CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 16 December Food for Thought (Dietary Tidbits) on the 16th of December, 2019 By Dan Cartwright 0 Comment It’s really interesting how life shapes our dietary habits. At any given moment in time, how we view food, and the consumption thereof, changes. One person’s eating habits will invariably differ from everyone else’s, both in food preferences themselves and preferred mealtimes/schedules. Take the ‘DanDee’ couple in Fountain, Colorado. This is a septuagenarian couple that has been married for 44 years and are now empty nesters. Their journey together has resulted in having lived, as a military family, in various types of on-base military housing in several places here and abroad. There are grown children and grandchildren to dote upon. It’s been an interesting and wonderful journey through life! If you haven’t figured it out already, this is Dan, the guy whose military career lasted nearly 30 years and by whose side the beautiful Dee has remained through all of the ‘stuff’ of life. So back to food. On this particular morning I found myself thinking about our different breakfast habits. Dee loves her bacon (must be crispy) and eggs and will probably have both in her small breakfast when she gets up later. As for me, it was up really early to let our little Maltese, Betty Jean, out in the back yard (snow covered) for her regularly scheduled early morning business. I cranked up my work laptop to check on some things, knowing there would probably be a delayed opening of Schriever Air Force Base, where I am currently employed. It’s almost 6 AM now and I’ve already accomplished a few necessary things, including taking care of the snow in the driveway and sidewalks, which made me hungry. Being a bit hungry, I found a small pastry to go with a second mug of coffee (Kuerig & Sumatran Reserve). That’s when I thought about Dee’s bacon and eggs, my own eating habits, and how they have been shaped over time by life circumstances. I remembered being a teenager and my Dad asking me if I ‘lived to eat’ or ‘eat to live’. I used to panic if the fridge wasn’t full of food, you see. Fast forward to a military career, mess halls (now consolidated dining facilities but the food is probably not much different), K-rations, C-rations, LRPs (Long Range Patrol) rations, and MREs (Meals Ready to eat). At times it was living off whatever nature had to offer. All of those wonderful menus will develop a great appreciation for wonderful meals prepared at home and shared with family. Then my thoughts turned to our spiritual diets as believers in a great God and most gracious and wonderful Savior. The Christmas hymns in the background also contributed to the present condition of a heart so full it feels like it might burst! I have been so greatly blessed! Back to diets. When I think of all of the various sources (and quality) of spiritual nourishment that I have consumed through the years, a few things really stand out. There are definitely comparisons to be made with the aforementioned types of cuisine a profession of arms afforded me. Then there is being able to eat a home cooked meal with family and friends. There is nothing like it! It’s not exactly going from starving to feasting, but awfully close. The years spent as a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords have taught me that the written Word of God should be the main component of a good spiritual diet. Everything else in life should be measured by its golden text. Then we have the ‘dinner table’ around which sit family and friends. That ‘dinner table’ seems to be available whether here or abroad, as we fellowship with other believers in local churches, military chapels, small group Bible studies, and even we happen to meet another believer on the street or in the workplace. How awesome is that?!!!!! The ‘dinner table’ still exists when we are alone and by ourselves. We might be the only human being in the room, but in reality, we are never alone! Within us lives the Holy Spirit – leading, comforting, and guiding. Before us is a Bible, God’s very words to us, feeding us absolute truth and never-failing guidance for our lives. In addition to God’s very words to His children, in our day, with all of its technology, we also have a veritable plethora of resources available to us to help us along the way. There is so much out there that we need to have a discerning eye when we pick and choose what resource to use. One such resource for this guy has been the set of Discipleship Training Objectives available through Christian Military Fellowship. To share what the CMF DTOs have meant to me would require another article. (If you think this is a shameless plug for something, you might be right, but then again you might be in error. I just wanted to put it out there.) If you are interested in what they might be about, contact me. 😊 My encouragement to you is really think about your spiritual sustenance as you grow in faith and serve in the Kingdom of God, a citizen already, with an eternal home in heaven waiting for you when your pilgrimage here is done and you hear the words of your Savior – “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Be blessed, today and forever! It’s really interesting how life shapes our dietary habits. At any given moment in time, how we view food, and the consumption thereof, changes. One person’s eating habits will invariably differ from everyone else’s, both in food preferences themselves and preferred mealtimes/schedules. Take the ‘DanDee’ couple in Fountain, Colorado. This is a septuagenarian couple that has been married for 44 years and are now empty nesters. Their journey together has resulted in having lived, as a military family, in various types of on-base military housing in several places here and abroad. There are grown children and grandchildren to dote upon. It’s been an interesting and wonderful journey through life! If you haven’t figured it out already, this is Dan, the guy whose military career lasted nearly 30 years and by whose side the beautiful Dee has remained through all of the ‘stuff’ of life. So back to food. On this particular morning I found myself thinking about our different breakfast habits. Dee loves her bacon (must be crispy) and eggs and will probably have both in her small breakfast when she gets up later. As for me, it was up really early to let our little Maltese, Betty Jean, out in the back yard (snow covered) for her regularly scheduled early morning business. I cranked up my work laptop to check on some things, knowing there would probably be a delayed opening of Schriever Air Force Base, where I am currently employed. It’s almost 6 AM now and I’ve already accomplished a few necessary things, including taking care of the snow in the driveway and sidewalks, which made me hungry. Being a bit hungry, I found a small pastry to go with a second mug of coffee (Kuerig & Sumatran Reserve). That’s when I thought about Dee’s bacon and eggs, my own eating habits, and how they have been shaped over time by life circumstances. I remembered being a teenager and my Dad asking me if I ‘lived to eat’ or ‘eat to live’. I used to panic if the fridge wasn’t full of food, you see. Fast forward to a military career, mess halls (now consolidated dining facilities but the food is probably not much different), K-rations, C-rations, LRPs (Long Range Patrol) rations, and MREs (Meals Ready to eat). At times it was living off whatever nature had to offer. All of those wonderful menus will develop a great appreciation for wonderful meals prepared at home and shared with family. Then my thoughts turned to our spiritual diets as believers in a great God and most gracious and wonderful Savior. The Christmas hymns in the background also contributed to the present condition of a heart so full it feels like it might burst! I have been so greatly blessed! Back to diets. When I think of all of the various sources (and quality) of spiritual nourishment that I have consumed through the years, a few things really stand out. There are definitely comparisons to be made with the aforementioned types of cuisine a profession of arms afforded me. Then there is being able to eat a home cooked meal with family and friends. There is nothing like it! It’s not exactly going from starving to feasting, but awfully close. The years spent as a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords have taught me that the written Word of God should be the main component of a good spiritual diet. Everything else in life should be measured by its golden text. Then we have the ‘dinner table’ around which sit family and friends. That ‘dinner table’ seems to be available whether here or abroad, as we fellowship with other believers in local churches, military chapels, small group Bible studies, and even we happen to meet another believer on the street or in the workplace. How awesome is that?!!!!! The ‘dinner table’ still exists when we are alone and by ourselves. We might be the only human being in the room, but in reality, we are never alone! Within us lives the Holy Spirit – leading, comforting, and guiding. Before us is a Bible, God’s very words to us, feeding us absolute truth and never-failing guidance for our lives. In addition to God’s very words to His children, in our day, with all of its technology, we also have a veritable plethora of resources available to us to help us along the way. There is so much out there that we need to have a discerning eye when we pick and choose what resource to use. One such resource for this guy has been the set of Discipleship Training Objectives available through Christian Military Fellowship. To share what the CMF DTOs have meant to me would require another article. (If you think this is a shameless plug for something, you might be right, but then again you might be in error. I just wanted to put it out there.) If you are interested in what they might be about, contact me. 😊 My encouragement to you is really think about your spiritual sustenance as you grow in faith and serve in the Kingdom of God, a citizen already, with an eternal home in heaven waiting for you when your pilgrimage here is done and you hear the words of your Savior – “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Be blessed, today and forever! Related Thoughts on the Incarnation By Charles Haddon Spurgeon Editor’s Introduction The season of the church calendar that begins, as Christmastide ends, is called Epiphanytide and continues until Lent begins. The three main events focused on during the Epiphany season are the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’ miracle at the marriage at Cana. The visit of the Magi is traditionally interpreted as symbolic of God’s revelation of himself to the Gentiles, and so one of the themes of the season is mission. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also falls within the season, allowing another seasonal theme to be that of unity. The Wise Men and the Incarnation As soon as the wise men came to Jerusalem, they enquired, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” They were fully convinced that He was the King of the Jews, and that He had been but recently born, so they asked, “Where is He?” In the case of these wise men, we see ignorance admitted. Truly wise men are never above asking questions, because they are wise men. Persons who have taken the name and degree of wise men, and are so esteemed, sometimes think it beneath them to confess any degree of ignorance, but the really wise think not so; they are too well instructed to be ignorant of their own ignorance. Many men might have been wise if they had but been aware that they were fools. The knowledge of our ignorance is the doorstep of the temple of knowledge. Some think they know, and therefore never know. Had they known that they were blind, they would soon have been made to see; but because they say, “We see,” therefore their blindness remains upon them. The wise men were not content with admitting their ignorance; but, in their case, there was information entreated. They thought it likeliest that Jesus would be known at the metropolitan city. Was He not the King of the Jews? Where, then, would He be so well known as at the capital? They probably asked the guards at the gate, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” But the guards laughed them to scorn, and replied, “We know no king but Herod.” Perhaps they met a loiterer in the streets, and to him they said, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” and he answered, “What care I for such crazy questions? I am looking for a companion who will drink with me.” Possibly, they asked a trader; but he sneered, and said, “Never mind kings, what will you buy, or what have you to sell?” “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” said they to a Sadducee, and he replied, “Be not such fools as to talk in that fashion; or if you do, pray call on my religious friend, the Pharisee.” They passed a woman in the streets, and asked, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” but she said, “My child is sick at home, I have enough to do to think of my poor babe; I care not who is born, or who beside may die.” When they went to the very highest quarters, they obtained but little information; yet they were not content till they had learned all that could be known concerning the new-born King. They were not satisfied with merely getting to Jerusalem. They might have said, “Ah! now we are in the land where the Child is born, we will be thankful, and sit down contentedly.” They heard that He was born at Bethlehem, so they journeyed thither; but we do not find that, when they reached that village, they said, “This is a favored spot, we will sit down here.” Not at all; they wanted to know where the house was in which they could find the King whom they had come so far to seek. They saw the star stand still above the village inn, and they knew by that sign that the new-born King was there, but that did not satisfy them. No; they rested not till they saw the Child Himself, and worshipped Him. The Wise Men, What They Teach Us There is much to be learned from the action of these wise men; so let us, in thought, follow them. They have come to the house where the young Child is. What will they do? Will they stand still, and look at the star? No; they enter in. The star still shines, but they are not afraid of losing its radiance, for they have come where they can behold the Sun of righteousness. They lift the latch, and enter the lowly residence of the Babe. They see the star no longer, and they have no need to see it, for there is “He that is born King of the Jews.” Now the true Light has shone upon them from the face of the Child; they behold the incarnate God. How wise you will be if, when you have been led to the place where Christ is, by any man, you do not rest in his leadership, but resolve to see Christ for yourselves! How much I long that you may enter into the fellowship of the mystery, pass through the door, and come and behold the young Child, and bow before Him! Our sorrow is that so many are so unwise as to be content with seeing us. We are only their guides, but they are apt to make us their end. We point the way, but they do not follow the road; they stand gazing upon us. It was not so with the wise men. The star had done its work, and passed away; but Jesus remained, and they came unto Him. These men proved that they were wise because, when they saw the Child, they worshipped Him. Theirs was not curiosity gratified, but devotion exercised. We, too, must worship the Savior, or we shall never be saved by Him. He has not come to put away our sins, and yet to leave us ungodly and self-willed. Oh, you who have never worshipped the Christ of God, may you be led to do so! He is God; therefore, adore Him. Was God ever seen in such a worshipful form before? Behold, He bows the heavens; He rides upon the wings of the wind; He scatters flames of fire; He speaks, and His dread artillery shakes the hills. Who would not adore the great and terrible Jehovah? But is it not much better to behold Him here, allied to your nature, wrapped like other babes in swaddling-clothes, tender, feeble, next of kin to your own self? Will you not worship God when He thus comes down to you, and becomes your Brother, born for your salvation? You cannot properly worship a Christ whom you do not know; but when you think of Jesus Christ, whose goings forth were of old, from everlasting, the eternally-begotten Son of the Father, and then see Him coming here to be a man of the substance of His mother, and know and understand why He came, and what He did when He came, then you fall down, and worship Him. “Son of God, to Thee we bow, Thou art Lord, and only Thou; Thou the woman’s promised seed; Thou who didst for sinners bleed.” We worship “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Our faith sees Him go from the manger to the cross, and from the cross right up to the throne; and there, where Jehovah dwells, amidst the insufferable glory of the Divine presence, stands the very same Person who slept in the manger at Bethlehem; there He reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. Our souls worship Him. Thou art our Prophet; every word Thou sayest, we believe, and desire to obey. Thou art our Priest; Thy sacrifice hath made us free from guilt, we are washed white in the fountain of Thy blood. Thou art our King; give Thy commands, and we will obey them; lead Thou on, and we will follow. Thou art God, and we worship Thee. After worshipping Christ, the wise men presented their gifts to Him. One broke open his casket of gold, and laid it at the feet of the new-born King. Another presented frankincense,—one of the precious products of the country from which they came; and others laid myrrh at the Redeemer’s feet. All these they gave to Him to prove the sincerity of their worship; they gave substantial offerings with no stingy hand. These wise men, when they worshipped Christ, did not permit it to be a mere empty-handed adoration; and truly wise men are still liberal men. Consecration is the best education. It is thought, by some, to be wise to be always receiving; but our Savior said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” God judges our hearts by that which spontaneously comes from them; hence, the “sweet cane bought with money” is acceptable to Him when given freely. He doth not tax His saints for His offerings, nor weary them with His demands for incense; but He delights to see in them that true love which cannot express itself in mere words, but must use gold, and frankincense, and myrrh,—works of love and deeds of self-denial and generosity,—to be the emblems of its gratitude. We shall never get into the heart of happiness till we become unselfish and generous; we have but chewed the husks of religion, which are often bitter; we have never eaten of the sweet kernel until we have felt the love of God constraining us to make sacrifices for Him. There is nothing in the true believer’s power which he would not do for his Lord; nothing in our substance which we would not give to Him, nothing in ourselves which we would not devote to His service. Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20 Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 20 Christ Would Have Comers Not Once Think That He Will Cast Them Out OBSERVATION THIRD.—I come now to the next observation, and shall speak a little to that; to wit, That Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out. The text is full of this: for he saith, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Now, if he saith, I will not, he would not have us think he will. This is yet further manifest by these considerations. First, Christ Jesus did forbid even them that as yet were not coming to him, once to think him such an one. “Do not think,” said he, “that I will accuse you to the Father” (John 5:45). These, as I said, were such, that as yet were not coming to him. For he saith of them a little before, “And ye will not come to me;” for the respect they had to the honour of men kept them back. Yet, I say, Jesus Christ gives them to understand, that though he might justly reject them, yet he would not, but bids them not once to think that he would accuse them to the Father. Now, not to accuse, with Christ, is to plead for: for Christ in these things stands not neuter between the Father and sinners. So then, if Jesus Christ would not have them think, that yet will not come to him, that he will accuse them; then he would not that they should think so, that in truth are coming to him. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Second, When the woman taken in adultery, even in the very act, was brought before Jesus Christ, he so carried it both by words and actions, that he evidently enough made it manifest, that condemning and casting out were such things, for the doing of which he came not into the world. Wherefore, when they had set her before him, and had laid to her charge her heinous fact, he stooped down, and with his finger wrote upon the ground, as though he heard them not. Now what did he do by this his carriage, but testify plainly that he was not for receiving accusations against poor sinners, whoever accused by? And observe, though they continue asking, thinking at last to force him to condemn her; yet then he so answered, so that he drove all condemning persons from her. And then he adds, for her encouragement to come to him; “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more” (John 8:1–11). Not but that he indeed abhorred the fact, but he would not condemn the woman for the sin, because that was not his office. He was not sent “into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Now if Christ, though urged to it, would not condemn the guilty woman, though she was far at present from coming to him, he would not that they should once think that he will cast them out, that in truth are coming to him. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Third, Christ plainly bids the turning sinner come; and forbids him to entertain any such thought as that he will cast him out. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa 4:6). The Lord, by bidding the unrighteous forsake his thoughts, doth in special forbid, as I have said, viz., those thoughts that hinder the coming man in his progress to Jesus Christ, his unbelieving thoughts. Therefore he bids him not only forsake his ways, but his thoughts. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” It is not enough to forsake one if thou wilt come to Jesus Christ; because the other will keep thee from him. Suppose a man forsakes his wicked ways, his debauched and filthy life; yet if these thoughts, that Jesus Christ will not receive him, be entertained and nourished in his heart; these thoughts will keep him from coming to Jesus Christ. Sinner, coming sinner, art thou for coming to Jesus Christ? Yes, says the sinner. Forsake thy wicked ways then. So I do, says the sinner. Why comest thou then so slowly? Because I am hindered. What hinders? Has God forbidden thee? No. Art thou not willing to come faster? Yes, yet I cannot. Well, prithee be plain with me, and tell me the reason and ground of thy discouragement. Why, says the sinner, though God forbids me not, and though I am willing to come faster, yet there naturally ariseth this, and that, and the other thought in my heart, that hinders my speed to Jesus Christ. Sometimes I think I am not chosen; sometimes I think I am not called; sometimes I think I am come too late; and sometimes I think I know not what it is to come. Also one while I think I have no grace; and then again, that I cannot pray; and then again, I think that I am a very hypocrite. And these things keep me from coming to Jesus Christ. Look ye now, did not I tell you so? There are thoughts yet remaining in the heart, even of those who have forsaken their wicked ways; and with those thoughts they are more plagued than with anything else; because they hinder their coming to Jesus Christ; for the sin of unbelief, which is the original of all these thoughts, is that which besets a coming sinner more easily, than doth his ways (Heb 12:1–4). But now, since Jesus Christ commands thee to forsake these thoughts, forsake them, coming sinner; and if thou forsake them not, thou transgressest the commands of Christ, and abidest thine own tormentor, and keepest thyself from establishment in grace. “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (Isa 7:9). Thus you see how Jesus Christ setteth himself against such thoughts, that any way discourage the coming sinner; and thereby truly vindicates the doctrine we have in hand; to wit, that Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Reasons of Observation Third I come now to the reasons of the observation. 1. If Jesus Christ should allow thee once to think that he will cast thee out, he must allow thee to think that he will falsify his word; for he hath said, “I will in no wise cast out.” But Christ would not that thou shouldst count him as one that will falsify his word; for he saith of himself, “I am the truth;” therefore he would not that any that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out. 2. If Jesus Christ should allow the sinner that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, then he must allow, and so countenance the first appearance of unbelief; the which he counteth his greatest enemy, and against which he hast bent even his holy gospel. Therefore Jesus Christ would not that they that in truth are coming to him, should once think that he will cast them out. See Matthew 14:31; 21:21, Mark 11:23; Luke 24:25. 3. If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out; then he must allow him to make a question, Whether he is willing to receive his Father’s gift; for the coming sinner is his Father’s gift; as also says the text; but he testifieth, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Therefore Jesus Christ would not have him, that in truth is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out. 4. If Jesus Christ should allow them once to think, that indeed are coming to him, that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will despise and reject the drawing of his Father. For no man can come to him but whom the Father draweth. But it would be high blasphemy, and damnable wickedness once to imagine thus. Therefore, Jesus Christ would not have him that cometh once think that he will cast him out. 5. If Jesus Christ should allow those that indeed are coming to him, once to think that he will cast them out, he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to the trust and charge that his Father hath committed to him; which is to save, and not to lose anything of that which he hath given unto him to save (John 6:39). But the Father hath given him a charge to save the coming sinner; therefore it cannot be, that he should allow, that such an one should once think that he will cast him out. 6. If Jesus Christ should allow that they should once think that are coming to him, that he will cast them out, then he must allow them to think that he will be unfaithful to his office of priesthood; for, as by the first part of it, he paid price for, and ransomed souls, so by the second part thereof, he continually maketh intercession to God for them that come (Heb 7:25). But he cannot allow us to question his faithful execution of his priesthood. Therefore he cannot allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out. 7. If Jesus Christ should allow us once to think that the coming sinner shall be cast out, then he must allow us to question his will, or power, or merit to save. But he cannot allow us once to question any of these; therefore not once to think, that the coming sinner shall be cast out. (1.) He cannot allow them to question his will; for he saith in the text, “I WILL in no wise cast out.” (2.) He cannot allow us to question his power; for the Holy Ghost saith HE IS ABLE to save to the uttermost them that come. (3.) He cannot allow them to question the efficacy of his merit; for the blood of Christ cleanseth the comer from all sin, (1 John 1:7), therefore he cannot allow that he that is coming to him should once think that he will cast them out. 8. If Jesus Christ should allow the coming sinner once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to give the lie to the manifest testimony of the Father, Son, and Spirit; yea, to the whole gospel contained in Moses, the prophets, the book of Psalms, and that commonly called the New Testament. But he cannot allow of this; therefore, not that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out. 9. Lastly, If Jesus Christ should allow him that is coming to him, once to think that he will cast him out, he must allow him to question his Father’s oath, which he in truth and righteousness hath taken, that they might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to Jesus Christ. But he cannot allow this; therefore he cannot allow that the coming sinner should once think that he will cast him out (Heb 6). USE AND APPLICATION I come now to make some GENERAL USE AND APPLICATION OF THE WHOLE, and so to draw towards a conclusion. USE FIRST.—the First Use—A USE OF INFORMATION; And, First, It informeth us that men by nature are far off from Christ. Let me a little improve this use, by speaking to these three questions. 1. Where is he that is coming [but has not come], to Jesus Christ? 2. What is he that is not coming to Jesus Christ? 3. Whither is he to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ? 1. Where is he? [Answer.] (1.) He is far from God, he is without him, even alienate from him both in his understanding, will, affections, judgment, and conscience (Eph 2:12; 4:18). (2.) He is far from Jesus Christ, who is the only deliverer of men from hell fire (Psa 73:27). (3.) He is far from the work of the Holy Ghost, the work of regeneration, and a second creation, without which no man shall see the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3). (4.) He is far more righteous, from that righteousness that should make him acceptable in God’s sight (Isa 46:12, 13). (5.) He is under the power and dominion of sin; sin reigneth in and over him; it dwelleth in every faculty of his soul, and member of his body; so that from head to foot there is no place clean (Isa 1:6; Rom 3:9–18). (6.) He is in the pest-house with Uzziah and excluded the camp of Israel with the lepers (2 Chron 26:21; Num 5:2; Job 36:14). (7.) His “life is among the unclean.” He is “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:28). (8.) He is “in sin,” “in the flesh,” “in death,” “in the snare of the devil,” and is “taken captive by him at his will” (1 Cor 15:17; Rom 8:8; 1 John 3:14; 2 Tim 2:26). (9.) He is under the curse of the law, and the devil dwells in him, and hath the mastery of him (Gal 3:13; Eph 2:2, 3; Acts 26:18). (10.) He is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knows not whither he goes; for darkness has blinded his eyes. (11.) He is in the broad way that leadeth to destruction; and holding on, he will assuredly go in at the broad gate, and so down the stairs to hell. 2. What is he that cometh not to Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) He is counted one of God’s enemies (Luke 19:14; Rom 8:7). (2.) He is a child of the devil, and of hell; for the devil begat him, as to his sinful nature, and hell must swallow him at last, because he cometh not to Jesus Christ (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8; Matt 23:15; Psa 9:17). (3.) He is a child of wrath, an heir of it; it is his portion, and God will repay it him to his face (Eph 2:1–3; Job 21:29–31). (4.) He is a self-murderer; he wrongeth his own soul, and is one that loveth death (Prov 1:18; 8:36). (5.) He is a companion for devils and damned men (Prov 21:16; Matt 25:41). 3. Whither is he like to go that cometh not to Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) He that cometh not to him, is like to go further from him; so every sin is a step further from Jesus Christ (Hosea 11). (2.) As he is in darkness, so he is like to go on in it; for Christ is the light of the world, and he that comes not to him, walketh in darkness (John 8:12). (3.) He is like to be removed at last as far from God, and Christ, and heaven, and all felicity, as an infinite God can remove him (Matt 12:41). But, Second, This doctrine of coming to Christ informeth us where poor destitute sinners may find life for their souls, and that is in Christ. This life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life. And again, “Whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (Prov 8:35). Now, for further enlargement, I will also here propound three more questions: 1. What life is in Christ? 2. Who may have it? 3. Upon what terms? 1. What life is in Jesus Christ? [Answer.] (1.) There is justifying life in Christ. Man by sin is dead in law; and Christ only can deliver him by his righteousness and blood from this death into a state of life. “For God sent his Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). That is, through the righteousness which he should accomplish, and the death that he should die. (2.) There is eternal life in Christ; life that is endless; life for ever and ever. “He hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). Now, justification and eternal salvation being both in Christ, and nowhere else to be had for men, who would not come to Jesus Christ? 2. Who may have this life? I answer, Poor, helpless, miserable sinners. Particularly, (1.) Such as are willing to have it. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life” (Rev 22:17). (2.) He that thirsteth for it. “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life” (Rev 21:6). (3.) He that is weary of his sins. “This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing” (Isa 28:12). (4.) He that is poor and needy. “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (Psa 72:13). (5.) He that followeth after him, crieth for life. “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). 3. Upon what terms may he have this life? [Answer.] Freely. Sinner, dost thou hear. Thou mayest have it freely. Let him take the water of life freely. I will give him of the fountain of the water of life freely. “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both” (Luke 7:42). Freely, without money, or without price. “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa 55:1). Sinner, art thou thirsty? art thou weary? art thou willing? Come, then, and regard not your stuff; for all the good that is in Christ is offered to the coming sinner, without money and without price. He has life to give away to such as want it, and that hath not a penny to purchase it; and he will give it freely. Oh what a blessed condition is the coming sinner in! But, Third, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life, informeth us, that it is to be had nowhere else. Might it be had anywhere else, the text, and him that spoke it, would be but little set by; for what greater matter is there in “I will in no wise cast out,” if another stood by that could receive them? But here appears the glory of Christ, that none but he can save. And here appears his love, that though none can save but he, yet he is not coy in saving. “But him that comes to me,” says he, “I will in no wise cast out.” That none can save but Jesus Christ, is evident from Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other;” and “he hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). If life could have been had anywhere else, it should have been in the law. But it is not in the law; for by the deeds of the law, no man living shall be justified; and if not justified, then no life. Therefore life is nowhere to be had but in Jesus Christ (Gal 3). [Question.] But why would God so order it, that life should be had nowhere else but in Jesus Christ? [Answer.] There is reason for it, and that both with respect to God and us. 1. With respect to God. (1.) That it might be in a way of justice as well as mercy. And in a way of justice it could not have been, if it had not been by Christ; because he, and he only, was able to answer the demand of the law, and give for sin what the justice thereof required. All angels had been crushed down to hell for ever, had that curse been laid upon them for our sins, which was laid upon Jesus Christ; but it was laid upon him, and he bare it; and answered the penalty, and redeemed his people from under it, with that satisfaction to Divine justice that God himself doth now proclaim, That he is faithful and just to forgive us, if by faith we shall venture to Jesus, and trust to what he has done for life (Rom 3:24–26; John 1:4). (2.) Life must be by Jesus Christ, that God might be adored and magnified, for finding out this way. This is the Lord’s doings, that in all things he might be glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord. (3.) It must be by Jesus Christ, that life might be at God’s dispose, who hath great pity for the poor, the lowly, the meek, the broken in heart, and for them that others care not for (Psa 34:6; 138:6; 25; 51:17; 147:3). (4.) Life must be in Christ, to cut off boasting from the lips of men. This also is the apostle’s reason in Romans 3:19, 27 (Eph 2:8–10). 2. Life must be in Jesus Christ with respect to us. (1.) That we might have it upon the easiest terms, to wit, freely: as a gift, not as wages. Was it in Moses’ hand, we should come hardly at it. Was it in the pope’s hand, we should pay soundly for it. But thanks be to God, it is in Christ, laid up in him, and by him to be communicated to sinners upon easy terms, even for receiving, accepting, and embracing with thanksgiving; as the Scriptures plainly declare (John 1:11, 12; 2 Cor 11:4; Heb 11:13; Col 3:13–15). (2.) Life is in Christ FOR US, that it might not be upon so brittle a foundation, as indeed it would had it been anywhere else. The law itself is weak because of us, as to this. But Christ is a tried stone, a sure foundation, one that will not fail to bear thy burden, and to receive thy soul, coming sinner. (3.) Life is in Christ, that it might be sure to all the seed. Alas! the best of us, was life left in our hand, to be sure we should forfeit it, over, and over, and over; or, was it in any other hand, we should, by our often backslidings, so offend him, that at last he would shut up his bowels in everlasting displeasure against us. But now it is in Christ, it is with one that can pity, pray for, pardon, yea, multiply pardons; it is with one that can have compassion upon us, when we are out of the way; with one that hath an heart to fetch us again, when we are gone astray; with one that can pardon without upbraiding. Blessed be God, that life is in Christ! For now it is sure to all the seed. But, Fourth, This doctrine of coming to Jesus Christ for life informs us of the evil of unbelief; that wicked thing that is the only or chief hindrance to the coming sinner. Doth the text say, “Come?” Doth it say, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?” Then what an evil is that that keepeth sinners from coming to Jesus Christ! And that evil is unbelief: for by faith we come; by unbelief we keep away. Therefore it is said to be that by which a soul is said to depart from God; because it was that which at first caused the world to go off from him, and that also that keeps them from him to this day. And it doth it the more easily, because it doth it with a wile. [Of the Sin of Unbelief.]—This sin may be called the white devil, for it oftentimes, in its mischievous doings in the soul, shows as if it was an angel of light: yea, it acteth like a counselor of heaven. Therefore a little to discourse of this evil disease. 1. It is that sin, above all others, that hath some show of reason in its attempts. For it keeps the soul from Christ by pretending its present unfitness and unpreparedness; as want of more sense of sin, want of more repentance, want of more humility, want of a more broken heart. 2. It is the sin that most suiteth with the conscience: the conscience of the coming sinner tells him that he hath nothing good; that he stands inditeable for ten thousand talents; that he is a very ignorant, blind, and hard-hearted sinner, unworthy to be once taken notice of by Jesus Christ. And will you, says Unbelief, in such a case as you now are, presume to come to Jesus Christ? 3. It is the sin that most suiteth with our sense of feeling. The coming sinner feels the workings of sin, of all manner of sin and wretchedness in his flesh; he also feels the wrath and judgment of God due to sin, and ofttimes staggers under it. Now, says Unbelief, you may see you have no grace; for that which works in you is corruption. You may also perceive that God doth not love you, because the sense of his wrath abides upon you. Therefore, how can you bear the face to come to Jesus Christ? 4. It is that sin, above all others, that most suiteth with the wisdom of our flesh. The wisdom of our flesh thinks it prudent to question awhile, to stand back awhile, to hearken to both sides awhile; and not to be rash, sudden, or unadvised, in too bold a presuming upon Jesus Christ. And this wisdom unbelief falls in with. 5. It is that sin, above all other, that continually is whispering the soul in the ear with mistrusts of the faithfulness of God, in keeping promise to them that come to Jesus Christ for life. It also suggests mistrust about Christ’s willingness to receive it, and save it. And no sin can do this so artificially as unbelief. 6. It is also that sin which is always at hand to enter an objection against this or that promise that by the Spirit of God is brought to our heart to comfort us; and if the poor coming sinner is not aware of it, it will, by some evasion, slight, trick, or cavil, quickly wrest from him the promise again, and he shall have but little benefit of it. 7. It is that, above all other sins, that weakness our prayers, our faith, our love, our diligence, our hope, and expectations: it even taketh the heart away from God in duty. 8. Lastly, This sin, as I have said even now, it appeareth in the soul with so many sweet pretences to safety and security, that it is, as it were, counsel sent from heaven; bidding the soul be wise, wary, considerate, well-advised, and to take heed of too rash a venture upon believing. Be sure, first, that God loves you; take hold of no promise until you are forced by God unto it; neither be you sure of your salvation; doubt it still, though the testimony of the Lord has been often confirmed in you. Live not by faith, but by sense; and when you can neither see nor feel, then fear and mistrust, then doubt and question all. This is the devilish counsel of unbelief, which is so covered over with specious pretences, that the wisest Christian can hardly shake off these reasonings. [Qualities of unbelief as opposed to faith.]—But to be brief. Let me here give thee, Christian reader, a more particular description of the qualities of unbelief, by opposing faith unto it, in these twenty-five particulars:— 1. Faith believeth the Word of God; but unbelief questioneth the certainty of the same (Psa 106:24). 2. Faith believeth the Word, because it is true; but unbelief doubteth thereof, because it is true (1 Tim 4:3; John 8:45). 3. Faith sees more in a promise of God to help, than in all other things to hinder; but unbelief, notwithstanding God’s promise, saith, How can these things be? (Rom 4:19–21; 2 Kings 7:2; John 3:11, 12). 4. Faith will make thee see love in the heart of Christ, when with his mouth he giveth reproofs; but unbelief will imagine wrath in his heart, when with his mouth and Word he saith he loves us (Matt 15:22, 28; Num 13; 2 Chron 14:3). 5. Faith will help the soul to wait, though God defers to give; but unbelief will take huff and throw up all, if God makes any tarrying (Psa 25:5; Isa 8:17; 2 Kings 6:33; Psa 106:13, 14). 6. Faith will give comfort in the midst of fears; but unbelief causeth fears in the midst of comfort (2 Chron 20:20, 21; Matt 8:26; Luke 24:26; 27). 7. Faith will suck sweetness out of God’s rod; but unbelief can find no comfort in his greatest mercies (Psa 23:4; Num 21). 8. Faith maketh great burdens light; but unbelief maketh light ones intolerably heavy (2 Cor 4:1; 14–18; Mal 1:12, 13). 9. Faith helpeth us when we are down; but unbelief throws us down when we are up (Micah 7:8–10; Heb 4:11). 10. Faith bringeth us near to God when we are far from him; but unbelief puts us far from God when we are near to him (Heb 10:22; 3:12, 13). 11. Where faith reigns, it declareth men to be the friends of God; but where unbelief reigns, it declareth them to be his enemies (John 3:23; Heb 3:18; Rev 21:8). 12. Faith putteth a man under grace; but unbelief holdeth him under wrath (Rom 3:24–26; 14:6; Eph 2:8; John 3:36; 1 John 5:10; Heb 3:17; Mark 16:16). 13. Faith purifieth the heart; but unbelief keepeth it polluted and impure (Acts 15:9; Titus 1:15, 16). 14. By faith, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us; but by unbelief, we are shut up under the law to perish (Rom 4:23, 24; 11:32; Gal 3:23). 15. Faith maketh our work acceptable to God through Christ; but whatsoever is of unbelief is sin. For without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:4; Rom 14:23; Heb 6:6). 16. Faith giveth us peace and comfort in our souls; but unbelief worketh trouble and tossings, like the restless waves of the sea (Rom 5:1; James 1:6). 17. Faith maketh us to see preciousness in Christ; but unbelief sees no form, beauty, or comeliness in him (1 Peter 2:7; Isa 53:2, 3). 18. By faith we have our life in Christ’s fullness; but by unbelief we starve and pine away (Gal 2:20). 19. Faith gives us the victory over the law, sin, death, the devil, and all evils; but unbelief layeth us obnoxious to them all (1 John 5:4, 5; Luke 12:46). 20. Faith will show us more excellency in things not seen, than in them that are; but unbelief sees more in things that are seen, than in things that will be hereafter;. (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 11:24–27; 1 Cor 15:32). 21. Faith makes the ways of God pleasant and admirable; but unbelief makes them heavy and hard (Gal 5:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 11; John 6:60; Psa 2:3). 22. By faith Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob possessed the land of promise; but because of unbelief, neither Aaron, nor Moses, nor Miriam could get thither (Heb 11:9; 3:19). 23. By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea; but by unbelief the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29; Jude 5). 24. By faith Gideon did more with three hundred men, and a few empty pitchers, than all the twelve tribes could do, because they believed not God (Judg 7:16–22; Num 14:11, 14). 25. By faith Peter walked on the water; but by unbelief he began to sink (Matt 14:28–30). Thus might many more be added, which, for brevity’s sake, I omit; beseeching every one that thinketh he hath a soul to save, or be damned, to take heed of unbelief; lest, seeing there is a promise left us of entering into his rest, any of us by unbelief should indeed come short of it. USE SECOND. The Second Use—A USE OF EXAMINATION We come now to a use of examination. Sinner, thou hast heard of the necessity of coming to Christ; also of the willingness of Christ to receive the coming soul; together with the benefit that they by him shall have that indeed come to him. Put thyself now upon this serious inquiry, Am I indeed come to Jesus Christ? Motives plenty I might here urge, to prevail with thee to a conscientious performance of this duty. As, 1. Thou art in sin, in the flesh, in death, in the snare of the devil, and under the curse of the law, if you are not coming to Jesus Christ. 2. There is no way to be delivered from these, but by coming to Jesus Christ. 3. If thou comest, Jesus Christ will receive thee, and will in no wise cast thee out. 4. Thou wilt not repent it in the day of judgment, if now thou comest to Jesus Christ. 5. But thou wilt surely mourn at last, if now thou shalt refuse to come. 6. And lastly, Now thou hast been invited to come; now will thy judgment be greater, and thy damnation more fearful, if thou shalt yet refuse, than if thou hadst never heard of coming to Christ. Object. But we hope we are come to Jesus Christ. Answer. It is well if it proves so. But lest thou shouldst speak without ground, and so fall unawares into hell-fire, let us examine a little. First, Art thou indeed come to Jesus Christ? What hast thou left behind thee? What didst thou come away from, in thy coming to Jesus Christ? When Lot came out of Sodom, he left the Sodomites behind him (Gen 19). When Abraham came out of Chaldea, he left his country and kindred behind him (Gen 12; Acts 7). When Ruth came to put her trust under the wings of the Lord God of Israel, she left her father and mother, her gods, and the land of her nativity, behind her (Ruth 1:15–17; 2:11, 12). When Peter came to Christ, he left his nets behind him (Matt 4:20). When Zaccheus came to Christ, he left the receipt of custom behind him (Luke 19). When Paul came to Christ, he left his own righteousness behind him (Phil 3:7, 8). When those that used curious arts came to Jesus Christ, they took their curious books and burned them; though, in another man’s eye, they were counted worth fifty thousand pieces of silver (Acts 19:18–20). What sayest thou, man? Hast thou left thy darling sins, thy Sodomitish pleasures, thy acquaintance and vain companions, thy unlawful gain, thy idol-gods, thy righteousness, and thy unlawful curious arts, behind thee? If any of these be with thee, and thou with them, in thy heart and life, thou art not yet come to Jesus Christ. Second, Art thou come to Jesus Christ? Prithee tell me what moved thee to come to Jesus Christ? Men do not usually come or go to this or that place, before they have a moving cause, or rather a cause moving them thereto. No more do they come to Jesus Christ—I do not say, before they have a cause, but—before that cause moveth them to come. What sayest thou? Hast thou a cause moving thee to come? To be at present in a state of condemnation, is cause sufficient for men to come to Jesus Christ for life. But that will not do, except the cause move them; the which it will never do, until their eyes be opened to see themselves in that condition. For it is not a man’s being under wrath, but his seeing it, that moveth him to come to Jesus Christ. Alas! all men by sin are under wrath; yet but few of that all come to Jesus Christ. And the reason is, because they do not see their condition. “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt 3:7). Until men are warned, and also receive the warning, they will not come to Jesus Christ. Take three or four instances for this. Adam and Eve came not to Jesus Christ until they received the alarm, the conviction of their undone state by sin. (Gen 3) The children of Israel cried not out for a mediator before they saw themselves in danger of death by the law (Exo 20:18, 19). Before the publican came, he saw himself lost and undone (Luke 18:13). The prodigal came not, until he saw death at the door, ready to devour him (Luke 15:17, 18). The three thousand came not, until they knew not what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37–39). Paul came not, until he saw himself lost and undone (Acts 9:3–8, 11). Lastly, Before the jailer came, he saw himself undone (Acts 16:29–31). And I tell thee, it is an easier thing to persuade a well man to go to the physician for cure, or a man without hurt to seek for a plaster to cure him, than it is to persuade a man that sees not his soul-disease, to come to Jesus Christ. The whole have no need of the physician; then why should they go to him? The full pitcher can hold no more; then why should it go to the fountain? And if thou comest full, thou comest not aright; and be sure Christ will send thee empty away. “But he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Mark 2:17; Psa 147:3; Luke 1:53). Third, Art thou coming to Jesus Christ? Prithee tell me, What seest thou in him to allure thee to forsake all the world, to come to him? I say, What hast thou seen in him? Men must see something in Jesus Christ, else they will not come to him. 1. What comeliness hast thou seen in his person? thou comest not, if thou seest no form nor comeliness in him (Isa 53:1–3). 2. Until those mentioned in the Song were convinced that there was more beauty, comeliness, and desirableness in Christ, than in ten thousand, they did not so much as ask where he was, nor incline to turn aside after him (Song 5, 6). There be many things on this side heaven that can and do carry away the heart; and so will do, so long as thou livest, if thou shalt be kept blind, and not be admitted to see the beauty of the Lord Jesus. Fourth, Art thou come to the Lord Jesus? What hast thou found in him, since thou camest to him? Peter found with him the word of eternal life (John 6:68). They that Peter makes mention of, found him a living stone, even such a living stone as communicated life to them (1 Peter 2:4, 5). He saith himself, they that come to him, &c., shall find rest unto their souls; hast thou found rest in him for thy soul? (Matt 11:28). Let Us Go Back to the Times of the Old Testament 1. Abraham found THAT in him, that made him leave his country for him, and become for his sake a pilgrim and stranger in the earth (Gen 12; Heb 11). 2. Moses found THAT in him, that made him forsake a crown, and a kingdom for him too. 3. David found so much in him, that he counted to be in his house one day was better than a thousand; yea, to be a door-keeper therein was better, in his esteem, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psa 84:10). 4. What did Daniel and the three children find in him, to make them run the hazards of the fiery furnace, and the den of lions, for his sake? (Dan 3, 6). Let Us Come Down to Martyrs 1. Stephen found that in him that made him joyful, and quietly yield up his life for his name (Acts 7). 2. Ignatius found that in Christ that made him choose to go through the torments of the devil, and hell itself, rather than not to have him.—Fox’s Acts and Monuments, vol. 1, p. 52, Anno. 111. Edit. 1632. 3. What saw Romanus in Christ, when he said to the raging Emperor, who threatened him with fearful torments, Thy sentence, O Emperor, I joyfully embrace, and refuse not to be sacrificed by as cruel torments as thou canst invent?—Fox, vol. 1, p. 116. 4. What saw Menas, the Egyptian, in Christ, when he said, under most cruel torments, There is nothing in my mind that can be compared to the kingdom of heaven; neither is all the world, if it was weighed in a balance, to be preferred with the price of one soul? Who is able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord? And I have learned of my Lord and King not to fear them that kill the body, &c. P. 117. 5. What did Eulalia see in Christ, when she said, as they were pulling her one joint from another, Behold, O Lord, I will not forget thee. What a pleasure it is for them, O Christ! that remember thy triumphant victory? P. 121. 6. What think you did Agnes see in Christ, when rejoicingly she went to meet the soldier that was appointed to be her executioner. I will willingly, said she, receive into my paps the length of this sword, and into my breast will draw the force thereof, even to the hilts; that thus I, being married to Christ my spouse, may surmount and escape all the darkness of this world? P. 122. 7. What do you think did Julitta see in Christ, when, at the Emperor’s telling of her, that except she would worship the gods, she should never have protection, laws, judgments, nor life, she replied, Farewell life, welcome death; farewell riches, welcome poverty: all that I have, if it were a thousand times more, would I rather lose, than to speak one wicked and blasphemous word against my Creator? P. 123. 8. What did Marcus Arethusius see in Christ, when after his enemies had cut his flesh, anointed it with honey, and hanged him up in a basket for flies and bees to feed on, he would not give, to uphold idolatry, one halfpenny to save his life? P. 128. 9. What did Constantine see in Christ, when he used to kiss the wounds of them that suffered for him? P. 135. 10. But what need I give thus particular instances of words and smaller actions, when by their lives, their blood, their enduring hunger, sword, fire, pulling asunder, and all torments that the devil and hell could devise, for the love they bare to Christ, after they were come to him? What Hast THOU Found in Him, Sinner? What! come to Christ, and find nothing in him!—when all things that are worth looking after are in him!—or if anything, yet not enough to wean thee from thy sinful delights, and fleshly lusts! Away, away, thou art not coming to Jesus Christ. He that has come to Jesus Christ, hath found in him, that, as I said, that is not to be found anywhere else. As, 1. He that is come to Christ hath found God in him reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses to them. And so God is not to be found in heaven and earth besides (2 Cor 5:19, 20). 2. He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found in him a fountain of grace, sufficient, not only to pardon sin, but to sanctify the soul, and to preserve it from falling, in this evil world. 3. He that is come to Jesus Christ hath found virtue in him; THAT virtue, that if he does but touch thee with his Word, or thou him by faith, life is forthwith conveyed into thy soul. It makes thee wake as one that is waked out of his sleep; it awakes all the powers of the soul (Psa 30:11, 12; Song 6:12). 4. Art thou come to Jesus Christ? Thou hast found glory in him, glory that surmounts and goes beyond. “Thou art more glorious-than the mountains of prey” (Psa 76:4). 5. What shall I say? Thou hast found righteousness in him; thou hast found rest, peace, delight, heaven, glory, and eternal life. Sinner, be advised; ask thy heart again, saying, Am I come to Jesus Christ? For upon this one question, Am I come, or, am I not? hangs heaven and hell as to thee. If thou canst say, I am come, and God shall approve that saying, happy, happy, happy man art thou! But if thou art not come, what can make thee happy? yea, what can make that man happy that, for his not coming to Jesus Christ for life, must be damned in hell? USE THIRD.—the Third Use—A USE OF ENCOURAGEMENT Coming sinner, I have now a word for thee; be of good comfort, “He will in no wise cast out.” Of all men, thou art the blessed of the Lord; the Father hath prepared his Son to be a sacrifice for thee, and Jesus Christ, thy Lord, is gone to prepare a place for thee (John 1:29; Heb 10). What shall I say to thee? [First,] Thou comest to a FULL Christ; thou canst not want anything for soul or body, for this world or that to come, but it is to be had in or by Jesus Christ. As it is said of the land that the Danites went to possess, so, and with much more truth, it may be said of Christ; he is such an one with whom there is no want of any good thing that is in heaven or earth. A full Christ is thy Christ. 1. He is full of grace. Grace is sometimes taken for love; never any loved like Jesus Christ. Jonathan’s love went beyond the love of women; but the love of Christ passes knowledge. It is beyond the love of all the earth, of all creatures, even of men and angels. His love prevailed with him to lay aside his glory, to leave the heavenly place, to clothe himself with flesh, to be born in a stable, to be laid in a manger, to live a poor life in the world, to take upon him our sicknesses, infirmities, sins, curse, death, and the wrath that was due to man. And all this he did for a base, undeserving, unthankful people; yea, for a people that was at enmity with him. “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom 5:6–10). 2. He is full of truth. Full of grace and truth. Truth, that is, faithfulness in keeping promise, even this of the text, with all other, “I will in no wise cast out” (John 14:6). Hence it is said, that his words be true, and that he is the faithful God, that keepeth covenant. And hence it is also that his promises are called truth: “Thou wilt fulfil thy truth unto Jacob, and thy mercy unto Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” Therefore it is said again, that both himself and words are truth: “I am the truth, the Scripture of truth” (Dan 10:21). “Thy word is truth,” (John 17:17; 2 Sam 7:28); “thy law is truth,” (Psa 119:142); and “my mouth,” saith he, “shall speak truth,” (Prov 8:7); see also Ecclesiastes 12:10; Isaiah 25:1; Malachi 2:6; Acts 26:25, 2 Timothy 2:12, 13. Now, I say, his word is truth, and he is full of truth to fulfil his truth, even to a thousand generations. Coming sinner, he will not deceive thee; come boldly to Jesus Christ. 3. He is full of wisdom. He is made unto us of God wisdom; wisdom to manage the affairs of his church in general, and the affairs of every coming sinner in particular. And upon this account he is said to be “head over all things,” (1 Cor 1; Eph 1), because he manages all things that are in the world by his wisdom, for the good of his church; all men’s actions, all Satan’s temptations, all God’s providences, all crosses, and disappointments; all things whatever are under the hand of Christ—who is the wisdom of God—and he ordereth them all for good to his church. And can Christ help it—and be sure he can—nothing shall happen or fall out in the world, but it shall, in despite of all opposition, have a good tendency to his church and people. 4. He is full of the Spirit, to communicate it to the coming sinner; he hath therefore received it without measure, that he may communicate it to every member of his body, according as every man’s measure thereof is allotted him by the Father. Wherefore he saith, that he that comes to him, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 3:34; Titus 3:5, 6; Acts 2; John 7:33–39). 5. He is indeed a storehouse full of all the graces of the Spirit. “Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Here is more faith, more love, more sincerity, more humility, more of every grace; and of this, even more of this, he giveth to every lowly, humble, penitent coming sinner. Wherefore, coming soul, thou comest not to a barren wilderness when thou comest to Jesus Christ. 6. He is full of bowels and compassion: and they shall feel and find it so that come to him for life. He can bear with thy weaknesses, he can pity thy ignorance, he can be touched with the feeling of thy infirmities, he can affectionately forgive they transgressions, he can heal thy backslidings, and love thee freely. His compassions fail not; “and he will not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; he can pity them that no eye pities, and be afflicted in all thy afflictions” (Matt 26:41; Heb 5:2; 2:18; Matt 9:2; Hosea 14:4; Eze 16:5, 6; Isa 63:9; Psa 78:38; 86:15; 111:4; 112:4; Lam 3:22; Isa 42:3). 7. Coming soul, the Jesus that thou art coming to, is full of might and terribleness for thy advantage; he can suppress all thine enemies; he is the Prince of the kings of the earth; he can bow all men’s designs for thy help; he can break all snares laid for thee in the way; he can lift thee out of all difficulties wherewith thou mayest be surrounded; he is wise in heart, and mighty in power. Every life under heaven is in his hand; yea, the fallen angels tremble before him. And he will save thy life, coming sinner (1 Cor 1:24; Rom 8:28; Matt 28:18; Rev 4; Psa 19:3; 27:5, 6; Job 9:4; John 17:2; Matt 8:29; Luke 8:28; James 2:19). 8. Coming sinner, the Jesus to whom thou art coming is lowly in heart, he despiseth not any. It is not thy outward meanness, nor thy inward weakness; it is not because thou art poor, or base, or deformed, or a fool, that he will despise thee: he hath chosen the foolish, the base, and despised things of this world, to confound the wise and mighty. He will bow his ear to thy stammering prayers he will pick out the meaning of thy inexpressible groans; he will respect thy weakest offering, if there be in it but thy heart (Matt 11:20; Luke 14:21; Prov 9:4–6; Isa 38:14, 15; Song 5:15; John 4:27; Mark 12:33, 34; James 5:11). Now, is not this a blessed Christ, coming sinner? Art thou not like to fare well, when thou hast embraced him, coming sinner? But, Second. Thou hast yet another advantage by Jesus Christ, thou art coming to him, for he is not only full, BUT FREE. He is not sparing of what he has; he is open-hearted and open-handed. Let me in a few particulars show thee this: 1. This is evident, because he calls thee; he calls upon thee to come unto him; the which he would not do, was he not free to give; yea, he bids thee, when come, ask, seek, knock. And for thy encouragement, adds to every command a promise, “Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” If the rich man should say thus to the poor, would not he be reckoned a free-hearted man? I say, should he say to the poor, Come to my door, ask at my door, knock at my door, and you shall find and have; would he not be counted liberal? Why, thus doth Jesus Christ. Mind it, coming sinner (Isa 55:3; Psa 50:15; Matt 7:7–9). 2. He doth not only bid thee come, but tells thee, he will heartily do thee good; yea, he will do it with rejoicing; “I will rejoice over them, to do them good-with my whole heart, and with my whole soul” (Jer 32:41). 3. It appeareth that he is free, because he giveth without twitting. “He giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1, 5). There are some that will not deny to do the poor a pleasure, but they will mix their mercies with so many twits, that the persons on whom they bestow their charity shall find but little sweetness in it. But Christ doth not do so, coming sinner; he casteth all thine iniquities behind his back (Isa 38:17). Thy sins and iniquities he will remember no more (Heb 8:12). 4. That Christ is free, is manifest by the complaints that he makes against them that will not come to him for mercy. I say, he complains, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt 23:37). I say, he speaks it by way of complaint. He saith also in another place, “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob” (Isa 43:22). Coming sinner, see here the willingness of Christ to save; see here how free he is to communicate life, and all good things, to such as thou art. He complains, if thou comest not; he is displeased, if thou callest not upon him. Hark, coming sinner, once again; when Jerusalem would not come to him for safeguard, “he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:41, 42). 5. Lastly, He is open and free-hearted to do thee good, as is seen by the joy and rejoicing that he manifesteth at the coming home of poor prodigals. He receives the lost sheep with rejoicing; the lost goat with rejoicing; yea, when the prodigal came home, what joy and mirth, what music and dancing, was in his father’s house! (Luke 15). Third. Coming sinner, I will add another encouragement for thy help. 1. God hath prepared a mercy-seat, a throne of grace to sit on; that thou mayest come thither to him, and that he may from thence hear thee, and receive thee. “I will commune with thee,” saith he, “from above the mercy-seat” (Exo 25:22). As who shall say, sinner, When thou comest to me, thou shalt find me upon the mercy-seat, where also I am always found of the undone coming sinner. Thither I bring my pardons; there I hear and receive their petitions, and accept them to my favour. 2. God hath also prepared a golden altar for thee to offer thy prayers and tears upon. A golden altar! It is called a “golden altar,” to show what worth it is of in God’s account: for this golden altar is Jesus Christ; this altar sanctifies thy gift, and makes thy sacrifice acceptable. This altar, then, makes thy groans golden groans; thy tears golden tears; and thy prayers golden prayers, in the eye of that God thou comest to, coming sinner (Rev 8; Matt 23:19; Heb 10:10; 1 Peter 2:5). 3. God hath strewed all the way, from the gate of hell, where thou wast, to the gate of heaven, whither thou art going, with flowers out of his own garden. Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about thee! take heed that thou dost not tread them under foot, sinner. With promises, did I say? Yea, he hath mixed all those with his own name, his Son’s name; also, with the name of mercy, goodness, compassion, love, pity, grace, forgiveness, pardon, and what not, that may encourage the coming sinner. 4. He hath also for thy encouragement laid up the names, and set forth the sins, of those that have been saved. In this book they are fairly written, that thou, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, mightest have hope. (1.) In this book is recorded Noah’s maim and sin; and how God had mercy upon him. (2.) In this record is fairly written the name of Lot, and the nature of his sin; and how the Lord had mercy upon him. (3.) In this record thou hast also fairly written the names of Moses, Aaron, Gideon, Samson, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul, with the nature of their sins; and how God had mercy upon them; and all to encourage thee, coming sinner. Fourth. I will add yet another encouragement for the man that is coming to Jesus Christ. Art thou coming? Art thou coming, indeed? Why, 1. Then this thy coming is by virtue of God’s call. Thou art called. Calling goes before coming. Coming is not of works, but of him that calleth. “He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would; and they came unto him” (Mark 3:13). 2. Art thou coming? This is also by virtue of illumination. God has made thee see; and, therefore, thou art coming. So long as thou wast darkness, thou lovedst darkness, and couldst not abide to come, because thy deeds were evil; but being now illuminated and made to see what and where thou art, and also what and where thy Saviour is, now thou art coming to Jesus Christ; “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” saith Christ, “but my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 16:17). 3. Art thou coming? This is because God hath inclined thine heart to come. God hath called thee, illuminated thee, and inclined thy heart to come; and, therefore, thou comest to Jesus Christ. It is God that worketh in thee to will, and to come to Jesus Christ. Coming sinner, bless God for that he hath given thee a will to come to Jesus Christ. It is a sign that thou belongest to Jesus Christ, because God has made thee willing to come to him (Psa 110:3). Bless God for slaying the enmity of thy mind; had he not done it, thou wouldst as yet have hated thine own salvation. 4. Art thou coming to Jesus Christ? It is God that giveth thee power: power to pursue thy will in the matters of thy salvation, is the gift of God. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do” (Phil 2:13). Not that God worketh will to come, where he gives no power; but thou shouldest take notice, that power is an additional mercy. The church saw that will and power were two things, when she cried, “Draw me, we will run after thee” (Song 1:4). And so did David too, when he said, “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psa 119:32). Will to come, and power to pursue thy will, is double mercy, coming sinner. 5. All thy strange, passionate, sudden rushings forward after Jesus Christ, coming sinners know what I mean, they also are thy helps from God. Perhaps thou feelest at some times more than at others, strong stirrings up of heart to fly to Jesus Christ; now thou hast at this time a sweet and stiff gale of the Spirit of God, filling thy sails with the fresh gales of his good Spirit; and thou ridest at those times as upon the wings of the wind, being carried out beyond thyself, beyond the most of thy prayers, and also above all thy fear and temptations. 6. Coming sinner, hast thou not now and then a kiss of the sweet lips of Jesus Christ, I mean some blessed word dropping like a honey-comb upon thy soul to revive thee, when thou art in the midst of thy dumps? 7. Does not Jesus Christ sometimes give thee a glimpse of himself, though perhaps thou seest him not so long a time as while one may tell twenty. 8. Hast thou not sometimes as it were the very warmth of his wings overshadowing the face of thy soul, that gives thee as it were a gload upon thy spirit, as the bright beams of the sun do upon thy body, when it suddenly breaks out of a cloud, though presently all is gone away? Well, all these things are the good hand of thy God upon thee, and they are upon thee to constrain, to provoke, and to make thee willing and able to come, coming sinner, that thou mightest in the end be saved. Bunyan, J. (2006). Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) In the Hay Field In the Hay Field "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle."—Psalm 104:14. AT the appointed season all the world is busy with ingathering the grass crop, and you can scarcely ride a mile in the country without scenting the delicious fragrance of the new-mown hay, and hearing the sharpening of the mower’s scythe. There is a gospel in the hay-field, and that gospel we intend to bring out as we may be enabled by the Holy Spirit. Our text conducts us at once to the spot, and we shall therefore need no preface. "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle"—three things we shall notice; first, that grass is in itself instructive; secondly, that grass is far more so when God is seen in it; and thirdly, that by the growth of grass for the cattle, the ways of grace may be illustrated. I. First, then, "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle." Here we have something which is in itself instructive. Scarcely any emblem, with the exception of water and light, is more frequently used by inspiration than the grass of the field. In the first place, the grass may be instructively looked upon as the symbol of our mortality. "All flesh is grass." The whole history of man may be seen in the meadow. He springs up green and tender, subject to the frosts of infancy, which imperil his young life; he grows, he comes to maturity, he puts on beauty even as the grass is adorned with flowers; but after a while his strength departs and his beauty is wrinkled, even as the grass withers and is followed by a fresh generation, which withers in its turn. Like ourselves, the grass ripens but to decay. The sons of men come to maturity in due time, and then decline and wither as the green herb. Some of the grass is not left to come to ripeness at all, but the mower’s scythe removes it, even as swift-footed death overtakes the careless children of Adam. "In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled." "As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more." This is very humbling; and we need frequently to be reminded of it, or we dream of immortality beneath the stars. We ought never to tread upon the grass without remembering that whereas the green sod covers our graves, it also reminds us of them, and preaches by every blade a sermon to us concerning our mortality, of which the text is, "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." In the second place, grass is frequently used in Scripture as an emblem of the wicked. David tells us from his own experience that the righteous man is apt to grow envious of the wicked when he sees the prosperity of the ungodly. We have seen them spreading themselves like green bay trees, and apparently fixed and rooted in their places; and when we have smarted under our own troubles, and felt that all the day long we were scourged, and chastened every morning, we have been apt to say, "How can this be consistent with the righteous government of God?" We are reminded by the Psalmist that in a short time we shall pass by the place of the wicked, and lo, he shall not be; we shall diligently consider his place, and lo, it shall not be; for he is soon cut down as the grass, and withereth as the green herb. The grass withereth, the flower thereof fadeth away, and even so shall pass away for ever the glory of those who build upon the estate of time, and dig for lasting comfort in the mines of earth. As the Eastern husbandman gathers up the green herb, and, despite its former beauty, casts it into the furnace, such must be your lot, O vainglorious sinner! Thus will the judge command his angels, "Bind them in bundles to burn." Where now your merriment? Where now your confidence? Where now your pride and your pomp? Where now your boastings and your loud-mouthed blasphemies? They are silent for ever; for, as thorns crackle under a pot, but are speedily consumed, and leave nothing except a handful of ashes, so shall it be with the wicked as to this life; the fire of God’s wrath shall devour them. It is more pleasing to recollect that the grass is used in Scripture as a picture of the elect of God. The wicked are comparable to the dragons of the wilderness, but God’s own people shall spring up in their place, for it is written, "In the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes." The elect are compared to grass, because of their number as they shall be in the latter days, and because of the rapidity of their growth. You remember the passage, "There shall be a handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth." O that the long expected day might soon come, when God’s people shall no longer be like a lone tuft of grass, but when they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses." Grass and willows are two of the fastest growing things we know of: so shall a nation be born in a day, so shall crowds be converted at once; for when the Spirit of God shall be mightily at work in the midst of the church, men shall fly unto Christ as doves fly to their dovecotes, so that the astonished church shall exclaim, "These, where had they been?" O that we might live to see the age of gold, the time which prophets have foretold, when the company of God’s people shall be innumerable as the blades of grass in the meadows, and grace and truth shall flourish. How like the grass are God’s people for this reason, that they are absolutely dependent upon the influences of heaven! Our fields are parched if vernal showers and gentle dews are withheld, and what are our souls without the gracious visitations of the Spirit? Sometimes through severe trials our wounded hearts are like the mown grass, and then we have the promise, "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth." Our sharp troubles have taken away our beauty, and lo, the Lord visits us, and we revive again. Thank God for that old saying, which is a gracious doctrine as well as a true proverb, "Each blade of grass has its own drop of dew." God is pleased to give his own peculiar mercies to each one of his own servants. "Thy blessing is upon thy people." Once again, grass is comparable to the food wherewith the Lord supplies the necessities of his chosen ones. Take the twenty-third Psalm, and you have the metaphor worked out in the sweetest form of pastoral song: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." Just as the sheep has nourishment according to its nature, and this nourishment is abundantly found for it by its shepherd, so that it not only feeds, but then lies down in the midst of the fodder, satiated with plenty, and perfectly content and at ease; even so are the people of God when Jesus Christ leads them into the pastures of the covenant, and opens up to them the precious truths upon which their souls shall be fed. Beloved, have we not proved that promise true, "In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined"? My soul has sometimes fed upon Christ till I have felt as if I could receive no more, and then I have laid me down in the bounty of my God to take my rest, satisfied with favour, and full of the goodness of the Lord. Thus, you see, the grass itself is not without instruction for those who will incline their ear. II. In the second place, God is seen in the growing of the grass. He is seen first as a worker, "He causeth the grass to grow." He is seen secondly as a care-taker, "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle." 1. First, as a worker, God is to be seen in every blade of grass, if we have but eyes to discern him. A blind world this, which always talks about "natural laws," and "the effects of natural causes," but forgets that laws cannot operate of themselves, and that natural causes, so called, are not causes at all unless the First Cause shall set them in motion. The old Romans used to say, God thundered; God rained. We say, it thunders; it rains. What "it"? All these expressions are subterfuges to escape from the thought of God. We commonly say, "How wonderful are the works of nature!" What is "nature"? Do you know what nature is? I remember a lecturer in the street, an infidel, speaking about nature, and he was asked by a Christian man standing by whether he would tell him what nature was, He never gave a reply. The production of grass is not the result of natural law apart from the actual work of God; mere law would be inoperative unless the great Master himself sent a thrill of power through the matter which is regulated by the law—unless, like the steam engine, which puts force into all the spinning-jennies and wheels of a cotton-mill, God himself were the motive power to make every wheel revolve. I find rest on the grass as on a royal couch, now that I know that my God is there at work for his creatures. Having asked you to see God as a worker, I want you to make use of this—therefore I bid you to see God in common things. He makes the grass to grow—grass is a common thing. You see it everywhere, yet God is in it. Dissect it and pull it to pieces: the attributes of God are illustrated in every single flower of the field, and in every green leaf. In like manner see God in your common matters, your daily afflictions, your common joys, your every-day mercies. Do not say, "I must see a miracle before I see God." In truth, everything teems with marvel. See God in the bread of your table and the water of your cup. It will be the happiest way of living if you can say in each providential circumstance, "My Father has done all this." See God also in little things. The little things of life are the greatest troubles. A man will hear that his house is burned down more quietly than he will see an ill-cooked joint of meat upon his table, when he reckoned upon its being done to a turn. It is the little stone in the shoe which makes the pilgrim limp. To see God in little things, to believe that there is as much the presence of God in a limb falling from the elm as in the avalanche which crushes a village; to believe that the guidance of every drop of spray, when the wave breaks on the rock, is as much under the hand of God as the steerage of the mightiest planet in its course: to see God in the little as well as in the great—all this is true wisdom. Think, too, of God working among solitary things; for grass does not merely grow where men take care of it, but up there on the side of the lone Alp, where no traveller has ever passed. Where only the eye of the wild bird has beheld their lonely verdure, moss and grass display their beauty; for God’s works are fair to other eyes than those of mortals. And you, solitary child of God, dwelling unknown and obscure, in a remote hamlet; you are not forgotten by the love of heaven. He maketh the grass to grow all alone, and shall he not make you flourish despite your loneliness? He can bring forth your graces and educate you for the skies in solitude and neglect. The grass, you know, is a thing we tread upon, nobody thinks of its being crushed by the foot, and yet God makes it grow. Perhaps you are oppressed and down-trodden, but let not this depress your spirit, for God executeth righteousness for all those that are oppressed: he maketh the grass to grow, and he can make your heart to flourish under all the oppressions and afflictions of life, so that you shall still be happy and holy though all the world marches over you; still living in the immortal life which God himself bestows upon you though hell itself set its heel upon you. Poor and needy one, unknown, unobserved, oppressed and down-trodden, God makes the grass to grow, and he will take care of you. 2. But I said we should see in the text God also as a great caretaker. "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle." "Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes?" "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn," shows that God has a care for the beasts of the field; but it shows much more than that, namely, that he would have those who work for him feed as they work. God cares for the beasts, and makes grass to grow for them. Then, my soul, though sometimes thou hast said with David, "So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee," yet God cares for thee. "He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry"—there you have an instance of his care for birds, and here we have his care for beasts; and though you, my hearer, may seem to yourself to be as black and defiled as a raven, and as far from anything spiritually good as the beasts, yet take comfort from this text; he gives grass to the cattle, and he will give grace to you, though you think yourself to be as a beast before him. Observe, he cares for these beasts who are helpless as to caring for themselves. The cattle could not plant the grass, nor cause it to grow. Though they can do nothing in the matter, yet he does it all for them; he causeth the grass to grow. You who are as helpless as cattle to help yourselves, who can only stand and moan out your misery, but know not what to do, God can prevent you in his lovingkindness, and favour you in his tenderness. Let the bleatings of your prayer go up to heaven, let the moanings of your desires go up to him, and help shall come to you though you cannot help yourselves. Beasts are dumb, speechless things, yet God makes the grass grow for them. Will he hear those that cannot speak, and will he not hear those who can? Since our God views with kind consideration the cattle in the field, he will surely have compassion upon his own sons and daughters when they desire to seek his face. There is this also to be said, God not only cares for cattle, but the food which he provides for them is fit food—he causeth grass to grow for the cattle, just the sort of food which ruminants require. Even thus the Lord God provides fit sustenance for his people. Depend upon him by faith and wait upon him in prayer, and you shall have food convenient for you. You shall find in God’s mercy just that which your nature demands, suitable supplies for peculiar wants. This "convenient" food the Lord takes care to reserve for the cattle, for no one eats the cattle’s food but the cattle. There is grass for them, and nobody else cares for it, and thus it is kept for them; even so God has a special food for his own people; "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant." Though the grass be free to all who choose to eat it, yet no creature careth for it except the cattle for whom it is prepared; and though the grace of God be free to all men, yet no man careth for it except the elect of God, for whom he prepared it, and whom he prepares to receive it. There is as much reserve of the grass for the cattle as if there were walls around it; and so, though the grace of God be free, and there be no bound set about it, yet it is as much reserved as if it were restricted. God is seen in the grass as the worker and the caretaker: then let us see his hand in providence at all times. Let us see it, not only when we have abundance, but even when we have scant supplies; for the grass is preparing for the cattle even in the depth of winter. And you, ye sons of sorrow, in your trials and troubles, are still cared for by God; he will accomplish his own divinely gracious purposes in you: only be still and see the salvation of God. Every winter’s night has a direct connection with the joyous days of mowing and reaping, and each time of grief is linked to future joy. III. Our third head is most interesting. God’s working in the grass for the cattle gives us illustrations concerning grace. I will soliloquize, and say to myself as I read the text, "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle. In this I perceive a satisfying provision for that form of creature. I am also a creature, but I am a nobler creature than the cattle. I cannot imagine for a moment that God will provide all that the cattle need and not provide for me. But naturally I feel uneasy: I cannot find in this world what I want—if I were to win all its riches I should still be discontented; and when I have all that heart could wish of time’s treasures, yet still my heart feels as if it were empty. There must be somewhere or other something that will satisfy me as a man with an immortal soul. God altogether satisfies the ox; he must therefore have something or other that would altogether satisfy me if I could get it. There is the grass, the cattle get it, and when they have eaten their share, they lie down and seem perfectly contented; now, all I have ever found on earth has never satisfied me so that I could lie down and be satisfied; there must, then, be something somewhere that would content me if I could get at it." Is not this good reasoning? I ask both the Christian and the unbeliever to go with me so far; but then let us proceed another step:—The cattle do get what they want—not only is the grass provided, but they get it. Why should not I obtain what I want? I find my soul hungering and thirsting after something more than I can see with my eyes or hear with my ears: there must be something to satisfy my soul, why should I not find it? The cattle pasture upon that which satisfies them: why should not I obtain satisfaction too? Then I begin to pray, "O Lord, satisfy my mouth with good things, and renew my youth." While I am praying I also meditate and think,—God has provided for cattle that which is consonant to their nature: they are nothing but flesh, and flesh is grass, there is therefore grass for their flesh. I also am flesh, but I am something else besides: I am spirit, and to satisfy me I need spiritual meat. Where is it? When I turn to God’s word, I find there that though the grass withereth, the word of the Lord endureth for ever; and the word which Jesus speaks unto us is spirit and life. "Oh! then," I say, "here is spiritual food for my spiritual nature, I will rejoice therein. O may God help me to know what that spiritual meat is, and enable me to lay hold upon it, for I perceive that though God provides the grass for the cattle, the cattle must eat it themselves. They are not fed if they refuse to eat. I must imitate the cattle, and receive that which God provides for me? What do I find provided in Scripture? I am told that the Lord Jesus came into this world to suffer, and bleed, and die instead of me, and that if I trust in him I shall be saved; and, being saved, the thoughts of his love will give solace and joy to me and be my strength. What have I to do but to feed on these truths? I do not find the cattle bringing any preparation to the pasture except hunger, but they enter it and partake of their portion. Even so must I by an act of faith live upon Jesus. Lord, give me grace to feed upon Christ; make me hungry and thirsty after him; give me the faith by which I may be a receiver of him, that so I may be satisfied with favour, and full of the goodness of the Lord. My text, though it looked small, grows as we meditate upon it. I want to introduce you to a few more illustrations of divine grace. Preventing grace may here be seen in a symbol. Grass grew before cattle were made. We find in the first chapter of Genesis that God provided the grass before he created the cattle. And what a mercy that covenant supplies for God’s people were prepared before they were born. God had given his Son Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of his chosen before Adam fell; long before sin came into the world the everlasting mercy of God foresaw the ruin of sin, and provided a refuge for every elect soul. What a thought it is for me, that, before I hunger, God has prepared the manna; before I thirst, God has caused the rock in the wilderness to send forth crystal streams to satisfy the thirst of my soul! See what sovereign grace can do! Before the cattle come to the pasture the grass has grown for them, and before I feel my need of divine mercy, that mercy is provided for me. Then I perceive an illustration of free grace, for when the ox comes into the field, he brings no money with him. So I, a poor needy sinner, having nothing, come and receive Christ without money and without price. The Lord maketh the grass to grow for the cattle, and so doth he provide grace for my needy soul, though I have now no money, no virtue, no excellence of my own. And why is it, my friends, why is it that God gives the cattle the grass? The reason is, because they belong to him. Here is a text to prove it. "The silver and the gold are mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills." God provides grass for his own cattle, and grace is provided for God’s people? Of every herd of cattle in the world, God could say, "They are mine." Long before the grazier puts his brand on the bullock God has set his creating mark upon it; so, before the stamp of Adam’s fall was set upon our brow, the stamp of electing love was set there: "In thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." God also feeds cattle because he has entered into a covenant with them to do so. "What! a covenant with the cattle!" says somebody. Ay! truly so, for when God spake to his servant Noah, in that day when all the cattle came out of the ark, we find him saying, "I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you." Thus a covenant was made with the cattle, and that covenant was that seed-time and harvest should not fail; therefore the earth brings forth for them, and for them the Lord causeth the grass to grow. Does Jehovah keep his covenant with cattle, and will he not keep his covenant with his own beloved? Ah! it is because his chosen people are his covenanted ones in the person of the Lord Jesus, that he provides for them all things that they shall need in time and in eternity, and satisfies them out of the fulness of his everlasting love. Once, again, God feeds the cattle, and then the cattle praise him. We find David saying, in the hundred and forty-eighth Psalm, "Praise the Lord … ye beasts and all cattle." The Lord feeds his people to the end that their glory may sing praise unto him and not be silent. While other creatures give glory to God, let the redeemed of the Lord especially say so, whom he has redeemed out of the hand of the enemy. Nor even yet is our text exhausted. Turning one moment from the cattle, I want you to notice the grass. It is said of the grass, "He causeth the grass to grow": here is a doctrinal lesson, for if grass does not grow without God’s causing it to grow, how could grace arise in the human heart apart from divine operations? Surely grace is a much more wonderful product of divine wisdom than the grass can be! And if grass does not grow without a divine cause, depend upon it grace does not dwell in us without a divine implantation. If I have so much as one blade of grace growing within me, I must trace it all to God’s divine will, and render to him all the glory. Again, if God thinks it worth his while to make grass, and take care of it, much more will he think it to his honour to cause his grace to grow in our hearts. If the great invisible Spirit, whose thoughts are high and lofty, condescends to look after that humble thing which grows by the hedge, surely he will condescend to watch over his own nature, which he calls "the incorruptible seed, which liveth and abideth for ever!" Mungo Park, in the deserts of Africa, was much comforted when he took up a little piece of moss, and saw the wisdom and power of God in that lonely piece of verdant loveliness. So, when you see the fields ripe and ready for the mower, your hearts should leap for joy to see how God has produced the grass, caring for it all through the rigorous cold of winter, and the chill months of spring, until at last he sent the genial rain and sunshine, and brought the fields to their best condition. And so, my soul, though thou mayest endure many a frost of sorrow and a long winter of trial, yet the Lord will cause thee to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Spiritual Gleaning Spiritual Gleaning "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not."—Ruth 2:15. COUNTRY friends need no explanation of what is meant by gleaning. I hope the custom will never be banished from the land, but that the poor will always be allowed their little share of the harvest. I am afraid that many who see gleaning every year in the fields of their own parish are not yet wise enough to understand the heavenly art of spiritual gleaning. That is the subject which I have chosen on this occasion, and my text is taken from the charming story of Ruth, which is known to every one of you. I shall use the story as setting forth our own case, in a homely but instructive way. In the first place, we shall observe that there is a great Husbandman: it was Boaz in Ruth’s case, it is our heavenly Father who is the Husbandman in our case. Secondly, we shall notice a humble gleaner: the gleaner was Ruth in this instance, but she may be looked upon as the representative of every believer. And, in the third place, here is a gracious permission given to Ruth: "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not," and the same permission is spiritually given to us. I. In the first place, the God of the whole earth is a great Husbandman. This is true in natural things. As a matter of fact all farm operations are carried on by his power and prudence. Man may plough the soil, and sow the seed; but as Jesus said, "My Father is the husbandman." He appoints the clouds and allots the sunshine; he directs the winds and distributes the dew and the rain; he also gives the frost and the heat, and so by various processes of nature he brings forth food for man and beast. All the farming, however, which God does, is for the benefit of others, and never for himself. He has no need of any of our works of husbandry. If he were hungry, he would not tell us. "The cattle on a thousand hills," says he, "are mine." The purest kindness and benevolence are those which dwell in the heart of God. Though all things are God’s, his works in creation and in providence are not for himself, but for his creatures. This should greatly encourage us in trusting to him. In spiritual matters God is a great husbandman; and there, too, all his works are done for his children, that they may be fed upon the finest of the wheat. Permit me to speak of the wide gospel fields which our heavenly Father farms for the good of his children. There is a great variety of these fields, and they are all fruitful; for "the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew." Deut. 33:28. Every field which our heavenly Father tills yields a plentiful harvest, for there are no failures or famines with him. 1. One part of his farm is called Doctrine field. What full sheaves of finest wheat are to be found there! He who is permitted to glean in it will gather bread enough and to spare, for the land brings forth by handfuls. Look at that goodly sheaf of election; full, indeed, of heavy ears of corn, such as Pharaoh saw in his first dream—ears full and strong. There is the great sheaf of final perseverance, where each ear is a promise that the work which God has begun he will assuredly complete. If we have not faith enough to partake of either of these sheaves, we may glean around the choice sheaves of redemption by the blood of Christ. Many a poor soul who could not feed on electing love, nor realize his perseverance in Christ, can yet feed on the atonement and rejoice in the sublime doctrine of substitution. Many and rich are the sheaves which stand thick together in Doctrine-field; these, when threshed by meditation and ground in the mill of thought, furnish royal food for the Lord’s family. I wonder why it is that some of our Master’s stewards are so prone to lock the gate of this field, as if they thought it dangerous ground. For my part, I wish my people not only to glean here, but to carry home the sheaves by the waggon-load, for they cannot be too well fed when truth is the food. Are my fellow-labourers afraid that Jeshurun will wax fat and kick, if he has too much food? I fear there is more likelihood of his dying of starvation if the bread of sound doctrine is withheld. If we have a love to the precepts and warnings of the word, we need not be afraid of the doctrines; on the contrary, we should search them out and feed upon them with joy. The doctrines of distinguishing grace are to be set forth in due proportions to the rest of the word, and those are poor pulpits from which these grand truths are excluded. We must not keep the Lord’s people out of this field. I say, swing the gate open, and come in, all of you who are children of God! I am sure that in my Master’s field nothing grows which will harm you. Gospel doctrine is always safe doctrine. You may feast upon it till you are full, and no harm will come of it. Be afraid of no revealed truth. Be afraid of spiritual ignorance, but not of holy knowledge. Grow in grace and in the knowledge of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Everything taught in the word of God is meant to be the subject of a Christian’s study, therefore neglect nothing. Visit the doctrine-field daily, and glean in it with the utmost dilligence. 2. The great Husbandman has another field called Promise field; of that I shall not need to speak, for I hope you often enter it and glean from it. Just let us take an ear or two out of one of the sheaves, and show them to you that you may be induced to stay there the live-long day, and carry home a rich load at night. Here is an ear: "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed." Here is another: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Here is another; it has a short stalk, but a heavy ear; "My strength is sufficient for thee." Another is long in the straw, but very rich in corn: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." What a word is that!—"I will come again." Yes, beloved, we can say of the Promise field what cannot be said of a single acre in all England; namely, that it is so rich a field that it could not be richer, and that it has so many ears of corn in it that you could not insert another. As the poet sings: "What more can he say, than to you he hath said,— You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?" Glean in that field, O ye poor and needy ones, and never think that you are intruding. The whole field is your own, every ear of it; you may draw out from the sheaves themselves, and the more you take the more you may. 3. Then there is Ordinance field; a great deal of good wheat grows in this field. The field of Baptism has been exceedingly fruitful to some of us, for it has set forth to us our death, burial, and resurrection in Christ, and thus we have been cheered and instructed. It has been good for us to declare ourselves on the Lord’s side, and we have found that in keeping our Lord’s commandments there is great reward. But I will not detain you long in this field, for some of our friends think it has a damp soil: I wish them more light and more grace. However, we will pass on to the field of the Supper, where grows the very best of our Lord’s corn. What rich things have we fed upon in this choice spot! Have we not there tasted the sweetest and most sustaining of all spiritual food? In all the estate no field is to be found to rival this centre and crown of all the domain: this is the King’s Acre. Gospel gleaner, abide in that field; glean in it on the first day of every week, and expect to see your Lord there; for it is written, "He was known of them in the breaking of bread." 4. The heavenly Husbandman has one field upon a hill, which equals the best of the others, even if it does not excel them. You cannot really and truly go into any of the other fields unless you pass into this; for the road to the other fields lies through this hill farm; it is called Fellowship and Communion with Christ. This is the field for the Lord’s choicest ones to glean in. Some of you have only run through it, you have not stopped long enough in it; but he who knows how to stay here, yea, to live here, shall spend his hours most profitably and pleasantly. It is only in proportion as we hold fellowship with Christ, and communion with him, that either ordinances, or doctrines, or promises can profit us. All other things are dry and barren unless we are enjoying the love of Christ, unless we bear his likeness, unless we dwell continually with him, and rejoice in his love. I am sorry to say that few Christians think much of this field; it is enough for them to be sound in doctrine, and tolerably correct in practice; they care far less than they should about intimate intercourse with Christ Jesus, their Lord, by the Holy Ghost. I am sure that if we gleaned in this field we should not have half so many naughty tempers, nor a tenth as much pride, nor a hundredth part so much sloth. This is a field hedged and sheltered, and in it you will find better food than that which angels feed upon: yea, you will find Jesus himself as the bread which came down from heaven. Blessed, blessed field, may we visit it every day. The Master leaves the gate wide open for every believer; let us enter in and gather the golden ears till we can carry no more. Thus we have seen the great Husbandman in his fields; let us rejoice that we have such a great Husbandman near, and such fields to glean in. II. And now, in the second place, we have a humble gleaner. Ruth was a gleaner, and may serve as an illustration of what every believer should be in the fields of God. 1. The believer is a favoured gleaner, for he may take home a whole sheaf, if he likes: he may bear away all that he can possibly carry, for all things are freely given him of the Lord. I use the figure of a gleaner, because I believe that few Christians ever go much beyond it, and yet they are free to do so if they are able. Some may say, Why does not the believer reap all the field, and take all the corn home with him? I answer that he is welcome to do so if he can; for no good thing will the Lord withhold from them that walk uprightly. If your faith is like a great waggon, and you can carry the whole field of corn, you have full permission to take it. Alas, our faith is so little that we rather glean than reap; we are straitened in ourselves, not in our God. May you all outgrow the metaphor, and come home, bringing your sheaves with you. 2. Again, we may remark, that the gleaner, in her business has to endure much toil and fatigue. She rises early in the morning, and she trudges off to a field; if that be closed, she hastens to another; and if that be shut up, or gleaned already, she hurries further still; and all day long, while the sun is shining upon her, she seldom sits down to refresh herself, but still she goes on, stoop, stoop, stoop, gathering the ears one by one. She returns not to her home till nightfall; for she desires, if the field is good, to do much business that day, and she will not go home until she is loaded down. Beloved, so let each one of us do when we seek spiritual food. Let us not be afraid of a little fatigue in the Master’s fields: if the gleaning is good, we must not soon weary in gathering the precious spoil, for the gains will richly reward our pains. I know a friend who walks five miles every Sunday to hear the gospel, and has the same distance to return. Another thinks little of a ten miles’ journey; and these are wise, for to hear the pure word of God no labour is extravagant. To stand in the aisle till ready to drop, listening all the while with strained attention, is a toil which meets a full reward if the gospel be heard and the Spirit of God bless it to the soul. A gleaner does not expect that the ears will come to her of themselves; she knows that gleaning is hard work. We must not expect to find the best field next to our own house, we may have to journey to the far end of the parish, but what of that? Gleaners must not be choosers, and where the Lord sends the gospel, there he calls us to be present. 3. We remark, next, that every ear the gleaner gets she has to stoop for. Why is it that proud people seldom profit under the word? Why is it that certain "intellectual" folk cannot get any good out of our soundest ministers? Why, because they must needs have the corn lifted up for them; and if the wheat is held so high over their heads that they can hardly see it, they are pleased, and cry, "Here is something wonderful." They admire the extraordinary ability of the man who can hold up the truth so high that nobody can reach it; but truly that is a sorry feat. The preacher’s business is to place truth within the reach of all, children as well as adults; he is to let fall handfuls on purpose for poor gleaners, and these will never mind stooping to collect the ears. If we preach to the educated people only, the wise ones can understand, but the illiterate cannot; but when we preach in all simplicity to the poor, other classes can understand it if they like, and if they do not like, they had better go somewhere else. Those who cannot stoop to pick up plain truth had better give up gleaning. For my part, I would be taught by a child if I could thereby know and understand the gospel better: the gleaning in our Lord’s field is so rich that it is worth the hardest labour to be able to carry home a portion of it. Hungry souls know this, and are not to be hindered in seeking their heavenly food. We will go down on our knees in prayer, and stoop by self-humiliation, and confession of ignorance, and so gather with the hand of faith the daily bread of our hungering souls. 4. Note, in the next place, that what a gleaner gets she wins ear by ear; occasionally she picks up a handful at once, but as a rule it is straw by straw. In the case of Ruth, handfuls were let fall on purpose for her; but she was highly favoured. The gleaner stoops, and gets one ear, and then she stoops again for another. Now, beloved, where there are handfuls to be got at once, there is the place to go and glean; but if you cannot meet with such abundance, be glad to gather ear by ear. I have heard of certain persons who have been in the habit of hearing a favourite minister, and when they go to another place, they say, "I cannot hear anybody after my own minister; I shall stay at home and read a sermon." Please remember the passage, "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is." Let me also entreat you not to be so foolishly partial as to deprive your soul of its food. If you cannot get a handful at one stoop, do not refuse to gather an ear at a time. If you are not content to learn here a little and there a little, you will soon be half starved, and then you will be glad to get back again to the despised minister and pick up what his field will yield you. That is a sorry ministry which yields nothing. Go and glean where the Lord has opened the gate for you. Why the text alone is worth the journey; do not miss it. 5. Note, next, that what the gleaner picks up she keeps in her hand; she does not drop the corn as fast as she gathers it. There is a good thought at the beginning of the sermon, but the hearers are so eager to hear another, that the first one slips away. Towards the end of the sermon a large handful falls in their way, and they forget all that went before in their eagerness to retain this last and richest portion. The sermon is over, and, alas, it is nearly all gone from the memory, for many are about as wise as a gleaner would be if she should pick up one ear, and drop it; pick up another, and drop it, and so on all day. The net result of such a day’s work in a stubble is a bad backache; and I fear that all our hearers will get by their hearing will be a headache. Be attentive, but be retentive too. Gather the grain and tie it up in bundles for carrying away with you, and mind you do not lose it on the road home. Many a person when he has got a fair hold of the sermon, loses it on the way to his house by idle talk with vain companions. I have heard of a Christian man who was seen hurrying home one Sunday with all his might. A friend asked him why he was in such haste. "Oh!" said he, "two or three Sundays ago, our minister gave us a most blessed discourse, and I greatly enjoyed it; but when I got outside, there were two deacons discussing, and one pulled the sermon one way, and the other the other, till they pulled it all to pieces, and I lost all the savour of it." Those must have been very bad deacons; let us not imitate them; and if we know of any who are of their school, let us walk home alone in dogged silence sooner than lose all our gleanings by their controversies. After a good sermon go home with your ears and your mouth shut. Act like the miser, who not only gets all he can, but keeps all he can. Do not lose by trifling talk that which may make you rich to all eternity. 6. Then, again, the gleaner takes the wheat home and threshes it. It is a wise thing to thresh a sermon whoever may have been the preacher, for it is certain that there is a portion of straw and chaff about it. Many thresh the preacher by finding needless fault; but that is not half so good as threshing the sermon to get out of it the pure truth. Take a sermon, beloved, when you get one which is worth having, and lay it down on the floor of meditation, and beat it out with the flail of prayer, and you will get bread-corn from it. This threshing by prayer and meditation must never be neglected. If a gleaner should stow away her corn in her room, and leave it there, the mice would get at it; but she would have no food from it if she did not thresh out the grain. Some get a sermon, and carry it home, and allow Satan and sin, and the world, to eat it all up, and it becomes unfruitful and worthless to them. But he who knows how to flail a sermon well, so as to clear out all the wheat from the straw, he is it that makes a good hearer and feeds his soul on what he hears. 7. And then, in the last place, the good woman, after threshing the corn, no doubt winnowed it. Ruth did all this in the field; but you can scarcely do so. You must do some of the work at home. And observe, she did not take the chaff home; she left that behind her in the field. It is a prudent thing to winnow all the discourses you hear so as to separate the precious from the vile; but pray do not fall into the silly habit of taking home all the chaff, and leaving the corn behind. I think I hear you say, "I shall recollect that queer expression; I shall make an anecdote out of that odd remark." Listen, then, for I have a word for you,—if you hear a man retail nothing about a minister except his oddities, just stop him, and say, "We have all our faults, and perhaps those who are most ready to speak of those of others are not quite perfect themselves: cannot you tell us what the preacher said that was worth hearing?" In many cases the virtual answer will be, "Oh, I don’t recollect that." They have sifted the corn, thrown away the good grain, and brought home the chaff. Ought they not to be put in an asylum? Follow the opposite rule; drop the straw, and retain the good corn. Separate between the precious and the vile, and let the worthless material go where it may; you have no use for it, and the sooner you are rid of it the better. Judge with care; reject false teaching with decision, and retain true doctrine with earnestness, so shall you practise the enriching art of heavenly gleaning. May the Lord teach us wisdom, so that we may become "rich to all the intents of bliss;" so shall our mouth be satisfied with good things, and our youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s. III. And now, in the last place, here is a gracious permission given: "Let her glean among the sheaves, and reproach her not." Ruth had no right to go among the sheaves till Boaz gave her permission by saying, "Let her do it." For her to be allowed to go amongst the sheaves, in that part of the field where the wheat was newly cut, and none of it carted, was a great favour: but Boaz whispered that handfuls were to be dropped on purpose for her, and that was a greater favour still. Boaz had a secret love for the maiden and even so, beloved, it is because of our Lord’s eternal love to us that he allows us to enter his best fields and glean among the sheaves. His grace permits us to lay hold upon doctrinal blessings, promise blessings, and experience blessings: the Lord has a favour towards us, and hence these singular kindnesses. We have no right to any heavenly blessings of ourselves; our portion is due to free and sovereign grace. I tell you the reasons that moved Boaz’s heart to let Ruth go among the sheaves. The master motive was because he loved her. He would have her go there, because he had conceived an affection for her, which he afterwards displayed in grander ways. So the Lord lets his people come and glean among the sheaves, because he loves them. Didst thou have a soul-enriching season amongst the sheaves the other Sabbath? Didst thou carry home thy sack, filled like those of Joseph’s brothers, when they returned from Egypt? Didst thou have an abundance? Wast thou satisfied? Mark; that was thy Master’s goodness. It was because he loved thee. Look, I beseech thee, on all thy spiritual enjoyments as proof of his eternal love. Look on all heavenly blessings as being tokens of heavenly grace. It will make thy corn grind all the better, and eat all the sweeter, if thou wilt reflect that eternal love gave it thee. Thy sweet seasons, thy high enjoyments, thy unspeakable ravishments of spirit are all proofs of divine affection, therefore be doubly glad of them. There was another reason why Boaz allows Ruth to glean among the sheaves; it was because he was her relative. This is why our Lord gives us choice favours at times, and takes us into his banqueting-house in so gracious a manner. He is our next of kin, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. Our Redeemer, our kinsman, is the Lord Jesus, and he will never be strange to his own flesh. It is a high and charming mystery that our Lord Jesus is the Husband of his church; and sure he may well let his spouse glean among the sheaves; for all that he possesses is hers already. Her interests and his interests are one, and so he may well say, "Beloved, take all thou pleasest; I am none the poorer because thou dost partake of my fulness, for thou art mine. Thou art my partner, and my choice, and all that I have is thine." What, then, shall I say to you who are my Lord’s beloved? How shall I speak with a tenderness and generosity equal to his desires, for he would have me speak right lovingly in his name. Enrich yourselves out of that which is your Lord’s. Go a spiritual gleaning as often as ever you can. Never lose an opportunity of picking up a golden blessing. Glean at the mercy-seat; glean in private meditation; glean in reading pious books; glean in associating with godly men; glean everywhere; and if you can get only a little handful it will be better than none. You who are so much in business, and so much penned up by cares; if you can only spend five minutes in the Lord’s field gleaning a little, be sure to do so. If you cannot bear away a sheaf, carry an ear; and if you cannot find an ear, pick up even a grain of wheat. Take care to get a little, if you cannot get much: but gather as much as ever you can. Just one other remark. O child of God, never be afraid to glean. Have faith in God, and take the promises home to yourself. Jesus will rejoice to see you making free with his good things. His voice is "Eat abundantly; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." Therefore, if you find a rich promise, live upon it. Draw the honey out of the comb of Scripture, and live on its sweetness. If you meet with a most extraordinary sheaf, carry it away rejoicing. You cannot believe too much concerning your Lord; let not Satan cheat you into contentment with a meagre portion of grace when all the granaries of heaven are open to you. Glean on with humble industry and hopeful confidence, and know that he who owns both fields and sheaves is looking upon you with eyes of love, and will one day espouse you to himself in glory everlasting. Happy gleaner who finds eternal love and eternal life in the fields in which he gleans! Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Except it Die Except it Die That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. 1 Corinthians 15:36. Trinity College Chapel, Sexagesima Sunday, 1873. There is no one in this congregation who will not be reminded by these words of some one moment—the most solemn in his life. He will recall the time when he joined in the slow-paced procession, and listened to the mournful language of the Psalmist bewailing the shadowiness, the vanity, the futility of human life, and stood over the yawning grave, and shuddered at the sharp rattle of the soil on the coffin-lid, and then looked down and read the brief memorial—the name, the age, the date—all that remained to the eye of the varied activities of an exuberant life. And then he turned away, thinking sadly of the warm heart that had ceased to beat, and the bright smile which would greet him no more, and the never-failing sympathy which henceforth he would invoke in vain. And yet, in the midst of his deepest grief, all is not grief. Underlying the pain of immediate loss is a hope, an assurance, which thrills him with a feeling of joy, almost of rapture. He has listened, and his heart has responded, to the great pæan of victory which the Apostle sung eighteen centuries ago over the last enemy fallen, and which the Church repeats as each time she consigns a son or a daughter—no longer to the darkness of despair, but to the hope of a joyful resurrection. And as personal experience and suggestive analogy and impassioned remonstrance and vivid imagery all contribute in turn to the force and fulness of the Apostle’s appeal, his heart and mind are wrought into harmony with the magnificent theme, till he joyfully responds to the final Hallelujah, ‘Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ‘Through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ It is to the triumph of the Gospel embodied in these last words that I would ask your attention this morning. The description of Christ’s work given by one great Apostle is this; that by His appearing He ‘abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light.’ The thanksgiving to God for Christ’s mission uttered by another is this; that ‘according to His abundant mercy He hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ Death vanquished, immortality assured—this, in the language alike of S. Paul and of S. Peter, is the fruit of Christ’s epiphany to the world. I propose therefore to enquire into the significance of these Apostolic sayings; and I do not know any better starting-point for the thoughts which the subject suggests, than the language of the text, ‘That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.’ The difference between death with Christ, and death without Christ, could not possibly have a more striking illustration than in the sentiment which dictated these words. For observe, the Apostle does not speak here merely of death conquered, death annihilated, death put out of sight; but death is retained, is transformed, is exalted into an instrument of God’s merciful purpose. Death is no longer an unknown terror, but a joyful assurance. Death is the necessary condition of a higher life. ‘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.’ Christ’s death bore fruit in the life of the whole world. Each man’s death shall bear fruit in his own individual life. But in both cases alike the divine law is the same, ‘Except it die.’ Where there is no death, there can be no life. All external nature, all human institutions, ourselves, our affections, our fame, our carefully devised plans, our solidly constructed works, all are subject to this inevitable law. It may be a question of days or of centuries; but the end is the same. Decay, dissolution, death—from these there is no appeal. All creation groaning and travailing in pain together, seeking to be delivered from the bondage of corruption—this idea is not the feverish dream of an overwrought religious sensibility; it is the practical experience of every day and every hour. And yet, though the fact is so patent, human feeling, aye and in some sense human conviction, is a persistent struggle against the operation of this law. We will not, we cannot, resign ourselves to it. Life, permanent life, is a craving of our inmost nature; life, not only for our own personality—though this is a primary aspiration of our being—but life also for whatever is noble, whatever is beautiful, whatever is good. We cannot endure the thought that such should perish. It seems to be a denial of its very nature, that it should exist for a brief span and then pass away. Between the experience of actual fact then, and the invincible craving of the spirit, there is apparently a direct antagonism. No compromise, no truce, between the one and the other seems possible. It is only when we fall back on the idea in the text, ‘Except it die,’ that we approach at length to a solution of the problem. Here is the true consolation of humanity amidst the wrecks of an ever-decaying and perishing world. Here is the only reconciliation between the fact without and the yearning within. I do not know any enigma more perplexing than that the freshness, the enthusiasm, the exuberant vivacity of youth should give way to the dull cold monotony of middle age. It seems as though all that is fairest and most glorious in the human creature were fated by a stern law of his nature to be crushed out at the very moment when it gives the brightest promise; as though the moral life of man were only too faithfully pictured in the growth of the flower or the maturity of the fruit, and ripeness and bloom must be the immediate precursors of corruption and decay. It is a sad thought that the brightness and the buoyancy of youth must be overclouded and weighed down with the cares and the cynicisms and the distrusts of the grown man; that the freedom of youth must be fettered by the self-woven entanglements of maturer age; that the enthusiasm of youth must be numbed and deadened by the freezing moral atmosphere of worldly experience. It is a sad thought, and it would be an intolerable thought, save for the assurance involved in the words, ‘Except it die.’ Only at the cost of youth can the grander acquisitions of mature life be purchased, heavy as the price may seem. Only on the ‘stepping-stones of their dead selves’ can men rise to a higher life, painful and rugged though the path must be. And so again with human institutions. Grand philanthropic schemes, powerful organisations for the service of God and the good of mankind, societies banded together on principles of absolute self-devotion, projects carried out by individuals at a sacrifice of everything that men commonly hold dear—all these perish in rapid succession. Not the nobleness of their ideal, nor the devotion of their champions, nor the grandeur of their results, can save them from decay. Corruption comes, not seldom comes earliest in the noblest. They pass away, like the fabled order of the blameless king, lest one good custom—even the best—should corrupt the world. Here again, what is the consolation of mankind for the loss, but the law of progress enunciated in the words, ‘Except it die?’ The institution dies, but the work remains. The example, the inspiration, the idea, develope into a higher life. Over the mangled corpses of dead endeavours and dead institutions—the forlorn hope of history—over the ranks that first scaled the strongholds of ignorance and wrong, humanity presses forward and storms the breach and plants the standard on the surrendered heights. But these examples, pathetic though they are, will bear no comparison with the death of which the text directly speaks, the dissolution of the natural life of man. We call death a trite theme. Trite it is in one sense. Poets and preachers and moralists and philosophers have spent themselves upon it. Trite it is—trite enough. With every beat of the second’s pendulum, almost with every word that I utter, one human being is passing away into eternity. But worn-out, threadbare, this it is not, and can never be. Its tragic interest only increases with reflection: its strangeness grows stranger with familiarity. Is there one even in this congregation of young men, who passes a week, or a day, without casting at least a transient thought—if it be no more—on the time when he will be severed from all the associations and interests of the present, when the studies and the amusements that have attracted him, and the projects that he has planned, and the companionships that he has formed, will be as though they were not, and he will set forth on his last long journey, stripped of everything, isolated and alone? Can any one, whose affections are warm, look on the face of another with whom his life is bound up—of mother or sister or friend—without sometimes thinking, and trembling to think, that the severance must come at length, may come at any moment, when nothing will remain but the memory of a love which was dear to him as life itself? Death is a theme of never-dying interest to us. It has a fascination for us. We cannot put away the thought, even if we would. And at the present time especially this theme appeals to us with more than its wonted power. During the few past weeks great men have been falling thick on every side. Names famous in government, famous in science, famous in law, famous in literature, have swelled the obituary of the opening year. And within the narrower sphere of our collegiate life too the awful presence of death has been felt. Only the other day we followed to his grave the mortal remains of the most venerable member of this society. While we were laying him, our oldest brother, in his last resting-place, within the familiar walls of this college which for nearly seventy years had been his home, and winter spread the ground with a timely pall of snow—far away, among strange faces and in a foreign land, another member of this body, one of our youngest graduates, was struck down by a fever caught under a semi-tropical sun among the historic ruins of ancient Sicily; and the hand of death was upon him, though we little suspected it. Letters came expressing his hope of recovery, sketching his plans for the future, providing with characteristic thoughtfulness for the continuance of his interrupted work here. A few hours later the fatal intelligence was flashed to us, that all was over. Then arrived other letters, still in the same strain, still without any foreboding of the end; a voice speaking to us from the very grave, and thus through the irony of circumstances emphasizing with a novel solemnity the uncertainty of human life. What lesson does all this read to us? Have we here only one illustration more of that cruel commonplace, the instability of life? To the heathen indeed it could not have suggested any less gloomy thought than this; but to you, who read it in the light of Christ’s resurrection, the consolation and the joy and the triumph are there; for the Apostle’s words ring clear in your ears, ‘Except it die.’ If therefore we have learnt in Christ a new estimate of death, if His revelation, without detracting from the solemnity of our conceptions, has yet invested it with a beauty and a peacefulness and a glory unknown before, if in short by inspiring new hopes and pointing out new paths He has drawn its sting—then this is a priceless boon, for which we are bound to offer our perpetual thanksgivings. And that mankind does owe this inestimable gift to Christ, and to Christ alone, I think it is impossible to deny. An eminent English writer in a famous passage avows his conviction that, if Jesus Christ had taught nothing else but the doctrine of the resurrection and the judgment, ‘He had pronounced a message of inestimable importance, and well worthy of that splendid apparatus of prophecy and miracles with which His mission was introduced and attested: a message in which the wisest of mankind would rejoice to find an answer to their doubts and rest to their enquiries.’ ‘It is idle to say,’ he adds, ‘that a future state had been discovered already; it had been discovered as the Copernican system was; it was one guess among many. He alone discovers who proves.’ I know that exception has been taken to this passage; but I believe the statement to be substantially true. I turn to the Jews, and I find that the very chiefs of the Jewish hierarchy—the high-priests Annas and Caiaphas themselves—belonged to the sect of the Sadducees, which denied the resurrection. I turn to the Gentiles, and I find that a Roman moralist treats the doctrine of another world and a retribution after death as an exploded fable, no longer believed by any but mere children. This may be an exaggeration, as such sweeping statements in all ages are commonly found to be. But we may safely infer from it that even the shadowy conceptions of immortality and judgment, which were handed down in the popular mythology, had very little hold on the consciences of men. It seems hardly too much therefore to say that the doctrine was a discovery revealed in Christ. It is certainly true, that as an assurance, a motive, a power influencing the whole mind and the whole life, this doctrine then first took its proper place in the estimation of mankind. If we would convince ourselves of this, we need only compare the inscriptions on heathen monuments and the dirges of heathen poets—the pervading sadness, the bitterness, the despair, the gloom which not one single ray of hope pierces—with the radiant joy and trust which light up the thoughts and the language of the Christian mourner, even in the moments of his deepest sorrow. All history is a comment on the Apostle’s bold saying, that Christ ‘abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.’ I am well aware that in heathen times men were found, not a few, to meet death with unfaltering step and stedfast eye and unquivering lip. There were heroes then, as there are heroes now. But this is not the point. The conception of death was unchanged. Death was still a stern implacable foe, to be faced and fought. Victory was impossible; but to be vanquished manfully, to succumb without a tear and without a sigh, this at least was within their reach. At best death was to them a negative advantage: it released from trouble, released from suffering, released even from shame. But no joy nor hope attached to it; for it was an end, not a beginning, of life. But, it may be said, why should not the analogy in the text have suggested to them the true conception of death? Through countless generations seeds were sown and rotted in the ground, and germinated and sprang up into a fresh and more luxuriant life. ‘Except it die’ had been written on the face of creation from the beginning. The analogy which held good for S. Paul should have been equally convincing to those who lived long ages before. This is to misconceive the Apostle’s meaning. He does not bring forward his analogy to establish his point. His proof of the immortality and the resurrection of man is twofold. It is first and foremost the fact of Christ’s resurrection; and it is secondarily the influence which this belief has had in nerving Christ’s disciples to a life of persistent self-renunciation and suffering. Only when this point is established, does he adduce the analogy to meet an objection raised by his opponents, ‘How are the dead raised?’ Just as the plant, he replies, is developed from the germ of the seed, so also is the heavenly life an outgrowth of the earthly. It is true that Christian writers have from the very first found in the decay and revival of universal nature types, analogies, evidences (if you will) of man’s immortality. But nevertheless it is most certain that these analogies were only felt after the belief was established by the knowledge of Christ’s resurrection. Suns set and rose before Christ; seeds, decayed in the ground, and plants sprang up before Christ. But what was the impression that these regenerations of nature left on the heathen mind? Why, they appeared not as analogies, not as resemblances, but as contrasts to human destiny. All else seemed to speak of incessant renewal, of continuous life; man alone was born to eternal, irrevocable death. ‘Suns may set and rise again,’ writes one, ‘but we, when our brief day has set, must slumber on through one eternal night.’ ‘Alas! the flowers and the herbs,’ mourns another, ‘when they perish in the garden, revive again afterward and grow for another year; but we, the great and strong and wise of men, when once we die, sleep forgotten in the vaults of earth a long unbroken endless sleep.’ It was the morning ray of Christ’s resurrection which changed the face of external nature, lighting it up with new glories; which smote upon the stern features of the mute colossal image, striking out chords of harmony and endowing it with voices unheard before. The majestic sun in the heavens, the meanest herb under foot, joined now in the universal chorus of praise, proclaiming to man the glad tidings of his immortality. For just this was wanted to give the assurance which mankind craved. Hitherto it had been a hard struggle between physical appearances on the one hand, and human aspirations and instincts on the other. It was difficult to witness the gradual decay of the mental powers, to watch over the sick-bed and see the bodily frame wasting day by day, to count the pulsations of the heart as they grew fewer and feebler till the last throb was hushed; then to gaze on the relaxed muscles, the glazing eye, the marble brow, the bloodless lip; then to consign the motionless body to the greedy flames of the pyre or the slow putrefaction of the grave, and to know that only a few handfuls of dust remained of what so lately was instinct with volition and energy—to see and to know all this, and still to believe that life could survive the momentous change. But yet there was that within the man which told him that his destiny could not end here. He had capacities, which in this world never attained their proper development or worked out their proper results. He had affections, which were imprisoned and fettered here, and which seemed reserved for a larger scope. He had aspirations, which soared far beyond the limits of his present existence. He could not—do what he would—put away the thought that he had a personal interest in the generations to come; that the future of the world was not, and could not be, indifferent to him. Therefore he was anxious that he should leave a good name behind him, that his fame should linger on the tongues of men: and so by stately mausoleums and heaven-aspiring pyramids, by inscribed tablets and sculptured images, he recorded his stammering protest, that he was still a man among men, that he was still alive. But all was vague, uncertain, faltering. From this suspense Christ set us free. His resurrection dispelled the mists which shrouded the conceptions of mankind; and where before was an uncertain haze, there burst forth the brightness of the unclouded sun. Truth entered into the lowliest cottage doors. Truth made her home in the hearts of the peasant and the artisan. The feeblest child now grasps the idea of immortality with a firmness which was denied to the strongest intellect and the most patient thought before Christ. And yet now, after the experience of eighteen centuries, we are asked (as though it were a small thing) to throw aside the miraculous element of revelation, to abandon our belief in the fact of the resurrection, that is, to abandon the Christ of the Gospels, the Christ as we have known Him; and to begin anew from the beginning, to grope our way once more ‘through darkness up to God,’ to seek to discover arguments for the immortality of the soul. What is this but to stultify the experience of history? What is this but to throw mankind back into second childhood? What is this but to return to the state when even with the gifted few, as it has been aptly said, ‘a luminous doubt was the very summit of their attainments, and splendid conjecture the result of their most laborious efforts after truth?’ This we cannot do. Christ has given us the victory, and we will not lightly surrender its fruits. Christ has given us the victory. We know now that death is not annihilation, is not vacancy, is not despair. Death is not an end, but a beginning—a beginning of a regenerate and glorified life. The assurance of our immortality has scared away all the nameless terrors which throng in the train of the king of terrors. One weapon only remained in his hands, and this too has been wrested from him by Christ. The sting of death is sin. This sting Christ has drawn: for He has defeated, and in Himself has enabled us to defeat, even sin. So the last terror is gone. The triumph is complete. Death is swallowed up in victory. And all mankind are bidden to join in the Apostle’s psalm of praise: ‘Thanks be to God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) The Meanness and the Greatness of Man The Meanness and the Greatness of Man What is man, that Thou art mindful of him: and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Psalm 8:4. Great S. Mary’s Church, 2nd Sunday after Easter, 1876. Who is here the speaker? Are we reading the experiences of the stripling still watching over his father’s flocks by night in the upland pastures of Bethlehem? Or of the lonely fugitive contemplating the starry skies from the broad plains of Philistia? Or of the powerful sovereign gazing upward to the overhanging vault from the palace roofs of Zion? Whether David the shepherd lad, or David the outlaw, or David the king, it matters not. The central idea of this magnificent psalm is plainly expressed, and makes no demands on historical criticism for its elucidation. Surveying the outspread canopy of heaven, the Psalmist is overwhelmed with awe at the scene. Its vast expanse, its fathomless blue, its starry glories, its beauty, its purity, its repose, all appal him with the sense of their grandeur; and crushed with the contrast between the greatness of universal creation and the littleness of the individual man, he exclaims bewildered and amazed, ‘When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou visitest him? Mystery of mysteries, that one so mean—an atom in this limitless expanse, a mote in this faultless glory, a flutter in this infinite calm—should be singled out for Thy special favour, and endowed with authority as Thy vicegerent upon earth.’ Could any paradox be imagined greater than this—this contrast, between the insignificance of man’s self and the pre-eminence of man’s destiny? We pass from the early dawn to the late afternoon of human history. The lapse of eight-and-twenty centuries is a large space in the life of mankind. It is a vast and profound chasm, which separates the simple inspiration of the shepherd-king from the many-sided culture of the poet, critic, philosopher, novelist, scientific investigator, the typical representative of modern thought and intellect in its latest phases. Yet to Goethe, holding solitary communion with nature in its higher forms, and contemplating earth and sky from the summit of the Brocken, the Psalmist’s thought still recurs with resistless importunity and finds its natural expression still in the Psalmist’s words, ‘Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?’ No interval of time nor transference of scene, no contrast of persons or of circumstances has tarnished its freshness, or robbed it of its power. Has robbed it of its power? Nay, must we not rather confess, in very truth, that as the world has grown older, the chasm between the greatness and the meanness of man has widened, and the paradox has increased from age to age? Was this disproportion so startling as to perplex and overawe the mind of the simple Hebrew in the remote past? What must it not be to us, who measure it by the accumulated experience of all the ages? This is the very essence of a true inspiration, that it should speak with fuller tones and a more articulate utterance to after-ages, than to the generations to which it was immediately addressed. So it is here. Every acquisition of modern science has emphasized the contrast in a manner, which the Psalmist himself could not have foreseen. Each new discovery has depressed the relative importance of man in the material universe. Each fresh investigation has obliterated some external distinction of origin or of structure or of growth, which was thought to isolate him from the rest of creation. Again and again, as science has announced some fresh revelation, the mysterious paradox has been brought home to our minds with redoubled force, ‘Lord, what, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?’ 1. Astronomy first issued her impressive comment on the text, and the Christian teachers have not been slow to adopt her forcible illustrations of its truth. The starry heavens were a panorama of unspeakable beauty and awe to the shepherd-king nearly three thousand years ago. What must they not be to us now? We know now—any well-instructed child knows now—that those bright specks, which appeared to his eye as jewels studding the midnight sky, are glorious suns, the centres, it may be, round which are revolving worlds as huge and as magnificent as our own. We know now that, where he discerned only one such speck, there are thousands of these separate suns. We know now that those irregular patches of hazy light so shapeless and so unmeaning, which appear only to dim the purity of the liquid sky, are aggregates of such stars or suns, countless in multitude. We know now the smallest of the visible stars to be so remote that even with the extraordinary speed of light a ray flashed from one of these, when David was king, cannot even yet have reached our eyes. These truths are now the simplest educational lessons; and yet they never pall upon the imagination. As the long rows of figures, which describe the distances, are arrayed before us, and we vainly strive to grasp some conception of the facts which they represent, the eye swims and the mind falters. Racked with the vastness of these reasonings, we resign the hopeless task in despair; and the saying of the Psalmist presses upon us with crushing force, ‘Lord, what is man, amidst these countless worlds? What is man, nay, what is all humanity, but an atom in this limitless universe, a drop in this ocean of infinite space?’ 2. And, before we have recovered from our amazement and collected our stupefied senses, Geology takes up the lesson which Astronomy has laid down, enforcing it with other and not less striking illustrations. Geology teaches us our insignificance in time, as Astronomy had taught us our insignificance in space. Geology tells us how this earth, of which we boast ourselves the lords paramount, as if by the indefeasible title of sole and undisputed possession, existed for countless ages before the creation of our race. She relates how through millions of years continents were made and unmade, mountains piled up and seas poured out, climates changed from frigid to torrid and from torrid to frigid, new creations of vegetable and animal life peopled the earth and lived out their time and died off in endless succession; till once more the mind, wearied with the effort to grasp the vastness of the idea, resigns its functions; and this new announcement again wrings from us the despairing cry, ‘What is man? What is man, even on this earth of his own, but a fleeting apparition, a thing of yesterday, one term in an endless series, one ripple on the stream of the ages, one moment in infinite time?’ 3. But again: before we have had time to realise this fresh comment on the text, the teaching of the Psalmist is enforced anew from quite another quarter. As the telescope had revealed to us vast and multitudinous worlds stretching out into boundless space, so the microscope discovers to us miniature worlds equally strange and unsuspected, crowding under our very eyes, countless in number and each thronged with a dense population of its own. A single drop of water appears peopled with thousands of minute living creatures, which multiply indefinitely with the increased power of our lenses. A single nodule of rock is seen to be composed of millions of fossil organisms, each one endowed with a vitality of its own. Everywhere is life, teeming, fermenting, inexhaustible life. And so once more our imagination sinks under the burden of the thought, and once more we echo the cry of humiliation, ‘Lord, what is man? What is man, but a single throb in this endless pulsation of nature, a solitary bubble on this effervescence of infinite, omnipresent life?’ 4. Nor is this all. Hitherto at least the main fortress of our pride is unassailed. We can still maintain the isolation, the uniqueness, of man in the physical creation. But even this fondly-cherished idea falls before the next assault of science. The anatomist dissects and the chemist analyses the human body. This complex mechanism, this marvellous tenement of the spirit, is resolved into its component elements. Now at least it would seem as though the secret must be revealed. Now at length we shall discover whence comes, and wherein resides, and what is, the distinctive glory of man. Now at length we shall be able to hold up to the eye, and submit to the touch, the evidence of his special pre-eminence. But here too we are doomed to disappointment. Our expected triumph becomes a signal defeat. The elements of the human body are analysed and sorted and weighed and tabulated. Man is found to be compounded of just such substances as the brute or the tree or the stone. There is absolutely nothing besides. Reason, memory, imagination, foresight, spirit, conscience, personality—they are not here. Had we any right to expect it otherwise? This is no newly-discovered truth. It is as ancient as the first promptings of inspiration. It was declared, as in a parable, in that Divine saying of old, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’ But it comes home to us with redoubled force, when the dissecting room and the laboratory have done their work; and nothing has been laid bare by the scalpel, and nothing has been detected by the retort, which can explain the mystery of man’s being—no unique atom which is the abode of the spirit, no nucleus which contains the living, thinking man, no indiscerptible unit, of which philosophers have dreamed, as the palpable germ of his immortality. ‘What is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away;’ and the mocking echo of materialism gives back the Apostle’s saying, ‘even a vapour, that vanisheth away.’ ‘What is man? An aggregate of chemical elements nicely combined, a compound of evanescent gases which escape and are dissipated, and all is gone.’ 5. Once more. If there is nothing in the component elements of the human frame which accounts for the pre-eminence of man, we may at all events look for an explanation in some peculiarities of structure. We shall at least find some differentiating characteristic here: we shall detect a certain uniqueness of type, which explains all. At length we shall have laid our finger on the elusive secret. Comparative anatomy and comparative physiology will come to our aid, where other sciences have failed us. This is our last hope; but here too we are frustrated. Each fresh advance of science seems to shew more plainly that we must look elsewhere than to his physical structure and growth for an explanation of the man, as the ruling, thinking, progressive, immortal being. The naturalist will tell us that the same essential type of structure prevails throughout; that different parts are more or less fully developed in different creatures, but that the ground idea in all is identical. He will tell us that the individual human being has in the several stages of his growth passed through forms analogous to the several types of the lower animals, before his structure was completed. He will tell us that all attempts at classification with a view to separating man off by a broad line from the lower creation fail signally. A slightly different convolution of the brain, a slightly different conformation of the skull, a firmer grasp of the hand, a steadier gait of the foot—trifles these—yet these, and such as these, are all that he can find to distinguish the man from the brute. And perhaps he will boldly advance a theory that the man is after all only the brute developed through a long series of ages. Of the truth or the falsehood of such a theory I say nothing here. But if it should prove most true, would it not justify and enforce by a new and unsuspected illustration the Psalmist’s awe, while contemplating the contrast between the nature and the destiny of man? ‘Man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.’ And again the voice of materialism throws back his pious ejaculation with its mocking echo, ‘like the beasts that perish.’ ‘What is man? Half-akin, nay more than half-akin, to the brute. And the son of man? A superior mammal, a developed mollusc, a creature among creatures, a finer sample of a vulgar type.’ Thus again and again we are brought back to the same point. Again and again, as we contemplate some new revelation of science, our amazement grows. At each step we are more and more bewildered with this strange paradox of humanity, this contrast between the two elements in our nature—that which we have in common with the lower creation, and that which is our special endowment as men—the dust which is taken from the earth, and the spirit which is breathed into us by God. At each step we exclaim with increased intensity of wonder, ‘What is man, that Thou art mindful of him: and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?’ For we cannot stop short at the first clause of the Psalmist’s words, and refuse to entertain the sequel. The materialist will be content to say, ‘What is man? An insignificant atom in time and space. And the son of man? An organism like other organisms.’ But the believer is constrained to add, ‘Lord, that Thou art mindful of him! Lord, that Thou visitest him!’ It is just this addition which transmutes the sneer of a cynical contempt, or the wail of a prostrate despair, into the psalm of devout and reverential awe. And the believer may boldly claim science herself as his teacher. To hear some men talk, one would suppose that in the height of scientific discovery the mystery of man’s being had been found no mystery at all. A moment’s thought will dispel the illusion. The profound secret remains as dark and impenetrable as ever. Much has been done to explain the conditions of life; but nothing, absolutely nothing, to explain life itself. Nay, every step in advance has only increased the paradox and widened the gulf, so that the mystery is more complete than before. It has widened the gulf; for while it has shewn that man, as a material structure, is only an infinitely small fraction of a vast universe like himself, differing almost inappreciably from other fractions, it has accumulated evidence at every step, that, as a thinking, hoping, aspiring, progressive being, he is quite unique in God’s creation. Each successive triumph of science makes the distance between the man and the brute wider. Each new acquisition is a fresh proof of capacity and a fresh ground for hope. If experience discovers the littleness of man to be more little, yet at the same time it shews his greatness to be more great. The Psalmist’s expression of wonder and awe and thanksgiving was wrung from him chiefly by the thought, that his Almighty Creator had given to man—to man, this frail, fleeting, impotent being—the dominion over the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea, over creatures stronger in limb and more fleet of foot and keener-sighted and better-armed and longer-lived than himself. But what is all this compared with the triumphs which we have witnessed—the sovereignty of man asserted over the elemental powers of nature? We have lived to see how he can order the lightning; commanding it, and it flashes his message from continent to continent; forbidding it, and it glances harmlessly away. We have seen him weigh the sun, and measure the heavens, and analyse the stars. We have witnessed how he has made the vapour his slave, bidding it carry him to and fro and furnish his every need. And we feel that these achievements are only an earnest of greater triumphs yet in store for humanity. While the bee constructs its cells with just the same mathematical precision, and the ant piles up its winter stores with just the same prudent foresight—neither more nor less—as they did thousands of years ago; while the horse and the dog seem to contract almost human sensibilities by association with man, and then, when they are turned wild, lose them again, as if they had been only a reflection of a human master’s presence; while all the lower creation is stationary, mankind is rapidly advancing higher and higher. And still the marvel increases, ‘Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?—visitest him in this faculty of experience whereby he records and treasures up the accumulated wisdom of the past, visitest him in this divination of foresight wherewith he projects himself into the triumphs and the hopes of the future, visitest him in his scientific achievements, in his social progress, in his ever-extended dominion over the material universe?’ Such thoughts as these may well occupy our minds. We cannot afford to overlook them. They are directly suggested by the Psalmist’s hymn of praise. They must ever supply a stanza—though not the loftiest—in our song of thanksgiving to the Almighty Creator. For after all, these magnificent victories, this dominion over the beasts of the field, this subjugation of the powers of nature, are only the earnest, the prelude, the foreshadowing, of greater things yet to come. This is plainly the Psalmist’s idea. A larger, fuller, more triumphant thought is struggling for utterance, than finds direct expression in words; ‘Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour; Thou hast put all things under his feet.’ Hence Apostles and Evangelists saw the true fulfilment of the Psalmist’s prophetic saying in the ultimate and supreme destiny of mankind, as realised in the Person and work of the one Representative Man. Nothing short of this could satisfy the hopes, which the jubilant strain inspires. Here at length was the exaltation, the glory, the absolute sovereignty, the final apotheosis of man. And, emphasized by this comment, the song of the Psalmist falls on the ears of Christians now, with a fuller cadence, swelled with the experience of nearly thirty centuries and prolonged into the hopes of eternity, ‘Lord, that Thou art mindful of him; Lord, that Thou visitest him!’ ‘That Thou art mindful of him.’ That Thou hast condescended to hold communion with This Thy frail and sinful creature; that through long ages Thou didst school him to an ever fuller knowledge of Thee; that even in the darkest times and among the most degraded peoples Thou didst not leave Thyself without a witness, speaking through the promptings of the conscience, speaking through the courses of the seasons, speaking through the hopes and the fears of the present; that Thou didst single out one man, one family, one nation, to be the depositary of Thy special revelation; that Thou didst guard and preserve this nation through unparalleled vicissitudes, so that exiled, enslaved, crushed, trampled under foot, it revived again and again; that Thou didst from time to time commission Thy special messengers—lawgiver, psalmist, prophet, priest—to renew the flame of truth on the altar of Thy chosen race; and that thus Thy revelation burst out ever and again with a clearer, brighter light, and Thy Divine economy broadened down from precedent to precedent, till at length the religion of a nation should become the religion of the world. ‘That Thou hast visited him.’ That Thou didst effect this change by a signal manifestation of Thyself; that in the fulness of time, when Egyptians and Assyrians and Persians, when Greeks and Romans had prepared the way, Thou didst of Thine infinite mercy send Thine only Son upon earth; that He was born as a man, lived as a man, suffered and died as a man; and that thus by this one act of marvellous condescension, humanity was redeemed, was exalted, was sanctified. ‘That Thou hast visited him.’ Not only that this Thy blessed Son lived and died as a man; but that as a man He rose from the grave, and thus as a man won for men the victory over sin and death; that, as a man, He ascended into the heaven of heavens, the firstfruits of the final triumph of mankind, the earnest of that glorious consummation of all human history, when His brother-men united in Him shall wear His crown, and reign with Him as kings for ever and ever. Lord, what is man—this speck in boundless space, this moment in infinite time, this atom of atoms, this frail, fleeting, helpless creature, this insignificance, this nothing—that Thou hast ordained him to such unspeakable glory? ‘What is man?’ Nay, what is this man? What am I, that Thou visitest me? We cannot escape the moral of the Psalmist’s appeal under the shelter of a vague generality. To you and to you—to each individually—the shaft strikes home. What am I—I with these vile passions, I with this hateful selfishness, I with this hopeless, intolerable meanness, of which I am conscious every hour, that Thou art mindful of me, that Thou visitest me? A pessimist you must be in one sense, if you examine yourself candidly. A pessimist the spirit of the time will tend to make you in another direction. It is the special temptation of our age, that its most prominent scientific interests almost of necessity lead the mind to dwell too exclusively on the lower affinities of our nature—on our animal emotions, on our perishable bodies, on our resemblance to the brute creation, on our sensitiveness, even our moral sensitiveness, to the manifold changes of circumstance, as food and climate and scenery. The danger is imminent. The thoughts, which absorb you, will also mould you. If you get to regard yourself as mean, you will at length become mean. Lift up your eyes then from earth to heaven. Rise from the consideration of your littleness to the contemplation of your greatness. Here, in that noblest of all optimisms, which science suggests and consciousness demands and revelation affirms—the belief in the unique personality, the boundless capacity, the triumphant progress, the eternal destiny of man: the belief in the godlike, nay, in the God within you—is the saving of your soul. The God within you. The Stoic of old would remind his disciples that they carried about a god enshrined in their hearts. Even as a vague surmise, a highly-wrought metaphor, the expression of an unsatisfied spiritual yearning, this teaching was very far from inoperative. What may it not be to you to whom it is an assured truth, to you who have been re-stamped in Christ with the image of God, to you who have been re-consecrated as the temples of the Spirit? The God within you. Carry this thought back to your rooms, you young men, and contemplate it with all reverence on your knees. Whatever temptations may assault you, it has power to overcome them all. If every other diversion and every other remedy should fail, this will never fail. Though the craven fear of detection should not restrain you, and the noble egotism of self-respect should not uphold you, and the apprehension of consequences now or hereafter should not deter you, the awe, the majesty, the glory of this Presence realised must scare away the demons of sin from your heart. ‘Lord, what are we, what am I, that Thou visitest me, that Thou makest Thine abode with me, that Thou hast enshrined Thyself in me? What are we, and what art Thou, O Lord? We are of yesterday; Thou art from eternity. We are here; Thou art everywhere. Our meanness and our greatness, our failures and our triumphs, what seems our weakness and what seems our worth—these are both alike, for these are both as nothing, in the face of Thine infinite perfection. Grant, Lord, that we may feel and know this. Teach us, Lord, to forget ourselves in Thee, that so losing ourselves we may truly find ourselves. This is the first and last thought in the Psalmist’s hymn of praise; this must be the first and the last also in the Christian’s song of thanksgiving—not our meanness, not our greatness, not ourselves, not humanity, not man; but Thou and Thou only, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; Jehovah our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!’ Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.