II. But leaving these points, which I thought to be very necessary for the warning of all Christians–for judging with charity, we cannot believe that the errors which prevail among us, can have sprung up from attention to the Word–they must have sprung up from the idea, that the little things of Christ were of no importance whatever–I now come to the second point, which is to LOOK AT THE PICTURE AS A WHOLE. Here I have two pictures; one for the people of God, the other for the ungodly. I shall dwell but briefly upon the first, and at length on the second.
Brethren in Jesus, despite our mistakes–and we are mistaken in some things, God forgive us–despite our mistakes, we are one in Jesus. Yet, though one in Christ Jesus, we should not think our errors to be unimportant, but should every one of us on his knees seek divine teaching, that we may be purged from every false way, and that we may be led in the way of divine obedience, even unto the end. I am sure my brethren in Jesus, that the one object of your life, as I can say it is the object of mine, is the bringing about the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We want to bring up the ark from its obscurity, into the place of glory. Every time we bend our knee, there is one prayer we never can forget:–“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Now, for eighteen hundred and sixty years, the church of Christ has been seeking to bring the kingdom of Christ on earth. Has it come? has it come? Yes blessed be God it has in its measure. Here in this land, and across the Atlantic, and in other nations, there are found many who love and serve our Master. But have we had full fruit for the eighteen hundred and sixty years of labor? I think not. Two hundred years after the death of Christ, I think I may say, the religion of Jesus was almost as powerful in numbers upon the face of the earth, as it is now. And all the time between–God forbid that I should say it has been wasted–has, nevertheless, been a period of going back, rather than advancing–of retreat, rather than rushing victory. Now, how is this to be accounted for? Was there not that in the religion of Christ, which would push its enemies to the very ends of the earth? Let but Paul stand up in Rome, and though after awhile, his head is severed from his body, yet the very empire of the seven hills is made to totter while he speaks. Let others of the Apostles pass the pillars of Hercules, and come to Britain, and the Druid loses his power; those who bow before bloody gods that delight in human sacrifice renounce their idolatries, and churches are founded throughout England, Ireland and Scotland. They have but to enter a country, and that country yields. It is true the martyrs bleed, and the apostles die, and the confessors are burned, but the truth lives and conquers and overcomes. Within two or three centuries, the name of Jesus is better known than that of any man, and his religion has greater power than any other on the face of the earth. And here are we, now, sending out our missionaries everywhere, and what is the success? Thank God for what it is: it is an excellent reward for all our labor, and far more than we deserve. But there is not the power in our missionaries that there was in the apostles. Our victories of the church have not been like the victories of the olden times. Why is this? My theory to account for it is this. In the first place, the absence of the Holy Spirit in a great measure from us. But if you come to the root of it to know the reason, my fuller other answer is this:–the church has forsaken her original purity, and, therefore, she has lost her power. If once we had done with everything erroneous, if by the unanimous will of the entire body of Christ, every evil ceremony, every ceremony not ordained of Scripture were lopped off and done with, if every doctrine were rejected which is not sustained by Holy Writ; if this church were pure and clean, her path would be onward, triumphant, victorious. She would set her feet on Brahma, and crush Vishnu beneath her feet. She would say to the moon of Mahomet, “Set for ever!” She would dash from his throne the Pope; she would rend up false religions by the roots; she would sit as empress of the earth, and Christ, her husband, would reign with her, and the tabernacles of God would be among men. But we are not pure; we are not clean; we cannot bring up the ark of God. Blessed be God, it still abides in Obededom’s house. True religion is to be found in the hearts of God’s people, and in some churches the truth is still preserved; but till the whole church shall come forth clear as the moon, fair as the sun, she will never be terrible as an army with banners.
This may seem to you to be of little consequence, but it really is a matter of life and death. I would plead with every Christian–think it over, my dear brother. When some of us preach Calvinism, and some Arminianism, we cannot both be right; it is of no use trying to think we can be–“Yes,” and “no,” cannot both be true. When some of us hold a Christian free of all authority but Christ; and others hold a state church; we cannot both be right anyhow. We may be both right in the grand things, but we cannot be right in everything, one or other of us must be wrong. When some sprinkle the infant, and others baptize the believer, we cannot both be right; it is idle for us to think so. Christ has not made a nondescript religion that will hold all sorts of people in it, and yet all shall be alike obedient. Truth does not vacillate like the pendulum which shakes backwards and forwards. It is not like the comet, which is here, there, and everywhere. One must be right, the other wrong. It is not for me to pronounce who is right, or who is wrong. I am not infallible. It is for me to judge of Scripture, as in the sight of God, for myself. I beg you do the same. Do not think any error to be an unimportant one, but try the spirits, prove whether these things are so. I am quite sure that the best way to promote union is to promote truth. It will not do for us to be all united together by yielding to one another’s mistakes. We are to be united heartily. I hope we are. We are to love each other in Christ; but we are not to be so united that we are not able to see each other’s faults, and especially not able to see our own. No, purge the house of God, and then shall grand and blessed times dawn on us.
And now; having done with that subject, I turn to those of you who are not converted, but who are longing to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ preached. I think what I have already said to be important, but this last part of the service is all-important. My dear hearer, I will suppose that in your heart there is an anxious desire to be saved, but you do not understand the plan of salvation: I grieve for you; for if you do not understand it, even though you seek Christ, you will make many mistakes, and you will suffer much inconvenience. It was a right thing in David to wish to bring up the ark, but perhaps he was ignorant of the way to bring it, and see what inconvenience he had to suffer: the ark was jolted, the oxen shook it. Now if you are not clear as to the plan of salvation, you will have many joltings, much shaking, many doubts, many fears. Let me ask and intreat you, then, to search the Scriptures; for in therein ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Christ; and let me beg you to endeavor, by God’s help, ever to keep in your mind a clear view of the fact, that you are to be saved, if saved at all, by trusting in Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ alone. The plan of salvation is, “Trust in Jesus.” Make mistakes about other things, you will suffer inconvenience; but make a mistake here, and it will be fatal to you. Methinks I hear some man saying, “Sir, I have longed to be saved, but I am still uneasy and troubled in my mind, I think if I were to do good works, and then to save myself by them, I might trust in Christ.” Stand back, Uzzah, stand back, thou art about to touch the ark of God, beware, lest thou shouldst die while thou art doing it. Other mistakes will make you uneasy; that mistake will be fatal to you. Touch the atonement of Jesus Christ, and there is no salvation if you touch it with a legal hand, seeking to add to it your own self righteousness.
“None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good.”
He wants no help from you; leave him to do it all; take him as he is, and go to him just as you are; do not seek to bring anything, but go as you are, and you will be saved. Seek to help Christ, and saved you cannot be. Until you have done with that thought, you must abide in your sorrow, and in your death. No mixing with Jesus; he never came to be a make-weight. Christ must be all, and you must be nothing at all. If you attempt to patch his perfect robe that robe shall never cover your nakedness. It is begemmed with jewels; put one paste jewel of yours upon it, and it is not yours. You must have a whole Christ, and nothing but Christ. You know the old proverb, “Betwixt the two stools he came to the ground.” When a man hopes to rely partly on Christ, and partly on himself, he will come to the ground with a vengeance. Rest on Jesus simply, and you are saved; rest on Christ and self, and you are like Uzzah, you have touched the ark, you have sought to mingle man’s works with God’s works, man’s merits with Christ’s merits; and tremble, lest the wrath of God should come forth against you, and destroy you.
But after all, my dear friends, you have no merits. Christ freely offers himself to you, if you will take him for nothing. You thought to buy him with your merits. Why you have no merits. Shall I tell you a little parable which shall show you your position. There was a rich man who had a generous heart, and once upon a time he resolved to give a large estate to a poor neighbor, so he sent for him, and said, “My friend, I am willing to give you a large estate for nothing.” The man felt grateful and retired home, but as he lay in his bed he thought, “I should like that estate, but I should not like to be beholden to anybody for it; I think I will pay for it.” So he set out the next morning with a heavy bag on his back, and when he came to the rich man’s door and the friend came out, he said, “Sir, I value your estate very highly; you promised to let me have it for nothing, but I do not want to be obliged to you, so I have brought a bag all full of gold to buy it with.” The rich man said, “I never offered to sell it to you; I said I would give it to you; but come, let us look at your bag of gold.” So the poor man opened wide the mouth of the sack; he blushed and stammered, and said, “Oh sir, be not angry with me; now I come to look at it; it is nothing but a bag of silver.” The friend said, “Look at it again.” He looked again and blushed, and cried, “Let not my lord be angry, but I find it is nothing but a bag of copper.” “Look once more,” said he. He looked once more into it, and he fell down on his knees, and said, “Forgive me, forgive me; I find, sir, it is a bag of filth. You see I have brought you a bag of filth with which to buy your rich estate.” You know the meaning of that parable, do you not? You have brought to God what you thought were good works, golden works; look at them you will see them pale before you, and you will say, “My Lord, they are not so good as I thought they were, they are only silver works after all.” Look at them again, and they will become dirty, brown, copper works. “Oh!” say you, “they are not worth more than a farthing now.” Look again, and you will see that your prayers, your tears, your good works, are nothing better than filth after all. They are only another form of sin, another shape of iniquity. Oh! sinner, take Christ as he is; take him now, just as thou art. The gospel is just this–trust Christ and you are saved. Rely on what he did, and you are delivered. Just leave off trusting to any ceremonies, to any doctrines, to any forms, to any works, but rely on Jesus and you are saved. “Well,” says one, “but if I go on in sin.” You cannot go on in sin after you have relied on Jesus, that will stop you, nothing else can; but faith will. “No,” says another, “but I have nothing in the world; no reason why I should be saved, I have no good thing.” Just so, I know you have not; but still you are told to trust Jesus whether you have any good thing or not. Methinks I hear some one say, “I must not trust Jesus, I have no right to do it.” But, my dear friend, you are commanded to do it. “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” This is the commandment, that ye believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. Is not this the very gospel–“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved?” Now what God commands me to do I have a right to do; it cannot be wrong for me to do what God tells me to do. The minister, who tells a man he has his right found in his own sense of need, makes the sinner look to himself; but if he tells him, “Feel or not feel, God has commanded you to believe,” that makes the sinner turn to Christ and Christ only, this turns his eye from himself to the Savior.
To conclude, I will tell you a little anecdote which I have often told before; it brings to your mind more clearly than any other means, your right to believe in Christ. I am speaking to those who say, “I have no right to trust Christ.” But if Christ commands you to do it, and if moreover he tells you, “you are condemned already because you do not believe,” you certainly have a right to believe. Sitting one day in Court with a Judge, interesting myself with some trials that were going on, there was wanted a witness. I am not clear about his name, but I think it was Brown. So it was said from the Bench that Brown was wanted next. The usher down in the Court cried out “Brown!” Some one nearer the door cried, “Brown!” and I could hear them calling out in the street two or three times, “Brown! Brown! Brown!” The Court was very crowded. By-and-by there came in at the Court door with a great deal of difficulty, a little, ugly, mean-looking creature. He came pushing and elbowing his way. There was a fine tall gentleman standing in the Court, looking on. He did not like to be pushed about, and he said in a very peremptory manner, “Who are you?” “Brown,” said the man, “I am Brown.” “Well,” but said the other, “Who is Brown?” “Nobody,” said he, “only I was told to come.” It was wonderful how everybody made way for Brown, because he was told to come. They just cleared a lane for him and I do not suppose for my lord and duke they would have made room–they were so tightly packed: but Brown must come in anyhow, because he was wanted. It did not matter how poor he looked, how ragged, how greasy, how dirty, Brown was wanted and he had a right to come. So now, God commands you to trust Christ. But you say, “There is a great big sin standing up.” And he says, “Who are you?” You say, “A poor sinner.” “And what is a poor sinner?” says he. “Nothing at all,” you say; “but Jesus Christ told me to trust in him. If he is wrong I leave the blame with him, I will not keep back from him.” He says, “Leap into my arms.” I am at the top of a burning house, he cries, “leap, and I will catch you.” Then down I go. Dashed to pieces, or saved; I have no other way of salvation–down I go into his arms. I am sinking, the floods are ready to swallow me up. Christ says, “Lay hold of that rope.” It looks a frail rope, but I lay hold of it. Sink or swim I will not lay hold of anything else, but that and that alone, and I am safe. Do that, poor sinner, whoever you may be, if you have not entered a place of worship for the last six months, trust Christ now. Now, I beseech you, while the accepted hour is here, may God the Holy Spirit enable you to trust Christ; and, though you have come in here covered with sin, you may go out with your sin washed away, peace and joy in your heats, because the Spirit of God has sweetly led you to trust Jesus and you are saved.
May God now add his blessing, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.