The Precious Taken Forth from the Vile (Part 2)
IV. -But again. There are precious practices and there are vile practices. And these "precious" practices and these "vile" practices are to be separated; the "precious" practice is to be taken forth, and the "vile" practice is to be shewn up in its true colours.
Everything that springs from the flesh is "vile," and everything that springs from the Spirit is "precious." Two persons shall do the same act: it shall be a "precious" act in the one man, it shall be a "vile" act in the other. This evening, two men shall pass the same plate; they shall give exactly the same sum; and yet the gift shall be "precious" in the one, and the very same gift shall be "vile" in the other. Why? Because it springs from different motives. When a man does what he does with a single eye to God s glory -when he is moved by the Spirit-when he is led by gracious feelings, when he is wrought upon by divine motives, what he does is "precious." But when he does the very same thing from carnal motives and fleshly reasons, from the workings of nature in its best and brightest form -that very same act is "vile" in him which is precious in another man.
But these things are often mingled together; and therefore the man of God is sent to distinguish them. There are wolves in sheep s clothing: there are goats that bleat, and sheep that grunt. The swine may be washed, and the dog may leave his vomit; but this does not give either a sheep s heart. A sheep may besmear itself; but that does not give it the heart of a dog. So a minister, who stands up in the Lord s name, is to distinguish betwixt the "precious" and the "vile." He is not to set down all to the Spirit s work that appears at the first blush and merely at the surface to be of his operation: he is to enter, beyond the surface, into the depth of divine teaching in the soul, and look into the secret chambers where God the Spirit works. And then he will find, that many things are precious which apparently are vile, and many things vile which apparently are precious.
There shall be two men in this congregation; they shall come here regularly; they shall sit upon the same seat, perhaps belong to the same church, believe the same doctrines, profess the same truths; the one, perhaps, may have greater gifts than the other, more able to explain his own mind than the other; and yet the one shall be "precious," and the other "vile." Their appearance is the same, their conduct the same, their consistency the same; yea, the "precious" may not walk so consistently apparently, nor be outwardly so unblemished as the other; yet one shall be really "precious," and the other truly "vile." The man of God is to look at objects in the Spirit s light; he is to trace out the work of God upon the heart, and separate that which is of God from that which is of man. This is the distinction he is to make, this is the line he is to draw. Whatever comes from the flesh -be it in its foulest, or be it in its fairest form -be it in its brightest, or be it in its blackest colours -is vile, abject, to be cast aside, and swept out of God s house. And whatever comes from God -however weak, however feeble, however trembling, however scanty, however little -is to be cherished, because it has come from God. He is not to be deceived by appearances, not to jumble into one vast heap precious characters and vile characters, precious doctrines and vile doctrines, precious experiences and vile experiences, precious practices and vile practices; but he is to take them forth, to separate them, to shew what is precious and what is vile; to lay them clearly down, cast the light of Scripture upon them, and trace them out by what he himself knows of the operations of the Spirit upon his own conscience. If he vitally and experimentally do this, he will be "as God s mouth."
11. -This leads me to the second part of the subject -to be "as God s mouth." What is God s mouth to do? God s mouth speaks to the heart. God s mouth addresses itself to men s conscience. God s mouth does a work for eternity. God s mouth penetrates through the ear into the very depth of the human soul, into which a heart-searching God alone can look. Now, if a man is enabled, by divine teaching, to take forth the precious from the vile, he is "as God s mouth," because then he speaks to men s consciences. If all be jumbled up together in one huge heap, if no line of distinction be drawn, if no separation be made -if there be no searching, no trying, no weighing up, no speaking to men s hearts and consciences, professor and profane, elect and reprobate, the hypocrite and the genuine child of God, are all mingled together, and the whole work of the Spirit upon the heart is made confused and uncertain. But when a man is enabled to trace out the heavenly teachings and divine operations of God the Spirit upon the heart and conscience, and say, This is of God, and that is of nature; this springs from divine teaching, and that is a counterfeit imitation; this is fleshly, and that is spiritual; this is the work of God, and that is the subtilty of the Devil; when he is thus enabled to disentangle them, to take one from the other, hold them up, explain them, and cast the light of the Spirit upon them, then God s children have a testimony, and will say, I have felt that! I have known that! this I have experienced! this has taken place in my heart! I am sure I have felt this, says one; I believe I have known that, says another. When the work of the Spirit is thus cleared up, there is a witness in the hearts of God s people that the minister preaches God s truth.
Now the Lord s people have in their hearts that which is "vile," and that which is "precious." They have a vile nature, and they have a precious nature. They have the workings of flesh in them, and they have the workings of grace. They have a nature that is as corrupt as it can be; and they have a holy and pure nature which cannot sin. But in their feelings these two are often mingled. They have vile desires, and they have precious desires. They have vile workings, and they have precious workings. And these are apparently mingled together, so that they often cannot tell- Does this come from God, or does this come from the Devil? I have been cast down -whence does that come? From God, or from Satan? I have been raised up -whence does that come? From God, or from the Wicked One? I have been comforted -whence did that spring? From the excitement of nature, or from the power of grace? I have had sweet discoveries whence came they? From God, or from Satan as an angel of light?
Thus the child of God will be exercised. He will not consider his experience is genuine as a matter of course. It must be explained and opened up to him. The light of God must shine upon it.
But when a man of God comes forth, and is enabled to take the precious from the vile, shew what is God s work, and what is not God s work, and what is the true teaching of the Spirit -then a child of God has a testimony in his conscience- this is of God - this is really genuine - this will stand in the day of judgment - I have a witness in my heart, a testimony in my soul, that I am under divine teaching. In this way a minister, as he takes forth the precious from the vile, becomes "as God s mouth." What he speaks comes with power. It does not merely fall upon the outward ear; it enters the heart, and does its work upon the conscience; it comes as from God into the hearts of God s people.
But what does God s mouth do? God
s mouth does two things.
God s mouth depresses, and God s mouth raises. God s mouth convinces, and
s mouth converts. God s mouth pulls down, and God s mouth
builds up. God s mouth slaughters, and God s mouth heals. God
Are these the things you love? When you go to hear, what is the preveiling bent of your heart? For amusement, from tradition, from custom? These are "vile" motives, not "precious" motives; for they do not spring out of the operations of God s Spirit. Do you go for this one purpose -that God may speak to your soul? Do you go with a single eye, looking up to the Lord, that he himself would speak to your heart -whether it be to reprove, or whether it be to comfort -whether it be to cast down, or whether it be to lift up? Do you look up to the Lord of life and glory. that he himself would speak to your heart? Now, if you do, you will want a minister who is "as God s mouth." You will not want his preaching to be all jumble and confusion; you have enough confusion and jumble in your hearts; you will want things disentangled. Sometimes you cannot see who are true characters; you will want them held up to your view, that you may see whether you are one. Sometimes in reference to doctrine, the mind will be confused; and you will want the truth held up to your view, that you may see which is the doctrine that bears the stamp of God upon it. Sometimes you will feel confused as to your own experience: it is not deep enough, or clear enough. It is a weighty matter with you. and you want to have it traced out, weighed up, and cleared up, that you may have a testimony it is the experience of God s saints. Sometimes you are perplexed as to practice - Is this thing to be done, or not to be done? Which is right, and which is wrong? Is it consistent or inconsistent? Is it agreeable to the mind and will of God? Now, you want a minister who can do this for you; who can shew you who are the people of God, and who are not -what is true in doctrine, and what is false in doctrine -what is sound in experience, and what is delusive -what is true in practice, and what is wrong. If you have eyes to see what is precious, and eyes to see what is vile -if you have hearts to love what is precious, and hearts to hate what is vile -you will want to have the crooked made so straight, the dark made so light, and the perplexed so plain, that you may see clearly for yourselves where you are and what you are, and thus have a sweet testimony that God is your God.
But where shall we find this ministry? Where shall we look for it? It is a mercy if you have it here. It is a mercy if the Lord sends forth from time to time his servants into this place, to take forth the precious from the vile. And I believe the Lord has a purpose in causing this place to stand for his own glory, that there may be such a ministry among his children, according to men s different abilities, graces, and gifts. The Lord, we would fain hope, has purposed that this place may stand at this end of the town, that the precious might be taken forth from the vile, and thus God s mouth might speak from within these walls to the heart and conscience of God s people. If it were not so, I should have no wish to stand here. I know that unless the Lord has taught and enabled me to take forth the precious from the vile, I have no business in any pulpit. For a man to stand there, to confuse truth and error, to blend together the children of God and the children of the Wicked One, to throw into one vast heap truth and lies, and not to distinguish betwixt the work of God and the work of the flesh -I know this, that God has never sent him into the vineyard. And I am sure, if God has not sent him. he will never profit God s people. But those whom the Lord has thus sent, thus equipped, and thus commissioned, he will bless to his people, for they are "as God s mouth." And you that fear God s name will sometimes have a sweet testimony in your consciences, that the mouth of God is speaking through them into your heart. You will have your doubts and fears sometimes removed: you will have your perplexities sometimes cleared up; you will have the secret feelings of your heart traced out; you will have the whole work of the Spirit upon your conscience brought before your eyes; you will have from time to time the secret liftings up of the light of God s countenance upon you, and refreshings from his presence, worth more than a thousand worms. And if you have ever felt the value and tasted the sweetness of these things in your soul, you will cleave to that ministry, and you will cleave to that people, who love these things. You will cleave to the men who, by divine grace and heavenly teachings, are enabled to set forth these things before God s own tried family; and you will say, To know and feel these things is all my salvation, and all my desire; let my lot be cast among this people, and let me enjoy the manifestations of the love and mercy of God to my soul. With this I can live contented, and with this I can die happy.
Now, have you any testimony in your conscience that such is the ministry in this chapel? Have you ever felt the men of God who have stood up in this place to be the mouth of God to you? Have they ever laid bare the secrets of your hearts? Have they ever traced out the work of grace upon your conscience? Have any consolations been received into your soul from their lips? Then you have a testimony that it is the word of God. And if so, you will, from time to time, prize such a ministry, and cleave to it with purpose of heart.