The Ordering of the Cause before the Mercy Seat - Part 2
(ii) But there is another clause of the text, in which Job declares what he would do if the Lord would indulge him with access to his presence; "I would fill my mouth," he says, "with arguments." What! could not Job pray without access? No; prayer is a supernatural thing, the gift and work of God the Spirit in the heart. We cannot pray whenever we please; we may use words, may bend our knee, and utter a number of expressions; but we cannot pray spiritually except the Lord the Spirit help our infirmities; for "we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." Ro 8:26.
Job, then, says, if the Lord would but enable him to come before his mercy-seat, he would "fill his mouth with arguments." He could not do so till the Lord enabled him. But if he could but find the Lord, if he could but have access to his gracious Majesty; if he could but be indulged with one glimpse of his countenance: if he could but feel the drawing of his Spirit; if he could but know his ear was open; he "would fill his mouth with arguments" to move the divine clemency. What arguments, think you, would he make use of? Let us look at them. When a Counsellor stands up to plead a cause, he must have, you know, some arguments, or it is of no use to take up the time of the Court. So when the soul comes before the Lord, it must make use of some argument to move the bowels of divine compassion.
But what arguments would he make use of? Would he tell the Lord what great things he had done for him; The scores of pounds and shillings he had spent in his cause, the many Societies he subscribed to, the quantity of tracts and Bibles he had dispersed abroad, the number of sermons he had heard, the numerous times he had knelt at the sacrament or sat down to the ordinance, the regularity of his private and family prayer, and the duties civil and religious that he had so faithfully discharged? The Court will not hear such arguments; the King of kings will not listen to such pleas; not one of them is valid in the Court above. None but Jesus merits and righteousness are pleadable there. If a man comes into that court with his own doings and duties, he will meet with no acceptance; he has not an argument that the Judge will listen to.
When, then, the spiritual petitioner fills his mouth with arguments, there will not be one taken from his own piety, consistency, or sincerity. For, mark you, he goes as a petitioner, not as a claimant. Talk of claiming spiritual favours! A condemned felon in Newgate might as well claim a pardon, as a sinner claim God s mercy; a bankrupt lawyer might as well claim to be Lord Chancellor, as a poor insolvent, who has nothing to pay, claim heaven and glory. What can men know of themselves, and of the God they profess to serve, who set up this presumptuous notion of claiming spiritual blessings? What is given to us is given on the footing of mercy, not on the footing of claim. If we claim anything, it is hell and damnation; we can claim nothing else. But as to claiming mercy, pardon, love, blood, salvation, and glory, a man who knows what he is by divine teaching will never dare to do it before a throne of mercy. I do not say, that good men have never used the term; Hart says,
"Brethren, by this your claim abide;"
but he means, not your claim upon God, but your claim against Satan; these are very different things.
But let us look at the arguments that Job s mouth would be filled with. All the arguments he would make use of, may be divided into two classes. One class would be taken from his own misery, and the other from God s mercy; all spiritual arguments are included under these two heads.
(i) He would tell, then, the Lord what a filthy creature, what a vile sinner, what a base backslider he was; that, in a thousand instances, he had deserved eternal wrath and indignation; that he had never done any one thing spiritually good; that he was a rebel and a wretch, and had done everything to provoke the Majesty of the Most High. This class of arguments is made up of mourning, sighing, groaning, and bemoaning our lost, ruined, and helpless condition. O, these are very preveiling arguments with the divine clemency!
Look at what the Lord himself sets forth in that wonderful chapter, Eze 16! What was the moving argument o! the Lord to spread his skirt over the child left to perish in the wilderness? Why, the wretched, lost, and ruined condition of that child. There was no eye to pity the perishing outcast; but its helpless state moved the divine clemency. And is not that too a preveiling argument with us? When we see a man clothed in rags, starving with hunger, cold, emaciated by sickness, and misery painted in all his features-is not that a moving argument to give him relief? A beggar must not come to our house if he wants to get anything, looking hale and hearty, well-clothed and well-fed. Nor must a beggar go before the throne of the Lord well-clothed, well-shod, and his eyes standing out with fatness; he will never so move the bowels of divine clemency. A beggar need not speak; his rags and sores speak for him. Or look at a mother with her infant; the very helplessness of the child is the moving argument for her tender care. The cry of the child is the moving argument for her to give the nutritious breast. The-nakedness in which the child comes into the world is the moving argument why the clothes should be got ready, and the child dressed in them. Ye mothers, are not these the arguments that move your tender bosom?
So when a poor soul comes before the Lord, he fills his mouth with similar arguments. His helplessness, sinfullness, wretchedness, misery; his lost, ruined, and desperate condition; his inability to do good, his headlong proneness to evil; his filth, his guilt, his rags; -O what a class of arguments to move the divine clemency with! If enabled to come before the mercy-seat, his mouth will be filled with these arguments. And shall we not tell the Lord what base backslidings we have committed? Shall we not confess what inconsistencies we have fallen into? Shall we not catalogue before him the various slips and falls we have been guilty of? Shall we not tell him that nothing but his mercy can save such hell-deserving wretches?
These are very humbling arguments for a man to fill his mouth with. It is a very humbling place for a sinner to take. I am not surprised we have so many bold claimants. It is much pleasanter to go to a gentleman s front door, and give a double knock as an equal, than tap at the back door as a beggar. To go into a banking house, present a draft, and say, "Pay me that!" is much less humbling than to beg for a halfpenny in the street. That is the very reason why there are so many bold claimants in the visible church. They cannot bear to be humbled under a sense of wretchedness, helplessness, and misery; they cannot endure to be beggars and paupers; so they rush on the bosses of God s buckler with a presumptuous claim. I am sure of this, if God the Spirit bring such to his mercy-seat, he will effectually cut up their presumption, root and branch, and will bring them as needy petitioners-not to claim, but to beg -not to rush presumptuously on, but to wait till the Lord bids them approach.
(ii) But there is another class of arguments which the poor soul will make use of; such as are drawn from God s mercy in the face of Jesus Christ. And as the first class of arguments is drawn from creature helplessness, creature ruin, and creature misery; so the second class of arguments is drawn from God s superabounding grace in the Person, face, blood, and work of Jesus. And I may add, that the first class of arguments taken from our misery will have no prevalence in his holy court, unless there was mercy, pardon, and salvation laid up in the Person and work of the Son of God. Our ruin and misery do not of themselves move the divine clemency; but because Jesus has made a way for pardon through his atoning blood, so that it flows freely through him; and God now can be "just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus;" therefore, it is that man s helplessness, ruin, and misery are pleadable in the court of heaven.
One grand argument of this latter class that the soul makes use of, is the promises that God has made. Has he not, for instance, promised to hear and answer prayer? Has he not said, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out?" Joh 6:37 Has he not said, "Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat, yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price?" Isa 55:1 Has he not said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest?" Mt 11:28 The soul that comes to the mercy-seat employs as arguments these promises in the Word.
He also rakes over what God has done in times past for him. Has not the Lord delivered and blessed me? Has not the Lord shewn himself merciful and gracious? Will he not appear again? "Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" Ps 77:7-9. So the soul takes occasion from the past to ask for the future; and uses all those arguments that his mouth is filled with, in order to prevail upon divine compassion to bestow mercy, peace, and salvation, and manifest Himself once more.
Sometimes the spiritual petitioner takes occasion from what God has done for others. He cannot always trace out clearly the work of grace in himself, but looks at what the Lord has done for others, especially at what he has done for those recorded in the Word. He sees an adulterous and murderous David restored, a bloody Manasseh pardoned, a backsliding Peter reclaimed, and a persecuting Saul called by divine grace. And he sees how in repeated similiar instances grace has superabounded over sin. Is there not, too, some brother or sister, some wife or husband, some parent or child, some friend and companion, whose experience is commended to his conscience, to whom the Lord has shown mercy blessed and delivered?
All these are made use of, because his mouth is to be "filled with arguments;" yes, with as many as ever it can bring. Will not a pleading soul make use of every argument that it can think of, to move the divine compassion? How piteously will a man in want plead to have his necessities relieved! How he will try to touch the string that most vibrates in our natural heart! How the poor blind beggar in the streets of the metropolis will cry, "Remember the blind!" because he knows what a string it touches! Even the imposters, of which this great city is full, use a whining tone to tell their pretended misery, because they know there is something in our heart that vibrates at the accents of woe. So with the spiritual beggar. If the Lord do but give him access to Himself, I know he will fill his mouth with arguments. O what a mercy it is to have a soul panting after the Lord, and not to be satisfied except with the presence of the living God!
What a mercy to lie upon our bed, and instead of having every vile thought working in the mind, every base imagination passing through our heart, to be crying to the Lord for the sweet manifestations of his mercy and grace! And as we sit at home, what a mercy it is, instead of being full of ill-humour and worldliness, to have the soul sighing and breathing after the Lord that he would appear! I dare say, you gracious fathers and mothers, when all is still, and your children are in bed, and you sit up a little while after them, you know what it is now and then to pant after the Lord s presence and the manifestations and revelations of his goodness in your heart. I know something of this matter. I know it is very sweet, when all is still and quiet, to have the soul going out after the Lord in earnest breathings after his manifested presence, to feel the dew of his favour upon our branch, and enjoy nearness of access and approach unto him. Then is the time when we fill our mouth with arguments. Why, sometimes it is as hard to leave off, as at others it is hard to begin. Sometimes the soul can no more help praying, breathing, and panting after the Lord, shall I say half-an-hour, an hour, or two hours together, than at other times, it cannot breathe out a single petition, or feel a single desire after the living God.
Now, was not Job here, the old patriarch, whose experience is recorded for our strength and consolation? Was not Job in the same spot where we often are? Why, if the old patriarch had not known something of access and of pouring out his very soul before the mercy-seat, he would not have wanted to order his cause before the Lord, and fill his mouth with arguments.
Are there not many here this evening, in whose ears I have uttered nothing but enigmas, and who know no more spiritually and experimentally of what I have been speaking than if I had been talking in Arabic or Hebrew? We must get into these spots, into these circumstances, before we can know anything of these things in soul experience. If this aged patriarch had not known what it was to be shut up in his mind, harassed, and distressed, and well-nigh overwhelmed with the attacks of the wicked one, he would not have said, "Oh that I knew where I might find him; that I might come even to his seat; I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments!" Job 23:3,4 Has that ever been, is it now, the genuine feeling, the real experience of your soul?
Do look into your heart, you that fear God. Do look for a moment, if you have never looked before, at the work of grace, and where are you, if you have never looked at it? and consider if you know any of these matters. Did you ever, in a feeling of darkness, gloom, bondage, and distress of soul cry, I do not say the words, it is the feelings we want, let the words go, "Oh that I knew where I might find him!" "Lord I do want to find thee; my soul longs after thee; I want a taste of thy blessed presence; I want to embrace thee in the arms of my faith; I want the sweet testimonies of thy gracious lips; Oh that I knew where I might find thee! I would not care what I went through."
If so, then these very things shew that you have the fear of God in your souls, and the teaching of the Spirit in your hearts. You are where Job was; and know ten thousand times more than all the dry Calvinists, and all the presumptuous claimants that swarm in this metropolis. There is more true religion in a poor tried, exercised, tempted soul, who most deeply feels the power of unbelief, and is pressed by mountains of guilt; there is more of vital godliness, more of divine teaching in such a man, than in a whole chapel full of presumptuous claimants, who have never known God or themselves; who have never found God by a discovery of Himself to their consciences, who have never known anything of the horrible depths of nature s evil, nor groaned under the workings of inward corruption.
I say then, if you know something of what Job speaks here, "Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!"-if that is the desire of your soul, you have Job s affliction in this matter, and you will have Job s deliverance, Job s joy, Job s peace, and Job s salvation. Job s God is your God, and you will be where Job now is, bathing your ransomed soul in all the glory of the Lamb.
It is a mercy to know by heart experience what the Holy Ghost has revealed here; and it is better, if it be the will of God, to be groaning out, "Oh that I knew where I might find him!"-it is a thousand times better to be groaning out this in darkness, solitude, heaviness, and misery, through mourning and sorrowing, than to have a name to live while dead, and the form of godliness, while you inwardly and outwardly deny the power of it. For this is divine teaching, this is the work of grace, this is the life of God in the soul, this is the kingdom of God in the heart. And those who know these things by divine teaching will one day mount up and be where Christ is, be with the Lord of life and glory, and enjoy his blessed presence for ever.
There are many persons present who perhaps will not hear my voice again, as this is the last Lord s day that I speak here. I leave this testimony, therefore, to the blessing of God, and may he apply it to your conscience. What you know of this heart-felt experience, and of these dealings of God in your soul, the Lord enable you that fear him to look at and examine; and may he give us sweet testimonies that we do know these things by his divine power. In his hands, then, do I leave it; and God grant, that the "bread cast upon the waters may be found after many days." I have endeavoured to deliver my own conscience, and to speak the truth in all faithfulness as far as I know it, neither seeking to please, nor fearing to offend; but leaving the matter simply in the Lord s hands that he may apply it powerfully, and seal it upon the hearts of his own people, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.