Spiritual Desires Satisfied in Christ
by J. J. WEST - On Sunday evening, October 24th, 1858, at St. Paul's Church, Herne Hill
My hearers, in this verse, which has been applied to my own heart with some power to speak on to you we have a great fact, and a great truth as to the experience of the people of God set forth and while as a preacher in the Church of England, sound, I trust, in her doctrines, and attached to her creeds, I proclaim the doctrine that great and grand foundation doctrine of the Triune Jehovah of three persons in One Eternal God while I insist upon the fact that the Father is God the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God while also I declare the grand and the glorious doctrines of election, redemption, and effectual calling and teaching by the Holy Ghost, and by that blessed Spirit alone and only I want, while here I stand as a trustee of the Gospel, to set forth before the people of God, and to sift all other hearers that blessed, experimental, and practical pathway in which the tried and exercised people of God have to go on to glory.
Now David, in this Psalm is (and as the heading of it in the Bible states,) in his own peculiar way, blessedly praising "God for His Fame, for His goodness for His kingdom, for His providence, for His saving mercy." But I want, (and I do not think I am straining the verse that forms the subject that I am to speak on,) I want to proclaim before you that which it so specially set forth the absolute Sovereignty of our God! And I purposely pause here over that statement for every hearer unmistakably to understand me that God, is absolute Sovereign that according to that gigantic Scripture in the Book of Daniel 4:35: "And He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou." That He acts as a sovereign in all He does for the avowed safety, benefit, and blessing of His chosen people. I pause then upon this stanza in the text I am preaching on "Thou openest thine hand" and till that hand is opened man can do nothing. I should be a traitor in the pulpit of the Established Church if I did not insist upon that fact as stated in the tenth Article of the Church and that Article stands based and founded upon that triumphant passage in John 6: "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him." And in the sister verse "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." While thus I have the authority to preach before you that all the given ones shall come (that is doctrine!) I have also, for the comfort and encouragement of every exercised and broken-hearted sinner, here to declare from this pulpit top, to the mass of people now assembled before me "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." But, my hearers, they that "honour Me I will honour," and we must put the crown upon the rightful head; for in the words of Augustus Toplady
Now then, first of all bear with me, my hearers "Thou openest Thine hand." In that hand there is treasure for the church; it is the Father's hand that holds everything for His children. But he knows when the opening moment is to come, for He does everything according to His own everlasting decrees and covenant. "Thy people willing in the day of Thy power." (Ps. 110:3) There is a set time to favour every child of God. Now mark the fact and is it not gladdening to hear it from the pulpit? Is it not Gospel truth that in the hand of the Eternal God is treasured up everything for the church? We had the definition of the church in the second chapter for this evening's service "One Lord, one faith, one baptism: one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all;" (Eph. 4:5,6) and I think in the chapter following, the 5th of Ephesians, it is declared "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it."
Now the subject that I am to speak on is the "hand," and the "opening" and in that hand is treasured up everything for the Church of God. "Thou openest Thine hand" and when that hand is opened the treasure is bestowed upon the child. We have also in the text three other great blessings that I would speak on to you besides the sovereignty and the opening of the hand. Satisfaction follows the opening also, mark the word before me "the desire," and who the people are who have that "desire" "Satisfaction follows the opening also, mark the word before me "the desire," and who the people are who have that "desire" "Satisfieth the desire of every living thing." Now I take this passage accommodationally, (understand me,) as applicable to the state of the church of God. God opens His hand, and in that hand is contained everything for the special good of His own people. It may be trial, for there is such a thing, my brother and sister, in the experience of the church, as the cross-handed blessing. Joseph dictated to his venerable father when blessing his boys "Not so my father" he dictated to the venerable man and have not you and I often under trial, and in periods of soul-exercise murmured out, "not so my Father!" But "I know my son, I know!" That hushes every murmur; and O! What a mercy practically to feel and know that we are in, in the hands of a covenant God, and that
But observe here, satisfaction follows the opening of the hand! And here I pause for a second that I may preach to you about the effect of grace in the soul. "Desire." Not to take a higher test "The desire of our soul is to Thy name." That is a "token for good." If the heart is directed Christwards if the heart longs and pants for salvation if the heart seeks for evidence within that we are safe for eternity if the heart desires to know "am I one of the election of grace" depend upon it, my hearers, that very desire is a test and proof that the Spirit of God is in you: "It is God which worketh in you both to will and do of His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13) And I as a minister of the Gospel feel that it is the very secret of my office in the pulpit to lay men in the dust of self-abasement, and to exalt Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as God over all, blessed for ever Not to allow any creature merit, nor to allow any creature power. All power is of God and this is so, both as to preaching the Gospel, or hearing the Gospel. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (2 Cor. 4:7)
Now, amidst this mass of people before me, allow me to ask, and I put it to you one by one can you test yourselves by the secret which the text declares, and have you a desire after God the Saviour? Not, mark me, from a coward feeling of the dread of hell, but from the love, and in the exercise of that love, that is deposited in the broken heart, by the Holy Spirit of God? Desire is an evidence! My hearers. I am too old a soldier in the ranks of my Great Commander not to know that there are a mass of hypocrites all over the land, in London and in the country, that are holding high doctrines. But it is one thing to profess Christianity, it is another thing to be a broken-hearted follower of a despised Christ.
Mark the test!
"Must and shall be." There is no doubt about it. It is not whether you will or whether you will not. God's will is his child's shall. God puts desire into the soul! And the desire is an evidential test of good the desire in a broken heart the desire to ascertain the fact did that great and glorious GOD-MAN die for me upon the cross? There is a great deal of profession in the present day, my hearers a great deal of meddling curiosity about other people. I do not think it is too common a saying for the spot I now occupy to declare that "Charity begins at home." The great point for you and me in anticipation of that tremendous moment to which we must all come a dying bed and a dying hour, is this "Am I a child of GOD IN CHRIST JESUS?" I ask you, have you a desire now? There may be, and I should be very much astonished in such a crowd as this if there were not several before me that have not got that desire? I would breathe out a solemn prayer to the God I serve, as I stand here preaching before you, that the very subject I am here in weakness, and (in one sense,) in fear, and in much trembling, endeavouring to inculcate before you, may be the means by which you may be brought to have an intense desire in your inmost soul that you are safe for eternity through the blood and victory of Christ. And if you came tonight into this House of God careless and indifferent upon the subject, that you may leave the place and go out of that door exercised and troubled in your soul, to know these things personally for yourselves. DESIRE! Look at the worldly man, and look at the professing man look at the mere dead professors of the day (the greatest enemies of the Gospel after all,) look how they covet, look how they desire, look how they strive after worldly things. Then listen to the blessed statement of our loving Lord "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32) A little flock in every time-state of the church's existence; a little flock throughout the habitable world. But when the great day of account shall come when, to take the thrilling and striking words of the prophet "When the flocks shall again pass under the hands of Him that telleth them" when He counts up His own (you who live in London may not in its practicality understand this figure so well as a countryman can, but this is the meaning of it, and if you have ever seen the shepherd standing at the half open hurdle counting each sheep one by one as it enters into the fold to see that they are all there, you will see the beauty and appropriateness of the prophet's word and carrying out the imagery for ourselves, and appropriating it to the fact of that great event which must take place when "the Great Shepherd of the sheep" comes to tell out His own) the redeemed will then be a countless multitude and we shall all be there. But shall we all go into the fold? In that great day of account when God shall be sessioned on His throne, and before Him all nations shall be gathered then! Mark me! Only two tremendous sentences will be heard, only two divisions of persons to be made, sheep or goats, the one on the right hand, the other on the left, two everlasting telling sentences the one "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" or the other (and do not call me harsh, I must be faithful, and it is God's own word,) or "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
Now is there a desire? I put it to myself, I put it to you. Is there a desire within us to realize our safety for that tremendous day? What would you say of a surgeon in a case where, to save life, it was essential to amputate the leg? I can imagine some unskilful awkward surgeon, in a country hamlet, hesitating about it; but what would you say of a Brodie, if he had paused in such a case, if he delayed a moment even to take the knife and to cut off the limb? And what would be said of us in our pulpits if we failed from any cause whatever, or from "the fear of man which bringeth a snare? "What would be said of us, as ministers of Christ, if we "shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God?" Here was the comfort of the Apostle Paul, when about to leave Ephesus "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." (Acts 20:27) Not a piece of it; not a yea and a nay gospel, but that gospel which, thank God, is contained in the Prayer Book which is inculcated in our Articles and which from the Archbishop of Canterbury, down to the poorest curate in the country, ought to be sounded forth from every pulpit top in the land. It is this precious gospel I would preach to you; and I simply ask whether you have that desire which the text inculcates in your heart the desire to "know your election of God" the desire to know whether you are safe for eternity? Is it not an important thing? I think, if I remember correctly, the second chapter in the Morning Service typified before us the reality of two sisters Mary and Martha. Martha careful and troubled about "many things," and her sister realizing the important fact, that "one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." How many in this congregation are in Mary's position? How many that I see before me, and around me, have got a satisfactory criterion evidence that they (I will take no higher standard) humbly desire in a broken heart to know whether they are of God. We may take the blessed example of the Apostle Paul "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings" or, as I believe I am correct in saying 'that I may have His fellowship and sympathy in all my sufferings.' (Phil. 3:10) I was struck with the simile by the morning preacher, in allusion to this church, referring as he did to the devastating fire that had burnt up the former building, laying it in ruins that in the midst of the desolations, its spire still remained preserved from the devouring element, pointing its summit top to heaven and I would now appropriate that idea to a far higher and grander subject. For amidst all the conflagrations, and trials, and troubles, and perplexities of life, the child of God will still have the spire of hope pointing and rising up to Him who dwelleth in heaven and the desire of the soul will be, in the midst of fiery trials and burnings of heart, to Jesus and to the remembrance of His name! It is the sweet statement of the Prophet Malachi and is a very test of the church, and a striking feature of the child of God "Them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name! "And if you have got no higher up in the scale of evidence of being a child of God, I think I am scripturally correct when I say that the fear of God graced in the heart, and thinking on His name, is a token and a proof and this will make you desire to walk morally. It is a mercy to be brought to think upon His name to be raised to a hope, and to have a desire to know that we are a child of God in Christ Jesus. My hearers, it is here, to this point, where the doctrines of grace bring us. No church in the world holds higher or purer doctrines than the Church of England and while I delight to sound forth those doctrines whether it be to my own home flock in the country, or standing in this strange Church before you I want to show the people that it is not the mere holding high doctrines in the head, but that the very germ and life of Christianity is, the having Christ crucified set up in a broken heart, with an inward desire to follow Christ in the narrow way (for the way is "narrow!) It is this my hearers, that tests the reality of the second birth.
I now come to the "SATISFACTION" spoken of in the text every child of God shall be satisfied. There shall be no disappointment to the people of God their desires shall be all granted God may, God does, and God will keep some of His children a long time in severe exercise! He may grant the desire of some much sooner than the desire of others, but all His people shall be satisfied "My soul (says David in another Psalm) wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him!" (Ps. 62:5) And I believe it, and I know it, and I therefore preach it without any ifs, buts, or ands and I preach it with authority, that unless you know what it is to be tried, unless you know what it is to be "driven to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man" (we have that in Psalm 107)and "are at your wits end" you will never understand the experience of the Psalmist "my soul wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him." Look, my hearers, at the disappointments of life, look at the trials of life, look at the narrow way in which all God's children must more or less continually walk, and yet satisfaction is waiting for them at the end.
Now, have you this feeling of want? May I illustrate the point by the prodigal son? None could be worse than that prodigal son, who left his father's house and spent his patrimony in debauchery and sin. He went into a distant country, and after this, that, and the other, we are told in the words of the Spirit of God "he began to be in want."
That is what the church wants, and we shall have it, for God will satisfy the desire of all His people at His own time, and not one atom of time before. In the Psalms (though I desire not to separate any one portion of this blessed Book from another, for it is all precious, it is all a treasure) yet I believe you will generally find that the tried, the exercised, afflicted, cast down people of God, however untaught they may be in mere human learning) are scholars in the Book of Psalms. In those blessed portions is the crying and the petitioning, the deep soul exercise, the experience of the depths and of the darkness in these too are the glimmerings of hope and burstings forth of praise blessedly set forth and it is in this same Book of Psalms that the triumphant Scripture I am preaching on, is written and engraved "Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."
Now, the fourth point is this "every living thing" and I take this accommodationally to refer to the people of God. We are all "born in sin." There is no exception here. The Apostle in the Ephesian Epistle states "And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1) The Apostle speaks of his own experience as to that fact, we are all dead in sin; and the quickening must be by Sovereign Power. God quickens whom He will. Now we must be brought into the life of the Gospel; and I insist upon it, that there can be no full appreciation of the blessings of the gospel till we have been condemned under the law. I have stated it over and over again to my own flock, that I consider one of the healthiest portions of our service in the morning is the hearing those Ten Commandments, which declare death to you and to me, in every one of them "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) So that there can be no perfection in the flesh. One trip in thought, in word, or deed, makes a man guilty of the whole. Now, what does the Apostle Paul say? "I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." (Rom. 7:9) Mark the peculiar wording of the Holy Ghost "When the commandment came." I can understand a moral man, or a Pharisee coming to the commandment; but that will not do; the commandment must come to the Pharisee and un-pharisaize him. If at this moment there lay in one of the jails of our country some convicted felon under sentence of death, Mr. Walpole, the Home Secretary, must send the Queen's pardon to that convicted felon, or he must suffer the penalty of the law. It is in the power of the sovereign to pardon the felon, but the man has been condemned by judge and by jury, the black cap has been put upon the judge's head, the sentence of death has been passed. And so with you and me! And here it is in the graphic statement of the Psalmist "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before Thee; according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die." (Ps. 79:11) And here I insist upon it, that until we are brought under the condemning, killing power of the law, we are not in a state to wish ever for the Gospel. "The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ" (Gal. 3:24)(to bring us unto" s not in the Greek.) The Apostle says "The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ" that is, we were condemned, and wretched, and guilty without a leg to stand on, till OMNIPOTENT GRACE brought us to our law-fulfiller. Now, what do you know about these things? A man cannot understand the life and liberty of the gospel who has not been condemned under the law. But I was speaking of that statement "when the commandment came. "Now, may I illustrate this in simple English before you. We can understand a man in debt, and who has nothing to pay with. He is surrounded by innumerable creditors, and these creditors apply day after day for payment; and the poor man, not knowing what to do, puts them off, promising to pay on such a day, at such a time but still no payment is made at last the sheriff's officer is sent, and full payment is demanded. That (as I understand it) is the experience of the Apostle spiritually "but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. "And, depend on it, till death and condemnation is felt and known in the soul there can be, there will be, no cry for Christ and the gospel. It is Jesus, typified in His own parable, as "a certain Samaritan," who alone can pity and have compassion on the condemned sinner, healing the wounds, pouring in the oil and wine, setting him on his own beast and taking care of him.
Now, my hearers, before I finish, I must allude to the occasion that has brought me here this evening. I stand (as it were,) with a petition in my hand the subject of this church (which we open today,) of its fire and the other circumstances about it, were so fully stated by my predecessor in this pulpit, this morning, that I feel I can only say, do what you can in this good work. I would telegraph my petition up before God, that it may please Him not only to open His hand in a providential way, but that it may specially please Him to open many a heart tonight under the power of His own Spirit by the word, which, like a hammer, breaketh the rock in pieces. "Is not my word like a fire? Saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces." (Jeremiah 23:29) May we never forget this opening day, and may this house of prayer be a nursery for many, may the gospel be made to sound forth from this pulpit with power to the people assembled within the walls. I stand here a stranger to many in this large assemblage, and all but a stranger to the pastor of the church, not like the preacher in the morning as his old friend but still I ask you to cheer his heart. All that has occurred on the spot where we are now gathered together has been a heavy trial to him the desolation of the old church, and the expenses of raising this new one, have been a cause of great anxiety and not only so, but in the midst of all this (I may quote the words spoken here in the morning) he has been bowed down by severe domestic affliction and sorrow. Cheer then his heart and O! That he may in every sense come forth brightened by the fire, as well as those worshipping in this house may a blessing be upon you, and may this gospel, which in weakness, and in fear, and (in one sense) in much trembling, I have endeavoured to preach to you, be blessed.
May the hand be opened and may the heavenly treasure be poured into many souls. Job says "In whose hand is the soul," (that is, the life,) "of every living thing?" And may the "living things" that are assembled, (for the children of God are such,) realize the truth of the text and be satisfied. Look at the Master I do not think I am straining it when I apply the term "living things" to the children of God, for what was said of the HEAD of THE CHURCH what was declared to the highly honoured woman through whom Christ was to come into the world "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the HIGHEST shall overshadow thee; therefore that HOLY THING which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." My hearers, it is a family name! While the eye of faith now pictures the stable in Bethlehem, and drops upon the spot where Christ was born Christ the best gift of God to His people I remember the stirring words of the prophet "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders." (Isaiah 9:6) That is the best and only sure government there is no shifting there like our earthly governments like our own government in Downing Street there is no change in the government that I am speaking of. He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a NAME written "King of kings and Lord of lords." (Rev. 19:16) And this triumphant Christ, the babe that sat on the knees of that highly honoured female was termed by the Holy Ghost, "THAT HOLY THING!" And I am not, I think, straining the text, which forms the material that I am preaching on, when I say that His people are each a "living thing," And that God will satisfy "the desire of every living thing." And may such of you in this church as are now dead in sin be made to hear the voice be made alive in Christ Jesus! "Living things?"
I preached to some of you the other evening in the city on that striking passage in the Acts of the Apostles "They that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me." (Acts 22:9) There was the light, and they saw it and the voice, but they heard it not. And men in these days have got light! Look at the publications and periodicals of the day. But where is the voice? Have you heard the voice, which brought life and liberty into the Apostle's soul? Remember, my hearers, there is a moment coming when we shall rightly understand all these things, when there will be no opposition to the Gospel of our crucified Redeemer, when the grand secret will be discovered and known, when the books will be opened; and you and I shall be there. We have gazed of late with admiring wonder upon that tremendous comet that has charioted his way through the heavens above us, and I have thought as I gazed of an evening in my quiet country home on that wonderful constellation I have thought, I say of another sight that is to be seen and then, (to quote the description of it which is given in God's word) "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." (Matt. 25:31,32) What follows in that Scripture I referred to before. And in another passage, "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations." (Luke 21:25) O! What a sight to see, and you and I shall be there. Now then, mark, life divine is given to the church. In that striking passage in the Colossians "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col. 3:3) Hidden there, it is all in Christ; and God is the Keeper of your life and again, "When Christ, our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in Glory." (Col. 3:4) Now that applies only to the church. I may quote the Dean of Bristol upon this Scripture. Our English version reads "If ye then be risen with Christ," but the authority I quote says it may be rendered "Since ye are risen? therefore it is only to the quickened church the word refers. There is no "if" in the covenant, and the Apostle is addressing a risen and a called people. "Since ye are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." And I say to this congregation at Herne Hill, if you are risen ones (for I cannot see into your hearts, that is a matter between God and your own consciences) but if you are risen with Him quickened by PREVENTING GRACE, then "Your life is hid with Christ in God, and when Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." And then follows "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth." And I insist upon this, the rather, because I know well that the charge the false charge against those who preach the glorious DOCTRINES of GRACE, is, that we do not insist on a practical walk but I repeat it again "Mortify therefore your members" and this together with deadness to the world, and a feeling sense of guilt and sin is the test of grace within us of the life of God in the soul. The desire of the Christian is to walk in the fear of God. Is this Antinomian error? "Let God be true and every man a liar."
But I feel that the time is come for me to stop. It is a temptation to me to continue preaching, but in concluding let me read the verses which follow the text, they are so comforting to the child of God. "Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him: He also will hear their cry, and will save them. The Lord preserveth all them that love Him: but all the wicked will He destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: and let all flesh bless His holy Name for ever and ever." (Ps.145:18-21)
In finishing, I would remind you of the morning text and of the triumph always of the minister of the Gospel. "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place." (2 Cor. 2:14) That text is immediately followed by these striking words and bear with me for a passing instant "For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death: and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?" And now, mark the verse which concludes that chapter "For we are not as many which corrupt" (or as it is in the Greek, "deal deceitfully with") "the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (or of Him) and so on the authority of that tremendous word, I must be tonight made of God to every man and woman now hearing me in Herne Hill Church either "a savour of death unto death," or "a savour of life unto life" and as it is written in another Epistle "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. "Thus I desire to be made faithful in the pulpit. I feel that I stand here tonight a Trustee of the Gospel! And what, I ask, what would you think of a trustee in worldly things who was unfaithful and dishonest to his trust? Would you not file a bill against him in the Court of Chancery? And what can be said of the man entrusted with the Gospel, commissioned to declare the will of God to the legatees, if he did not faithfully, honestly, and in fear of God discharge the trust committed to his care, and preach Free Grace salvation and declaring the finished work of the God-Man, proclaim peace and pardon to all God's people through the blood, and the love, and the victory of our all-conquering and sinner-saving Christ. O! That the hand may now be opened and with our heart's desire fixed on the Redeemer, may every "living thing" be "satisfied", satisfied with Christ as our All and in all.
May God command a blessing on the Gospel, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.