The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, Sept. 14th 1851
Would not an angel feel honoured by being sent down from heaven to proclaim it? I read that angels desire to look into it; but what a wonder of wonders that an angel cannot look into the gospel as far as we can, and for this one sufficient reason, that he is not interested in it. He is kept in his perfect state of primeval innocence; but we have been plucked from the jaws of destruction, and snatched as brands from the burning by this precious "glorious gospel of the blessed God." What is the meaning of the word gospel? News, good news. How is it glorious? We will endeavour to point that out as well as we can. Who is the author of it? Not the pope, nor the devil; but it is "the blessed God;" and we will own no other gospel but that of which God is the author. Well, then, we must have life, and walk, and conduct, and principle, and motive, and desire, and pursuit, all shaped according to it, "according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust." I confess, beloved, pity and pray for me, I confess I shrink with trembling from the latter clause of the verse, "committed to my trust." What, Lord, is this precious treasure to be put into an earthen vessel? Is a poor worm of the earth to be counted worthy to have such a glorious portion and treasure committed to his trust? Woe be to the man that violates this trust, that even neglects it! You will, I trust, from this bare outline of the text, which, at the very reading and opening of it, seems to drown one's spirit, see what a vast field is opened before us; what an overwhelming subject it is; how worthy the highest of the apostles to pen it in such concise term, show worthy of the blessed God to give it to poor ruined sinners.
Now if you look at the language immediately preceding the text, the apostle is reprobating and anathematizing every description of abomination, and of vice, and wickedness, and lies, which seemed rather too common in the days in which he lived, and so they are now; and, as if he suspected that he had not been successful in enumerating them all, he sums up with, "If there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine." We will not have it measured; we will not have it gauged; we will not have it weighed or balanced according to the moralist's conception of it, or according to human laws; but just "whatever is contrary to sound doctrine." Paul was a strong advocate for sound doctrine; and when he delivered sound doctrine, he always took care that everything should be in accordance with it, "according to sound doctrine:" and in telling us what that sound doctrine is, he says it must be "according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."
Before I enter upon the leading features of this verse, I beg you to remark how explicit Paul was about that trust; how explicit to tell us that the gospel that he preached was not according to man, neither was it of man, neither was he taught of man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Again, he tells us that he was made a minister "by the dispensation of the grace of God." God Almighty, hasten the day when there shall be no other ministers upon earth but those who are made such "by the dispensation of the grace of God!" This is the tone all through his advice and exhortation to Timothy, as well as at his ordination of him and Titus; and his command to them that ordained elders in every city; all marks the solemnity of the trust, "the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."
Well now, without further exordium, for I fear I shall not be able to preach a very long sermon, from the weakness under which I am suffering, I will invite your attention at once to three prominent features of this text; and if they are as much blessed to you as they have been to me, however short the discourse, you will retire, blessing and praising God.
The first subject to which Paul refers is "the glorious gospel." The second is the Author of it, "the glorious gospel of the blessed God;" none of the accursed popes nor devils, but "the glorious gospel of the blessed God." And then the trust. I confess I shrink from this third particular, because it involves everything that is solemn, awful, and responsible, as well as everything that is glorious, and precious, and honourable. God Almighty, help me to say a few things on these three particulars.
I. The glorious gospel, first of all. It seems as if there were abroad a gospel, or news, that is not glorious; and I am sure, you must bear with my censoriousness, for I want to go out of the world with a clear conscience, that nine-tenths of what passes for gospel in these days is not glorious. That is a glorious gospel which finds its way to a sinner's heart, bringing him everything that is suitable to his ruin, and asks no favour at his hands, and consults no will or caprice of mortals; that is a glorious gospel. Now allow a familiar illustration here. An insolvent debtor is shut up in prison, and he has not a single farthing to call his own. A herald comes with a trumpet, and blows at his window, "Good news! good news! I am come to preach a gospel to you, glad tidings." The poor wretch sinks down in despair, and says, "You insolent impostor, to call that good news! You know I have not a farthing in the world. It is no good news at all." But if he who comes proclaims, "Liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound," (Isa. 61:1) and shows him in the law-book "Paid," "Paid," in the red letters of atoning blood, "Ah!" says the man, "that is good news; that will do; that will suit my case." Now the thing I want, before I dare call it a glorious gospel, is, that it must be suitable; it must be news to suit the sinner's case. To tell a ruined, depraved, rebellious, hard-hearted sinner that if he will but pray, if he will but repent, if he will but believe, if he will but turn, God is merciful, and Christ has died, and there is hope for him, is that good news? It is tantalizing human misery, mocking the God of salvation, and contradicting the whole Bible; it is not good news at all. If I come to a sinner with good news, it must be news that suits a sinner's case. Tell him that Jesus Christ, the only-begotten of the Father, who assumed human nature for the express purpose, has become wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, to every ruined sinner; whom grace Divine gives to feel his need of Him, and makes willing to accept Him. That comes home, and the man says, "Well, I had not such a will; I had not such a desire; I had not such a knowledge of my need, but it is created in me. I now feel I am lost, guilty, and ruined, and deserving nothing but hell. This is news, good news. It brings me exactly what I want; it suits my case exactly." And can you tell me that Jehovah delighteth in mercy, that He is waiting to be gracious, and ready to forgive, and all this without any terms (mind that) on the part of the sinner? If you will bring in your Popish terms, I will despise your news as a Popish gospel. Come without any terms; they were all met by the Divine Substitute and Surety.
Well, then, it must be a gospel that suits saints as well as sinners, else I will not have it. "Oh," say you, "saints! What do they want of the gospel? It tells them of such privileges, such comforts, such supplies, such securities, such prospects, that every saint of God must be delighted when he hears the glorious gospel, not the accursed gospel; and he says, "This is just what I want." There was an instance occurred the other day, which filled me with sacred delight; and I have another to tell you of presently, which must appear by-and-bye before the public. A sinner, black and laden with sin, and on the very verge of hell, had one of our "Grove Chapel Pulpit" sermons read in his hearing. His own statement is, "It was as if a glass was placed before me, and I saw all the vileness of my whole life at one glance. I could not take off my look, but soon afterwards I saw also the fullness of salvation in Christ Jesus." Now that is a glorious gospel. It suits the sinner, and it suits the saint too. If a saint is a fool, it brings him the wisdom of God; if he is guilty, it brings him a righteousness to clothe him; if he is depraved and vile, and he feels it and knows it, it brings him sanctification in Christ Jesus; if he has been long enslaved to the devil, and feels that he shall be dragged back again into his bondage, it brings him liberty, salvation, full and free. Now I call that a glorious gospel, and I cannot do without it.
Very well; it is so glorious that not only is the sinner met, and the saint supplied by it, but the Saviour is exalted. It is such a glorious gospel that it honours His name, proclaims His merit and His righteousness. It does for Him what God the Father did in word and in promise, "I have glorified thy name on earth, and I will glorify it again." (John 12:28) Be sure of this, that is not the glorious gospel of the blessed God that does not honour and exalt Christ. Bring me the gospel that sets up the creature, and bolsters his pride, and talks of what he is capable of doing; it is false, and will damn thousands of souls, and I will neither believe it, receive it, nor preach it. But bring me a gospel that lays a sinner in the dust, shows him what he is, and brings to him all that he wants, and secures to him all he can seek, and supplies him after his conversion with all he can crave, and at the same time honours the Saviour with all possible glory, and might, and majesty, and dominion; that is a glorious gospel.
Let us go on just to mark its administration, because it is nothing without it after all. It is nothing without the administration, or, as I sometimes call it, application. I know there are some preachers who have a knack which they learn at their schools, and they do not learn much good there, but plenty of error, a favourite knack towards the close of their sermons of saying, "Well now, we come to the application." I cannot understand that at all. The application must come to me; I cannot come to it. The application, or the administration, as I first termed it, is the work of the Holy Ghost, omnipotent grace. Now, if I were to preach in the strain I have been preaching the last ten minutes for ten hours, and set forth the glories of the gospel of Christ to the fullest possible extent, sure I am that it would do you no good, it would not bring a sinner to God, it would not comfort a believer, without the administration of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, when I speak of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, I must speak of that which the Holy Ghost condescends to make use of, that which He condescends to employ. Well, what then? Oh, I wait to feel it; I pause expecting it; I sit at the pool craving it; I cannot rest without ita divine afflatus, an outpouring of heavenly unction, an invincible operation of grace, receiving of the things that are Christ's, and showing them unto us. (John 16:14) Oh! my hearer, do you imagine that these things at all wait for your suitable frame of mind, for your fervent prayer, for our excellency of spirit or temper, or for your amendment of life? You would wait till you were in hell if you waited thus, and you would never be the better for all I could preach. What think you the poor things waited for at the pool of Siloam? There was a man waiting there a great number of years, and he could not get in. When Jesus came to him, He wanted very much to know what they waited for. There were a great number of impotent folks there. They did not wait till the pool was full, it was full enough. They did not wait till a priest went up, and exhibited a cross or a crucifix to them, they would have despised that. They did not wait till they had got plenty of money in their pockets to pay a fee, what then? They waited for power from above to move the waters, I have called it a Divine afflatus, to move the waters of the sanctuary. And there is no healing, no life, no pardon, no good to poor ruined sinners, until the Holy Ghost descends from on high, and by His own invincible power, takes the word and makes the use of it which the prophet describes: "Is not my word a hammer, "I hope it will hit you hard, "is not my word a hammer, to break the rock in pieces? Is not my word a fire?" (Jer. 23:29) I hope He will set light to you, and burn up all your wood, hay, and stubble. This is the way the Holy Ghost accompanies His word. It comes with power from on high; it asks no man's leave; it is like the rain that descendeth from heaven, that waiteth not for the caprice of the sons of men, but comes down in a most sovereign manner. And oh! how blessed the thought, it has often cheered my heart, that when the preacher may be most unconscious of anything that God is doing, but just conscious that he is discharging the trust committed to him, there is the work going on, the word going forth, the penetrating influence of the truth of God searching the heart, trying the reins, subduing the sinner, comforting the mourning soul, and raising the affections God-ward.
Just mark further, this is by Divine appointment; it is not promiscuous, it is not hap-hazard; it is according to the arrangement of the covenant of grace, with regard to times, and circumstances, and instruments, and individuals. I defy the most hardened sinner here, be he whom he may, to keep away another five minutes from God's grasp, if the time appointed is come, and the word is fastened of his conscience. A thousand devils could not hold him; he must bow to the feet of Jesus, and begin to cry for mercy. Do allow one familiar illustration of this. If all the saints of Damascus had gone and fallen on their knees, and begged and prayed of Saul not to come nearer to themif a twenty-four hours' storm, of thunder and lightning had surrounded him with its terrors, it would not have stopped him; he would have gone through it all. Neither the thunderbolts of vengeance, nor the flames of hell, nor the entreaties of saints, no, nor his fine education either, would have stopped him from his pursuit. But when this sovereign power, this Divine application, this administration of the truth, this word of the living God, comes to his soul, down he goes, he cannot go a step further till he goes as a suppliant to that man whom he meant to hale to prison, to teach him the way of salvation. What power goes forth with God's word when He accompanies it!
Now I cannot yet get away from this appellation, the glorious gospel. To be a glorious gospel it must be truthful, and not contradictory. Another letter, which I received from the country the other day, for I am receiving them from all quarters, seems to have been written in tears, in grief, and distress. I do not know the writer any more than you do. He says he has been brought up in "the Church," as he calls it, and has been accustomed to hear Mr. So-and so; but he says, "I am very much distressed, and want a word of advice." Why distressed? you ask. Why, he says, "The man invariably contradicts himself in every sermon he utters. He will tell us a great deal about the grace of God, and the mercy of Christ, and the efficacy of His blood, and then tell us it all rest with us, that free will can make good use of it all." I could not help saying in my reply to him, he had told me of a little nook he sometimes went to, "Although I cannot dictate where you shall go, I would simply ask you, as a partaker of the grace of God, whether you ought not to go where God meets you?" I received his acknowledgment, and my reply seems to have pacified the good man's mind. I simply relate this anecdote to show, that what passes for gospel, in very many instances in these days, is quite contradictory. Paul's logic ought to be learned by the divines in our day; it is very sound logic, better, I think, than was ever taught at Oxford. He says, "If it be of grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work." (Rom. 11:6) Now this is fair reasoning. I cannot conceive sounder logic than that. Now, I do insist, as he is taught of the Holy Ghost to set it down, that "It is by grace ye are saved, through faith", and that I will have no merit in, says he; even the faith that lays hold of it is not of myself, it is the gift of God, so that the boon is God's gift, and the hand that lays hold of it is God's gift, and the eye that discerns it is God's gift. That is a glorious gospel. It must be so truthful that it can have no contradictions. It must be as Paul describes, "The gospel I preached unto you was not yea and nay, but in Him was yea, for all the promises of God are yea and amen in Him." (2 Cor. 1:19,20) I like God's "yea and amen," but I do not like man's "nay" put into it. This is the glorious gospel of the blessed God. And, if I may sum it up in two or three words, before I proceed to notice its author, I should say, that the gospel which is worthy the appellation of "glorious," finds man in utter ruin, dark, deaf, dumb, blind, and dead, and crowns his highest hopes and expectations with all that God has promised. That is the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
II. Well, now, I feel really ashamed for having stated these things so meagrely, but I have done the best I can. I now go on to speak of the author of this gospel; it is the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Here I go back to its origin, to its institution. It was instituted in the council of peace, in the covenant of love, which council and which covenant interested all the persons and perfections of Deity alike. It was true that justice and peace met together, and righteousness and truth embraced each other; and they have never quarrelled since. It was there that all the attributes of Deity, as seen essential and self-existent in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, were all in harmony, all united, all interested in the grand scheme that was ultimately to be made known to man.
Pause here a moment to mark how God the Father, in the decrees He enacted, secures all the honour of His name, that His law should be fulfilled, His justice satisfied, His holiness exhibited, His truth unsullied and unchanged, as well as His love emblazoned and magnified, in the rescue and salvation of ruined sinners by myriads. Oh! think for one moment, beloved, of that glorious covenant of peace between the Persons of Deity, before man existed, before angels fell, before sin was known; all the arrangements made, all the appointments settled, all that law and justice could claim or command in after days agreed upon; and when the second Person in the glorious Trinity replied to the question of God the Father, if I may so view it as set down by the prophet, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us on this all-important errand?" "Here am I; (Isa. 6:8) lo, I come," said the glorious, precious, covenant Head of the Church. What for? "To do thy will; (Ps. 40:7,8) and I delight to do it. Thy law is within my heart." This is His errand. That "Lo, I come," bound Him under responsibility, as His own voluntary act, to carry out all the Father's designs, and do the Father's will, for such was His statement. Moreover, in the same grand council of peace, the Holy Ghost was as deeply and personally interested; and therefore, in the registration of all the names of the election of God in the Book of Life, He took care to couple them with the covenant Head; and He calls them "sons of God;" then virtually they "shouted for joy." Therefore the apostle, in after days, was commissioned to say, nay, indeed, it was the Lord Jesus Himself, "Rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:20) The apostle takes up the same subject, and says, "Whose names are in the Book of Life." (Phil. 4:3) This is a matter known, a matter understood, aye, and a matter enjoyed by thousands of the saints of God, even while they are upon earth. Now in the Father's appointment and decretive enactments, His own truth and holiness were implicated. In the Son's voluntary engagement of "Lo, I come," His substitution, His suretyship, His responsibility, were pledged. In the Holy Spirit's registration and recognition of the names of all the election of grace, in company with the name of the glorious Elder Brother, He pledged Himself for their sanctification and eternal glorification. So stands the matter now. It is the glorious gospel of the blessed God; for the Father's decrees must be carried out, the Son's responsibility shall be honoured, and the Holy Spirit's pledge of grace shall be fulfilled and realized in the eternal salvation of all the election of grace. Now I cannot understand any other gospel but that. This is, a glorious gospel, the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
Well, then, we proceed to another point of vast importance, which is the sending it down from heaven, the sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, under the Divine inspiration of the Spirit of God. And here I beg of you to mark, that not only had the Prophet Isaiah been commissioned to speak of the beauty of the feet of those on the mountains of Israel, that should publish glad tidings of peace, and say to Zion, "Thy God reigneth;" but after his predictions, which were literally fulfilled when the Lord became incarnate, there was, I was going to say, though I do not like the word, a college of angels, a company I should rather say, a company of angels sent down from heaven with these very glad tidings, "Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, goodwill toward men." (Luke 2:14) Now I do not wish any other text or any other subject to preach upon as long as I live, than that which the angels so gloried to preach. Moreover, if we examine minutely both the Old and New Testament, we may write upon them the word "gospel", nay, more, "glorious gospel", nay, more, "The glorious gospel of the blessed God." You will recollect the apostle was commissioned by the Holy Ghost to say that the gospel was preached to Abraham. (Gal. 3:8) Yes, it was preached to Noah, it was preached to Adam, it was preached all through the Mosaic economy; and I think you might read very fairly, "The Gospel according to Exodus," "the Gospel according to Deuteronomy," "the Gospel according to Leviticus," where all the types and shadows are so strikingly employed for the purpose of setting forth the great realities of the gospel. Well, then, if I look through the whole of the Old Testament, I find a vast amount of glorious gospel, in the Psalmist's sacred odes, a large portion in the prophecies of Isaiah and the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Zechariah speaks out in the fullness of his spirit under Divine instruction; and Malachi closes up with the delightful confirmation of His coming, and being just at hand, in whom all the blessings of the everlasting gospel were to center.
Well, now, this blessed gospel is set forth in the same strain, as sent of God, in New Testament language; and therefore the evangelists sometimes employ the term "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ." The apostles, in all their epistles, keep to this same sacred point. And it is a very remarkable thing, which ought to make all infidels blush, if they have got any blushing in them, that there is not a shadow of a contradiction in the four accounts of the four evangelists of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or in any of the epistles. Though some of the penmen never saw each other, they were wide enough apart in the providence of God, yet there is a perfect accordance, and harmony, and union between them; and you shall not find a discordant sentence from the first chapter of Matthew to the last of the Revelations. You shall not find a sentence but what attributes the entire salvation of the whole election of grace, the covenant people of God, to the Father's covenant love, the Saviour's covenant blood, and the Spirit's covenant operation and invincible power.
III. I feel my soul overwhelmed with what my text sets before me; but I find I have not strength to proceed much further, and therefore, however reluctantly, I must venture to approach the last clause of my text; and I confess I approach it with trembling awe, "committed to my trust." Lord God Almighty! has this glorious gospel been committed to my trust these forty-three years, and more? How has the trust been maintained and honoured? Oh! I shrink from the thought that there should be five minutes lost, a single sentence uttered in this high, and holy, and sacred spot, that does not tend to set forth the glorious gospel of the blessed God, exalt His precious Christ, and lead to the salvation of ruined sinners. That is what I want.
Now, just glance for a moment at what Paul meant when he said it had been committed to his trust. He felt it deeply; and when the Lord Jesus sent him forth from Damascus quite reversing his employ, and quite changing his errand, as well as the entire current of his affections. He went forth with his commission from the throne, instructed in the mysteries of the gospel, taught what to preach; and when he was taught, he learned more in half an hour at the feet of Jesus, than he had learned all his lifetime at the feet of Gamaliel. When he was taught where to go and what to preach, he says concerning it, "I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2) He did not at all dread preaching on the same subject; he did not fear the charge of sameness. "To write the same things unto you," he says, "to me is not grievous but to you it is safe." (Phil. 3:1) Therefore I shall keep to this point, "to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Well, then, he renounces all confidence in the creature. He went forth to preach Christ's gospel in a very different frame of mind from that in which he went forth from Jerusalem. I think I see him on his fine steed, his sword drawn in his hand, and his attendants like a set of ruffians around him, rushing towards the gates of Damascus, thirsting for the blood of the disciples, and haling men and women to prison. He turns round and says, "I was with you in weakness, and fear, and much trembling." Why, Paul, what in the world have you done with your horse, your sword and your attendants? "Oh," says he, "I have nothing more to do with them. I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." I know what that means. But see the other half, "My speech and my preaching were in demonstration in power;" (1 Cor. 2:4) and for what? Why, "that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God;" that it should prove itself to be something supernatural, and so be worth something when you most want it. So that when Paul speaks of being put in trust of the gospel, the first idea is that he was instructed in its glorious mysteries and realities by immediate teaching from above, by revelation from Jesus Christ. So he himself says to the Galatians. Well, now, but he ought to have gone to college, ought he not, first of all? No; he says, "I went up to Jerusalem, and saw Peter fifteen days, but other of the apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord's brother." He wanted none of them; he wanted no communication nor instruction from them; but he went forth in the power of the Spirit, instructed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, so as to receive its blessed realities in his own soul, and exult as he marched on, "I know whom I have believed." (2 Tim. 1:12) I would not preach to you if I did not, "I know whom I have believed." Well, then, if he knew whom he had believed, he knew how to preach Him; for they must be dreadful rebels and traitors to God, and purblind slaves of the devil, that come forth to preach what they never feel in their own souls, and without being instructed of God.
Moreover, Paul was not only instructed, but also put in trust. You know, if I may detain you a moment longer here, it was once said of Christians, all the servants of Christ, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." So all of you are put in trust, in a certain sense, of the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Not only preachers, but all the believing family, every partaker of grace, every regenerated soul, is, in a certain sense, put in trust of the gospel. Therefore," says the apostle, "from you it sounded out all around." Again, he says, "Holding forth the word of life." (Phil. 2:16) We find this manifested in the life, and character, and experience of the saints of God of old; and when the apostle addresses the Thessalonians he says, "They themselves show what manner of entering in we had." They were put in trust of the gospel, and it needed not that they should speak anything about it; they themselves showed it; they turned from idols to serve the living God. So that I would have every one of you, that makes any pretension to the name of Christian, to bear in mind that you are put in trust of the gospel. You must tell it to your children, you must tell it to your servants, you must tell it to your neighbours and acquaintances; and if you have not liberty of speech to tell it in words, you must "let your light shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)
Paul was employed to propagate it. He was sent forth to publish it and make it known; and he said he preached the gospel in every city. It did not much concern him whether he preached in a building like the temple, or one like our modern steeple-houses; or whether it was in a barn, or upon Mars hill, or by the sea side, or the river side, where prayer was wont to be made, no matter where, his business was to publish the name and fame of Jesus. I want this impressed upon my hearers' minds, that they may distinctly understand what it is to preach the gospel. I think I have shown you in a few outlines what the glorious gospel of the blessed God is. I must just detain you a moment about what it is to preach it. It is not to persuade man to do his part, and help God out; not to compliment the free-will and pride of human beings; not to propose terms, offers, overtures, which no fallen sinner is capable of touching, or willing to accept. What then? To publish it, to make it known. Isaiah had a good idea of it in the text I have just before cited; "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them that preach the glad tidings of the gospel of peace." I wish we had some more beautiful feet now-a-days, for they are very ugly cloven ones for the most part. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that publish salvation, that publish peace, that publish glad tidings of good things, that say unto Zion, "Thy God reigneth." (Isa. 52:7) That is a fine outline of what the preaching of the gospel ought to be. I have nothing to do with what you will or will not do; but I will tell you what God will do with you, and I challenge the vilest unbelief, and the hardest heart, and the most rebellious traitor in the world, to resist successfully when God begins to work: He will have His own way and do His own way and do His own work. Ah, my hearer, the jailers heart had never broken, if omnipotent grace had not touched it. A filthy Magdalene had never become a monument of grace and mercy, if grace and mercy had not positively defied her wickedness of heart and life. But glory to His name, that when Jehovah employs His servants to go forth and publish the glorious gospel of the blessed God, it is just simply to publish it. I do not like indulging to anecdotes, yet I think I should like to tell you one here. A good many years ago I had been riding side by side with another minister, to what was called in the country a half-yearly meeting of ministers; on which occasion the minister preached from a given subject, or at least it was so said. But lo, and behold! he took a little book out of his pocket, and read line by line. When I retired I was going the same way home with my friend, and as soon as we had well mounted he said, "Well, Mr. Irons, do not you think Mr. So-and-so preached an excellent sermon?" I said, "No." "Well," said he, "what fault do you find with it?" I maintain he has not preached us one at all. I saw him take out a little book and read it." My friend began to argue the point (I give this anecdote because I think it ought to be impressed upon people's minds.) "You know," he said," it is all the same thing." "No," I replied. "Well," he said, "you understand what the word preach is taken from." "Yes," I said, "I understand it; it is taken from the practice of the crier going forth to cry." "Well, you know," said he, "the crier generally has his paper with him." "But," I said, "the case is very different. In the first case the crier has no personal interest in the matter; and in the next place he gets a groat for it. And if this man we have been hearing is merely to have his groat for preaching, he has no personal interest in the matter. Well, let him have his groat. But supposing the crier were to go forth to cry his own child that had been drowned or lost, do you think he could not describe his complexion, his hair, his dress, and everything about him, without a paper or anything written down?" The good man put his spurs to his horse, and went on a little bit faster. This is just the difference. The man who is personally interested in the matter, and has been given to know, and taste, and handle what he preaches, though he gives it out as roughly as I do now, he will not want to use his paper much.
Bear with this digression. Paul was employed, and employed successfully, in winning souls to Christ. He laboured more abundantly than all the rest of the apostles put together, and he suffered more. I told you, in the reading of the chapter, that I will never believe that man sent by God to preach whom the devil will not fight with, I am as sure of that as I am of my own existence. Therefore, they must lie in wait for Paul, and put him in prison, and then they must keep the city with a garrison, and block it up, and other things of a similar kind. But there was Paul, upheld, and preserved, and saved in the midst of it all. He must be employed; he was immortal till his work was done. God wanted to employ him and make use of him. Nay, more, I am as satisfied as I am of my own existence, that every sent servant of God must preach every sermon he is commanded, and must last as long as God has any use to make of him. A thousand fevers cannot kill him; no, nor even the tremendous gout destroy him. He must last as long as God will, as long as there is any work for him to do. "Son of man, thou shalt go to all to whom I send thee; and thou shalt say all that I command thee." (Jer. 1:7) That is the way God puts him in trust.
Moreover, I will detain you a few moments with the fact, that all whom
God sends are responsible. Here allow me to explain that they are not deemed
responsible for results, but they are deemed responsible for their faithfulness
I cannot help telling you, before I close, because it ought to be regarded as among the multitude of encouraging things brought to me by letters from all parts of the empire, relative to the success of the "Grove Chapel Pulpit", that I have received another letter from the Collier. You remember reading one of his in the "Gospel Magazine," and I think I shall send this there also. The substance of it is this. It is a most interesting and sweetly written letter, in which he gives an account of an old sinner, sixty-six years of age, just in my decrepit position, and about my time of life. He had seldom attended any place of worship at all, and cared nothing about religion. He sought after money, and pursued his employment. He does not say anything about his morality; but he cared nothing about any place of worship. He was suddenly seized with sickness, whether it was cholera or not I cannot say, he does not say anything about that, but it was evident he was in dying circumstances. He had a godly brother, who had presence of mind enough to read that sermon of ours, "Be still, and know that I am God;" (Submission," No. 147); and he describes the mighty change that was wrought in his soul in a few hours, and the holy triumph into which he was brought; so that it melted me when I perused the account, and I think it must be before the public shortly, for such things ought not to be concealed. Among the man's visitors he had two Arminians, I forget whether he says they were cousins or daughters, who came to tell him that he must repent, and believe, and pray. But the good man was so powerfully and suddenly taught of God, that he said, "I tell you what, if Jesus Christ has left anything for me to do, it must for ever go undone; I am fixed on the Rock of Ages; Christ is all and in all." And so he quitted the world. I really think if my hearers knew, I had almost said the innumerable instances of a similar kind that meet my eyes, they would be more diligent than they are in circulating and distributing these messengers of truth. I rejoice to know, that there are more than half a million of the discourses I have delivered abroad in the world. Make them a million, double the number, and who can tell what poor dying sinner you may be the instruments of plucking as a brand from the burning, I say the instruments, by such a distribution of God's truth? I could not withhold such a piece of information from you; and pray God it may impress all your hearts with what the glorious gospel of the blessed God is, and what it does. Amen.