The Unity of Divine Attributes
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, November 19th, 1848
When an assemblage of august personages is witnessed, those who witness such assemblies naturally conclude that some great matter of business is going forward, that something important is to be negotiated, that something which concerns the public is about to be transacted, and, consequently, all are eager to inquire why they have met, all are eager to ask who this personage is, and who that personage is, who are met; and if their names are announced, probably the very mention of some of them will thrill through the spectators' ears with delight. I pray God that it may be so with you this morning. The personages who are referred to in my text, are personages from the upper world. They are personages of ancient date. They are personages of inimitable character. The are personages of a glorious description. Mercy; what would become of man without it? Truth; in a world which is full of falsehood, and full of all the miseries which began by the devil telling a lie, and our first parents believing it. Truth coming down to avenge it. Righteousness; in a world where nothing but guilt and depravity, impurity, corruption, and rebellion against God is found. Peace; after war had been proclaimed in heaven, and the apostate angels hurled out; after that war had been renewed in Eden's garden, and had ruined Adam and all his posterity, peace too has come down from heaven. And are such mighty personages met without some important object in view? Oh, no; and I trust the Holy Ghost will reveal to us this morning the grand purpose of the repeated meeting of these Divine attributes, and give us to discover clearly our own personal interest therein.
But, let us mark the peculiarity of the phraseology here employed, before we go further. They are not crowded together as one meeting, though they constitute it; but a separation is made. "Mercy and truth" they have "met together." Then, as a distinct, I was going to say, conclave, "righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Why, that seems to be something like a double wedlock, something like a double marriage, something like a double description of the harmony, the union, the unity of all the Divine attributes and perfections. And there is some grand object in view, which we shall presently have to attempt to unfold.
I know that modern divinity does not quite like this sort of meetings, that modern divinity would like to meet with Mercy very well, without Truth; and, consequently, Truth, in many instances, is excluded from her companionship. I know, also, that not a few would like to have Peace without Righteousness; but they will never be gratified in the accomplishment of their wishes and desires. If you will have mercy, it shall be in accordance with truth; if you will have peace, it shall be in accordance with righteousness. You may have them married if you please, allow me the familiarity of the phrase, mercy and truth one. Righteousness and peace so fond, so closely united, so affectionate, so endeared, as to "kiss each other." Mark the expressions; and when you have dwelt a little upon them, let us make the inquiry about the meeting-place, and then we will enter upon the object of their meeting together. Oh, may the Holy Ghost give me power from on high, to speak of this august and wonderful assemblage of personages, if I may so personify these Divine attributes, so as to glorify each and all of them; then to set forth the holy meeting-place, where mercy, truth, righteousness, and peace associate in harmony, and bind our souls to the spot, never to quit it; and, then, unfold to us the object contemplated by Deity, and accomplished by these personages, interesting, eternally interesting, to every awakened sinner that would be right for eternity.
I. But, first of all, we will say a little about the wonderful personages met, the wonderful companions. Mercy stooping down to man's misery. The advocacy of truth insisting that mercy shall not be displayed, but in perfect accordance with God's truth. Righteousness revealed, and proclaimed of a Divine character" Divine righteousness." And peace eternally settled between God and His Church; and this on the ground of the harmony of all the Divine perfections. I hope my hearers will be earnestly engaged in prayer for the Spirit from above, whilst I attempt to touch upon this soul-subduing subject. I feel that it is holy ground I am treading upon. I feel that they are holy things of which I have to speak; and I would not indulge even in a phrase that might border upon lightness, as said the apostle concerning it, "When I, therefore, was thus minded," to preach a yea-and-amen gospel, "did I use lightness?" God forbid. And let us, with all gravity and all earnestness, and yet I trust with all cheerfulness, glance at the things I have just named, one by one. Mercy, a Divine attribute, stooping from heaven to man's misery.
The very word "mercy," seems to have respect to its antithesis, "misery." And if you will observe for a moment, what the misery of man is under the fall, I think you will be constrained to admit that nothing but sovereign grace can stoop low enough to reach him. Only glance at the declaration, "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die," and then see its accomplishment; the character of that death which ensued upon the rebellion of our first parents, which is so appalling and awful as to have left its victims without a single particle of spiritual life, without the capacity to muster, cherish, or exercise a spiritual thought, without an excellency that can, by possibility, commend itself to God, enslaved, corrupt, polluted, and vile, under sentence of death, accursed of God, the very ground accursed for man's sake, and, consequently, "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12) What a mercy then to be saved from sin and misery!
Now the great matter of regret with me, respecting modern divinity, is, that men do not believe the real state of mankind. If they did, I am sure they would be glad to embrace the glorious principles of the everlasting gospel. But no; though God hath declared that "death passed upon all men for that all have sinned," and describes man under the fall, in his exterior, as covered with wounds, bruises, and putrefying sores, and in his interior as every imagination and thought of his heart only evil continually; yet man, in the pride and rebellion of his heart, will cling to the false notion that there is still something left in him, much as he is fallen from his original dignity; that there is something within him that he may improve, that he may turn to good account, that there is something within him that, if well manufactured, or remanufactured, by himself, may after all please God and make a Christian of him. Now, so long as that false notion is harboured in the breast of an individual, Christ will never be loved or trusted, nor will the salvation that is in him be received and embraced. But when we come to view what misery is brought forth, consequent upon sin; when we cast our eyes around and look at the wickednesses that are abroad in the earth, the want of principle, the swearing, the lying, and Sabbath-breaking, the "breaking out, and blood touching blood," as saith the language of Scripture, when we glance at the awful evils which sin has created, prisons, hospitals, gibbets, and banishments, when we glance at the tremendous scene of ruin and distress, of want, of poverty and dishonesty, and every kind of evil which vain mortals have brought upon each other, until they almost live like wild beasts, devouring one another, well may we exclaim, "What misery hath sin brought upon man!" And if we pass over the field of mankind, and turn within our own dirt-hut, our own earth-built tabernacle, and see what is there, and watch on any one day the rising corruptions, the abominable lusts, the daring evils, the hardness of heart, the unbelieving, the utter helplessness and rebellion against God: Oh! beloved if I went on with the catalogue, I might appear as if I had blotted out the whole map of creation, and covered with an awful sable hue the very picture and character of man. But this I cannot do beyond the matter of fact. Then is not mercy wanted? Surely nothing but mercy being first on the list of these wonderful companions met together, mercy, first upon the list, if I might personate mercy in the character of a dove, I should gaze at her fluttering upon the throne as though the foremost of the perfections, to descend on earth to man, stretching forth her balmy wings, bedewed with atoning blood, eager to pierce the ethereal void, and light on the victims of the fall in the depths of their misery. But while mercy comes down, and mercy would forgive, and mercy would bring to the feet of Jesus and the mercy-seat, forth steps the advocacy of truth with this solemn proclamation, "I will by no means clear the guilty." (Num. 14:18) Mercy, what wilt thou do now? Mercy, how wilt thou find the way to man now? The advocacy of truth again asserts, "The soul that sinneth shall die," and "all have sinned." Mercy, how canst thou give life, whilst Divine truth advocates its honour upon the earth, refuses to be falsified, and insists upon the glories of Divine truth being maintained and sustained inviolate? This must be accomplished, as we shall show by-and-bye when we come to speak of the medium.
Suffer me to repeat here that they come not to quarrel, that they are come not to oppose each other, to prevent mercy being exercised, or truth vindicated; but they meet that mercy may be exercised, they meet in order to unite. This we shall have to say a little about on the third feature of our discourse. There is infinite, abounding, sovereign mercy stooping to the ruin and misery of fallen man. There is inflexible truth, as the advocate of all the honours of the Deity, coming forth and insisting upon the satisfying of the glorious attributes of the Godhead, in order to the display of mercy. Then forth comes righteousness, and righteousness would urge the violation, the tarnishing, the destruction of everything like it in man, and insist as an attribute of Deity that the righteousness of which God can approve and accept, must be perfect, sinless, Divine, immutable, just as the prophet Isaiah was directed to describe, when he speaks of the righteousness of the creature in the character of garments, "They all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up:" (Isa. 50:9) But, saith the Lord, "My salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished." (Isa. 51:6) Righteousness demands this. And here I would apprize the proud Pharisee, if there be one present this morning, though I do not think people of that description are very fond of coming within these walls, that if he means to get to heaven by righteousness of his own, the righteousness of the creature, it must be perfect, sinless, without spot; that it must be such as God Himself can find no fault with, that it must be such as will last for ever, and not like that which is as "the morning cloud and the early dew," that passeth away; not like the filthy rags that Paul told us he was so glad to get rid of, but just such as the Lord told His disciples of, when He said, "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:20) Here is a wonderful and glorious companion then! A Divine, spotless, unsullied righteousness.
Take one other view of this word. The righteous are just, upright and holy. The character of the Deity is to be vindicated, the righteousness of God in Himself. I conceive this may go further, and point us more especially to that inherent holiness, integrity, uprightness, and justness, which constitute the very essence of Deity. So that whilst mercy, as an attribute, and truth, as an attribute, descend from heaven, and meet together, righteousness, as an attribute of God, vindicates His purity and glory. And yet with all this, down comes peace to meet along with them, and strict, immutable, perfect, self-existent righteousness becomes so familiar, so intimate, and enamoured, as we shall by-and-bye attempt to explain, with the peace of God, and the God of peace, that they are said to "kiss each other."
Now, I could not find an expression that to me appeared better to suit such a meeting as this, than "the two-fold marriage," a close oneness between mercy and truth and as close and effectual a union and nuptial bond between righteousness and peace. I cannot quit this last point without another observation; that the peace, of which we speak, is that which is eternally ratified and settled between God and His Church, and on the behalf of His Church, never to be destroyed. I hear of some persons who ignorantly talk about "making their peace with God," and especially when afflictions invade them, and they are laid on beds of languishing and not likely to recover, they begin to talk of "making their peace with God." Paganism! Passing through the Popish mold, painted in a Protestant colour! We should despise and abhor all such silly trash as that! I like the peace which looks down from heaven, the peace which is already made, the peace which is eternally settled. When there is peace settled between nations, there are what are termed the "preliminaries of peace." And if I might be allowed to state what the preliminaries of this peace were, I should say, they were nothing less than the bringing to Jehovah all the glory due to His name, the paying to Jehovah all the debt contracted by His Church, and the subduing, before Jehovah, of every rebellious feeling against God in His Church, according to the passage cited in my prayer, "The bringing of every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5)
Now this is the eternal peace which is recognized by these companions, and which shall give to the Lord, as the Psalmist says, "the glory due to His name;" it is the peace which shall give to Jehovah the full payment of all demands, perfect obedience, and full satisfaction of Divine justice. Nor is this enough; for though the sinner's debt may be paid, and the entire revenue of praise and glory brought to Jehovah's name, if you leave him to himself he refuses to bow to the sceptre of King Jesus; as long as you leave him to himself and his own proud-will, the language of his heart and his life will be, "I will not have this man to reign over me." (Luke 19:14) What more is to be done? Just that for which we cited the passage this moment, "Every thought brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Listen to this: a peace settled eternally in heaven for the Church, and accomplished in the Church by subduing the sinner's heart. Never imagine that a peace between God and a poor ruined sinner is effected by mutual compromises. It is no such thing. Never imagine, for a moment, that a sinner promises a great deal, whether he performs it or not, and that God concedes a good deal of His law and justice. No such thing, my brethren. This is Paganism. It is not Christianity. Christianity demands that the glory due to His name shall be rendered to the last mite, and that the sinner's heart shall be subdued to own the Prince of Peace as his rightful sovereign.
II. Let us pass on, in the second place, to notice the holy meeting-place of this wonderful company. Righteousness, peace, mercy and truth were met together. You know when God condescended to meet Moses and send him on his mission for the deliverance of the children of Israel, that He told him that the place whereon he stood was holy ground, because God had condescended to speak to him there. But what must we say of the holy ground whereon these Divine attributes meet? My hearers, there is but one meeting-place where they were ever seen together, and that is in the Person of our beloved Christ. They all meet in the Person of Christ, and no where else. He being the Mediator, the "Advocate on high," "Jesus Christ the righteous;" he having engaged to stand in the gap as the Daysman, all the attributes of Deity meet in Him.
Now, I shall just enumerate several of the meetings that have taken place, all in the Person of Christ, between mercy and truth, and righteousness and peace. And the first I shall mention is, the ancient council. We hear a great deal said by Papists and Puseylites, about ancient councils, most of which, however, were the vilest scenes of associated wickedness that ever disgraced the earth. Now, do not forget that; most of them were the vilest scenes of concentrated wickedness that ever disgraced the earth. The devil was the projector of them; and the matters in the decrees passed by them, were concocted in the bottomless pit, and brought forward for the purpose of troubling the world and the Church of Christ. They are not the sort of council I mean, then. I never heard or read of righteousness and peace, and mercy and truth, meeting there. Cruelties, murders, wickednesses, and persecutions were plotted there; but the councils in which these wondrous personages meet, if I may be allowed to personify them, was the council of peace, of which we read, "The counsel of peace shall be between them." (Zech. 6:13) There, in grand and ancient settlements on behalf of man, in the glorious presence and perfections of Deity, mercy went forth to engage to rescue him from the depths of his misery. Truth was consulted as it regards the manner and method in which the ruined sinner should be recovered. Righteousness stepped in, and if I may so speak, volunteered its imputation, when that righteousness should be wrought out, and brought in, complete, for the whole election of grace. And peace immediately struck up the whole music of heaven, and carried it on, until the musicians were sent down to earth, to proclaim, "Glory to God in the highest; in earth peace, good-will towards men." (Luke 2:14) The one prominent thought I want to impress on your mind here, is, that in that council of peace, in that grand assembly, in that ancient settlement, where all the predestinating enactments were passed, of which the Bible is so full, all the attributes of Deity were in perfect harmony.
Again, these wonderful companions met together upon Mount Calvary. I pass over a number of meetings, which I might name, as having taken place previously; but there the scene is most interesting, the circumstances most affecting, the triumphs most glorious. While all the perfections of Deity were assembled, the Prince of Darkness was summoned to witness, there to have his head bruised, with such a bruise as shall never be healed. Angels looked on with wonder. Malicious sinners were actors in the tremendous scene. When the Son of God "trod the winepress alone," (Isa. 63:3) all the glorified spirits in heaven awaited the grand event. Mercy had wafted thousands of them there, and stationed them in mansions of bliss. Truth was in expectation of all the terms being carried out, and the preliminaries fulfilled. Watch them on Mount Calvary. Righteousness, complete and perfect, was there, dyed in blood Divine, for all the election of grace to wear. And He, who is our peace, made peace, by the blood of His cross, on purpose for His Church.
Come, beloved, let us take our stand this morning hard-by the cross. Let us turn our backs upon Pontius Pilate, upon the rage of the Jews, upon the Roman soldiery, and even upon the cruel executioners: let us forget them all, and see mercy smiling from the thorn-torn countenance of a dying Christ; truth satisfied, and exulting in the finishing of the work the Father had given Him to do; righteousness accomplished and perfected on behalf of the whole Church; and peace, bursting forth from the wounded side of the expiring victim, to extend through the length and breadth of creation, to find out all the election of God, and cheer them with the commencement of heaven in their souls. There they met on Calvary, and a glorious meeting it was. Away then fled Satan. The centurion was astounded, and cried out, "Surely this man was the Son of God." The Church in heaven struck up their harps anew. The glorified spirits around the throne, seemed fresh-fired with glory; and all the redeemed of the Lord are brought to repentance and to believe in Jesus Christ's dear name, and from that day to this, have exulted. "He is our peace."
Did they meet again? Yes, they have met again, in the living Church of the living God. And here let me remind you, that it is this glorious meeting of those wondrous personages in the Person of Christ, in the Church of the living God, that distinguishes the living Church from the dead Church, from the world's Church, I make no apology for such an appellation. The living Church of God is admitted to the privileges of the covenant of grace and the gospel of Christ; the living Church of God is allowed to commence her heaven upon earth, is rendered happy in the enjoyment of God, is consecrated and devoted to God, and receives continual supplies of the grace of God. How is this, but with the consent, the mutual consent and harmony, of mercy and truth, and righteousness and peace? In every living soul of the living Church of God, there must be the assemblage of these four attributes, known, received, understood, and adored, and trusted, or he has not solid rest and peace in his experience. Now, I know, if you take some individual professors, and converse with them apart, you will find them just at the point I have mentioned in the former part of our subject. When you talk about the mercy of God, they will say, "Yes, God is merciful. We are not worse than our neighbours. He is merciful, and does not make men to destroy them; and we shall just have time, before we die, to fly to His mercy." Not one word about truth; not one word about righteousness; they leap over both these, and come to peace. They say, "God is merciful. I owe that I am a sinner. But I shall have just time to make my peace with God at the end of my career." Truth and righteousness are out of the question. I do not like this un-marrying of things, this dissolving and dividing of the Divine attributes. If you please, we must let mercy have her husband. I pray you, bear with the familiarity of my phraseology: we must have the union between mercy and truth. And not only must the truth of God, and the statements I have been naming, be accomplished and carried out, but all the truth that is written in the Word, that is revealed in its doctrines, that is set forth in the gospel, must be applied, received, and embraced, by every soul, to enjoy covenant mercy in the covenant sense, and get to heaven by it.
My hearers, mercy will not violate truth. Truth will not allow mercy to exercise her sacred and holy prerogatives alone; truth must go hand in hand with her; and therefore it is, that we find them so frequently coupled together in the precious volume of inspiration.
Moreover, righteousness is insisted upon, because the word stands unaltered: "I will by no means clear the guilty;" because the declaration has not been revoked, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." So that while peace is sought after, you can never have peace with God, or in your own conscience, under any circumstances, or by any means, but in and by the imputed righteousness of the Son of God, and on grounds which shall fully justify Jehovah's righteous conduct concerning all the creatures He has formed. Blessed Church, where these wondrous companions meet! Blessed Church, where, in the proclamation of truth, in the administration of ordinances, in the enjoyment of Christian fellowship, and in the life and walk of the believing family of God, mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, are habitually asserted, and all honoured.
I cannot allow the phrase which is sometimes employed, of "darling attribute;" I cannot give it even to mercy, I cannot give it even to truth; I cannot give it even to righteousness; no, nor even to peace. It belongs to all of them alike. All the attributes of Deity are equally "darling," if I may use the term, equally dear to Him, and I cannot allow one to be set up in opposition to the other. Are they to meet again? They are all, in the Person of Christ, and cannot break up their meeting. Yes, they are to meet again. Once more I shall name the meeting of these Divine attributes, and that is to crown Christ, in the last day, in the grand coronation, when Jehovah Jesus shall appear in His cloud-built throne, with all the angels of God attending upon Him, with all His ransomed throng surrounding Him, and all His enemies once for all to gaze upon Him, to be crowned King of Zion, King of saints, King of glory, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Mercy says, "I will crown Him, for He is the mercy promised, the whole sum and substance of the covenant of mercy, the first-born of the womb of mercy. I will crown Him as the mercy of the Father." Truth says, "I will crown Him; for He is the truth emphatically; for He said himself, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.'" (John 14:6) Righteousness too, shall crown Him, for she will begin to sing, "I have been a long time the girdle of His loins and reins, and now shall fix His crown upon His head. He is King of righteousness, King of Salem, and King of peace." And peace shall crown Him; for He is our peace, who hath brought us nigh to Him, to enjoy that peace, in communion with God. And am I to be present at the coronation? Shall this voice of mine be uplifted, to cry, "Crown Him, crown Him Lord of all?" Oh, it shall shout the loudest of the assembly, and my crown, among the rest, my crown of righteousness, which God, the righteous Judge, shall give, shall be cast at His feet, and be worn by Himself for ever.
But I hasten to remark, that all the attributes of Deity are embodied in the official character of Christ: I pray you, do not lose sight of that; because the manner in which Christ is preached in our day is such, that the hearers can have no idea of His bearing an official character; and therefore I wish always to introduce it, that you may be instructed in the mysteries of the kingdom, as they are revealed in the Word of God. The precious, glorious Christ of God, the meeting-place of all the Divine attributes in behalf of man, is not of a merely promiscuous character, not a mere stranger passing by, as Simon, the Cyrenean, upon whom they laid the cross. But He stood in an official capacity, a covenant Head, a Representative, a Daysman, anointed for that purpose; and therefore He is emphatically called "anointed." In His official character, He stood responsible to all these attributes. And, oh! What love and confidence did the Father show He had in Him, by calling Him His beloved Son, in whom He was well pleased; entrusting the honour, the dignity, the immutability, and the glory of all His attributes, with this precious Christ, in His official character. All must be left there: and, therefore, when our dear Lord finished His work on earth, He appealed to His Father, with "I have glorified thee upon the earth." (John 17:4) Yes, it was His official business here, that every attribute of Deity might be glorified on the earth. Nor are these I have named the whole, but I use them to include the whole, and as the representatives of the whole; and insist that all the attributes and perfections of Deity were entrusted to Jesus in His official capacity. They were essentially His own, as God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, but entrusted to Him in His official capacity, to be honoured on behalf of man. So that mercy will be displayed, truth have its demands met, righteousness be perfect and complete, and peace be eternally settled, all by Him, and in Him, and in the official character He sustained. Had He failed in any one point, His official character had been forfeited, and all that He had done rendered abortive and useless: but we glory in the thought that He did not, could not, and would not, bow His head, and cry, "It is finished," until all was finished. And then, having embodied in Himself all the attributes of Deity officially, and glorified them, He adds, in His last prayer before He suffered, "And now come I unto thee. I came forth from thee in an official capacity, and received my commission at the Father's hand, to do all that was requisite. Now I come back unto thee. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self" mind you, nothing but Himself "with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (John 17:5)
III. Let us now attempt to offer a thought or two relative to the object of this meeting. Whichever of these meetings you recognize or fix your attention upon, I think the object will come in under the three following particulars: The arranging and accomplishing of redemption; the communication of the blessings of salvation; and the exaltation and glorifying of Jehovah's name. The arranging, I cannot use any other word, the arranging and accomplishing the great work of redemption. The arrangement was in infinite wisdom. And is it possible to conceive that infinite wisdom would arrange the whole plan of redemption so as to render nothing certain, nothing secure, but to leave all with the possibility and the probability, nay, I may add, with the certainty, of being a failure at last? yet, according to the silly, Popish, universal-redemption scheme, it would be the matter of fact, that all the Persons and attributes of Deity, assembled in council, arranged a plan to save the entire family of God, the whole election of grace, all the members of Christ's mystical body, but did it so vaguely and imperfectly, and left it so incoherent or conditional, that one kick of the cloven foot of Satan destroys it all; one sin in the poor ruined sinner, to be redeemed, neutralizes it all. Why, what sort of a God, what sort of redemption, what sort of security does all this present to our view? Oh, no; if mercy and truth, and righteousness and peace, met and embraced each other, to arrange a plan, and to save me, the glory of the Divine attributes is at stake; the honour and the perfections of the very Deity are pledged; and that redemption, which is to rescue me from the ruin of the fall, bring me out of the drudgery of sin, and take me home to Him, must be inviolable, or we know nothing of His Godhead. The universal-redemption scheme is the very quintessence of Atheism. "Oh, do not speak so strongly!" I hear some of you exclaim. I repeat it, and can prove it. The universal-redemption scheme is the very quintessence of Atheism; for it denies the immutability of God the Father: He may love one day, and hate another. It denies the official character of the Lord Jesus Christ, and throws in a promiscuous multitude of contingencies and conditions. And it denies the official power of God the Holy Ghost; as if sinners were too strong, and He could not conquer them. Consequently, if God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be denied, nothing is left but Atheism. Oh, compare spiritual things with spiritual, and you will discover that, inasmuch as righteousness and peace, mercy and truth, have met to arrange and accomplish redemption for ruined sinners, it could be nothing else but what the apostle calls eternal redemption "having obtained eternal redemption for us," in the Person of Christ.
A word more. In the accomplishment, as well as the arrangement of redemption, we must include the entire rescue of the captives. Not merely the satisfaction of all the Divine attributes, not merely the removal of obstacles, not merely the paying down of the price; but the rescue, the safe, the certain, and the permanent rescue of all the captives. That sweet portion has been much upon my mind, from the time I awoke this morning, "Thus, saith the Lord, shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive be delivered?" I passed over that part, and I said to myself, "No; if the devil is to have his own way, certainly they shall not; and no doubt he will be busy enough today, against all the ambassadors of Christ, to stir up their prejudices, and work upon their carnal reasonings and feelings." But what said the other half of this portion of the Word of God? "Thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children." (Isa. 49:25)
Here, then, these wondrous, glorious Personages carry their work out, contending with all that contend against the Church of Christ, and saving, delivering, rescuing, bringing out of nature's darkness and the thraldom of sin, all whom Jesus died to redeem. Follow this on, by just glancing at the second feature of their object: the communication of the blessings of salvation to the subjects of Divine love. Here I must revert to the position which we took last Lord's-day, of man's being powerless, utterly powerless, with regard to everything spiritual, and insist that not one of the blessings of salvation, such as pardon, justification, sanctification, adoption and its enjoyments, or any other of the blessings of the gospel, ever was or ever can be realized by one child of Adam, but as communicated by those glorious Personages sent down from heaven. "He sent redemption to His people." (Ps. 111:9) "The Word of this salvation is sent unto you," is the language of the apostle. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17) So that while the grand scheme of redemption is arranged perfectly, and accomplished fully, it now becomes the work and office of God the Holy Ghost to communicate the blessings, as saith the beloved Son of God himself: "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14)"the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me." (John 15:26) Consequently, we are expecting, looking, and praying for the presence and power of God the Holy Ghost in our assemblies, from time to time.
I hope you prayed earnestly for it this morning, that He would not suffer His Word to be preached in vain, but apply it to the sinner's heart, to communicate first of all the conviction of sin, and life Divine; then the seal of forgiveness, pardoning mercy brought down to personal, sensible enjoyment, so that the poor soul which has fallen into sin, may know that the Lord hath cast his sins behind his back, and, with the Psalmist say, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases." (Ps. 103:2,3) These blessings are brought down from on high. Then the justification in which we stand compete and accepted before God, is brought down. Then the righteousness, which is said to justify, is "unto all and upon all," and the Holy Ghost brings it down; faith appropriates it, and that very faith is from the Holy Ghost, and we have no power to accept or receive that righteousness, but as it comes from heaven. All is of God; and we rejoice in the fact, that it is His prerogative to communicate the blessing, as well as His glorious work, to arrange and accomplish the redemption.
Let us pause here, in order to ask, what communications you and I have from the throne. That will settle all with us. Talk not of amiable dispositions, of lovely tempers, of extensive education, of cultivated minds. I think I value every one of these things as much as any of you ought. But, my hearer, you may have them all, and perish eternally, with them in your possession. They are not spiritual; they belong only to nature. I beseech you, then, ask the question, "What communications have I from above?" "A man can receive nothing," my Lord and Master says, "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from above." (John 3:27) Do not let us have any quarrelling with God for having His own way of doing things. Your business is, to remember that He is God, and simply to ask, "Is this the work of God or not?" It is then our mercy to have every thought brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and bow, not merely to what my fallen reason comprehends, but to all that my Lord says, and His precious Word contains. Oh, the blessedness of those of you, my brethren and sisters in the Lord, who have been brought to the feet of Jesus, and have there received heavenly communications from above! How soft the whispers of His voice! How sweet the tokens of His love! How gracious are promises applied! How cheering the views of personal relationship to Him, which have been vouchsafed! How unctuous the anointings of the Holy Ghost! How pointed, powerful, and sharp, the quickenings of the Spirit! How delightful the views of the fullness of the covenant of grace, when He has condescended to show it! For "He will show them His covenant." (Ps. 25:14) How close the clinging to the Person of Christ, where they all center! How fervent the breathings! How ardent the affections! How aspiring the desires, when Jehovah condescends to make His communications of "grace for grace," from the throne! And we receive even "grace for grace."
Oh, beloved! You who know those happy moments, and I think that I, too, know a little of them, you who know those happy moments of secret reclining at the foot of the cross, and receiving communications from above, can best tell what a paltry toy the world then becomes; how empty and vain it seems; how odious is sin; how precious the Christ of God; and how delightful the harmony of all the Divine attributes in the Person of Christ, when thus engaged in carrying out their object, and bringing communications of grace, life, and comfort to the souls of the Lord's redeemed.
But, leaving those communications from above, our remarks on which we might extend to great length, in speaking of the enjoyment of sermons and of ordinances, the calling of His graces into exercise, filling them with new vigour, enabling us to cleave close to Christ, and follow hard after God, I pass on to the closing remark, that the object of this wondrous assemblage of Divine attributes is the exalting and glorifying Jehovah's name. How often do we find it repeated in His Word, especially in the book of Psalms "I will be exalted in the earth" "I will be exalted among the heathen" "I will be exalted above the heavens." Be sure of this one thing, that whatever tends directly to exalt Jehovah's name in the glories of His self-existence, in the Trinity of His Persons, in the self-existence of His perfections and attributes, as well as the righteousness and justice of all His dispensations, is to the soul's advantage and the soul's profit. You cannot separate them. What does not glorify God, cannot do good to your souls.
Will you carry that with you into every rank of life you move in, into every neighbourhood you visit, into every business you perform? Bear this in mind, whatever glorifies not Jehovah's name, cannot be profitable to you. Though it may gratify human nature, it will bring leanness into the soul. "He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." (Ps. 106:15) We should therefore do well, in every enterprise, in every undertaking, in every step we take, and in every one of our movements, to ask, "Do we aim at Jehovah's glory; do we exalt His precious name; do we honour the God who hath saved us; will it bring a revenue of praise to Him?" I am increasingly convinced that Christians do not shine bright enough in the world through which they are passing. They are commanded to "let their light so shine before men, that they may see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) I would have principles the most sound and irrefutable, implanted in your hearts. I would have knowledge, as clear as a noon-day sun, of the grand scheme of grace, received and enjoyed in your experience; but I must have my covenant God and Father exalted, honoured, and glorified. I must have such converse, such life and walk, such zeal in His cause, such activity to promote His glory, such effort thrown forth for the advantage of our fellow-Christians, and the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom upon earth, as will prove you to be in earnest, and to belong to Him. Then you shall have the object of the meeting of these great personages carried out in your personal experience; because, while all that redemption work has accomplished, is secure and inviolable, and all that salvation can bestow, is constantly pouring down from the throne, to be received in empty vessels, the exaltation of Jehovah's name will be dear to the heart of every elect vessel of mercy. And, what a display! What an unfolding of glory! What shouts of exultation! What loud and rapturous, and eternal hallelujahs shall we soon recognize, and unite in, when all the general assembly and Church of the first-born that are written in heaven, shall meet around the throne, with powers and faculties renewed, with heavenly capacities, and bodies like unto Christ's own, to vie with each other through eternal day, in ascribing glory, and honour, and might, and majesty, and dominion, and power, unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever, and ever. Amen.