we suffer.

Fourthly Walking with God implies, our making progress or advances in the divine life. Walking, in the very first idea of the word, seems to suppose a progressive motion. A person that walks, though he move slowly, yet he goes forwards and does not continue in one place. And so it is with those that walk with God. They go on, as the psalmist says, from strength to strength;" or, in the language of the Apostle Paul, "they pass from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord." Indeed in one sense, the divine life admits of neither increase nor decrease. When a soul is born of God, to all intents and purposes he is a child of God, and, though he should live to the age of Methuselah, yet he would then be only a child of God, after all. But in another sense, the divine life admits of decays and additions. Hence it is, that we find the people of God charged with backslidings, and losing their first love. And hence it is, that we hear of babes, young men and fathers in Christ; and upon this account it is that the Apostle exhorts Timothy, "to let his progress be made known to all men." And what is here required of Timothy in particular; by St. Peter, is enjoined all christians in general, "But grow in grace, (says he) and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." For the new creature increases in spiritual stature; and though a person can but be a new creature, yet there are some that are more conformed to the divine image than others, and will, after death, be admitted to a greater degree of blessedness. For want of observing this distinction, even some gracious souls that have better hearts than heads, (as well as men of corrupt minds, reprobates concerning the faith) have unawares run into downright Antinomian principles, denying all growth of grace in a believer, or any marks of grace to be laid down in the scriptures of truth. From such principles, and more especially from practices naturally consequent on such principles, may the Lord of all Lord’s deliver us!

From what then has been said, we may now know what is implied in the words, "walked with God," viz. Our having the prevailing enmity of our hearts taken away by the power of the Spirit of God; our being actually reconciled and united to him by faith in Jesus Christ; our having and keeping up a settled communion and fellowship with him; and our making a daily progress in this fellowship, so as to be conformed to the divine image more and more.

How this is done, or, in other words, by what means believers keep up and maintain their walk with God, comes to be considered under our second general head.

And, First, Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God, by reading of his holy word. "Search the scriptures," says our blessed Lord, "for these are they that testify of me." And the royal psalmist tells us, "that God’s word was a light unto his feet, and a lanthorn unto his paths;" and be makes it one property of a good man, "that his delight is in the law of the Lord, and that he exercises himself therein day and night." "Give thyself to reading," (says Paul to Timothy); "And this book of the law, (says God to Joshua) shall not go out of thy mouth." For whatsoever was written in afore time, was written for our learning. And the word of God is profitable for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, and every way sufficient to make every true child of God thoroughly furnished to every good work. If we once get above our Bibles, and cease making the written word of God our sole rule, both as to faith and practice, we shall soon lie open to all manner of delusion, and be in great danger of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Our blessed Lord, though he had the Spirit of God without measure, yet always was governed by, and fought the devil with, "It is written." This the Apostle calls the "Sword of the Spirit." We may say of it as David said of Goliah’s sword, "None like this." The scriptures are called the lively oracles of God: not only because they are generally made use of to beget in us a new life, but also to keep up and increase it in the soul. The Apostle Peter, in his 2d epistle, prefers it even to seeing Christ transfigured upon the mount. For after he had said, chap. 1:18. "That the voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount;" he adds, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts:" i. e. Till we shake off these bodies, and see Jesus face to face. Till then, we must see and converse with him through the glass of his word. We must make his testimonies our counsellors, and daily, with Mary, sit at Jesus feet, by faith hearing his word. We shall then by happy experience find, that they are spirit and life, meat indeed, and drink indeed to our souls.

Secondly, Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by secret prayer. The spirit of grace is always accompanied with the spirit of supplication. It is the very breath of the new-creature, the fan of the divine life, whereby the spark of holy fire kindled in the soul by God, is not only kept in, but raised into a flame. A neglect of secret prayer has been frequently an inlet to many spiritual diseases, and has been attended with satal consequences. Origen observed, "That the day he offered incense to an idol, he went out of his closet without making use of secret prayer." It is one of the most noble parts of the believer’s spiritual armour. "Praying always, says the Apostle, with all manner of supplication." "Watch and pray, says our Lord, that ye enter not into temptation." And he spake a parable, that his disciples should pray, and not saint. Not that our Lord would have us always upon our knees, or in our closets, to the neglect of our other relative duties. But he means, that our souls should be kept in a praying-frame, so that we might be able to say, as a good man in Scotland once said to his friends on his death-bed, "Could these curtains, or could these walls speak, they would tell you what sweet communion I have had with my God here." O prayer, prayer! It brings and keeps God and man together. It raises man up to God, and brings God down to man. If you would therefore, O believers, keep up your walk with God; pray, pray without ceasing. Be much in secret, set prayer. And when you are about the common business of life, be much in ejaculatory prayer, and send, from time to time, short letters post to heaven upon the wings of faith. They will reach the very heart of God, and, return to you again loaded with spiritual blessing.

Thirdly, Holy and frequent meditation is another blessed means of keeping up a believer’s walk with God. "Prayer, reading, temptation, and, meditation," says Luther, "make a minister." And they also make, and perfect a christian. Meditation to the soul, is the same as digestion to the body. Holy David found it so, and therefore he was frequently employed in meditation, even in the night season. We read also of Isaac’s going out into the fields to meditate in the evening; or, as it is in the margin, to pray. For meditation is a kind of silent prayer, whereby the soul is frequently, as it were, carried out of itself to God, and in a degree made like unto those blessed Spirits, who by a kind of immediate intuition always behold the face of our heavenly Father. None but those happy souls that have been accustomed to this divine employ, can tell what a blessed promoter of the divine life, meditation is. "Whilst I was musing, says David, the fire kindled." And whilst the believer is musing on the works and word of God; especially that work of works, that wonder of wonders, that mystery of godliness, "God manifest in the flesh," the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world: he frequently feels the fire of divine love kindle, so that he is obliged to speak with his tongue, and tell of the loving-kindness of the Lord to his soul. Be frequent therefore in meditation, all ye that desire to keep up and maintain a close and uniform walk with the most-high God.

Fourthly, Believers keep up their walk with God, by watching and noting his providential dealings with them. If we believe the scriptures, we must believe what our Lord hath declared therein, "That the very hairs of his disciples heads are all numbered; and that a sparrow does not fall to the ground, (either to pick up a grain of corn, or when shot by a fowler) without the knowledge of our heavenly Father." Every cross has a call in it, and every particular dispensation of divine providence, has some particular end to answer in those to whom it is sent. If it be of an afflictive nature, God does thereby say, "My son, keep thyself from idols:" if prosperous, he does it as it were by a small, still voice, say, "My son, give me thy heart." If believers, therefore, would keep up their walk with God, they must from time to time hear what the Lord has to say concerning them in the voice of his providence. Thus We find Abraham’s servant, when he went to fetch a wife for his master Isaac, eyed and watched the providence of God, and by that means found out the person that was designed for his master’s wife. "For a little hint from Providence," says pious Bishop Hall, "is enough for faith to seed upon." And as I believe it will be one part of our happiness in heaven, to take a view of, and look back upon, the various links of the golden chain which drew us there; so those that enjoy most of heaven below, I believe, will be most minute in remarking God’s various dealings with them, in respect to his providential dispensations here on earth.

Fifthly, In order to walk closely with God, his children must not only watch the motions of God’s providence without them, but the motions also of his blessed Spirit in their hearts. "As many as are the sons of God, are led by the Spirit of God," and give up themselves to be guided by the Holy Ghost, as a little child gives its hand to be led by a nurse or parent. It is no doubt in this sense, that we are to be converted, and become like little children. And though it is the quintessence of enthusiasm, to pretend to be guided by the Spirit without the written word; yet it is every christian’s bounden duty to be guided by the Spirit in conjunction with the written word of God. Watch, therefore, I pray you, O believers, the motions of God’s blessed Spirit in your souls, and always try the suggestions or impressions that you may at any time feel, by the unerring rule of God’s most holy word: and if they are not found to be agreeable to that, reject them as diabolical and delusive. By observing this caution, you will steer a middle course between the two dangerous extremes many of this generation are in danger of running into; I mean, enthusiasm, on the one hand, and deism, and downright infidelity, on the other.

Sixthly, They that would maintain a holy walk with God, must walk with him in ordinances as well as providences, &c.

It is, therefore, recorded of Zachary and Elizabeth, that "They walked in all God’s ordinances as well as commandments, blameless." And all rightly informed Christians, will look upon ordinances, not as beggarly elements, but as so many conduit-pipes, whereby the infinitely condescending Jehovah conveys his grace to their souls. They will look upon them as childrens bread, and as their highest privileges. Consequently they will be glad when they hear others say, "Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord." They will delight to visit the place where God’s honour dwelleth, and be very eager to embrace all opportunities to shew forth the Lord Christ’s death till he come.

Seventhly and lastly, If you would walk with God, you will associate and keep company with those that do walk with him. "My delight, says holy David, is in them that do excel" in virtue. They were in his sight, the excellent ones of the earth. And the primitive christians, no doubt, kept up their vigour and first love, by continuing in fellowship one with another. The Apostle Paul knew this full well, and therefore exhorts the christians to see to it, that they did not forsake the assembling of themselves together. For how can one be warm alone? And has not the wisest of men told us, that, "as iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance of a man his friend?" If we look, therefore, into church history, or make a just observation of our own times, I believe we shall find, that as the power of God prevails, christian societies, and fellowship meetings prevail proportionably. And as one decays, the other has insensibly decayed and dwindled away at the same time. So necessary is it for those that would walk with God, and keep up the life of religion, to meet together as they have opportunity, in order to provoke one another to love and good works.

Proceed we now to the Third general thing proposed, To offer some motives to excite all to come and walk with God.

And First, Walking with God, is a very honourable thing. This generally is a prevailing motive to persons of all ranks, to stir them up to any important undertaking. O that it may have its due weight and influence with you, in respect to the matter now before us! I suppose you would all think it a very high honour to be admitted into an earthly prince’s privy-council, to be trusted with his secrets, and to have his ear at all times, and at all seasons. It seems Haman thought it so, when he boasted, Esth. 5:11, that besides his being "advanced above the princes and servants of the king; yea, moreover, Esther the Queen did let no man come in with the King unto the banquet that she had prepared, but myself; and to-morrow am I invited unto her also with the King." And when afterwards a question was put to this same Haman, chap. 6:6. "What shall be done unto the man whom the King delighteth to honour?" he answered, ver. 8. "Let the royal apparel be brought which the king used to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head; and let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the King delights to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the King delighteth to honour." This was all then, it seems, that an ambitious Haman could ask, and the most valuable thing that he thought Ahasuerus, the greatest monarch upon earth, could give. But alas, what is this honour in comparison of that which the meanest of those enjoy, that walk with God! Think ye it a small thing, Sirs, to have the secret of the Lord of Lords with you, and to be called the friends of God? and such honour have all God’s saints. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him:" and "Henceforth, says the blessed Jesus, call I you no longer servants, but friends; for the servant knoweth not the will of his master." Whatever you may think of it, holy David was so sensible of the honour attending a walk with God, that he declares, "He had rather be a door-keeper in his house, than to dwell even in the tents of ungodliness." O that all were like-minded with him!

But, Secondly, As it is an honourable, so it is a pleasing thing to walk with God. The wisest of men has told us, that "Wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace." And I remember pious Mr. Henry, when he was just about to expire, said to a friend, You have heard many mens dying words, and these are mine; A life spent in communion with God, is the pleasantest life "in the world." I am sure I can set to my seal that this is true. Indeed, I have been listed under Jesus’s banner only for a few years; but I have enjoyed more solid pleasure in one moment’s communion with my God, than I should or could have enjoyed in the ways of sin, though I had continued to have went on in them for thousands of years. And may I not appeal to all you that fear and walk with God, for the truth of this? Has not one day in the Lord’s courts, been to you better than a thousand? In keeping God’s commandments, have you not found a present and very great reward? Has not his word been sweeter to you than the honey, or the honey-comb? O what have you felt, when, Jacob-like, you have been wrestling with your God? Has not Jesus often met you when meditating in the fields, and been made known to you over and over again in breaking of bread? Has not the Holy Ghost frequently shed the divine love abroad in your hearts abundantly, and filled you with joy unspeakable, even joy that is full of glory? I know you will answer all these questions in the affirmative, and freely acknowledge the yoke of Christ to be easy, and his burden light; or (to use the words of one of our collects) "That his service is perfect freedom." And what need we then any further motive to excite us to walk with God?

But methinks I hear some among you say, "How can these things be? For, if walking with God, as you say, is such an honourable and pleasant thing, whence is it, that the name of the people of this way is cast out as evil, and every where spoken against? How comes it to pass that they are frequently afflicted, tempted, destitute, and tormented? Is this the honour, this the pleasure that you speak of?" I answer, Yes. Stop a while; be not over-hasty. Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment, and all will be well. It is true, we acknowledge the "people of this way," as you, and Paul before you, when a persecutor, called them, have their names cast out as evil, and are a sect every where spoken against. But by whom? Even by the enemies of the most high God. And do you think it a disgrace to be spoken evil of by them? Blessed be God, we have not so learnt Christ. Our royal Master has pronounced those "blessed, who are persecuted, and have all manner of evil spoken against them falsly." He has commanded them "to rejoice and be exceeding glad." For it is the prilege of their discipleship, and that their reward will be great in heaven. He himself was thus treated. And can there be a greater honour put upon a creature, than to be conformed to the ever-blessed Son of God? And further, if is equally true, that the people of this way are frequently afflicted, tempted, destitute, and tormented. But what of all this? Does this destroy the pleasure of walking with God? No, in no wise; for those that walk with God, are enabled, through Christ strengthening them, to joy even in tribulation, and to rejoice when they fall into divers temptations. And I believe I may appeal to the experience of all true and close walkers with God, Whether or not their suffering times, have not frequently been their sweetest times, and that they enjoyed most of God, when most cast out and despised by men? This we find was the case of Christ’s primitive servants, when threatened by the Jewish sanhedrim, and commanded to preach no more in the name of Jesus; they rejoiced, that they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Jesus. Paul and Silas sang praises even in a dungeon; and the face of Stephen, that glorious proto-martyr of the christian church, shone like the face of an angel. And Jesus is the same now, as he was then, and takes care so to sweeten sufferings and afflictions with his love, that his disciples find, by happy experience, that as afflictions abound, consolations do much more abound. And therefore these objections, instead of destroying, do only more enforce the motives before urged to excite you to walk with God.

But supposing the objections were just, and walkers with God were as despicable and unhappy as you would represent them to be; yet I have a third motive to offer, which, if weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, will over-weigh all objections, viz. That there is a heaven at the end of this walk. For, to use the words of pious Bishop Beveridge, "Though the way be narrow, yet it is not long; and though the gate be straight, yet it opens into everlasting life." Enoch found it so. He walked with God on earth, and God took him to fit down with him for ever in the kingdom of heaven. Not that we are to expect to be taken away as he was: no; I suppose we shall all die the common death of all men. But after death, the spirits of those who have walked with God, shall return to God that gave them; and at the morning of the resurrection, soul and body shall be for ever with the Lord. Their bodies shall be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body, and their souls filled with all the fulness of God. They shall sit on thrones; they shall judge angels. They shall be enabled to sustain an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, even that glory which Jesus Christ enjoyed with the Father before the world began. O gloriam quantam et qualem, says the learned and pious Arndt, just before he bowed down his head, and gave up the ghost. The very thought of it is enough to make us "with to leap our seventy years," as good Dr. Watts expresses himself, and to make us break out into the earnest language of the royal Psalmist, "My soul is athirst for God, yea for the living God. When shall I come to appear in the immediate presence of my God?" I wonder not that a sense of this, when under a more than ordinary irradiation and influx of divine life and love, causes some persons even to saint away, and for a time lose the power of their senses. A less sight than this, even a sight of Solomon’s glory, made sheba’s queen astonished; and a still lesser sight than that, even a sight of Joseph’s waggons, made holy Jacob to faint, and for a while, as it were, die away. Daniel, when admitted to a distant view of this excellent glory, fell down at the feet of the angel as one dead. And if a distant view of this glory be so excellent, what must the actual possession of it be? If the first fruits are so glorious, how infinitely must the harvest exceed in glory?

And now what shall I, or indeed what can I well say more, to excite you, even you that are yet strangers to Christ, to come and walk with God? If you love honour, pleasure, and a crown of glory, come, seek it where alone it can be found. Come, put ye on the Lord Jesus. Come, haste ye away and walk with God, and make no longer provision for the flesh to fulfil the lust thereof. Stop, stop, O sinner! turn ye, turn ye, O ye unconverted men! for the end of that way you are now walking in, however right it may seem in your blinded eyes, will be death, even eternal destruction both of body and soul. Make no long tarrying, I say: at your peril, I charge you, step not one step further on in your present walk. For how knowest thou, O man, but the next step thou takest may be into hell? Death may, seize thee, judgment find thee, and then the great gulph will be fixed between thee and endless glory, for ever and ever. O think of these things, all ye that are unwilling to come and walk with God. Lay them to heart. Shew yourselves men, and in the strength of Jesus say, Farewel lust of the flesh, I will no more walk with thee! Farewel lust of the eye, and pride of life! Farewel carnal acquaintance, and enemies of the cross, I will no more walk and be intimate with you! Welcome Jesus, welcome thy word, welcome thy ordinances, welcome thy Spirit, welcome thy people, I will henceforth walk with you. O that there may be in you such a mind! God will set his almighty fiat to it, and seal it with the broad seal of heaven, even the signet of his Holy Spirit. Yes, he will, though you have been walking with, and following after, the devices and desires of your desperately wicked hearts, ever since you have been born. "I the high and lofty one," says the great Jehovah, "that inhabiteth eternity, will dwell with the humble and contrite heart, even with the man that trembleth at my word." The blood, even the precious blood of Jesus Christ, if you come to the Father in and through him, shall cleanse you from all sin.

But the text leads me to speak to you that are saints, as well as to you that are open or unconverted sinners. I need not tell you that walking with God is not only honourable, but pleasant and profitable also: for ye know it by happy experience, and will find it more and more so every day. Only give me leave to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, and to beseech you by the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, to take heed to yourselves, and walk closer with your God, than you have in days past: for the nearer you walk with God, the more you will enjoy of Him whose presence is life, and be the better prepared for being placed at his right-hand, where are pleasures for evermore. O do not follow Jesus afar off! O be not so formal, so dead and stupid in your attendance on holy ordinances! Do not so shamefully forsake the assembling yourselves together, or be so niggardly, and so indifferent about the things of God. Remember member what Jesus says of the church of Laodicea, "Because thou art neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Think of the love of Jesus, and let that love constrain you to keep near unto him; and though you die for him, do not deny him, do not keep at a distance from him in any wise.

One word to my brethren in the ministry that are here present, and I have done. You see, my brethren, my heart is full; I could almost say it is too big to speak, and yet too big to be silent, without dropping a word to you. For does not the text speak in a particular manner to those who have the honour of being stiled the ambassadors of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God? I observed at the beginning of this discourse, that Enoch in all probability was a public person, and a flaming preacher. Though he be dead, does he not yet speak to us, to quicken our zeal, and make us more active in the service of our glorious and ever-blessed Master? How did Enoch preach? How did Enoch walk with God, though he lived in a wicked and adulterous generation? Let us then follow him, as he followed Jesus Christ, and ere long, where he is, there shall we be also. He is now entered into his rest: yet a little while, and we shall enter into ours, and that too much sooner than he did. He sojourned here below three hundred years; but blessed be God, the days of man are now shortened, and in a few days our work will be over. The Judge is before the door: he that cometh will come, and will not tarry: his reward is with him. And we shall all (if we are zealous for the Lord of Hosts) ere long shine as the stars in the firmament, in the kingdom of our heavenly Father, for ever and ever. To Him, the blessed Jesus, and eternal Spirit, be all honour and glory, now, and all eternity. Amen, and Amen.

Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain)


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