by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, January 12th, 1851
How full of pure gospel are the Old Testament writings, and how exact the accordance between the doctrines set forth by the whole of the Old Testament writers, and those handed down to us by the New Testament writers; and for this one reason, "holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," and holy men in New Testament language always ascribed their messages and epistles to the Lord Jehovah. Now the Lord the Spirit never teaches opposites, whether in Abraham's day or in our own, down to the end of time; all who are taught by the Holy Ghost must be taught the same things essentially. I grant that the varying circumstances of the Church or of individual believers may sometimes require private and personal blessings, which the Holy Ghost fails not to bestow and to effect; but for the general instruction of the Church, in order to make the election of grace wise unto salvation, it is precisely the same in every age of the world. This thought struck me in perusing my text, that in the Old Testament dispensation Jehovah claimed His people as His own, as well as He does under the New. It is not merely set down by our precious Lord with reference to His living Church, under the gospel dispensation, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;" (John 17:14) but under the Old Testament dispensation the Great Eternal says, "They are my jewels, my especial treasure." "The Lord's portion is His people, and Jacob is the lot of His inheritance." (Deut. 32:9) The Psalmist says they are the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance; and the line of distinction between the Church and the world is, as I have often said, and will repeat, the most prominent feature in the book of God. And yet people are determined to give that which is holy unto dogs; are determined that the Church and the world shall be amalgamated; are determined that they will have but one family of man, when God has made two; are determined that decrees shall be forgotten, that discriminating grace shall be disowned and rejected, that "to return and discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not" is bigotry, and must not be encouraged and indulged in these days of liberalism. Now if the world will pursue such a course, I cannot control them, but I will not go with them. If carnal-minded professors will make Jacob and Esau very fond of each other, Isaac and Ishmael fall in love, and he that is born after the flesh in perfect unison with him that is born after the Spirit, they may work at it till doomsday, but they will never accomplish it. My point is, to keep to the precise description which the word of God everywhere unfolds; and if you look at the verses preceding the text, you have a solemn and affecting picture of this discrimination. Even the professing Israel of God robbed God of His tithes, refused to bring them to His storehouse, withheld what was due to His worship. Moreover, even the professing people of God, Israel, as a nation, had used words which were stout against God; yea, more, they had even said, "What have we spoken so much against thee?" Yea, more, they had even called it a vain thing to serve God. They were utter Infidels. Nay, the proud were called happy by them, and "they that wrought wickedness were set up; yea, and they that tempt God delivered." What a strong statement! And yet these were among the professing people of God! It is high time to return and discern. "Then they that feared the Lord" entered closer into fellowship, and "spake often to one another;" then they conversed of heaven as a reality, and as a prosperous feature in their experience; then they "thought upon His name," and a book of remembrance is written." It does not seem to be exactly the book of ancient decrees, but "a book or remembrance." It is a figure of speech, to imply that nothing is passed unnoticed by God; all is remembered, and He is sure to remember the distinct conduct of His people from the practices of the men of the world. After thus speaking of the Church of God as standing opposed to the world and worldly professors, the language of my text comes in sweetly to cheer and encourage every one of them "They shall be mine." There may be many spots and blemishes about them, but He will not part with them. "They shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels."
The remaining part of the verse, and the other verse, I could not include in our morning's subject, because the first part will be quite enough for my time and strength. I shall hasten at once to present to your notice three things from the language of my text, earnestly praying that God the Holy Ghost may render them lastingly profitable, and desiring that you may pray for the same. The first is the treasure that is claimed "my jewels." The second is the honour that is pledged "they shall be mine;" despite all robbers and plunderers, all inconsistencies and wanderings, "they shall be mine." Then the end, or consummation, promised "in that day when I make up my jewels." O, Holy Ghost, give me instruction and power from on high, that I may deliver the things which Thou hast delivered to me, as though it were the last occasion.
I. Look, in the first place, at the treasure which Jehovah claims in two words "my jewels." Where are they? What are they like? We find the phrase repeatedly employed in Scripture; for instance, when Abraham's servant was sent to fetch Rebecca for his young master's wife, he was to carry a quantity of jewels, and put them on her at once. When Israel were to quit Egypt, the Egyptians had impoverished them to beggary; but they were to be enriched from those very enemies, and, therefore, they were to borrow from their neighbours jewels of silver, and jewels of gold. So jewels are really good metal, are they? "Jewels of silver, and jewels of gold." They went out enriched. So you will read with respect to many a victory which the Israelites obtained over their enemies. Whatever jewels there were about the camps of their enemies, and round the crowns and ornaments of their kings, they took as prey.
But I like to go back to the origin, and ask whence these jewels are obtained? And the first thing that strikes my mind is, that they have been taken out of a mine. While they are in the mine, they are unseen and unknown. It is true, we hear in our day of gold-diggers going to the other side of the world to dig gold from the surface of the earth. I was never much inclined to accompany them in their speculation; I leave them to that. I know where to get gold tried in the fire, without going so far for it. Still, however, the figure serves me. God's jewels, God's golden ones, are hid in the earth, and clay, and rubbish of the fall, and they must be dug out. There they are hidden; but if a gold mine lie ever so deep, still the gold is gold; and though it may be taken out so mingled with its ore, that it is hardly discernible but by the man of skill that we commonly call a refiner, he may discover it, and perhaps, be able to make a purchase of the one without being deceived, but general observers cannot; it is scarcely worth their while. Now God's people, the election of grace, His golden treasure, His jewels, under the fall, and in their parentage by nature, are so buried in the earth, and covered up with so much of old Adam, and are really so much like the world at large, yea, they are called children of wrath, even as others, that we can tell nothing about them till God digs them out. They must be taken out of the mire, there must be a separation effected; and that is done only by the mighty grace of God. I want this first point to be a little diligently and closely examined. If God has not taken you out of the quarry of nature, if He has not separated you from the world, and distinguished you from those that know Him not, do not put in any claim to this appellation, "jewels" of the Lord of Hosts.
Just mark here, as far as I understand the matter literally, for the sake of illustration, that when the ore is extricated (if I may so speak) from the mine, there is another process; it must be separated from itself. There must be a process, and a fiery one, too, that must separate the pure gold from the dross with which it is intermingled. My hearers, believe me, you might separate yourself from the world, go into a monastery, and it would not make you a Christian if you are not a jewel of God. I think such persons are more like incarnate devils than anything else. If you were to shut yourself in a garret, and bury yourself in meditation, it would not make a Christian of you. There is one thing essential to that, which is, to separate you from yourself; and that must be by a fiery process. I once heard a good old saint in the country say, "Oh, if I could but get rid of the bustle of business, if I might just get a shepherd's crook, and take charge of a flock, would not I enjoy myself under the hedges, reading my precious book, and obtaining communion with God, shut out from this, wicked world?" I said to him, "Can you find me a field in which you could feed your flock, out of which you could shut yourself, with all your depravity? If so, then your expectations might be realized; but if you were to go, and carry old Adam with you, you would have enough to do in contending with yourself." Now the point I want to insist on is this: A man must know how to distinguish between that which is born after the flesh, and that which is born after the Spirit; that which is born of God, and cannot commit sin, must get above that which can do nothing but sin. Self-denial must be learned; and until that sacred lesson is attained, I do not know what to say about the gold, unless I take up the prophet's lamentation "The fine gold is become dim;" and very dim it will be until it has gone through the fiery process, which I am not capable to define at full length; but it must separate the gold from dross. This is the first feature that I give of the Lord's treasure that He claims as His jewels.
I cannot, however, part from it, without just reminding you that it is in pure gold that precious stones are generally set. Lapidaries, who are accustomed to make use of choice and precious stones, seldom set them in lead, or tin, or copper. They get the finest gold to set them in. Then indeed it is an ornamented jewel. It is remarkable that all through Scripture gold and silver themselves are called jewels "jewels of silver and jewels of gold." Now these jewels were recognized long before they were taken out of the mine, not by the world, not by devils, not by angels, but by their Owner. They were recognized in the eternal prescience of the all-seeing God, who seeth the end from the beginning; they were recognized in the arrangements of His predestinating love; they were recognized and rejoiced in as His own especial property; they were recognized so as to be adopted as His own, never to be parted with; they were recognized so as to be counted His family, registered in the book of life, in order to be redeemed in the fullness of time. I am tracing these things, in order that while I am with you the foundation work may not be lost sight of. However we may go on afterwards in the building, we must keep our resting-place secure, that these precious jewels (and I am always very pleased to recognize one that God digs out and brings forth, and if there is a good deal of burning work, it is to prepare him for God's use; yet I am pleased to find that here is another and another whom God has marked and manifested as His jewels) that these jewels are in predestination, registration, and regeneration, claimed as the property of the eternal God. Why, Israel were His sons before He let them go. Pharaoh must let them go; because they were His sons. The apostle says, "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts." (Gal. 4:6) I want my hearers to keep an eye upon antiquities; to look back to the sacred recognition of every member of the mystical body of Christ, in Christ the covenant Head, as a member before all time "Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world." (Eph. 1:4)
Now just go on to mark that when they are once brought out, having been recognized from eternity as His own, they are unlike all besides. You must know, beloved, that this is the day of imitation. There is an imitation of silver, and an imitation of gold, a sort of spurious metal, that is highly polished, and wrought, and put into shape, and palmed upon people as if there were jewels, as if they were gold and silver. Well, I confess, whether it is the pride of my heart or not, I leave it to you to decide, that if I am to have a gold or silver article, I like it to be solid, and weighty, and good. And yet I am to be told that the shams are the best! How so? Why because the thieves do not care about stealing them. Oh, indeed; I like a religion that the devil would rob me of if he could. The religion of the world is just what the devil does not care to steal from them. He would not steal the Christianity of three-fourths of those that pass for Christians. I want a Christianity that the devil envies, that the world despises, and would rob me of if he could. What say you? Are you not afraid of it being stolen from you? Not a bit of it. Jehovah will take care of that. "They are mine." You know many owners of real valuables will take care of those valuables if they can; and if thieves break through and steal, it is because they have not wisdom or power enough to defend them. Now, let the devil try to steal my religion as long as he will, I refer him to its owner. It belongs to God; and if my God cannot take care of it, I know all the Popes, and Cardinals, and Bishops in the world cannot. The devil could rob me of all that is in their hands, but when it comes to the point that Jehovah says, they are my jewels. Do you think, beloved, if you had a choice jewel, very valuable, and really accounted so by yourself for a variety of reasons, would not you take care of it if you could, and, on any apprehension of thieves, put it into the most secure place you could? and if it were stolen, it would be because you had not power to prevent it. Now, if you will turn Arminian, and try to persuade me that God is not strong enough to take care of His jewels, I will not believe you; for I know, and rejoice in the fact, that Jehovah says, they are my jewels, and consequently they must be safe in His hands.
This, however, is a point I want to touch upon a little lower down; but here I want to invite your attention to the fact, that they are unlike all others. Now if I drop the figure for a moment, real Christians are unlike all counterfeits, unlike all besides, they are unlike in person, in privilege, and in practice. They are unlike in person. They bear the image of the heavenly, though they formerly bore the image of the earthy. They are unlike in privilege, for their privileges are all spiritual; whereas the world's religion is all carnal. They are unlike in practice, for they glorify God with their bodies and their spirits; while the worldly professor is aiming to glorify himself. This is a vast difference. God's jewels are unlike all besides. You may try every kind of mimicry to make a Christian, every law, every training, every kind of discipline, entreaty, or effort, all will fail; there is not the metal, the substance, the great reality, the weight, it is not God's property. When Jehovah says, they are "my jewels," He just fixes His attention upon a weighty, all-important principle, nothing more nor less than His own life in the soul.
Now we proceed to one thought more here, that they are excellent and valuable, both to God and man. They are so excellent, that even the Lord Jesus Christ says they are "the excellent of the earth, in whom is His delight," (Ps. 16:3) and they are so valuable, that Jehovah accounts them His own inheritance, and His own portion, (Deut. 32:9) which He will by no means part with; and they are so excellent in the eye of the world, that even, though they hate their religion and despise their principles, they are obliged to admire their practices and pursuits, and nay, more, they are so valuable to God, that He would be impoverished without them; they are so valuable to the world, that the world would sink to hell in an hour if they were all taken out of it. I give you one Scripture to confirm the first of these remarks, that they are so valuable that God would be impoverished without them. That is His own choice, His own determination, and therefore says the apostle, "They ye might know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." (Eph. 1:18) Do you mark, beloved, that the eternal God hath an exceeding rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, as well as they have Him for their inheritance, and all the perfections and attributes of Deity as their portion?"
II. I must not detain you longer on this point, but proceed at once to the honour pledged. "They shall be mine." I have heard a person say of different estates, or of different articles of property, "That was mine once." God will never say so "They shall be mine." Some persons part with their property from necessity, not from choice; others from caprice, and the like. God will never part with His. "They shall be mine." What! is there no alteration in His mind? What! will He never sell them? He says to them of old, "Ye have sold yourselves for nought, but ye shall be redeemed without money." (Isa. 52:3) A fine description that of the doctrine of redemption, the buying back of an article that is to a certain extent sold, parted with for money, as the party's own act and deed. Now, says Jehovah, you have sold yourselves to such an extent that you can never redeem yourselves; but I will not part with you. You have bartered yourselves away, so that the sinner under the fall sells himself to work wickedness to Satan, and he claims him as his lawful captive. But God will not ratify the bargain. Just as though (forgive the familiarity of my illustrations) some one had stolen an article of some value from us, and we were to see it in the act of being sold, we should step in and ask, "What right have you to sell my property? it is not yours." "No, but he has done so." The bargain cannot stand; and must be null and void. Now this will be followed out by the text I have often cited on other occasions. "And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand." (Isa. 28:18) You may think of selling yourselves to Egypt, or Assyria, or Popery, but I shall not sanction the bargain; I shall not ratify or confirm it. "They shall be mine," whoever shall attempt to steal. Mine in covenant, according to the ancient settlements of paternal love, mine as committed to the care of my treasurer, the glorious covenant Head, mine as counted and registered in the Lamb's Book of Life, and therefore by and bye, says He, I will make them up. "The Lord shall reckon them when He counteth up the people; this and that man was born there." If I view the three words I have just mentioned distinctly, you perceive how Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, jointly and unitedly, claim the jewels as their own. "They shall be mine." The Father has covenanted that they should be the people of His inheritance, that they should inherit heaven for ever, they were committed to the care of God the Son, who covenanted that all their iniquities should be blotted out, their sins washed away, their persons rescued and redeemed, and they be brought home to glory, the Holy Ghost covenanted for a just and accurate record of all their names, counted one by one, and there are their numbers and their names in the Lamb's Book of Life. Will God part with them? "They shall be mine," says the Father, for I have loved them eternally, they shall be mine, says God the Son, for I have bought them with my blood, they shall be mine, says God the Spirit, for I have registered them as my property, and will find them out and reckon them up at last as the property of Deity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Yea, more; they shall be mine as a habitation in possession, mine to occupy, mine to dwell in.
Now this will bring us to a little close investigation of the point, as to whether we belong to His jewels. Hath Jehovah taken possession of you, to dwell in you, and walk in you? "A habitation of God through the Spirit." Has He, as an act of His own sovereign grace, not only separated and distinguished you from the ruined sons and daughters of Adam, and brought you out to from a profession of Christianity, but has He really taken possession of your heart? Oh, what is a Christian? the text I have just cited best describes him, "A habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph. 2:22) By nature the habitation of dragons, and every unclean thing; by grace, a habitation of God the Father, whose paternal love is shed abroad in the heart; a habitation of God the Son, who occupies the throne of the affections, and is loved and adored by all; a habitation of God the Spirit, who dwells in us, and walks in us, comforts us and instructs us, testifies of Jesus to us, and brings all things to our remembrance. Pause, my soul, and silently examine; and then as silently adore. Is this heart of mine a dwelling place of Deity? Does He work and walk in me continually? Am I as familiar with Him as with my own dwelling place? O, wonder, ye heavens, be astonished, O earth. God will verily dwell with man upon the earth. Then I may draw this sacred, solemn conclusion, I belong to him, and can never belong to another. "Thou shalt be for me," He says, "and not for another." "Shall be mine." What a different thing, beloved, is this to the flimsy stuff that they call Christianity in our day, what a difference between this and the superstitions and abominable idolatries that are set up everywhere in our land! What a difference between this Christianity of a spiritual and vital character, and that which makes men apes and fools before their fellow-men, and dupes millions to be as great apes and fools as themselves! O, my God, ever teach us to distinguish between the proud that are set up, yea, those that work wickedness, that call evil good and good evil, and that tempt God, with which characters we are surrounded, and the souls in whom Jehovah condescends to walk and work.
Follow this on a little further and mark, that they shall be His unceasing care. I have hinted at this in the former part of the subject, but must resume your attention to it for a few moments. "Shall be mine." "In that day sing ye unto her (the Holy Ghost instructed the prophet to set it down), A vineyard of red wine, I, the Lord, do keep it; I will water it every moment, and watch over it, lest any come near to hurt it." (Isa. 27:2,3) "I will be," says He, "a wall of fire round about my Church; I will be the glory in the midst of her." In olden time, and down to this hour, His mandate to all about His Church is, "Touch not mine Anointed, do my saints no harm." A sacred and a holy protection is uttered in still stronger, and, if I may so speak, more delicate terms. "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye." (Zech. 2:8) And again, our precious Lord declares, that in the day to which we are presently to refer, He will reckon everything that was done, or left undone, to any one of His disciples, as done or left undone to Him. I am anxious to keep up not only the marked distinction between the Church and the world, but the unceasing care which God exercises over His Church. But for this she had been annihilated years ago, but for Jehovah's unceasing care of His Church Pagan persecution would have annihilated her, and there would not have been a Christian left upon earth; and, after that ceased, the still more devilish persecutions of Popery would, in succeeding ages, and to the present hour, annihilate the Church from the earth; for you know the Papists are all sworn, when they enter office, to persecute heretics to the utmost of their power, and they call heretics those that belong to God, and they care not to persecute any others. How is it the Church has not been destroyed? Because of the unceasing care of our God. And in the persecution which is about to come upon the Church of God, I am as satisfied as I am of my own existence, that His unceasing care will be exercised over His Church. They are mine "they shall be mine." I do not say that none of them will be sent to heaven in a fiery chariot, though I am not very apprehensive about that, because I think the persecution will assume more of the character of a civil war, but I am not at all afraid that one will be lost; for though a jewel may be thrown on one side, and half covered with dirt, it is a jewel still. God says of His jewels, "they are mine;" and if they put us into a dungeon for life, they can never alter the fact of our being jewels, for God says they are His unceasing care.
Mark a little further, that the jewels would destroy themselves if left to themselves. But God says, "No, they are mine; they shall neither ruin themselves nor be ruined by others." The devil shall not devour them, though he goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, the world shall not destroy them, though it hateth them, their own inbred corruptions shall not subdue them, though they shall be brought into sharp conflict with them, but "grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life." (Rom. 5:21) Time shall not wear them out, eternity shall recognize them as quite separated from self, and fit for the Master's use; and they are destined to be jewels in the crown of Jesus for ever and ever. I pray you, beloved, treasure these things in your memories, and see to it that your Christianity is unlike the world, and then you may take it for granted that you are the unceasing care of Jehovah, your covenant God. Nay, as if no other care were sufficient for them, I find Jehovah dealing with His jewels as many do literally, they will not leave them behind them, but they will wear them in their bosoms, or about their persons. Now, says Jehovah, "I am with you alway, even unto the end." He will not quit His jewels, or lose sight of them a single hour, but His eye and His heart are upon them continually.
If, then, Jehovah sets so high a value upon His jewels, and takes such peculiar care of them, ought not His sent servants, His ministers, in their public proclamations, to attend to the directions of the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah, "If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be my mouth?" I know that modern divinity is not of this sort, for the preaching of the present day seems to go upon the notion that pebbles and flints are just as good as gold and diamonds, and if they are but well polished may be equally fitted to occupy a place in the Redeemer's crown; hence, that generalising and amalmating mode of address to the multitude which disregards the distinctions of character which the word of God everywhere maintains. God's ministers ought to be spiritual lapidaries, well skilled in the knowledge of jewels, so as to know them from spurious things; and they ought to be honest enough to set them forth in their real character, that the precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, (Lam. 4:2) may not be put among earthen pitchers, and counted as such; nor the polished formalists mistaken for real Christians. That hackneyed phrase, "the whole family of man," has deceived thousands, both of preachers and hearers, by removing, or at least overlooking, the ancient landmark by which God has always distinguished and separated His Church from the world. Of this breach of trust, which has now become common, the Lord complained in Ezekiel's day, "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the unclean and the clean." (Ezek. 22:26) This I believe to be a principal cause of the languishing state of Zion. Oh, that God would send us a more searching, discriminating ministry, which shall detect counterfeits, and polish jewels; or, to drop the figure, shall expose hypocrites, and encourage the people of God.
We are encouraged to ask this of God by His own promise, which runs thus, "They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean." (Ezek. 44:23) The promises and privileges of the gospel are all addressed to character, and that minister who omits to describe the character when he speaks of the promise or privilege, is like a treacherous postman, who obliterates the address upon his letters, and flings his whole packet of letters to the wind, for any one or no one to find and use or abuse, instead of reading the directions carefully and delivering them punctually. I own that this makes the office and work of the ministry very difficult; but who, that is sent of God, will shrink from difficulty? Who would employ a postman who cannot read? If, then, the ministers of God can read the hand-writing of the Holy Spirit upon their own hearts, surely they may trace the same autograph in the experience of others, and address them as Paul did, "Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God: not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart." (2 Cor. 3:2,3) So that all God's jewels, being so labelled by Himself as to be known and read of all men, the ministers of the gospel are inexcusable, yea, dishonest, if they refrain from reading those labels publicly, that the people be not deceived, and that God be not dishonoured. But, however negligent or treacherous they may be, God will still claim, and take special care of His own, and never forfeit His oath, "they shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels.
III. Now a few words relative to the end promised. God Almighty solemnize our minds. "That day when I make up my jewels." The prophet was directed to go on and close up his prophecy, by saying in the very first verse of the next chapter "The day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." What a solemn view has the prophet here given, under Divine direction, of that day when the jewels are made up, that day to which my text refers. O sinner, if there be an unregenerate man or woman here, suffer me to be faithful and honest, once more to tell you what this verse says is your doom. Dry stubble in a fiery oven. That day shall burn as an oven, and the wicked are to be as stubble cast into it. Do not say, if your end should be eternal burnings, that I did not warn you. All the proud, all they that do wickedly, all that charge God foolishly, all unregenerate persons. I cannot refrain from saying, that the prophet seemed as glad as I am to turn away from the subject, though the warning was essential. He immediately adds "Upon you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings." "I will make them up" that is, I will reckon and count them according to their register. That is a beautiful passage in the prophet Jeremiah, in which he says, "The flocks shall all pass again under the hand of Him that telleth them:" alluding to the practice of the owner of a flock counting them by the use of a rod, and sometimes, with something for the purpose of marking them. In fact, I have seen this done literally. This is the illustration of the prophet was commissioned to give "They shall all pass again under the hand of Him that telleth them." Methinks I see the covenant God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in that day when He will make them up, with His eye on His registration book, and upon His believing family, as they pass in one by one; and there shall be an exact correspondence between the registration He holds, and the souls He admits. He will make them up. Some people have a considerable number of jewels, and count them up continually lest there should be any missing. This is the way with our God. "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." Some of them? No! all. "All that the Father gave me shall come to me, and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) Then I view this counting up and reckoning according to the registration on high. Do mark, beloved, how secure this makes everything to the Church of God. There is no mistake in God's accounts, no omissions, no interlinings, no blottings out. He will not blot their names out of the book of life.
Oh, how vast the importance of fixing our faith upon securities, infallible securities!
A number of things press upon my attention here, but I feel anxious to draw to a close. Just go on, therefore, to mark, He will not only reckon them at last, but it is His promise to collect them together. He shall gather them one by one. "Ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye house of Israel." (Isa. 27:12) And again, He will bring them from the north, and from the south, from the east, and from the west, and call them His sons and daughters, claim them as His own. I am not at all afraid of Jehovah losing one of His jewels, but I am very emulous of the honour of being instrumental in bringing one in, in digging one out. On this ground I appeal to your consciences, and am quite willing to exhaust my last breath for this purpose, and for the glory of His name. Gathered in they must and shall be, for the Lord hath spoken it. And oh, what a Church, what a general assembly and Church of the firstborn! Twelve times ten thousand were counted of the house of Israel, a perfect number, a certain number for an uncertain, were announced to John in the Isle of Patmos. But as if this was not sufficient to show that no earthy calculation was sufficient to reckon them, he goes on and says, "After this I looked, and behold, a multitude that no man can number." I paused when I read that verse, what a mercy it is not said, a multitude which God could not number! "A multitude which no man could number." God has not revealed that secret to mortals; no, nor has He given mortals power to pry into it. It is "a multitude which no man can number," though all are numbered one by one by Israel's covenant God. And these collected together, a collection of choice jewels, constituting one glorious constellation of lustre, grandeur, beauty, glory, and honour for ever and ever.
Now, contemplate this for one moment. When God has collected all His jewels, in all ages, and from all parts of the world, and under all circumstances, and meetened them for His own enjoyment, and His own presence, a vast constellation of glory, millions upon millions of ransomed, blood-washed, sanctified souls like Christ, surrounding the throne of God, I do not wonder that such a blaze shall set fire to the world, and the earth and all the things that are therein shall be burned up. I do not wonder that it is called "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," that is then to be developed and displayed. The powers of man shrink to a nutshell when we begin to contemplate such a scene, earth is too narrow an expanse to stretch thought over in the contemplation of such a glory, and if for a moment we can expand the heaven-born heaven-taught soul to commence its glory upon earth, it says, "O that I had wings like a dove; I would fly away to see the sight, and be for ever with the Lord." Gathered together! Yes, says He, I will gather my saints together with me. They have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. Jesus has taught us "The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds under heaven." (Matt. 24:31) There it is, do as you please about looking at it. And He will do this in a twofold sense. He sends forth His angels or ministers now, for ministers are called angels in the Apocalypse, and He will send forth His mighty angels that excel in strength, at last, to gather together His elect from the four winds under heaven, that they may (look for one moment at the final purpose), that they may receive and exhibit Christ's own glory. I hear Him say, "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them." (John 17:22) The very glory of Christ in His mediatorial character made the brightness the brilliancy of His own jewels. I wonder not that angels shall retire to the outer circle to let Jesus and His jewels dwell near and upon the throne. My spirit grows as the day approaches, I loathe the thick clay, I hate the pebbles and the dirt, and seem to long for that glorious scene when all shall be consummate bliss and glory.
I intended to have added a word more upon the matter of fact, I will just name it, that honour is hereby to be brought to all the persons and perfections of Deity. There will not be a jewel that will say he dug himself out of the mine, or that he took care of himself on his way home, all with one consent shall subscribe to that blessed testimony and holy triumph of the Psalmist "Not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name be the glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake." (Ps. 115:1)
Now, my hearer, suffer me to make a solemn appeal to your consciences before I sit down. If, as we have seen, Jehovah will gather in and eternally secure all His jewels, what is to become of the dross and refuse? Let the word of inspiration reply. The Psalmist says, or rather the Holy Ghost by the Psalmist, "Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross;" (Ps. 119:119) and we are told that "the wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God." Examine, then, my hearer, whether thou hast any one characteristic of God's jewels, lest, when He makes them up, completes their number, He should pass you by, saying, "I never knew you; depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. 25:41) But if He has brought you out from the quarry of nature, led you through the fiery process which we have described, and so polished you that your light shines before men; then anticipate the day when you shall form a part of that grand constellation which shall adorn the crown of the Redeemer for ever. Take heed that ye be not tarnished with the corruptions which are in the world, and view all the trials and afflictions which you are called to pass through, as intended to fulfil that precious promise, "I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin." Then shall the old proverb be verified, "Take away the dross from the silver, and there shalt come forth a vessel for the finer." (Prov. 25:4) Yea, "a vessel of mercy afore prepared unto glory." (Rom. 9:23)
May the Holy Ghost apply these things with power Divine to your hearts, and Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit shall have all the glory. Amen.