The Rock of Ages
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, April 22, 1849
The direct contrast which these two statements form to the general character of modern divinity, has been fastened upon my mind. If I might speak of modern divinity, I should adopt the language of the Son of God Himself, when He says, "Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it." You will also remember that He gives in contrast, exactly the characteristic of my text, 'Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock." And His is that Rock. The point, then, to which I invite your attention this morning, is to ascertain whether your's is a rocky foundation or a sandy one. If it be the latter, your ruin is inevitable and most dreadful. If it be the former, a rocky foundation, your standing is as firm as the throne of God itself, provided it be "the Rock" of which my text speaks. As, therefore, your concerns for eternity, as well as your happiness for time, depend upon this solemn criterion, let me adjure you, in the name of the living God, to be honest with yourselves, and to try the matter, as we attempt to enter into the statement before us, with all seriousness and fervency of spirit, as those who are truly waiting upon God. You are aware that our text is a part of the song of Moses; and it brings to my mind the remark which is often dropped in your hearing, that Moses was a sound divine after all, and we will not have him found fault with. He understood God's method of saving sinners remarkably well, and delivered some of the most sound and heart-cheering doctrines that are left upon record. Even his types, and shadows, and ceremonials, all pointed to Christ; and therefore our beloved Lord says, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me." And mark how he wrote: "Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth." He speaks, you see, like a man in earnest, like a man who invokes and claims the attention of all worlds, like a man who would have sacred things recorded in heaven, listened to by angels, approved of by God, and then sounded forth to "earth's remotest bounds." "Hear, O earth, the words of my mouth." And what are they? "My doctrine shall drop as the rain." Oh, then, he was a doctrinal preacher! Verily so. "My doctrine shall drop as the rain." "My doctrine," said Christ, on one occasion, "is not mine, but His that sent me." And it shall not foam up as the opinions of me, but, "shall drop as the rain," shall descend from Jehovah's throne. "My speech shall distil as the dew," shall fructify, be health-giving and life-preserving, and shall bring forth fruit unto God, "as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass."
Now this is just the sort of doctrine that we want; something that descends and distils from the throne of God, though He may make use of a poor worm of the earth as the medium of imparting it; still it must come from God, and my soul will not be satisfied unless the things which I am to state to you from Holy Writ be recognized and received by you as coming from God. So said the apostle, "When ye received the Word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe;" that is, as the word of God, able to save your souls. Then follows the language of my text, "Because I will publish the name of the Lord; ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock; His work is perfect." What says Popery, and her twin-sister Arminianism, to this? Popery says, "He is not the Rock; Peter is the rock." Now Popery is a system of lying from beginning to end. What says Arminianism to it? "His work is not perfect. There is a great deal left for us to do." Now I know that either the one or the other must have told lies. Either the author of this text of ours, or else Popery and Arminianism! They cannot both be true. One says, "Jehovah is the Rock, and His work is perfect." The other says, "No; Peter is the rock, and the work is not perfect; and there is a great deal left for us to do." Judge ye, then, my hearers, as you must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and make answer concerning it, which you are bound to believe. For my part, I believe Moses, and therefore believe Christ. I believe my text, and shall therefore proceed to speak of it, in accordance with the truths it contains; premising that there are two prominent features which it opens to our view, the first being the metaphor which speaks of Jehovah as the Rock, and the second being the yea-and-amen testimony of His work, "His work is perfect," and there is no appeal from this. Whilst I am attempting to open the subject before you, let me crave an interest in your fervent prayers; for well do I know that Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but that no increase will come except from God; and that if God withhold His power, no more good will be effected by my preaching than by the foolery of the merest idiot, if he were to stand up where not I am standing, and read an essay. Yet, as it is God's appointed means, as "it pleases God by the foolishness," or simplicity, "of preaching to save them that believe," my intention is to be as simple, plain, and explicit as I possibly can, at the same time craving the power and influence of the Holy Ghost to make use of what He shall teach me to advance for your present comfort and everlasting salvation.
1. Now, first of all, let us proceed to examine the metaphor. "He is the Rock." And I conceive that in this portion of Scripture Jehovah, in His Trinity of Persons, the one Divine essence, is referred to. I think that you who are familiar with your Bibles will be prepared to admit that the metaphor of a rock is applied, in the Word of God, to every one of the three Persons of Deity individually. Just let two or three texts of Scripture suffice to confirm this. There is no doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is represented by the Psalmist when he is made to say, in the 89th Psalm, "He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation." And whilst I admit that the believing family of God, in a subordinate sense, may be included there, yet every one who is familiar with that Psalm knows, that almost all the phrases immediately connected with that text especially refer to Christ. It is He who is made, "higher than the kings of the earth," from whom God's mercy shall never be moved, who is the concentration of the Divine faithfulness according to that Psalm, and it is of Him that it is promised, "He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation. So that the whole of that salvation which is in Christ Jesus, made manifest in His official capacity, originates with Deity according to covenant settlement, as we shall by-and-bye endeavour to show. Then, as it respects God the Son, the prophet Isaiah has it in commission to say, "A man shall be," mark, beloved, "a man," the God-man, Christ Jesus, "shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." The glorious Person of Christ is there especially pointed out, "the Rock." Then, if you want a Scripture in confirmation of the other portion of my statement, that the metaphor is applied also to the Holy Ghost, just hear what Job says, "The rock poured me out rivers of oil." Now, whatever may be said of his temporal prosperity, to which he might have somewhat referred here, yet more must be seen in it than that; for oil is represented in the Word of God as the emblem of the unction of the Holy Ghost. Hence, says the Psalmist, "I shall be anointed with fresh oil." Consequently, if Jehovah the Father, as a Rock, receives the cry of the Mediator on behalf of His Church, and the cries of all His mystic members; if Jehovah the Son, as a Rock, is a shadow and defence in a weary land, where His people hide and shelter; and if God the Holy Ghost is a Rock, which pours forth rivers of oil for the anointing of the whole Church, we may well look at the language of my text as including all the Persons of Deity, the one glorious self-existent Jehovah. "He is the Rock."
Mark, first, that a high elevation is set before us. I have already cited one passage from the 89th Psalm to this effect, but there is another which the Psalmist gives, and which is peculiarly beautiful, where he pours out his soul in supplication, saying, "When my heart is overwhelmed within me, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I ." There is the elevation of our Rock, the Rock that is higher than the creature, the Rock that is above all created objects, the Rock that reaches even to the heavens, the Rock of self-existence in the distinct personalities of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. So that whenever a poor ruined sinner has fled to that Rock to embrace it for want of a shelter, he becomes elevated, he begins to be lifted up, dignified and raised above the common scale of existence.
My hearers, there is a vast deal of foolish ambition among mortals as regards what rank or circle of life they shall move in; and they consider themselves elevated if they can get above this or that class in society; but after all their elevation frequently terminates in degradation, and if it does not, it is but a paltry step one above another, and that only in natural things and in worldly circumstances, all of which will be laid in one perfect level in the grave where the worms prey upon all alike. But directly the Lord the Spirit takes possession of the poor sinner's heart, and he is led to "the Rock that is higher than he," and is able, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, pouring out rivers of oil, to embrace Christ and obtain full salvation in Him, and then trace all to the Rock of eternal love, he is elevated, he is dignified, he rises superior in rank to the mightiest princes or monarchs upon the face of the earth. Consequently we draw the conclusion that there is no elevation worthy of the name amongst mankind but that which is founded upon the Rock, in union with Christ, and intimacy with God, "fellowship with the Father and His dear Son." When once He is raised by the mighty grace of God to this, the man's mind begins to be dignified. The all sufficiency of this high elevation is peculiarly beautiful. That sweet portion of Scripture in which Jehovah says, "I am God Almighty," is sometimes rendered, "God all sufficient." So that the inhabitants of that Rock, those that dwell in love and dwell in God, and really rest their eternal all in the Triune Jehovah, and the love and faithfulness of all the Persons and perfections of the Deity, may say there is everything here I want. Coming to the 62nd Psalm the expression to me is peculiarly beautiful, where the Psalmist says, "He only is my Rock and my salvation, He is my defence, I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory, the Rock of my strength, and my refuge is in God." What then can we want more? There is everything that is requisite for the sinner's comfort, pardon, and peace here, there is everything that is requisite for his security and defence from all the enemies by whom he is surrounded, and everything that is desirable for participation of glory, and for its consummation too.
But we pass to a second particular. He is the Rock for an immovable foundation. Now I don't know who would build on quicksands; such attempts have been made, I know, but they have been frustrated, and have come to nothing, just as we have been showing in the exordium of our subject. I want an immovable rock. And here again you must allow me to defend the truth against the father of lies; for that Church which belongeth to the father of lies, tells us that Peter is the rock, and that upon Peter the Church of God is built. But I am sure there will not be found such a fool in all my congregation as to build upon such a frail, uncertain, shifting thing as Peter's name; and I hope you will never think of resting anywhere but upon the Rock that my text sets before me, Christ. You must recollect that Peter's name signifies a stone, not a rock; and therefore when Christ says, "thou art Peter," he means, thou art a stone, thou art a rolling stone; and he soon proved it, for he rolled down the hill fast enough, and denied his Master with oaths and curses. I should not like to build upon a stone that would turn upside down in that fashion. It is a solemn and awful thing to represent the Church of the living God as built upon a poor worm, a fickle, fallen creature, who showed himself so weak and helpless. It is the most disgusting of fooleries, the greatest of all absurdities, the foulest of all blasphemies, to rob Christ after this manner. Jesus spoke of Himself as the Rock. "Upon this Rock;" what was it? On the truth which Peter was confessing at the time. In answer to the appeal of Christ, Peter answers for the rest of the disciples, as he frequently did, "I believe that thou art the Christ of God," the Son of God. This was really acknowledging the doctrine that I have been dwelling upon in my text, that Jesus Christ was truly and properly God. Well, says Christ, this is really the foundation of all; and upon this Rock, the fact that I am the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, "upon this Rock will I build my Church." Nor can the Church of Jesus stand or be built upon anything short of His own eternal essential Deity, His own Triune oneness with the Father, and the Father's oneness with Him, and the Holy Ghost's oneness in connection with the Father and the Son.
Now I want your attention to this immovable foundation upon which is built all the living Church of God, every article of the creed that is worthy of God, and the experience of every Christian that belongs to God, all built upon this Rock. Just look at those things a moment. Whatever assumes the name of a Church, that is not built upon, that rests not its entire weight upon, all its principles upon, and all its authority upon the Triune Jehovah, the glorious doctrine of the Trinity, is not the Church of God. I don't care to ask what dignitaries, no, nor what nobles, no, nor what monarchs, pretend to uphold it, or may uphold it, either by the sword or by supplies of money, it is not the Church of God. Be it what it will, or where it will, it is not the Church of God, unless it rests wholly on the finished work of Christ; and that work of Christ seen to be the appointment and gift of the Father, and revealed and made known to the soul, and cemented to it by the power of the Holy Ghost. There the living Church of God shall rest and abide all the storms that may come upon it. So also with every article of the creed that a professing Christian may embrace; it comes from the devil, and not from God, unless it all centers in Christ, and is brought to rest there. I think that is the reason why people in general now a day so dislike the doctrines of grace. It is because they bring all the honour to Christ as the elevation of which I have been speaking; giving all the praise, honour, and glory to Jehovah. Take, for instance, the doctrine of election. "Oh, say they, that is worse than all; it makes God so arbitrary a being." But it is their hatred to God that makes them dislike that doctrine. They do not like to honour God. If the doctrine of election would make you to elect God, or to elect yourselves, your carnal minds would like it very much. You would not object to it if it were your prerogative, and you had all the honour of it. But when I turn to His precious word, I see that He is the Rock, and that as an immovable foundation, electing love is His own sovereign right, and emanates from Himself exclusively. Then again I take the doctrine of the eternal union of Christ with His Church; that too is repudiated and rejected, and declared not to have an existence. But I know by blessed certainty that it does exist; and moreover, that the eternal union of Christ with His Church is by the appointment of the eternal God. The Father gave the Church as an act of paternal love to Christ; Christ betrothed the Church as His own, and acknowledges His oneness with her from everlasting; and the Holy Ghost makes entry or registration of the grand transaction in the book of life, where all the names are written.
Now I know that modern professors do not like this doctrine, because it leaves the creature nothing to boast of or to glory in. "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ." So, if I speak of the doctrine of justification, some will have it to be by works; some will have it to be by faith; and some will have it to be by the two united and connected, and helping each other. I must reject all these faiths as they are vaguely understood, and just insist that our justification is an act of grace in the imputed righteousness of Christ; that faith is the receiving hand as well as the discovering eye, which the Holy Ghost's power employs; and that works are only fruits and effects, and no part of its efficiency. Therefore we are, "justified freely by His grace." We make Him the Rock of every article of our creed, and of every sentiment we utter.
So also we must speak of sanctification, of perseverance, of vital union, and of glorification; in short, all the grand truths of the everlasting gospel center in the Trinity, and emanate from Jehovah. He is the Rock and immovable foundation of them all; and the gates of hell shall never prevail against those grand doctrines, however they may rage against them. Moreover, He is the Rock and immovable foundation of every real Christian, and all must rest there. I know very well that multitudes of persons commence Babel building, and go on with their tower, and work with their slime, and mortar, and bricks, and get very dirty and tired, and by-and-bye there is a confusion of tongues amongst them, and they cannot go further. They mean to build a tower whose top should reach the heavens; but the work falls short and ends in disappointment, as everything must do which has not its foundation in Christ. If I begin with the Divine awakenings, it must be by the power of the Holy Ghost according to the will of the Father. If I go on with soul transformation, it is mighty grace, the gift of God, imparted through the daily ministration of the Holy Ghost. If I mark with this, the reception and enjoyment of the privileges of the gospel, it is the mighty power of the Holy Ghost that must reveal them to the soul, and implant in that soul the grace which discovers, and grasps, and appropriates, and makes use of them. Moreover, in revealing them to the soul, He shows them, "Christ who is our life," and "our life is hid with Christ in God." Moreover, "when He who is our life shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory;" and "he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him." So that all our experience from first to last rests upon the glorious doctrine of the Trinity. Here is an immovable foundation then as our Rock. I cannot pass over this point without rejecting, I had almost said with disdain, the idea of making up what is called an experience of the corruptions of old Adam, the works of the flesh striving for the mastery, which some people would dilate upon for an hour, to make out a wonderful view of Christian experience. If that is Christian experience, then the devil has more of it than any of us; and he may have all mine if I could part with it. When I speak of Christian experience, it is not of this sort; I speak of that which emanates from Christ, which is wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost, which is communicated by the mighty God, which comes direct from the throne of God, and which is nothing less than Jehovah, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dwelling in me, walking in me, and "working within me mightily."
I pass on now just to remark that this blessed Rock is a glorious habitation; and hence the prophet Isaiah exhorts the inhabitants of it to sing, "Let the inhabitants of the Rock sing; let them shout from the tops of the mountains," their high elevation. What am I to say of the Psalmist's prayer? "Be Thou my strong habitation, to which I may continually resort." "He is the Rock." There is no breaking through the walls, no decay of the roof, no settling of the foundation, no entrance for thieves. He is the "strong habitation." I have called it the glorious habitation, as the Rock. Two or three things may be mentioned of a habitation, and generally, when I come at such a phrase as this, I cast my thoughts to my own. And what am I to expect there? Why, I expect a refuge from the pelting storms to which I am sometimes exposed in journeying; and I expect rest when fatigued and weary, and I expect refreshment to nourish and recruit me. All that I get in my Rock; all that I find in my covenant God. Amidst all the pelting storms of the wilderness, cares, anxieties, pains, afflictions, sorrows, thorns and briars, I do feel it to be a sweet relief to get into the Rock, the habitation. I find it a glorious, a sure defence; no thieves break through to steal, no storms, however heavy and tremendous, can do me the least injury; no enemies can drag me thence. All is secure to the soul that is once brought to dwell in love, and dwell in God, and God to dwell in him. He is the Rock for a glorious habitation. Then I want, in my habitation, to rest; and often do I find it to be a relief which I am thankful for, when I am able to sit down upon some comfortable seat, or cast my weary body for a little repose upon my bed, to take rest is the desire. What a mercy it is that our Rock is the rest and the refreshing; that we can rest where God Himself rests, even in His love, love Divine. There is no rest for a troubled soul, for an awakened sinner; there is no rest of holy composure until he finds out and feels that he has a personal interest in the love of God the Father, in the perfect work of God the Son, and in the mighty grace of God the Holy Ghost. When his faith is brought to discover and enjoy the fact that God the Father loves, and adopts, and accepts him; that God the Son loves him, and takes possession of him, and will not let him wander further away, but brings him back, and gives him an habitation in the "Rock of ages," what calm, what peace, what composure, what rest, what secret delight is there! Then mark, when once he is got in from the storm, and the door is shut, and a seat obtained, and a little rest realized, it is natural for the weary man to say, "Bring me something to take," he wants refreshment in the midst of his exhaustion. Oh what a mercy it is that in this Rock the Lord of Hosts has made, "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." And whenever the poor sinner is, by faith, enabled to fly to and embrace this Rock for shelter, he will find a well-spread table, a most delicious feast, all the, "fat things," of the gospel of Christ unfolded to his view, every viand the most delicate, and the King Himself at the table, saying, "Eat, oh friends; and drink abundantly, oh beloved." Can you regale yourselves, have you regaled yourselves there? Have you been partaking of the precious provisions of the covenant, the bread of heaven, the paschal lamb, the old wine, the secret stores; the wine bought, "without money and without price," which the precious book of God reveals to my view? I may well say that He has made, "a feast of fat things," and that my soul has been regaled at it. So much for our glorious Rock.
One word more upon the metaphor. This Rock is in a healthy situation, which is a very important consideration in selecting a habitation. Its situation is healthy, and I will give you two things respecting it. In the first place, the air that is inhaled is the purest ever known, the very air of heaven; and in the next place, the prospect that is realized is the brightest that can be conceived of. It is in inhabiting this Rock that we inhale (bear with the boldness of the phrase) the very breath of the Holy Ghost, the very air of heaven; for He who first, breathed upon the slain," in Ezekiel's vision of dry bones, and "breathed into them the breath of life," as He had done at the first creation, breathes every breath of spiritual life into you and me that we ever realize. And I beg you to carry this thought with you everywhere, that we never inhale a single breath of spirituality, of prayer, or of gratitude, in order to pour forth the same unto God, but as we receive it from and by the Holy Ghost. It is God that breathes into our hearts. You know, beloved, that sometimes you may have gone into your closets, in order to get a little communion with God, and to peruse some portion of His Word, and you have been as if breathless, you have not been able to pour out a desire, or glance a thought half way to God, but have been over whelmed with sorrow, and have almost given up the idea of praying at all; and yet, while truly, "waiting upon God," as the Psalmist has it, a breath has been received, the Holy Ghost has inspired your soul with new desires, new thoughts, new fervour and with power to express it, too, before God. And it has been by His mighty communication in your blessed, healthy situation in this "Rock of ages," that you have enjoyed the very comforts of heaven, that you have had the sweetest participation of eternal felicity in personal experience, that you have inhaled paternal love, Divine substitution, efficacious grace, and atoning blood in the Person of Jesus Christ, that you have inhaled the heavenly witnessings, the holy anointings, and the special comforts which the Holy Ghost only can impart; and have been ready to say, whether in the pew or in the closet, "This is none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven." Are there any of my hearers who are strangers to this? Are there any of my hearers who know nothing of this Divine afflatus? Are there any of my hearers who know nothing of those powerful communications from the throne? I pity your pretensions to Christianity, I pity your poverty of soul, and can only pray, as Ezekiel did. "Come, O wind, and blow upon these slain that they may live." I said also, that in this healthy situation the most delightful prospect is obtained. Those who are fond of landscape will be ready at all times to do what I have frequently had great pleasure in doing; climb up some lofty eminence, for the purpose of taking a survey of the expanse around me, of beholding the beauties of creation, and of recognizing them all as belonging to my Father. Sometimes, whilst inhaling the sweet air, I have been really delighted with the prospect around me, I mean in nature. Now when a believer gets upon this Rock, and we know the Psalmist says, "Thou hast set my feet upon a Rock," and in another Psalm, "in an even place," that is on the level and top of the rock, what is the believer's view? If he looks down he sees a dirty world, and says, "I am glad enough that I am separated from that." If he looks above, he sees a beauteous canopy, and says, "That is my Father's throne; for heaven is His throne, and the earth is His footstool." If he looks around him, he discovers the immensity of Divine privileges opening from the covenant stores, revealed in the plan of salvation and redemption, all belonging to his Father, and consequently belonging to him. Now where will lie the difference between the prospect literally and the prospect spiritually? The man who gains the summit of a lofty hill, and sees stretching beneath his feet the beauteous valleys and richly cultivated fields and vineyards, together with all the variations that nature presents, can only generally look at them, and say of them, not an inch of all this belongs to me; not a field, or a garden, a cottage, or a but, in all that prospect, have I any claim to; but the man who inhabits, "the Rock," and looks backward into eternity, and forward into everlasting day, on the right hand with spiritual privileges and heavenly consolations, and on the left hand with the supplies of Providence according to predestinating love, says, "They are all mine, my portion, my rock, my inheritance; for He who withheld not His only-begotten Son, but freely gave Him up for me, will give, and hath given, with Him, all things freely."
2. I must now hasten to the yea-and amen testimony of His perfect work, "His work is perfect." I have heard poor, vain, ignorant mortals talk of creatures being co-workers with God. It almost chills my blood to hear such frightful, God-insulting, soul-ruining statements as that. They may do for Mahomedans, but are certainly unfit for Christians. But though we know nothing about creatures being co-workers with God, we do know something about the Persons of the Trinity being co-workers with each other. And they are so stated to be in the precious Word of God. The Lord Jesus Christ said, in His ministrations upon earth, "My Father worketh hitherto," there is the work of God the Father, and "I work;" and having acknowledged the Father's work, and the Father's power, the Father's upholding hand, the Father's purposes carried out by His own omnipotence, just according to the Psalm that we read at the commencement; "God hath spoken once, twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God," "He doeth what seemeth unto Him good in the armies of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth," He gives this solemn challenge unto all who dare oppose, "I will work, and who shall let it." When our beloved Lord is drawing towards the close of His ministry, He speaks of His own work, appealing to the Father with, "I have finished the work thou hast given me to do." So this work of the Redeemer was mediatorial work, redemption work, and salvation work, entrusted to Him by the Father: He says, "I have finished the work," there is its perfection. Then, as regards the work of the Holy Ghost, the apostle was commissioned to put it down in these words, "We are confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun the good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." And who can begin a good work in the sinner's heart but God the Holy Ghost? Everything pertaining to the life of God in the soul, He is the author of, and will be the finisher of, consequently we are confident of its perfection in God's own time. In the language of my text I find God's work is a perfect one, and cannot but be complete; He never leaves it unfinished, that the Saviour's work is a perfect one, and cannot but be complete, and all His people complete in Him; and that the Holy Spirit's work is a perfect one, and He never forsakes the work of His own hands, but will complete it, "until the day of Jesus Christ." Therefore, those who would impugn the character of the Deity, and slander the very name of Jesus, are those who represent His work as if He had done all He could, but not quite enough to save sinners; as if He had done all He could, but had left a great deal to be done for the poor worms of the earth; I say they are the very persons who slander the name of Jehovah, and reproach His very existence as God.
I should have no hope of salvation at all were it not God's, and
were not God's work a perfect one. If I could for one moment suspect
that Jehovah could abandon the work of His hands, I should say He would
surely abandon me, because I am constantly provoking Him so to do. But,
blessings on His name, when His children's iniquities call for the rod,
and their sins for stripes, He will give them the rod and the stripes; "Nevertheless,"
says He, "my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from them, nor
suffer my faithfulness
But then His perfect work is performed officially; and we must take care not to leave this out. His perfect work is not a random matter. It is not a promiscuous thing. It is that in which all the Persons of the Deity are officially pledged each to other; the honour of the Father is pledged to the Son, that He shall not shed His blood in vain, the honour of the Son is pledged to the Father in the reception of all the Old Testament saints into glory, before He atoned for them, by His honouring His bond, and obeying and suffering on their behalf, as well as your's and mine, and the honour of the Holy Ghost is connected with both, in making known to the poor ruined sinner's heart the love of the Father and the grace of the Son. The honour of the Father is connected with the giving of the Holy Ghost, and the honour of the Son with the sending of the Holy Ghost, "If I go away I will send Him unto you," said He. So that, while the Holy Ghost carries on His work in the sinner's heart, and finds out, transforms, and regenerates all the election of grace, the Saviour looks on with sacred delight, expecting the travail of His soul to be brought home; the Father looks on with infinite complacency, demanding the souls whom He has adopted from everlasting into His family; and because they are sons, the Holy Ghost imparts the Spirit of adoption unto them, and they are constrained to cry, "Abba Father."
I hope you see that this is a perfect work, and that Jehovah the Father cannot abandon it without abandoning the glory of His own name; that He cannot make it contingent without making His own throne contingent; that He cannot forsake the work of His hands without falsifying His own word. Oh! beloved, the securities which belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, in consequence of Jehovah's work being perfect, cannot be too highly estimated. A word more. This work is witnessed by all worlds as a perfect work. The angels witness it as soon as it begins, and are delighted with the commission to go forth and minister unto the souls upon whom the Holy Ghost is working. The devils witness it, and howl out, "We have lost another of our prey, and we cannot recover it for ever." The devil knows that he has lost that sinner for ever who has once fled to Christ. The world witness it; and, though they cannot understand it, will marvel, reproach, and revile, and must give up the company of the regenerate soul. He is unfit for them, and they are unfit for him. The saints all witness it, for they recognize and welcome all in whom God is working the work of grace with hearty affection, with the hand of fellowship, and meet them with delight at the table of the Lord.
I pause here to utter a word of reproof. It is very dreadful that some of those precious souls with whom God is working will let angels, devils, the world, and Christians, all bear witness, and yet they themselves will be the last to bear their own witness. What a shame, my brethren, that they should be the last to bear witness of what God has done for their souls! Why, they ought to be the very foremost in saying, "Come and hear what God has done for my soul, and what He has worked in my personal experience." But, on the contrary, in nine cases out of ten, though we send for, invite, request, and entreat them, we cannot get a word out of them as a testimony for God. Now just go upon your knees, you unbelieving, trembling ones, and ask God why it is that you are ashamed to speak of the work He has done for your souls, and do not let the Church of the living God, and especially the ministers of God, be deprived of the happiness of congratulating you on your salvation. Whilst the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, and the Father bears witness with His tokens of paternal love in our hearts, and the saints around bear witness, we ourselves cannot but be witnesses, even though we do not own it, for the very groans, sighs, seekings, and longings, which go forth from your souls in secret unto God, are so many witnesses in your souls that you have, "passed from darkness unto life." May God enable you to become decided. Observe, then, what encouragement there is for helpless souls who can do nothing, that God will do all, and that His work is perfect. I should give up all hope, and lie down in absolute despair of ever obtaining heaven or salvation, if there were anything left for me to do of a meritorious kind. When I come to the point that God has said, "Without me ye can do nothing," and follow it out with Paul's acknowledgment, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think anything, and are, "laid in the dust of self-abasement," incapable of doing or thinking, what a ray of hope, what a cheering dawn of encouragement and comfort opens to my soul, that I have no necessity to do anything, that my precious Christ has done everything for me, that the work is complete, the doing, the dying, the paying, the conquering, the securing, the obtaining, all done by Him, "His work is perfect." I feel that, as a helpless sinner, I have nothing to do but to receive and enjoy, and when I have got it, and receive and enjoy all that is meritorious, and all that pertains to my salvation, then forth comes the fruit. Then the believer can do something, not meritoriously, but gratefully; then he is classed amongst the, peculiar people zealous of good works;" and it is just when the man finds that he has nothing to do that he will do the most, and the man that cannot work at all meritoriously is the man that works hardest and most gratefully before God. Oh, blessed work that is so perfect! And that which is going on in the heart must be perfected in the day of Jesus Christ.
One thought more, with which I must close. This grand principle, which arises from both the statements of my text, rejects all creature interference. If the work is perfect, a finger put to it cannot improve it, but must mar it; and if God's work of salvation and redemption, and the work of grace in the heart, is all His own, and consequently is perfect, and must be as perfect as He is, what am I to say to those beings who are called priests, who are everlastingly talking to poor sinners of what they are to do, who extort money from them every day, and then turn round, and tell them what they must do in the way of penances, as well as payments, as if God's works were not perfect? I must say that a more awful race of beings does not exist out of hell. Oh, the tremendous judgment that awaits those who thus make themselves the murderers of souls! I would not, for a thousand worlds, incur the guilt of this odious delusion. Sure I am that whatever profession of religion man assumes, if he doth not ascribe all to God, he is not a Christian, call him what you will. Equally sure am I that the emblem employed in the command relative to building the temple, belongs to the spiritual temple, "If thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." An Arminian touch is a polluting touch. A pharisaic touch is a polluting touch. A yea-and-nay interference with God's work is all pollution; and I wonder that such persons do not fear that they will ultimately fare as Uzziah fared when he presumed to touch the ark of the Lord, and was struck dead on the spot. I wonder that such deceivers are not struck dead by God's vengeance for deceiving souls and interfering with God's work. Now, beloved, let me entreat you, as you value your own souls and the honour of God, and as you would glorify His great and precious name, keep clear of all the sands, confide wholly in the Rock, dwell, and abide, and sing there, for the inhabitants of the Rock always should be singing; keep your eyes upon the bright prospects, and your mouths open to inhale the pure air of heaven, and expect, ere long, to enjoy all the glory which is promised to be revealed unto you.
May the Eternal Spirit put life and power into these few remarks, and refresh, and strengthen, and comfort your souls by them, that the great name of Israel's covenant God may be honoured thereby. Amen