The Universal Invitation of the Gospel
by John Rusk
"Ho, everyone 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." Isaiah 55:1
From the Gospel Standard Magazine 1855
The beauty of this booklet is that it contains such a positive presentation of the gospel of God's free grace. There is no taint of that fleshly, creature religion that is the outcome when the preacher insists on asserting duty faith and duty repentance. Such an emphasis encourages a legal spirit and well suits fallen man who is by nature wedded to the covenant of works and wants to contribute something to his own salvation. Here we see that the gospel promise is for those who, by the application of the law, have been stripped of all self- strength. It is made plain that the invitations are suited to those who have been quickened to feel their total depravity and utter helplessness as sinners.
These contents are most striking as those of us who deny the free offer are accused of not really preaching the gospel properly, as has been evident in recent articles in the Christian press. Not surprisingly a measure of controversy has been stirred, and in exposing the false arguments employed against us a negative response might have been expected. However what we have here is not a yea and nay gospel but the true gospel in which God's promises in Christ are all yea and amen (2 Cor. 1:20).
John Rusk (1772-1834) was a hearer of William Huntington (1745-1813) and profited greatly under his faithful, discriminating ministry. Rusk himself was not a preacher, but he was a voluminous author, and as will be seen in these pages, a deeply taught man and a well instructed scribe in the mysteries of God's spiritual kingdom.
Henry Sant. April 1995.
The prophet Isaiah is called by some the evangelical prophet; and indeed he was led by the Holy Spirit to treat wonderfully about the Lord Jesus Christ and his finished work, from the manger to the cross; so that one would have thought those things took place in his days. In the 53rd chapter, he briefly traces the life of the Saviour, and in the 54th encourages all sensible sinners to rejoice in the complete work of the Son of God. Hence he says, "Sing, 0 barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud,"&c. But what is all this rejoicing about? Why, Christ has finished the whole work; and he did it for the barren, the desolate, for those that are ashamed, confounded, forsaken, and grieved in spirit, and that feel God's wrath; afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted; and, as he did the whole work for such characters as these, he says, "Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame;" and here is the whole cause; "for thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called." What a wonderful thing this is: "Thy Maker is thy husband;" and all this to the poor rejected and despised outcast Gentiles. Surely here is a foundation for real happiness, an everlasting union between the God of heaven and earth and all sensible, lost, and perishing sinners.
By the Lord's help, I shall show:-
We shall go through every particular as the Lord shall assist; and O that the Holy Spirit may guide me in writing, feeling, as I do, my utter inability, and my reader in reading, without which it will be all in vain, and make it a blessing to our souls.
I. Then what are we to understand by this thirst? "Ho, everyone that thirsteth." What causes this thirst in all God's elect, and for what do they thirst?
1. When God is pleased in a sovereign way, he puts his Spirit in every chosen vessel, and the effect of this is, life and light; not light in the head and a name to live. No; but he quickens a man to see and feel three things. He sees the spirituality of God's holy righteous law, and his own condemned state; and he sees that Christ Jesus is the only Saviour to all that believe; but that he, with all the rest of mankind, is shut up in unbelief, and as he sees all this, as he goes on, he is more and more parched with thirst. He is conscious that he is destitute of all righteousness, because he feels himself quite opposite to God's law, which commands love to God; and as for his neighbour, he finds what Paul says is true, that we are "hateful and hating one another," "and lovers of our own selves." But the Holy Spirit testifies to such a soul that Christ is the end of this law for righteousness and this makes such a one long for a manifestation of the Saviour . Hence you read, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
2. Again, such a soul thirsts after holiness. He wants to get rid of this vile nature, this abominable heart that is continually casting up mire and dirt. I remember years ago looking at a book about one Mrs. Rogers, an Arminian book; and O how I longed to be like her and like them; but O, I appeared a very devil, not outwardly, but in my feelings. Now, what such a soul thirsts after is the water of life, the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, to wash away this enmity, and produce love; to wash away this unbelief, and produce faith; hardness of heart, and give meekness; pride, and give humility; to cleanse him from all his filthiness, idols, and uncleanness; to create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within him. He therefore says with David, "O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!" It is not only his desire to be saved from the damning power of sin, but from its reigning power, and from the very in-being of it. He therefore thirsts to hear the pure gospel, and generally runs about a good deal after every "Lo here," or "Lo there," hoping to find a right preacher every time, but is continually disappointed. Hence you read, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord; and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east. They shall run to and fro, and seek the Word of the Lord, and shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12). To this agrees the prophet Isaiah: "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them." The gospel is good news to such. It is just what they need; and no labourer, hard at work on a hot summer's day, can be more parched with thirst literally than such are spiritually; and therefore God has promised to "pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground."
Now, both this righteousness, and this living water to wash and cleanse, come by the gospel. Hence Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith;"'
"Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word;" and "This is the Word, which by the gospel is preached unto you," says Peter. Therefore to such a fainting, thirsty soul, "how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that publish salvation - that publish peace - that publish good tidings of good - that say unto Zion, thy God reigneth." But this is not all. They thirst for the atonement of Christ, for they well know that, if they die in their sins, where Christ is they can never come. O how earnest are they at times with the Lord for a manifestation of this to their consciences. This comes also by the gospel; and therefore you read that forgiveness of sins was to be preached amongst all nations in Christ's name: "He that drinketh my blood hath everlasting life;" but it is the poor and needy, the guilty, a sinner lost and perishing in himself, that, like the publican, crieth out, "God be merciful to me a sinner," that shall know what this pardon is.
3. They thirst for the living and true God: "as the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God; My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?" (Ps 42:2). By reading the Psalm, you will find that the psalmist wanted to satisfy this thirst. He thirsted for the health of his countenance, earnestly wishing, longing, and desiring the Lord to visit his soul, to bring it health and cure, and reveal to him the abundance of peace and truth, which are the blessed effects of this visitation, and allay this thirst. He thirsted after the loving kindness of the Lord, for it is this that delivers the soul from bondage and slavish fear. "Perfect love casteth out fear;" and when the Lord appears kind to us, and admits us to make free with him in humble confidence, really this is a heaven upon earth; and at such times we can see his kindness in providence, supplying our need, and his kindness in grace, in the displays which we feel of his love to our souls. These are the things that David thirsted after. Again. He thirsted for a heart to praise God. Hence he says to his soul, "Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him." Thus you see what David's thirst was. It was for the living God; for the living God as a loving, kind God, to visit his soul, and that every faculty of it might be upon the stretch to praise his holy name. As he says in the 103rd Psalm, "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name." This thirst is at times in all believers; nor can they be satisfied till the Lord visits them; and while this influence lasts, they feel their thirst quenched.
4. But again, David tells us a little more about this thirst: "my soul thirsteth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is." (Ps 63: 1). No one thing parches and burns up, dries and withers, like heat or fire. Now there are many fires that God's children get into. There is the fire of inbred lusts of all sorts (James 1: 12-15). The tongue also that no man can tame is called a fire. Both of these David found, and therefore, in that dreadful fall, he had the first, and as respects the second, he prays God to "set a watch upon his mouth, and to keep the door of his lips." Persecution, also, is another parching fire. Hence David says, "If the Lord had not been on our side, then they had swallowed us up." (Ps. 124: 13). Jeremiah calls God's Word a fire; and so the Lord's family find it, when the Word comes with cutting reproof and rebuke, as it did with David after his fall, when Nathan, the prophet, came to him saying, "Thou art the man." Satan's fiery darts and blasphemous suggestions are called fire; and a dreadful fire they are. David was, I believe, no stranger to these.
Now let these fires parch and dry up a soul, and let such a one go and hear a letter preacher, he will find him a well without water, and a cloud without rain; so that he may truly call it a dry and thirsty land where no water is. In this Psalm, the psalmist tells us what of God he thirsts for: "To see thy power and glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary." This power is displayed in quenching these fires, and in raising the soul up in heart and affection to the Lord; so that the soul forgets all his troubles, and he sees the King in his beauty. The King is held in the galleries, and the whole soul glorifies God. This is pouring water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground; so that the parched ground becomes a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water. In the habitation of dragons (or our corrupt heart) where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
Reader, if you have spiritual life, you will find a thirst in your soul for the living God. No forms or modes of worship will satisfy this life. Christ crucified, preached to you by a minister of the Spirit and the Word brought home by the power of the Holy Ghost, this only will satisfy your thirst. Moreover, the moral law is a fire, which is to try every chosen vessel of mercy. Some have it very keen at first and some have it after they have been a good while, perhaps for years seeking the Lord; and others are greatly exercised with it all their days; but all shall feel this fire more or less. As it is written, "The Lord came from Sinai and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them." Observe how it is worded: "A fiery law for them." Now, under this teaching a man is scorched, burnt, and dried up. It burns up all his fleshly righteousness, all his false conceptions of God, all his dead works and everything that he formerly gloried in. Hence it is called "the rod of his wrath." David sorely felt it, and describes it thus, "when thou with rebukes correctest man for his iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like the moth." A sense of God's anger against us for sin is felt; "I am consumed by the blow of thine hand." Now, all this and much more is intended to dry us up, and it is so well managed of the Lord as to create a thirst in the soul for the cool and refreshing waters. "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country." This good news is the glad tidings of the everlasting gospel, and Christ Jesus is the whole of it, as the angel told the shepherds: "Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." This is the best news that ever reached the heart of a poor soul that is parched, dried up, scorched, and burnt with these fires; because these cooling, refreshing waters all flow from the Lord Jesus Christ; for if he had never assumed our nature and conquered every foe, magnified the holy law, wrought out and brought in an everlasting righteousness, satisfied divine justice &c., no living water ever could have come to us.
Having therefore shown the cause of this thirst - namely, life and light communicated to the soul by the Holy Ghost and of the dreadful discoveries such a soul has of his own heart, which makes him thirst for holiness, or a conformity to the image of God, that he thirsts to hear the gospel and thirsts for the living and true God; and also of the various fires such a soul gets into, which parch, dry, and bum up what can well be spared, cannot you clearly see what sort of thirst this is, and how it differs from the thirst of this world or a carnal professor? Can any man in his senses suppose that these living waters are promised to people that thirst for money, pleasure, honour, this world, a good name, gifts, abilities, and various other things? Must there not be a suitableness in the thing a man thirsts for? If a man literally is thirsty, gall is not suitable to him. If he is hungry, grass is not fit for him; and just so spiritually. If a man is dead to God, he thirsts for this world; but if alive to God, he thirsts after him. No one blessing of a spiritual nature is suitable to a man dead to God, any more than food is to a dead corpse. Sensible sinners are invited; poor, needy, destitute, lost, guilty, perishing, condemned, polluted wretches, that feel their true state under the quickening operation of the Holy Ghost - such characters are heartily welcome.
II. I come now to treat of these waters, and show the difference between a coming sinner and one that has already come: "Come ye to the waters."
Now, what I understand by these waters is God in Three Persons. This is the fountain head, from which we receive every drop of this living water. 1. God the Father goes by the name of water: "My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living water." &c. 2. God the Holy Ghost: "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth." 3. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried with a loud voice, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." (John 7:39). Thus the Three Divine Persons are called by the name of water, and, as the prophet Isaiah says, are the "wells of salvation." But there are many things which a thirsty soul needs which go by the name of water, and which he is to get by coming to the waters which I have mentioned, even the fountain Head; for they are to be got nowhere else.
1. He needs cleansing: "From all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you;" "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean." Of his mercy he saves us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing, of the Holy Ghost. And O how does a poor needy soul thirst for this cleansing, who feels the power that sin has over him and the vanity of his best vows and resolutions; who feels himself held fast down by his beloved lusts, which stick as close to him as his skin; Satan all the day long telling him he is an Antinomian, that sin reigns, and that he leads him captive at his will. Ah! None know but those who are thus entangled what hard and sore conflicts God's family have; for they cannot believe but that sin has full dominion over them. It is one thing to talkabout sin, and another thing to feel it. As fast as one corruption is subdued, another starts up, more formidable than ever; but there is no relief to be had except by coming to these waters; and remember, it is not once coming and getting cleansed, and then sitting down, saying, "I am cleansed," and so feeling no more trouble about sin. O no. If you ever expect to get such a cleansing as this in the world, you are greatly deceived; for you will be plagued this way till death; so that you will constantly need to come again and again, all your life, to the fountain for this clean water.
2. Life is another water that we are to have in abundant manner by coming to these waters, even the fountain head; and this we greatly need: "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." And do you know that none feel their need of this water of life but the man that has life? Say you, "that is a contradiction." Be that as it may, it is a grand truth; for, as I told you, life and light go first. If a man is spiritually dead, he cares nothing about this living water; so that the invitation is not to the dead, but to the living; and they do not come to these waters to receive life at first; but God gives them life, and then bids them come to these living waters. Now this is real truth; and, therefore, there is a preparatory work done in us by the Holy Spirit. To talk of a sinner dead in trespasses and sins coming to these waters, is talking nonsense. And what is it that those want who come? I answer, they want the atonement of Christ brought unto their conscience, to remove the guilt and burden of sin; for they've no rest in their souls; as David says, "There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger, nor rest in my bones because of my sins." The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin; and that is what every sensible sinner thirsts after, nor can he rest without it. This you may see in the publican. He dared not so much as lift his eyes to heaven, but smote his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" and God heard the groanings of his soul; for he went down to his house justified, which is justification unto life. Thus he obtained this living water. And this is a wonderful thing, that a sinner, all over sin from head to foot, original and actual sins, mounted up to heaven, "more in number than the hairs of his head," should be wholly acquitted by faith in Christ Jesus, and be as if he had never sinned in thought, word, or deed; fully delivered from all his sins, past, present, and to come: "He that drinketh my blood hath everlasting life," and God says he will "abundantly pardon." As Christ in the days of his flesh said, "I am come that my sheep might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
3. Again, righteousness is obtained by coming to these waters: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled;" not with their own righteousness, but with the righteousness of the Son of God, which he wrought out for all the elect, and for none else; and by a living faith in this perfect spotless righteousness, a man is justified freely from all things from which he could never be by the law of Moses. This is the one and only way. This is the righteousness which delivereth from death in all its branches, and is called water. "Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness."
4. Peace is obtained by coming to these waters. This peace every natural man is a stranger to, for destruction and misery are in all their ways, and the way of peace they know not. "'There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Peace is the effect and the fruit of Christ's death: "He made peace by the blood of his cross," and he ever lives to maintain it, and has promised to extend peace to us like a river, and righteousness like the waves of the sea. Wherever pardon and righteousness are, there is peace in that heart: "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace;" and "the work of righteousness is peace."
5. The love of God goes by the name of water. Hence Paul tells us that it is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us. This love was the self-motivating cause, neither can we trace any further back than this: "God so loved the world, that he gave his Son," &c; so that the death of Christ, the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, every unconditional promise, with all the blessings of the new covenant, all flow to us from Gods everlasting, unmerited love, through Jesus Christ, the Mediator and channel of all conveyance, by the blessed Spirit of all grace and truth, who reveals and makes it known, experimentally, to our souls. But you will say, "Is not strictly attending the ordinances of God's house coming to the waters?" Why, it is right to attend to what God has commanded; but you and I well know that these things of themselves are of no use; for Christ is the fullness of all the means we can use; and if he do not fill them, we must return with our pitchers empty. Therefore,
6. Lastly, The gospel, in the life and power of it, that takes in all that I have mentioned, as regeneration, life, the atonement and righteousness of Christ, peace with God, conscience, and the saints, and the everlasting love of God; this gospel is called water: "Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear O earth, the word of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." From which we may notice the degrees mentioned about this water. There are drops of this rain; there is the dew; and there are showers; and yet it is all water, and comes from this fountain, even God in Three Persons, as I first showed. But he gives it in a sovereign way, as it pleaseth him.
Having briefly showed the waters, let us take notice of the difference between a coming sinner and one that is already come: "Come ye to the waters."
1. A coming sinner has a keen appetite, a thirst for all that God has promised; but a sinner that has come has been satisfied. Christ says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink;" but you will agree with me, that when I have come to drink, my thirst is quenched. Now by this you may try yourself, and see whether you have as yet come to these waters, or whether you are only approaching; for, although you may have had some drops of rain, and likewise at times felt the heavenly dew, yet there is something wanting; and that is showers. I can remember that I had many sweet lifts, both under the Word and in private, with the saints, and in reading the Word and good books; but still I was a coming sinner, and therefore was not fully satisfied.
2. If you are a coming sinner, you will feel at times the weight and burden of your sin exceeding heavy, and you will be trying to extricate yourself by hard labour and toil to break off your sins by righteousness, but you will find no rest. Now a sinner that has come has found rest - rest from this legal, fruitless labour, rest from the weight and burden of his sin, and rest from an accusing pawing conscience. Thus, if you have come to these waters fully, you have been well satisfied, and have had rest.
3. If you are a coming sinner, you feel that you have no righteousness. Instead of love, which fulfils the law, you feel enmity and hatred; and, instead of feeling yourself satisfied with your performances, you really see and feel yourself ungodly, and opposed to every branch of righteousness. You will be, like Joshua the high priest, clothed with filthy garments. Satan, law, conscience, the world, and hypocrites will all accuse and condemn you. Yes, and you will keenly feel it; and the cause is, you have no righteousness. But a sinner that has come has on the spotless righteousness of Christ. Hence the church breaks out,"He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness." She was one then that had come to these waters.
If you are a coming sinner, you are in a perishing condition, you are starving, and have never, as yet, come to the feast which God has provided. You may have tasted that the Lord is good, gracious, and desired the sincere milk of the Word; yes, and have had a little peace, and a little love, and a little confidence; but these in general are but short lived. But the sinner that has come is one that has fed to the full upon Christ. He has eaten the flesh and drunk the blood of the Son of Man. He has partaken with the prodigal of the fatted calf, or Christ crucified; and therefore knows and is at a point in the full assurance of faith, that Christ, his Passover, was sacrificed for him, and he keeps the feast, a feast of fat things, full of marrow and fatness. Now literally, you and I can make a distinction in things; as for instance, one parched with thirst, and one that has drunk his fill; one that is worn out with hard labour and toil, and one that has had a good night's rest; one that is naked, or merely covered with rags, and one that has good clothing; one that is in a starving condition, and one that has abundance; and as it is literally, so it is spiritually. A coming sinner is the one, and the sinner that has come is the other. The full assurance of faith is the full assurance of satisfaction. You will find all that I am now treating in Ezekiel's prophecy. Look into it a little, and may the Lord make these considerations a blessing to our souls. The prophet says, "He brought me again unto the door of the house." Now, by this house I understand Christ Jesus, God and man united. From this house issued these holy waters, which they never could have done had not the Son of God become incarnate. We find that the prophet came through the waters to his ankles; and this may represent a coming sinner, having turned his back on this world, and his face Zionward. After this he is brought through these waters to his knees. This shows the strength that at times is communicated to the coming sinner. After this the waters were to the loins; and by this we may understand a being well equipped with truth. Truth is to be our shield and buckler; truth is to make us free; and Paul says, "Having your loins girt about with truth." Now certainly truth in the mind of the coming sinner is a great blessing; but still he is to go on further; so at last we find that these holy waters became a river to swim in; and this is the limit beyond which we cannot go. When a man gets here, he has come to these living waters as far as he can; but until this takes place, he is only coming. If you have not come here, you will find something deficient. You cannot take all the promises to yourself, all the blessings of the new covenant; you cannot believe that you are in a pardoned and justified state. You cannot claim God as your Father, with the inward witness of the Spirit. You are not delivered from the fear of death, neither can you triumph in the finished work of Christ. Now, seeing these things are attainable, it teaches us to come to these waters, and not to attempt to rest midway, but press towards the mark. I well remember a time when I could not take these covenant blessings to myself, and I have known a time that I have taken everything to myself, and it has been a river to swim in; for I never could take too much, nor go far enough. This is raising the poor man up out of the dust, and the beggar from the dunghill.
But take notice, although the difference is great between a coming sinner and one that has come to these waters, yet it is to be a path of tribulation; for although "wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace," yet we shall never be without changes. The day of prosperity and the day of adversity are set the one against the other. All the happiness, comfort, and delight, which we have in God's ways are at the expense of a daily cross, a path of tribulation, sore temptations, a corrupt nature working and many dark and trying providences, with much opposition from men; I say we shall find these things as well as the other; and what is worse than all, God will hide his face; so that in one sense we shall always be coming sinners, for we shall be kept very needy, that we may continually keep coming to these holy waters.
But I proceed.
III. What is it to have no money? Now, when God takes us first in hand, this is far enough from our thoughts; for a legal, self-righteous spirit is naturally rooted in all men; and, therefore, when legal convictions get hold of men, what promises they will make that, if the Lord will raise them up, they will attend church or chapel, be sober, honest, liberal; in short, they will keep God's commandments. Now, God will sometimes raise them up from these convictions, and from a sick bed; but, alas! they soon forget and break through all their vows and promises. And indeed if they kept them it would be of no aveil, for it "is without money and without price." We all know the use of money. Solomon says, "It answereth all things, and is a defence;" but this must be taken in a limited sense; for money cannot give health, nor save life. By money, we can get a good habitation, good food, good clothes, good friends, good physicians when ill, and servants to attend us. Money will procure all these things, and much more; but what are we spiritually to understand by money? Why, everything in us that naturally we glory in; such as human wisdom, human strength, and self righteousness; light, knowledge, and understanding; gifts and abilities in reading, praying, and preaching; all dead works which are very highly esteemed amongst men; a clear knowledge of the gospel in the letter of it; and likewise real faith, hope, love, when given us, with every other grace of God's Spirit; for nothing of all this will purchase this living water. I know very well we think if we had real faith, hope, and love, as some have, then we might venture to come to these waters; but, alas! we are opposite to all this, and therefore feel full of unbelief, despondency, and enmity. Surely the invitation is not for such as we; and thus we would make a saviour of faith, hope and love, laying them at the foundation; but this will not do. Our text says, "without money." Grace is a free gift, and is not given to us in order to merit anything from God. It is not for us to say, I believe, I hope, I love, and therefore can come to these waters. O no!You and I must come naked, stripped of all, without money and without price; and this is no easy thing, neither at first nor afterwards; yet it appears to me that still there is a coming to these waters with money. It is one thing to me to come to these waters bringing any one thing in a way of merit, and another thing for me to come even with money, provided it be good money, the current coin of heaven; yet, as before advanced, it is not for me to suppose that even grace is meritorious, although good money which will never be refused, as I shall afterwards show. God is pleased sometimes, under peculiar afflictions, trials, temptations and cross providences, to favour us with this money; and truly it is valuable indeed under such sore conflicts; and we are so stripped and humbled in the dust that we are far enough (under such conflicts) from supposing in the least that this money is meritorious. O no! We well know that we are not our own, but bought with a price. Then reader, cannot you see a difference between our having grace as an evidence that we are the object of God's choice, and going to him with a little of this grace in order to get more, and our supposing that we merit anything from God's hand by our having faith, hope, love? Certainly if these are my views, I bring a price in my hand, and am a fool for so doing; but if this money is used aright, it will take hold of God's promises, and plead and wrestle hard with him in times of great danger.
I will now, as the Lord shall assist, show you the good use that some have been helped to make in coming to these waters, with this current coin, and yet without a farthing of their own. We will begin with Jacob. When he heard that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men, he went to the Lord with this good money: "The Lord which said unto me, Return to thy country and to thy kindred, and I will deal with thee, deliver me, I pray thee from the hand of my brother Esau." God heard this prayer; and if you read on, you will see more of it, and the good which Jacob made of this money, and what it brought in when he wrestled with the angel. This text was made good to him in his experience: "To him that hath, (this money,) to him, shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly." "As a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast preveiled." Again, we will take notice of David. "And David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? Shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue, for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all;" and so he did. (Read I Samuel 30.) "Whatsoever ye ask, (with this money, or believing), you shall receive." Thus you see there is such a thing as coming to these waters without any of our own money; and there is such a thing as having God's money, and going with it to these waters, and succeeding 'Or. But again, let us look at Jonah. He was in a sad plight. You may read the account of his voyage, of his having been cast overboard, and of the fish swallowing him up; and then he uses this money. Read the whole account, and you will find that he prevailed with God; and it cannot be denied that, while we come on the one hand without money of our own, yet, on the other hand, there is such a thing as this, namely, living, near to God, and going to him again and again with his own money. The church in the Song of Solomon went this way, and urged her plea, until the answer came, "Turn away thine eyes from me, for thou hast overcome me." But I proceed to the prophet Micah, who was well acquainted with the path of tribulation, and being brought off from various trusts; and he at last says, "Therefore will I look unto the Lord." This looking was the Lord's own money. I do not know whether my reader understands me; but what I mean by the Lord's money is this: a persuasion wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost above sense and reason, which holds God to his Word where everything makes against it; and such money Abraham had also, as you read that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. He believed that what God had promised he was able to perform.
I will now suppose my reader to be one that has had a rich experience of God's providence and grace. Well, the Lord, for wise ends and purposes, brings you into sore trials, and in one particular trial you shall now be, in which you shall try everything to escape, but to no purpose, for everything threatens your ruin and destruction. You now walk in darkness and have no light. Well, in this gloomy state the Lord shall lead your mind back to past deliverances, and you shall feel a little hope, and think, "Well, I'll go again, and plead Gods own promises. I will take with me words, and turn to him, as he tells me. I will put him in remembrance." And when you go, you find comfort; and a full persuasion that he will appear; and thus against hope in nature you believe in hope through grace. Thus you take the Lords money, and venture with it, and find that he highly approves of it. I know well what I am writing about; and can testify the truth of these things, for I have had the thing in faith before I have had it in hand. Hence Paul says that "faith is the substance (or confidence) of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen."
I could mention many such things, and they are wonderful; but, by way of illustration, let us take notice of what the Scripture says about this money. Solomon tells us that "money is a defence." (Eccles.7:12). Now, what are we, as sinners, exposed to? I answer, to sin, to Satan, to a broken law, and to the wrath of God. Then, suppose the Lord never gives us this money, which I have all along said is faith, do you suppose that you are secure against these things? No, you are not. But why? Because the Scriptures cannot be broken. But will this money, if we have it, defend us against these dangers? Yes.
1. Sin: "He shall save his people from their sins;" "He that believeth shall be saved." Thus faith is money, and "money is a defence."
2. Satan: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." But how is this done but by faith in the atoning blood of Christ? Hence such are said to "resist the devil," and he flees from them. "Whom resist, steadfast in the faith." Then God's money is a defence.
3. We are exposed to the threatenings of a broken law; but money is a defence. What! worldly property? O no but a living faith. Now, "as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse;" and "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them;" and here we are all in danger; but the Lord Jesus comes forth, and he stands in our lawplace, magnifies it and makes it honourable, endures the curse due to us, and sets us free. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us;" and we are now brought by faith to receive God's blessing; for "as many as are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham; for the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles through faith." Thus money is a defence.
4. Lastly, every soul that is not in Christ Jesus, the true Ark of which Noah's was a type, will for ever be exposed to God's eternal wrath and hot displeasure; but in Christ we are secure; for "he that believeth," says Christ, "in me, hath everlasting life, and shall never come into condemnation." Thus money is a defence; and so you will say, if you have been tried about these things as I have, when I have, ere now, lain in bed under many fears, cutting convictions, alarming texts of Scripture, and, according to my views, on the very brink of black despair. I say, for the Lord at such a time to raise the soul first to a gleam of hope, and then to faith, so as to remove these mountains, we really do at such time feel that money is a defence. Temporal money, as I said before, may screen a man from a hungry belly and a naked back, and many inconveniences, but God's spiritual money only can do such great things as these. But again Solomon brings in another text, saying, "A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry, but money answereth all things." What are we spiritually to understand when Solomon says, "A feast is made for laughter?" Those that know, as Solomon did, when he said, "All is vanity," know well that the laughter of fools is the crackling of thorns under a pot. It is soon over, and all empty and vain; but this feast is the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is made for laughter; and so I will prove. Solomon says in his Proverbs, "A contented mind is a continual feast;" and I believe that the mind is never so contented as when feasting upon Christ. (I am writing here about real believers). So that we may say, and with truth too, that feasting upon Christ makes a contented mind. But is the Lord Jesus Christ called a feast? Yes, he really is. Hence Paul says, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast;" and so the soul finds it when the gospel trumpet is blown, and he comes ready to perish, like the prodigal, with hunger. Yes, and this will make him laugh with joy. Sarah, when she got Isaac, the promised seed, a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, looking through him to the Messiah that was to come, says, "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me." (Gen.21:6). Say you, "This is common among women." True, it is; but, then, why should she say, "All that hear will laugh also?" for I do not think that Hagar would laugh; but every soul that has a circumcised ear to hear and know the joyful sound, and is brought to receive Christ by faith, in whose heart he is formed the hope of glory, such will laugh with Sarah.
But Solomon adds, "Money answereth all things." Money, if a man is deformed, will not set him right; if he is unhealthy, will not restore health. Some are sickly and afflicted all their days, and have plenty of money. Neither worldly money nor treasure does answer all things, but this spiritual money does; yes, it really does; and here a field is opened; but I must keep within bounds. I will mention a few things which I will trace up to One, and then, if you are a real believer, you will fully agree with me, and both of us with Solomon, that this current coin of heaven, called God's money, answereth all things.
What will answer for a foul, filthy sinner, like the publican, that dared not to lift his eyes to heaven? I say, faith in the atonement of Christ; for he that believeth shall receive the forgiveness of his sins. What will answer for one clothed, like Joshua the high priest, with filthy garments? Why, faith in the righteousness of Christ, for it is unto all and upon all that believe. What will silence conscience, law, and Satan? The Spirit's witness; and "he that believeth hath the witness in himself." What will answer for a hungry soul, quickened to feel his lost estate? Christ, the bread of life, and faith feeds on him. Hence you read that God took the yoke (of unbelief) from their jaws, and set meat before them. Now, eating is believing. "He that eateth me, even he shall live by me;" and this text explains it: "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." Mary said, "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." There is full assurance of faith, and this was her food. We want joy and peace, to rejoice that our names are written in heaven, to rejoice that we have received the atonement, to rejoice that we are clothed with the robe of righteousness, that we have peace with God, with conscience, and with one another. Well, Paul says, "The Lord fill you with all joy and peace in believing." Rest is a thing which we need from the weight and burden of sin, from the bondage of the law and a legal working spirit. "We which believe do enter into rest. " Salvation and this is very copious, for we are surrounded with dangers and enemies, both within and without; but "he that believeth shall be saved," from sin, Satan, the world, the law, and everlasting destruction. Prayer is what God has appointed to bring every blessing he has promised in an everlasting covenant into the heart, as well as all temporal supplies. Life, which makes us differ from all nominal professors. The love of God, not natural affection, but God's love to us; and Paul tells us that this is the more excellent way, and never will fail; but money we need, to bring this sweetly into the soul. Hence John says, "We have believed the love which God hath towards us." Whenever we go to hear God's Word preached, unless God give us this money, we get nothing profitable for our souls. But why? I answer, the Word preached will not profit unless mixed with faith in them that hear. We need this money to manifest to us with satisfaction our adoption, and to help us to call God our own covenant God and Father. Hence you read that "to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name." This money we need in order to our highly prizing Christ, and that we may view him as the altogether lovely. Hence Peter says, "Unto you that believe, he is precious." All the promises to the churches in the Revelation are made to overcomers. Now, we need this money to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Hence John says, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. " We need this money in order to a reception of the Holy Ghost.
Wonderful, indeed, that ever he should dwell in our hearts; and "we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." This money brings Christ into the heart. Hence Paul says, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith We are told to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; but we need this money here also; and it answers; "Till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man." From which you may see the cause of so much discord. It is for want of more of this money; for this faith works by love, which is the bond of peace. Money we need in order to our establishment in the work of God done in our souls. What is the cause that we are so tottering, weak, and feeble? We stagger at the promise through unbelief. Lastly, we need this money in a dying hour; and it will answer well for us. Hence we are told by Paul of the whole cloud of witnesses, that they all died in faith (Heb. 11: 13). Then is it not a glorious truth that God's money "answereth all things?" Truly it is; and all these things are to be found in one thing; and what is that? In that good thing promised to the house of Israel, even the Lord Jesus Christ, called a holy thing, even the Son of God; for Christ is all, and in all, and filleth all things, and is the Author and Finisher of all real and genuine faith.
But you will say, "Is this money called God's money?" Yes, it is, in the following words, "Thou oughtest to have put my money to the exchangers." (Matt. 25:27). As though God should say, "You have taken that to yourself which did not belong to you. You should have declared that it belonged to the exchangers, or my people, that are ever exchanging with me, bringing all their cares, burdens, and trials to me, and exchanging them for deliverance. They need this money, but you do not; for you have no changes, and therefore, as you have presumptuously taken to yourself what you ought to have declared belonged to my people, you are a wicked servant, and have been doing Satan's work, as Balaam did, calling me his God, and the Jewish Scribes and Pharisees, who were of their father the devil, and did his works. You should have put my money to the exchangers; but, instead of that, you have hidden it in the earth; that is, you have had sinister motives in all you have done, condemning the just and justifying the wicked. Thus you have declared that hypocrites were saints, putting my money to them." Job's three friends told him that if iniquity was in his hands to put it far from him; and what iniquity can be worse than this, namely, to wound saints and feed hypocrites? Ibis is putting God's money (ministerially, as the word of faith) to a bad use.
But again, That God is well pleased with his own money is very clear, for he reproves his own people upon this head. Our Lord said to his two disciples, going to Emmaus, "0 Fools, and slow of heart to believe;" and to Peter, "Wherefore didst thou doubt?" and to Thomas, "Be not faithless, but believing;" for to be strong in faith gives glory unto God; and all this agrees with what God says by the prophet Isaiah, and shows that when we are short of this money, backsliding is the cause: "Thou hast brought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices; but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities." And what, then, when spending this money is suspended, are such to give up all for lost? 0 no; but to come again, without money, stripped of all; and therefore he adds, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins;" (Isaiah 43:24-25); which shows that it is all sovereign and free. 0 how dejected and bowed down do many of God's dear people go, because they cannot believe that grace is as free as it really is! "If I had faith in exercise," say they, "with hope and love, and was more meek, more patient, more submissive to God's will, all would be well; but, on the contrary, I feel unbelief strong, my hope low, and I am very impatient indeed." Well, but none of these things are the foundation, but Christ alone, and he is the same, let your frames change never so often; therefore you are told, as it is all free, "Return unto me, ye backsliding children, for I am married unto you." It appears unto me that the Shulamite had got here, as you read in the Song of Solomon, "Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee." She answers,"What will ye see in the Shulamite?" They answer, "A company of two armies," flesh and spirit, which will ever be the case. Now, if God works in us to will and to do, this subdues the flesh greatly; and if this goes on for any time, we are apt to forget ourselves, and prone to bear hard on others, not saying, "By the grace of God, I am what I am;" "Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us, but to thy name be the praise." But there is a secret leaning upon the fruits of God's grace, and self-will work. It is said that Hezekiah's heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord; and I believe that Job was in this path, and really trusted in what God's grace had helped him to do; for I cannot believe that what Job had performed, and what he boasted of, were dead works; but still there is no merit in them; for grace is a free gift, and proves me an object of God's love; but Christ alone is the foundation. He has paid down all the money that was required, and to us it is all free. Now, faith is the money. Hence Peter says, "That the trial of your faith, which is much more precious than that of gold that perisheth;" and Christ calls it "gold tried in the fire;" but no grace is meritorious. God is a God of order, and grace is given to us as a mark and evidence that we are chosen of God, and not for us to improve, and by so improving gain everlasting life. O No!
To make things more clear; take it as follows. We will suppose a man to be regenerated, by which I understand living principles are implanted in his soul; well, the good Spirit is pleased to draw forth faith, hope, love, and fear.
These graces shall discover themselves both to the recipient of them and others; but the man, like Job, knowing very little of his own heart, builds himself upon the fruits of this grace, and so gets proud and lifted up, righteous in his own eyes; and yet the man has real grace; but furnace work is needed that a man may be well acquainted with the depth of man's fall and his apostate state, as Job afterwards was, when he said, "Behold I am vile."
There are six particular things that we must experience in order to come to these waters without money and without price.
1. We must be insolvent, or complete bankrupts; for if we can see and feel any one thing good in ourselves, or suppose that we ever shall, then we have money; but we are to come without. "A certain creditor had two debtors; the one owed five hundred pence, the other fifty; and when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both." This exactly agrees with our text: "Come without money and without price." You and I little think, when God's holy law is applied to us, that it is to bring us in guilty, but we conclude that God intends us to keep it; whereas, this would be like expecting grapes from thorns and figs from thistles. Therefore we try to alter ourselves, work hard, and mean well; and what is it we want to do? Why, to keep God's holy law; but all this arises from our ignorance of what the law requires, and of our own utter inability to keep it. While we proceed thus, we are bringing money; and the way that the Lord takes to impoverish us and to bring us to bankruptcy, is by discovering to us, by the light of his Spirit, our own hearts, and the spirituality of his holy law. Moses will bring his bills in so fast as to terrify us, wear us out, bring us down, and impoverish us, till at last we shall see and feel that, unless an act of grace in a sovereign way take place, we must be damned for ever, for aught we can do. "By the law is the knowledge of sin;" "The law is spiritual, but we are carnal, sold under sin;" "The law was given that the offence might abound, that sin by the commandment might become exceeding, sinful." Has this law been applied to my reader, and have you ever been thoroughly stripped, so as to have nothing to pay? If you have, the invitation is to you: "He that hath no money."
2. We must come to these waters ready to perish This is coming without money. 0 the sore conflicts that my soul has had with the powers of hell, who first temp, then accuse. I have ere now been driven by the devil again and again into one particular besetting sin. 0 how this has distressed me. Satan makes it out to be little or nothing while he is tempting you; but when once you have slipped, then he will represent your case as being really perilous, and that there is no mercy for you. I remember that, after secretly falling in this way a long time, though none knew anything of it but God and myself, I was one day greatly bowed down on account of my continually falling; for I could see no account of Bible saints who fell so often. They fell once, and were reclaimed. Peter did not keep denying Christ; David did not continue to commit adultery. O this sank me greatly. I concluded that I certainly was an Antinomian, and that text appeared very awful to me, "Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee." Now, by one master sin being suffered continually to overcome us, will God sometimes bring, us into a perishing condition. It is like opening a door to discover all the rest. There is such a power in sin, and the love of it so strong, that were instant damnation to follow, and you knew it, still you would commit it. Neither is it simply having light to know that it is wrong, that it is offensive to God, that will keep you. I have gone, into things with open eyes, though I have known what I should suffer. Ah! very few know the power of sin, and their extreme weakness! Sometimes, not only at first, but afterwards as we go on, God will, to humble our pride, suffer such things to take place; and really I have concluded it to be all over with me; for many texts have appeared to cut me off. O these darling sins are like a second nature to us; and nothing but the almighty power of God can turn us to hate and forsake them. But let nothing of all this keep you back, poor sinner; for where else can you go but to these waters? And many promises are made for your encouragement. Hence God says, "Return, ye backsliding children, I am married to you." Again, where can you and I go but to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness? And does not the Lord promise that from all our filthiness, idols, and uncleannesses he will save us? Asaph tells us his sore ran in the night, and ceased not. David's loins were filled with a loathsome disease. God permits these things to take place that we may highly prize Jesus Christ, who alone can destroy the works of the devil; and in this way we shall be brought into a perishing condition. They, then, are to come to the feast who are ready to perish. The prodigal was one: "I perish with hunger;" and you read how well he fared.
3. To have no money is to have no strength. Say you, "I have none, for without Christ I can do nothing?" Very sound speech; but many a hypocrite has it at his tongue's end. It is no easy thing to be altogether without strength. All the time you are clear of temptation, you may boast; but let storms and temptations arise, and lusts of all sorts be stirred up in your heart, snares, traps, and gins be set for you, and then you will try to avoid and break the power of these things. Here is the money again; but we are to come without. Hence you read, "For the Lord will repent himself concerning his servants when he seeth that their power is all gone, and there is none shut up nor left." It is one thing for us to believe we have no power, because we read it in God's Word and in sound authors, and another thing to prove it by trying our own strength, and being continually overcome by temptations of various sorts. I have long been fixed in it as a truth, that I have no power; and yet to this day I feel a legal working spirit, prompting me to try to repent, to try to be sorry, and to endeavour to avoid such things in the future; and all this in my own strength. But, say you, "What is it to have no strength?" To this I answer, that to have no strength is to be sure I shall fall unless God hold me up; and if faith is not in exercise, and if you have no strength you will fully expect to fall. See David: "I shall one day fall by the hand of this Saul." Now, the same man had defied Goliath, because his faith was strong in the Lord. Human strength will engage without God, as you may see in Israel of old; but they always, at such times, fell before their enemies; and if we call on the Lord when there is any of this human strength remaining, it is in a heartless, lifeless way, complimenting him only with our lips; but not so when we are in extreme weakness, and our case is perilous. Then the Holy Spirit will help us to cry mightily to the Lord from a deep sense of our need. This is coming to those waters without money. I feel at this time very restless, and torn to pieces with Satan's temptations. I believe he is desperate with anyone whose heart is seeking the welfare of God's family. 0 how weak do I feel now, even as if I should become a prey to his power. Now, God's strength is made perfect in our weakness, not in our strength, and, therefore when we come in utter weakness, we come without money; but human power is money.
4. Human Wisdom is money also; and we have a good deal of this about us. From this arise all our schemes, plans, and chalking out paths for God to lead us in; and we really think we shall succeed too in this way; but our wisdom lies in knowing experimentally that we are fools. Now, if you have any of this money about you, I will tell you how you will find it out. If you get into any trouble, either spiritual or temporal, you will directly, the first thing, lean to your own understanding; but if you have no money, you will consult the Lord directly the trouble comes upon you. Watch closely these things, and you will find that you often really have money when in your judgment you have none. The head is clear enough, but the heart is quite different. It is the same in hearing the Word. You go to hear, but you are not sensible how foolish you are, and therefore you try the preacher by your own supposed wisdom; and in this way often justify the wicked, and condemn the just. Some of God's people get entangled in errors this very way; and, if they took back, they will find that the whole cause was their not consulting the Lord at first, who has promised to give wisdom liberally to them that stand in need of it; but if a man lack not it, he has money, and consequently will not succeed at these waters. It is the same in reading. How often do you and I sit down to read as if wisdom was lodged in us; and in this way we read a leaf over and over again, and at last shut up the book quite angry; but what is the cause? I answer, it is because we have money. I have been sorely tried in providence again and again, and have wanted money when I had too much. Say you, "That's a flat contradiction." Be that as it may, I well know it is the truth. I have consulted my own reason. I have looked to this and to that arm of flesh, not looking above all to the Lord, but have hewn out these broken cisterns that could hold no water; but when the burden has been intolerable, and every refuge has appeared to fail; then the good Spirit has emboldened me to cry to the Lord, and he has appeared for me again and again, and in a way too that I have not expected. These fleshly props, which agree with our wisdom, these are money; and a man may have abundance of this money, when he is without a single farthing literally. I know what I am writing about by experience.
5. If a man has no money, he will not attempt to alter his case and state at all, but his working arm will cease. He will be sure that unless sovereign mercy is displayed towards him, it will be all over. This you may see in what Elihu speaks to Job. He is showing Job the way in which God strips a sinner, and tells him what such a man, under Gods mighty hand, expects, namely, to go to the pit of hell, and to perish by the sword of justice; all of which the man expects. His life abhors bread, and his soul dainty meat. His soul draws near to the grave, and his life to the destroyers. In this condition, the man has no money, and therefore expects to go to hell, to become a prey to devils, and for strict justice to cut him down; but these waters prevent it all; for God is gracious to him, and delivers him from going down to the pit, having found a ransom, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. You may see a description of this work in the 107th Psalm. It is all to strip and impoverish a sinner. That he wants to bring something to God, and have wherewith to glory, is clear enough; and this is our legal pride; but God will reduce us to beggary, that we may come empty of all to these living waters. In this Psalm you may see the whole of God's work in his elect. It begins with a separation from this world, which is his first work with the sinner, and it ends with the loving-kindness of the Lord, which is a rich supply of these living waters; and you and I cannot get higher than this, live as long as we may. The whole Psalm treats of emptying and filling: "Hungry and thirsty, their soul faints in them." This is having no money: "They fall down, and there is none to help." This is having no money. "They draw near to the gates of death." This is having no money. "They are at their wits end." This is having no money. "They are brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow. Their hearts are brought down with labour." This is having no money. And in this way you find they come by prayer to these waters, and always succeed. As it is written "Then they cried unto the Lord, and he delivered them." David tells us, that "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord." But which way can you and I be wise, and observe such things, but by being brought experimentally into them? All other observation is head work; and what will that aveil for you or me? We must come as they did, without money, to these waters.
6. This coming without money is, by some confined to the first stripping of a sinner before his deliverance; but God's Word shows that it is to be all our journey through; for we are continually getting into self, and this self is the wretched money we are always trying to scrape together. Self, I say. 0 this self! Even if you have had a large experience of God's grace, you may still try to take this with you to these waters. You will really think that after the experience you have had, certainly you can go on better than those who are first seeking after God; but you will be deceived here. This is not the way. You shall be constantly emptied from this self. You and I would like to cut a figure, and lord it over others. But No. As we received Christ Jesus the Lord, (and how was that? Why, without money), so we are to walk in him, rooted and built up. "But" say you, "is it not right to come before the Lord, and plead those good works that he has wrought in us?" To this I answer, that I have such deep discoveries of my own heart and its abominations that I see nothing good that I do, and am glad to come to these waters without money; and it rejoices my soul that there are such full and free invitations. Neither dare I come any other way; and I know that this is the way to gain ground.
Having, therefore, shown what it is to have no money, I come,
IV. To inquire, how it can be that such are to buy: "Come ye, buy and eat." Say you, "It does appear strange; for if we have no money, if that is all that is required in coming to these living waters, and if we receive all as a free gift, how or in what sense can we be said to buy? "Come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk, without money and without price." In order to illustrate this, suppose you are in middling circumstances in life. You have clothes, money, friends, a house to live in tolerably well furnished, with many other conveniences of life; and a gentleman, one exceedingly rich indeed, makes you the offer, that if you will part with all you have, and come naked to him, he will freely give you a hundred times more than ever you had, and that he would secure it to you and yours. Well, after hearing this, you reflect, "Cannot my intending benefactor give it to me without imposing such conditions? I should like to keep the stock I have, and possess what he offers too." But no. This is not the way; for, if you keep what you have, the gentleman will give you nothing. Now, you must have a confidence in him,, and in his promise, and let everything go in order to be enriched; Very well. And as it would be in such a case as this, so it is with God's dealings with us; and therefore everything pleasing to flesh and blood, he will call upon us to part with. Hence he says, "He that will not forsake all that he hath, cannot be my disciple;" "He that loveth father, mother, houses, lands, wife, or children more than me is not worthy of me;" "He that will save his life shall lose it; and he that will lose his life for my sake and the gospel's shall find it." So that you see there must be a parting in heart with this world; and in this sense I understand the buying the wine and milk. However strong you may think yourself, and however valiant for truth, you will find it no easy thing to part with all for Christ when the trial comes. I know it is easy to say anything when we are not tried. See the young man in the gospel, when he came to Christ with his good performances, or his money. Christ told him to sell all that he had, and give to the poor, and he should have treasure in heaven; but he went away sorrowing, being determined not to buy this treasure at so dear a rate as parting with all that he had. Christ tells us that "the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." (Matt. 13:44). By this treasure I understand the grace of God. As it is written: "A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good;" "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." The fear of the Lord is God's treasure, and this is hid in a field; that is, it is hid in the church of God; for God's church is called a field: "Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field." (Isaiah 32:16). But the man finds the treasure of grace, and hideth it; that is, in his heart; "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee;" and God says, "I will put my fear, (or my treasure) in their hearts." This, in time, produces real joy: "Let every man prove his own work, and then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone, and not another." And after this he buys this field; that is, he chooses to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; and such a one will endure all things for the elect's sake.
It is in this way, and no other, that I understand our text, "Buy wine and milk." This world must be parted with, or we never can have the treasure of God's grace.
V. The Provision such are to have: "Buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price." If I were to be guided by my natural feelings this morning, I should not attempt to write upon this subject, for I feel quite averse to it. I feel pressed beyond measure; only I hope that, in the feeble attempt, I shall forget my troubles, as I have in times past.
i. I shall notice, firstly, the "wine" in our text: "Buy wine."
1. By this "wine" in our text I understand God's everlasting love to us in Christ Jesus, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which love never had a beginning, and never will have an end. There is no cause can be assigned why God should love us and not the non-elect, only because it was his will, his good will and sovereign pleasure; for "he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will;" and there we must leave it. He giveth no account of his matters. Now we read of the love of God the Father: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God." Again, we read of the love of the Son. Hence Paul says, "What shall separate us from the love of Christ?" This love was manifest in giving himself up a sacrifice to divine justice; as Paul says, "Who loved me, and gave himself for me." Again, the love of the Holy Ghost also. I beseech you," says Paul, "for the love of the Spirit;" and this is manifested in his operations on the hearts of God's elect, in making them sensible of their real need of all the blessings of the new covenant, and then testifying of Christ to them, and bringing home the promises with power to their hearts.
2. The atoning blood of Christ is called "wine." Jesus Christ the Son of God clothed himself in our nature. He took it into union with his divine person, and his divinity stamped an eternal dignity upon all his sufferings, and made them meritorious; so that justice received full satisfaction for all the sins of the whole body of God's elect, so much so that, as considered in him, they never sinned in thought, or word, or deed but are perfectly righteous by the imputation of his spotless righteousness to their persons; and God viewed them so in his eternal mind from everlasting. 0 that you and I, reader, could live more out of ourselves, upon the all-sufficient fullness there is in Christ Jesus; but we are dull scholars. Now, this blood is called "wine:" "And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and he said unto them, This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the Kingdom of God."
Now we are told to come to these waters for this wine, which is the love of God, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a fresh supply of the Holy Spirit to subdue the old man continually, and to raise up the new man; and these things felt and enjoyed will be the delight of our souls; for what can be so precious as to be fully persuaded that God loves me with an everlasting love? What so precious as to be sure that Christ shed his blood for me? What so sweet as to feel the new man put on, so as to love God, his people, his truth, and his ways, and to feel peace reigning in our hearts, the fruit and effect of this atonement, which is pardon and justification?
Now, let us for one moment take a view of this blessed wine. I say, let us reflect for a while. As men and angels all fell alike into one state of apostasy, had the Son of God, passed by all the human race, and suffered, bled, and died for angels, O reader, where should you and I have been? Why, then we should have every soul perished. But no: "Verily, he took not on him the nature of angels, nor the seed of the reprobate, but the seed of Abraham;" and thus secured the wine to such wretches as you and I.
ii. I shall now take a little notice of the milk in our text: "Buy wine and milk without money and without price." We all know that milk literally is food for children, they not being capable of digesting such food as grown people can. And so it is spiritually; thus it signifies comfortable promises and the sweet invitations of the gospel. Hence Peter says, "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby." Now, the Word is food itself, as Jeremiah says, "Thy Word was found, and I did eat it;" but a new-born babe must have the comfort of the Word, which is the milk; for his faith is very weak. For instance; if a gentleman makes you a promise, and you firmly and fully believe him, his word alone is enough; but if you doubt it, how encouraging would it be for him to speak comfortingly to you, and to relate to you how many he had assisted who were as badly off as yourself. This certainly would strengthen your faith, and make it grow; and this is the way the Lord takes with us. Hence Peter says, it is that we may grow thereby, so that we may in time have stronger food. But of this I shall treat by-and-by.
Now a soul that is seeking the Lord is entertained largely with the milk. I remember this text being sweet to me one evening when going to hear the Word: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." I felt a comforting power come with the words. Again, "Who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." I believed for some time that it belonged to me; but when I lost the comfort, I got directly to the background. Again: "For he hath made him to be sin for us." While I felt the comfort, I was sure of it, but no longer. Again: "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Indeed, I had many of these sweet consolations, all of which used to encourage me, and draw me on as milk does a child. Now, spiritually, after we have been awhile seeking the Lord, these comforts greatly abate, and we have many hard lessons to learn our of our hearts and God's holy law, which in some go gradually on, and they learn little by little, moving on so slowly that they cannot believe they progress at all; and yet all this while the work is advancing. In this apparent stoppage, they learn much of their own weakness and foolishness, and they know that it all depends upon God's sovereign power whether they are saved or lost. They are in this way greatly humbled, and brought down in the dust. They find it a truth that "he that believeth shall not make haste," and often conclude that they might as well give all up, for they appear to go on like the horse in the mill; but after long watching and waiting at wisdom's gates, and coming often to these waters, they shall find it a great truth that when all their money is gone, there is no want of milk, and therefore they shall have it more plentifully than at their first seeking the Lord. Canaan, you know, was typical of the church of God, and it was a land "flowing with milk and honey;" and so God's family find it in a particular manner in their first deliverance, when they are highly favoured with this milk. As it is written, "Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her, that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations, that ye may milk out and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. Then shall ye suck; ye shall be home upon her sides, and dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you, and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem;" that is, in the covenant of grace; "and when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice;" that is, when you see your interest in this new covenant; when, as Paul says, you come to the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven. Then you will find it a truth in your experience what the prophet Joel says: "In that day the mountains shall drop down new wine;" (election is one mountain; Christ Jesus is called a mountain, and the church also;) "and the hills shall flow with milk, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim." Shittim signifies scourges, rods, and thorns; and God's family are well scourged before they come here. The rod is generally laid on pretty heavily; and many a grieving briar and pricking thorn do they feel, which brings them to a low state, or like a valley; and what can be more suitable to such than this new wine, this flowing of milk? so as to have an abundance of the Holy Spirit's consolations, and to suck the sweet contents of every unconditional promise? Truly this is delightful to the soul. Such appear as though they were in a new world; and thus it is that "every valley is exalted," and the soul raised up to dwell on high that before was sunk so low. He finds his place of defence the strength of rocks. His bread is given, and his water is sure. His eyes see King Jesus in his beauty, and by a living faith he beholds the heavenly Canaan, which to the eye of nature is very far off. Now the King is held in the galleries. Every mountain and hill is now brought low. Election, which used to terrify him, is now in favour of him. He "rejoices that his name is written in heaven." Jesus Christ, who is also called a mountain, comes down into the valley, and gives him his loves, so that he can say, "My beloved is mine, and I am his;" and as for the church, Mount Zion, his very soul is united to it.
But do not forget this, how high soever you may soar, namely, that you must know also what a weaning time is. You are not always to live upon milk. I know you will not like this, but it will be so, whether you like it or not: "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine?
Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts." Now, this is really truth, that we must be weaned before we are taught this knowledge, and before we are made to understand doctrine; which shows us that this knowledge and doctrine are something more than head work.
iii. Having, therefore, briefly treated of this wine and milk, and as the text says we are to buy and eat, I will show something of food which we get after we are thus weaned, called by the prophet a being taught knowledge, and understanding doctrine; for knowledge is food: "I will send pastors after mine own heart, that shall feed them with knowledge and understanding." Now, one branch of knowledge which God teaches us after we are weaned is that we shall carry about us, till death, the old man, and this we knew nothing about at first. If you had asked me when I first sought the Lord, yea, more, when I enjoyed abundance of this milk, if I believed that I should carry about with me till death, or indeed at all, such a stinking, filthy, putrefied carcass as I find the old man is, I should have said, "No;" for old things appeared to be done away, and all things become new. As for head work, that's nothing. I am treating of experience. I really did not believe it in heart. The Apostle Paul found this out. Hence he says, I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing;" and this will exercise us all our days; for, feeling so much indwelling sin, it will be no easy thing to hold fast that we are in a pardoned state, which is another branch of experimental knowledge, and which is food to the soul every time we exercise faith upon Christ Jesus, whose flesh is meat indeed, and who is the Bread of Life; but God declares that we shall all know him, from the least of us to the greatest; and the way we are to find it out is this: he will be merciful to our unrighteousness, and remember our sins no more.
Another branch of knowledge which the Lord teaches us is, that we shall
be engaged in fighting against the world, the flesh, and the devil till
death. Let me ask you seriously, did you ever expect to be engaged in such
fighting as you have been, and in extreme weakness, having no stock in hand? "O
no," say you, I expected to be inlaid with grace so strong as to be
as bold as a lion at all times and upon all occasions." Yes; but the
Lord has taught you knowledge, and you find that all your strength consists
in a manifest union with him - that you are only strong in the Lord. Thus
you know the Lord Jesus. He is your Shepherd to feed both your soul and
body all your journey through. Yes; he is your food, and by faith you live
upon him, and not by bread alone. Now, you and I are to be engaged in this
holy war, this fight of faith; but, through the unbelief which we
Once more, The Lord teaches us that many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. This is a branch of knowledge that he teaches us by a very long experience. He gives us grace, and then tries it to the quick, some in one way and some in another, and some in almost every way. Various are the trials that he brings us into, and leaves us for a time, hardly holding us up at all, according to our feelings. Hence the complaints of some of the family of being cut off, of being forsaken, and so on. He does it by suffering all our corruptions to work strong in us, and we cry to him to subdue them, but he turns a deaf ear to us, and lets us be filled with our own way, cross providences, getting into debt, and living like beggars upon others; and although we plead his promises, yet for wise ends, in order to mortify and cripple our pride and high aspiring thoughts, he does not provide for us in our way, for he is not confined to any way, and yet is faithful to his own Word; and his way humbles us, and brings him all the glory. Persecution is what we shrink at. No man living can glory in it without a wonderful supply of the Holy Ghost; and yet this brings God glory. "On their part (those who persecute) he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified." Likewise those who have families find very many sore troubles; the husband separated from a bad wife, or a good wife from a bad husband, or wicked children; and this is often of use to cut inordinate affections.
Now these waters with many more cannot quench this love; and I may add, Satan's temptation, fiery darts, &c., innumerable suggestions to the mind that we are deceived all through our profession, and shall make an awful end, that it is not God's work in us, and that he will not own nor honour it. 0 the storms that I have been in I never can relate as they were. God teaches us such knowledge as this after we are weaned; and in this way we learn that charity endureth all things. How could we find it out any other way? This is the way Paul went, as recorded in 2Cor. 11; and he tells us that he is persuaded that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Now, after such sore trials, to feel this love again, truly this is wonderful; and this agrees with our text, "Buy and eat;" for love to the soul, the love of God felt in the soul, is food, and he feeds our souls with it. This you will see by comparing these two texts together: "I drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love; and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them." Now, the prophet Zechariah tells us that these bands of love were the food; as you read: I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, 0 poor of the flock. And I took two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock."
From what has been written, it is evident that there is food of a stronger nature given to us after we are weaned from the milk, which we are to get by coming to these waters without money. I have shown you that multiplied pardons are feeding upon Christ's atoning blood, that he as a sacrifice for our sins is our food; and the more you are exercised, the more you will discern between good and evil. Also I have proved that our food is enjoyed by a manifest union kept up between Christ and our souls, that he is our Shepherd, and will feed us continually, both soul and body; and these trials are to lead us to live upon him, also that the love of God is our food; and all this is eating.
But again. He not only teaches us knowledge, and gives us establishment in these things, but he makes us to understand doctrine. Say you, "This pure doctrine of the gospel I well understand, and have understood from my infancy?" Yes, and you are one that is wiser in your own eyes than seven men that can render a reason; but it is not such an understanding as you have that is meant in our text. Neither is it so easily come at as you may suppose. It is something out of your reach, with all your wisdom. It is a teaching that comes from God to the weaned child, and he finds it no easy thing. I might go over many of the doctrines of Christ, and you might see them clearly as recorded in the letter of Scripture; but such understanding as this will not satisfy a weaned child. No, what he wants is to make full proof of these doctrines in his own heart's experience; for he is more or less tried about every doctrine which he holds, and that sorely.
Election is a glorious truth; but say you, "I am afraid I am not elected. 0 that I could understand from God's Word that I was?" Well, the Lord is pleased to shine upon his Word, and you are helped to compare your experience with God's truth, which declares that they are God's elect who cry unto him day and night; and you can see in his light how they went on for years crying, groaning, asking, seeking, and longing after him, and they never could altogether give it up. "Why, then," say you, "this crying to the Lord, which, at the time, I could not believe was real prayer, it certainly was, and it was God's Spirit in me, and proves that I am elected. Bless God for this!" And thus you understand doctrine. Again. To God's elect the Word is attended with power, and you can took back, and recollect when the Word preached came with power to your hearts. Thus you understand the doctrine of election.
Another doctrine is the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, when the good Lord shows you that whenever he imputes this righteousness, it is attended with a solid peace, rest, quietness, and assurance, with a rejoicing in himself, as our portion, and when the soul can see that he has sweetly enjoyed these things, he really is delighted, that he is in the footsteps of the flock; and these understand the doctrine of imputed righteousness; and what makes it very clear indeed to him is, that it all came to him when he was sure he was ungodly, like Joshua clothed in filthy garments, in a sovereign way. 0 how pleased are such to understand doctrine. Perhaps, reader, I am a barbarian to you.
The doctrine of the atonement. The Lord leads him to see in his Word that whenever the atonement comes, such are made nigh to God, which were before afar off by wicked works. Such can recollect when they found no access, the heavens being iron over their head and the earth brass beneath their feet, and of the change that took place when they found access with confidence by the faith of Christ, and how the Holy Spirit testified to them that Christ made peace for them by the blood of his cross, and how he led them to see that God the Father accepted them in him. Peace flowed into their souls, and they rejoiced in his covenant name all the day long. In this way we understand the doctrine of the atonement.
Again. Regeneration and Renewing. This the Lord gives us to understand. We used to go to hear the Word, all over sin, as vile as possible, and come away quite holy, as we thought; but if you were at that time to have asked us if we understood the doctrine of regeneration, you would have puzzled us. Regeneration is the putting of living principles of grace in a man that was chosen in Christ Jesus from everlasting. Now, through our ignorance, we expect for a long time to feel the old nature by degrees eradicated; and having such a large share of grace as we have in our first love, we conclude that this good work is certainly accomplished according to our will and wish; but after a while the old nature appears worse than ever, and then we say with Mr Hart in one of his hymns,
After we have a fresh discovery of this vile nature, the Holy Ghost washes its guilt away for a time, and renews us, in that he calls forth into exercise his own implanted grace; but we shall feel these two natures alternately until death; and to distinguish these things well is understanding the doctrine of regeneration and renewing.
Again, the doctrine of Redemption. How are we brought to understand this doctrine? Why, the Lord gives us again and again to see that, although we have a corrupt nature still in us, yet that God has given us a spirit different from this world, and that we are not of the world; and we team that this is the fruit and effect of redemption, that he has "redeemed us from amongst men;" and O how it delights us to make this out! It is said that we are redeemed with judgment and righteousness. The judgment due to us was fully executed upon Christ the Surety, and he fulfilled all righteousness; and by the eye of faith we can see that he was made sin for us that knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him; and having this righteousness upon us by faith makes it all very clear indeed, as the Lord is pleased to shine upon his work and the holy Word.
Again, the doctrine of The Trinity. Now what can carnal unenlightened reason make of this? How can they believe that Three are One? Yet faith credits it. 1. We are taught out of the law. 2. We are succoured under sore temptations, and a word spoken to us in due season. 3. We are fretted and we go on very unsatisfactorily till the Lord makes us understand the doctrine; and when he does, we can feel the work of the Holy Trinity has been done, and is being done in our hearts. God the Father taught us out of his law, and made us tremble at his Word, as he did Israel at Mount Sinai; there we learned his holiness and our sin; his righteousness and our condemned state; his justice and that we are unjust; his immutability, because we cannot turn him, do all we can, and his terrifying majesty, for we feared he would consume us. Having learned these things of the Father, we come to Christ, being drawn by the Father's love which is in Christ; and here we find rest and peace, with many other things; though Satan is permitted to harass, perplex, torment, and tempt us in various ways. And this is the work of God the Son. It is he that binds up the broken-hearted, proclaims liberty unto captives, and opens the prison doors to such as are bound. He is the great and only Physician that cures the soul, yea, and body too; and so I might go on. The Holy Ghost is particularly to be known in helping our infirmities. You and I feel at times as though we hated everything of godliness. We are reluctant to prayer, reading, hearing, and writing to God's family; and sometimes so bowed down with guilt and fear, sin, and shame, that, like the publican, we dare not lift up our eyes to heaven; but this blessed Spirit so assists us that we are able to come with holy boldness, and pour out our souls before the Lord. Reader, these are plain and simple evidences. If thou hast them, they prove that a Trinity of persons is in thy heart, and thou never canst deny these truths; but however clear thou mayest have them in the head, they will stand thee in no stead. I have proved this to be sure ground.
Finally, the Perseverance of the Saints. How long do God's family go on, ignorant of this doctrine in experience; but after many ups and downs, sore temptations, repeated backslidings, strong oppositions from all quarters, they are a little established in this truth, and say with David, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever;" for God says, "the righteous shall hold on his way." In this way the Lord teaches us knowledge and makes us to understand doctrine; and this is food to one who is weaned from the milk and drawn from the breast, what Paul calls, "strong meat." Where can you get such provision as I have been treating of? Only by coming to these waters; and this you can only do to purpose as the Holy Ghost keeps you truly poor, self-emptied, and feelingly destitute of all good. This is having no money; and the reason you come then is only and altogether owing to your being led. The Father draws you to Christ, and when you come to him you drink at the Fountain-head. The Holy Spirit leads you to Jesus, testifies of him, and draws out faith and love to lay hold of him: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God;" and here is food as well as drink: "He that eateth me, even he shall live by me;" so that we are indebted to the Holy Ghost who leads us for every step we go. This made Asaph say, "Thou shalt guide me by thy counsel;" and David, "He leadeth me beside the still waters;" and remember, all we get here is but a taste at most, called the streams that make glad the city of our God; but an eternity will come, when the Lamb in the midst of the throne will feed us and lead us to fountains of living waters.
God grant it for Christ's sake. Amen