The "Penny Pulpit " was a common method of sermon distribution in the 19th century, employed by Charles Spurgeon and a host of other notable preachers of that era.
These 45 messages were delivered during Charles Finney’s visit to England during 1849-1851.
Of his visit to Moorfields Tabernacle, Finney said, ‘I preached a course of sermons designed to convict people of sin, as deeply and as universally as possible. I saw that the Word was taking effect.’
38 of these messages were preached there, more than half in the spring and summer of 1850 and the rest in the winter and spring of 1850-51.
We have included 5 of the 45 messages.
"Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." --John iii. 7.
I PROPOSE to make some remarks to-night upon the words which I have just read. The passage in connection with which these words are found is, probably, familiar to you all; however I will read it:--"There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles, that thou dost, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The wind bloweth were it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" Are you a Jewish doctor, and do not understand the doctrine of the new birth? Have you never experienced it? A teacher in Israel, and yet ignorant of this great truth?
In speaking from the words of the text, I propose to show--
I. What the new birth is not.
II. What it is.
III. What is implied in it.
IV. That its necessity is a fact too plain to be called in question, with the least reason.
I. I begin by stating WHAT THE NEW BIRTH IS NOT,
because I am well aware that many persons, who have not well considered the matter, are apt to form very false ideas concerning it.
(1.) I observe then, in the first place, that the new birth here spoken of, does not consist in the creation of any new faculty either of mind or of body. Both Christians and sinners have the same powers and faculties both of mind and body, and therefore sinners do not need any new faculties if they would use those which they already possess, in the manner which God requires them to be used. They want no other powers of mind, and no other powers of body, than those which they have; and God requires them to have no other powers than those with which they are created: consequently, the new birth cannot consist in, or imply, the creation of any new powers of either body or mind.
(2.) Neither, secondly, does it consist in any change of the capacity or structure of any of the powers of the body or the mind. There is no change in the structure of the human faculties in regeneration, neither does God require any such change: no such thing is necessary. What change, pray, is needed in any power either of mind or body? None! Then, we say that no such change occurs in regeneration, or the new birth.
(3.) I remark again, that it does not imply any such change in the feelings of the mind as to produce through them a change in the actions of the mind; that is, a change is not introduced into the sensibilities or feelings, so that persons have new feelings spring up, constituting regeneration. To be sure, there are new feelings arise in the mind; but as I shall yet have occasion to show, these new feelings do not constitute regeneration, nor do they produce regeneration.
(4.) But again: regeneration does not consist in any change in which man is purely passive. I shall have occasion to enlarge upon this presently, but I merely suggest it here, that regeneration or the new birth does not consist in any change in which man is purely passive, in which he has no voluntary agency himself. But, this leads me to notice--
II. In the second place, IN WHAT THE NEW BIRTH DOES CONSIST.
(1.) The Scriptures everywhere represent the new birth, or regeneration, to be a change of character--a change from sinfulness to holiness. Now, if it be so, there must be some voluntary action on the part of the sinner, or how should there be a change of the moral character, if he is passive and not active in it! What do we mean by moral character, and how is a man's character changed? The character depends upon the will, and when a man's will is changed his character is changed. Regeneration, then, is not involuntary, but a change of will, and a change of character--a departing from a state of sinfulness to a state of holiness. How much virtue would there be in involuntary holiness, a state into which man should be brought independently of his own consent, in which he has no agency? Certainly none at all. Regeneration, then, must consist in something in which man's will is something more than passive. It is true, as I shall have occasion to remark, that in regeneration man is a recipient, and a passive recipient, if you will, in a certain sense, of the divine influence; but this divine influence, instead of superseding man's own agency, is only employed in bringing about that change by his own agency, which constitutes regeneration.
(2.) I remark again--the Bible represents regeneration as consisting in a change of character, as the beginning of a new and holy life. It is often spoken of as a new creation, but which does not mean the creation, literally, of a new nature; but, as I have said, a change of character. It is not a change in the substance of the soul, or of the body; but only a change in the use of them. Pray how did Adam and Eve pass from a state of holiness to a state of sinfulness? It is admitted, I believe, on all hands, that Adam and Eve were holy before they sinned--that when they sinned, they passed from a state of holiness to a state of sinfulness. Now, this was certainly a change of heart in them. It is impossible that they should have acted thus without their hearts being changed. It is admitted, that there was a total change of moral character. Now, how was it that this change was produced? what power was it that brought them from a state of holiness to a state of sinfulness? Did their conduct imply in them a change of substance, a change of nature, or an involuntary change? The Bible gives us a very clear and plain account of it. When they were holy, they regarded God as supreme, and yielded themselves up to him in voluntary obedience. God had, for certain good reasons, prohibited their eating of a certain fruit. He had given them an appetite for fruit, and there was nothing sinful in their gratifying that appetite with fruit proper for them to eat--fruit not forbidden. They had indulged this appetite many times before with fruits which they were allowed to eat, and had not sinned in so doing. They had a constitutional desire for knowledge; and under certain circumstances, and upon certain conditions, it was lawful to them to gratify this desire and to seek knowledge. Now Satan suggested to Eve that God was selfish in having prohibited them from eating of that fruit which he had forbidden: "For," said he, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods knowing good and evil." And when Eve saw that the fruit was pleasant to the eyes, and withal calculated to make one wise, she took of it and did eat, and gave also unto her husband and he did eat. Now, by this act did they change their constitutions or their natures, or simply withdraw their allegiance from God, and, in despite of his requirements, give themselves up to their own appetites in a prohibited manner? Thus, laying more practical stress upon the gratification of their appetites than in obeying God, and esteeming that the highest gratification. Now, observe, their appetites were well enough in themselves; and if they had been regulated by the will of God, all would have been well. But they changed their own hearts: for, what was this but a change in relation to the disposition of their minds? Instead of preferring God's authority to their own gratification, they come to prefer their own gratification to God's authority and the interests of his kingdom. Now, let me ask, What would have been regeneration in Adam and Eve? Suppose God had come to them immediately after they had sinned, and made this requirement of them, that they must be born again. Suppose he had said, "You must be born again, or you cannot see the kingdom of God," and they had inquired, What is it to be born again? What would have been the natural answer for God to make them? That they must have some new faculty, some newly implanted appetites, and undergo a change of nature? What was the matter with their nature, pray? Just but a moment since they were living in holiness and in obedience to God--and now they had simply withdrawn their obedience to him, and yielded themselves to the obedience of their own gratification and appetites. Now, what does God require of them? Why, that they will come back again to the state in which they had been previously--to consecrate themselves again to God. That instead of committing themselves, as they had done by this act, to their own gratification, and that in despite of the authority of God--they should reverse this state of things, and devote themselves again once and for ever to the authority and service of God. I remark, then, that regeneration must consist, doubtless, in a change of the disposition of the mind--a voluntary consecration to God. Observe, that when they withdrew allegiance from God, and committed themselves in the face of God's authority to the gratification of their appetites, this constituted a fundamental change in their characters. Observe, they could not do the thing which they did, without deliberately preferring their own gratification to obedience to God. This committing themselves to sin, then, must have constituted in them an entire change of character.
(3.) I remark, again, in other words, that regeneration consists in a change in the ultimate intention, or end of life. The mind, in regeneration, withdraws itself from seeking, as the ultimate disposition and end, the gratification of self, and choose a higher end than itself. Its disposition is changed from supreme selfishness to an entire devotion of the whole being to the great end for which God lives, and for which he made man to live. Regeneration, then, consists in ceasing to live to sin and for selfishness, and to live to and for God. I shall remark no further on this part of the subject at present, but proceed, thirdly, to notice--
III. SOME THINGS THAT ARE IMPLIED IN THIS CHANGE.
(1.) And first, I may say in general, that in regeneration the mind receives new and more impressive views of truth. Men when they are regenerated obtain, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, a clear and vastly more impressive view of their relations to God, of the real nature of sin and of holiness, of their duty to God and the great truths that are indispensably associated with regeneration; and by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as I just remarked, they have new and more impressive perception of these truths. This, I suppose, is implied in it as a condition of it.
(2.) But again: new views of truth, and of religion are implied as resulting from it. For example, when individuals have withdrawn from devotion to themselves and selfish objects, and have devoted themselves to God, they naturally become different people. Before, they viewed everything in a selfish light, and so they acquired a liking for nothing but that which, according to their own views, furthered their selfish ends. They cared not for God even, only so far as they thought he might be useful to them. All their views were selfish. If they feared God at all, it was only because they feared being made miserable by him. Or, if they obeyed him, such obedience was the result of some selfish principle--they hoped to gain some selfish gratification by it. All their views were purely selfish views. Every unregenerate man looks at all things in a selfish light, and all that he imagines will promote his interests, he seeks and loves. But, when a man is born again, he has withdrawn himself from seeking his own interests as the supreme good: he has consecrated himself to God; and, as a necessary result of this, he will sympathise with everything which is calculated to promote the interests of Jehovah's kingdom. The change which has taken place in his mind causes him to have new views and feelings concerning his relation to God, and he now strives to promote God's glory, and extend his kingdom, by making known his will. Before, selfish interests ruled his conduct--self-gratification was his law--and nothing but self interested him. But now, he has come into an entirely different state of mind--he has devoted himself to another end--and he looks upon all things from a different point of view, and their value becomes differently estimated. Now, what constitutes the particular difference between an unregenerated and a regenerated man? There is no change in his physical structure either of body or mind. So far as substance is concerned, there is no change: but the attitude of his mind is entirely and radically changed. Now this change of mind will manifest itself in his life; for the will controls the action of the body. If I will to move my arms they must move, unless there is some opposing force stronger than my will. A change in the will necessarily produces a change in the life.
(3.) And this leads me to say that a new life results, as a matter of course, from regeneration. A new outward life is not regeneration, but it results from it, as effect from cause. You see a man devoted to God, and now he is engaged in different pursuits to what he was before; or if engaged in the same pursuits he acts from a different spirit. Is he a merchant? When he was a sinner his ruling motive in trade was selfishness--the spirit of self-gratification was supreme in all that he did. But now, his merchandise is God's. The things that he possesses are not his own, he is God's clerk, or steward, and he will not cheat any body, for he knows that God does not want his servants to cheat. He is transacting business for God; and, as he knows in his heart that God hates cheating, he will be honest now of course. It will be natural for him to be honest. If it is not possible for him to be honest, he is not a regenerate man. If his heart be honest his life will be honest. So in everything else. Let it be understood, then, that when regeneration occurs, a man's whole life will be a law of honesty.
(4.) But let me say again--another thing implied in regeneration, is a new sort of sympathies and feelings. Before, the feelings and sympathies were all enlisted in one direction, the direction of self. You see a man in this state, and you try to excite him to the performance of some generous action, but you cannot do it unless you can employ selfish motives as a means to accomplish your object. His self-interests are easily excited. Show him how much he can get by acting in the way desired by you, and you may succeed, but not else. All appeals to higher motives will fail. It is remarkable to what an extent this feeling of selfishness will develope itself. Make an appeal to an unregenerate man's benevolence, and your appeal has no effect, because his interests, he thinks, are not concerned in it; but make an appeal to his selfishness, and you can excite the deepest foundation of his being. Talk to him about God, and Christ, and religion, and his relations to God, and his sensibilities are not at all excited--his sympathies do not lie in that direction at all. How unfeeling he is if you tell him of his sins, he does not feel them, and can listen to the enumeration of them without emotion. But at length his mind is changed, and he now lives for other interests; now instead of being devoted to self, he is devoted to God, and every thing relating to God and his kingdom reaches his sensibilities and stir up the fountains of feeling in him. Talk to him now about God's glory and the interests of men's souls--spread out the world before him, and shew him the condition of mankind, and rely upon it you will move him! Before, if you expected to get any money from him you must show him the benefit that would in some sort accrue to himself; but now he has made God's interests his own interests, and he sympathises with God, and with Christ, and he has set his heart upon promoting those interests which shall glorify God and benefit men. Now only but show him the great field of Christian enterprise, and you fire his soul with love to men, and fill him with a desire to promote the kingdom and glory of God in the world. He has consecrated himself and all that he has to these objects. I have been struck a great many times with the beautiful process that goes on in the soul, as the Christian grows in grace. Sometimes I have looked upon an old saint, who for many years has been thinking of, and bathing his mind in, the great truths of the gospel, who has had so much communion and sympathy with God, that he has become beautifully and sweetly mellow; so delicate, so kind, and so Christ-like were the feelings he would manifest, that I have many times been charmed and cheered with the character of a fully developed Christian.
(5.) But I remark again: that in regeneration a great change takes place in the joys and sorrows, and hopes and fears of the soul that has experienced the change. The joys of such a man are of a new sort. Before, he would rejoice greatly in the prospect of earthly good. Now he rejoices chiefly in seeing and hearing that the work of God is progressing in the land. He will rejoice to be told that God is pouring out his Spirit, and that souls are brought to Christ. This to him is an entirely new sort of joy. Before, he could take up a newspaper, and if it contained any account of a revival of religion, he did not read it; but now when he finds such an article in a newspaper, instead of passing it by, he will eagerly run his eye over the page, and it will produce in him inexpressible joy and delight--his whole being will be moved. So with sorrow, new objects call it forth. He was accustomed to sorrow chiefly when some worldly loss had been sustained, because it stood closely connected with his own interests; but now let him know that some professor has become a backslider from Christ, and he is more grieved at that than all the earthly losses that he ever met with. He is now deeply sorry when he sees professors live in sin, more so than at the worldly troubles and losses that he has ever endured.
(6.) Again: Of course regeneration implies repentance for past sin, and implies implicit confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. It implies also peace of mind, which cannot be obtained without repentance and faith in Christ; because the elements of discord are always stirring within the minds of the unregenerate. But when they have withdrawn from the course which their consciences disprove, and have devoted themselves to the end for which they were made, all the workings of their minds harmoniously blend together, and produce peace. There is no remonstrance of conscience against their present course; all the powers and faculties within are in harmony; and in addition, there is fellowship with God, and communion with the Holy Ghost. (You see, my dear hearers, that I can dwell but a few moments on each of these topics.)
(7.) Again, let me say, that regeneration implies a state of self-denial. Now I do not mean by self-denial, the breaking off from some outward customs and habits in which you have been accustomed to indulge--that you leave off some showy articles of dress and wear plainer attire; or that you be a little more temperate, or a good deal more temperate; for self-denial does not belong to the outward life, but to the mind. Self-denial is the renunciation of selfishness, and all selfish appetites. Self-denial is not a total denial of our appetites and passions, but our appetites and passions are not to be our law. It is right to eat and drink, but we are to do both to the glory of God, that we may have strength to serve him. So with respect to all our appetites and propensities, they are to be properly employed and made to serve the purposes for which they were bestowed, but we are not to make their gratification the business and end of life.
(8.) Lastly, regeneration implies that the mind is come to have new motives of action--I use the term motive in the sense of design or intention. This term is used in different senses. We sometimes ask what are a man's motives for doing such and such things, when we mean his reasons for doing them; and sometimes we mean by the question, to ask what his design or aim is? In this last sense I use the term motive. I say then that the regenerate man now acts from opposite motives to what he did before. This is the great radical change that has taken place, and he is now pursuing a radically different course and end. Before, his own personal gratification and interests, and the gratification and interests of those who were considered to be parts of himself, were the ends for which he lived, moved, and had his being. Whatever he did, it was with a view to this end; everything was radically wrong. Whether he went to meeting, read his Bible, or prayed, the end in view was the promotion of his own interests. No matter what he did, it was sin and only sin continually. But now he has become regenerated; the design of his mind is to promote other interests, and to pursue a radically different end: he gives himself to God, and lives, and moves, and breathes, and has his being for God and godliness. Now, I appeal to every person in this house, who knows what it is to be regenerated, whether I have not given, in substance, what regeneration is? Suppose, we should take an opposite view, and affirm that regeneration consists in a change of nature! Now, I know that the Bible sometimes speaks of regeneration as a change of nature, but we suppose that such language is figurative. We sometimes say of men, how natural it is for them to do such and such things, when we mean that the man is devoted to this end, whatever it may be. Now, when a man is pursuing another end, we say he is a new man--that is, his way of life is changed--his end of being is changed. But, suppose, that we should say that regeneration is a change of nature, of substance--that something new is infused into the man that becomes united with the substance either of his mind or body, what must be the consequence? Is this change in the moral character? If it is, something which God has created within man and with which man has nothing to do, it cannot imply a change of character. Furthermore, does it imply the power of backsliding from God? Can a man, in such a condition, be a backslider? Can he fall from grace? I am astonished to hear men contend that individuals undergo a change of nature in regeneration, and yet say that they can alter their course, and fall from grace. How is it possible that they can fall from grace? Who has changed their nature back again? Did God or Satan change it? Now it is true, no doubt, of all sinners, that when they have once given themselves up to pursue certain ends their sympathies, feelings, and dispositions, become so corrupted, that they are naturally led to live sinful and selfish lives; and so when a man is regenerated, it becomes a kind of second nature for him to do right: but still, literally, man has not received a change of nature. I proceed to remark, in the next place,
IV. THE NECESSITY OF THIS CHANGE.
Its necessity is very strongly insisted on in the text. When Christ taught Nicodemus the necessity of the new birth, he was greatly surprised, and Christ said, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." It is no new doctrine that I teach, and you ought, as a doctor in Israel, to know that it is not; no man should marvel at such a plain doctrine, and you least of all.
(1.) In considering the necessity of this change, I remark, in the first place, that the unregenerate part of mankind are all selfish. No man could practically deny this, without incurring the charge of insanity; and, if he should proceed to do business upon that assumption, a commission of lunacy would no doubt be appointed to examine him, and who certainly would have no hesitation in bringing in their verdict, that he was not fit to manage his own affairs. The fact is, that all the arrangements of society proceed upon the assumption, which is a fact, that men are devoted to their own interests, and quite regardless of the interests of others. There is no plainer fact in the world than this. Now, do you ask, how it came to pass that men are selfish? Why, the principle grows up with us almost from our birth. As soon as the appetites and passions of children are sufficiently developed to come into exercise, they employ their wills to seek the gratification of their appetites and passions. The will becomes devoted to the gratification of self. Now that God is not selfish, I suppose, will be admitted on all hands; that a selfish mind is not at rest within itself, that men were not made to be selfish, and that no man can be satisfied and happy while he is selfish--that no man can be at peace with himself while he is pursuing solely his own interest. Man is so constituted that the mind of a selfish being cannot be happy. Now, suppose that the inhabitants of heaven were selfish, all their interests would be conflicting, and laws would be needed to restrain them from encroaching upon each other's rights, because their sympathies did not blend. The same difficulties would exist there as here, only in a much higher degree. There would be striving, and crushing, and overreaching; every man would be at war with his brother. Now, such a community as that can never possess heaven. In order to be saved, then--in order to be happy in heaven, men must really experience a radical change in the end for which they live: they must renounce self-interest, and they must recognize God's authority and interests as supreme, and they must love their brother as they do themselves. They must set up a common interest, and have a common object of love. Who does not believe that heaven is a place where all is unity and harmony, and where there is no selfishness, and where God's will is the universal law, and where the interest of one is the interest of all. Now it is easy to see that this would just meet the demands of man's being when he is regenerated. Now, just look at a world of selfish beings with all the restraints of law; with ten thousand pulpits preaching against selfishness, with the press groaning with articles against selfishness, with large numbers of colporteurs running hither and thither with Bibles protesting against selfishness, and yet see the immense amount of selfishness that exists in the world, after all. And now, when men are told that they must be born again, they do but smile at it. They don't understand it, they have the gross conception of it that Nicodemus had; they do not consider, that unless there be a radical change of character, they cannot possess and enjoy heaven. Put a selfish man into heaven, and what will he do there? Why, he will ask, if there is any way of making money, any way of making a speculation to his advantage? Heaven, then, is no place for selfish beings. But how are men to get to heaven? You tell them of this change of heart, and they do not deny but they may need some little change, but they do not see the necessity for a radical change of disposition and character. But it is nevertheless a great truth, that unless men cease to be selfish and become benevolent in their dispositions there is no place for them in heaven; and, if the selfish man could get there, the holiness and benevolence of heaven would be intolerable to him, his selfish nature would cry out against it, for God is not selfish, angels are not selfish, the saints in glory are not selfish. Now, do let me ask you, dear hearers, are you selfish? Have you always lived to please yourselves? and if so, is it not the most self-evident thing in the universe, that unless a change takes place in the end for which you live, that you never can sympathise with the inhabitants of heaven? Suppose that it were possible for you, with a selfish heart, to join in the worship of heaven, to live among those that were not selfish, but perfectly benevolent, what sympathy would you have there? Would it be the delight of your heart to mingle your song with their's? Could you mingle in their joys and find pleasure in their pursuits? Never! Your sensibilities do not lie in that direction, your minds are not there! Your hearts are not there! Methinks that you would need to be confined there, or you would spring over the battlements of heaven, and go down to hell, in order to get out of such holy and benevolent company.
I shall now make a few remarks in closing.
(1.) First, you can see what an infinite mistake those person have made who make religion hard and grievous. It is not grievous for a man to pursue that upon which his heart is set. Yet a great many religious professors find it very hard to attend to the duties of religion. I have no heart, they say, to go to church, but I must not stay away, I must not omit this duty, and they do it, but find no relish, no satisfaction in it. Why, friends, you have made a mistake! You have attempted to serve God without giving him your heart! You have attempted to serve the Lord without consecrating yourselves to the great end for which you ought to live! Just let your heart go first, and your life will follow without all this great trouble. If your heart is right, you will not need to put a strong rein upon yourselves to keep you from cheating your neighbour. Your aim will then be to do him good; you will love him as you love yourself.
(2.) I remark again, that what individuals need to do it this--turn their minds to God, and to begin a new life; to retrace their steps, to reverse their minds completely, in respect to the great end for which they ought to live.
(3.) I remark again; those person who call in question the necessity of the change, which the Bible says is essential, are entirely unreasonable, for I aver that regeneration is as truly a doctrine of natural, as of revealed, religion. Men, by rejecting the Bible, need not suppose that they can reject the doctrine of regeneration. They must either deny the natural state of man, or they must deny that the inhabitants of heaven are holy, before they can reject the doctrine of regeneration. Natural religion itself teaches that some great and radical change is needed; and hence the everlasting restlessness of man. Do we not know that all the pains that men take to engross themselves with worldly objects indicates that they are ill at ease in regard to their moral character and conduct. The fact is, that they do admit the necessity of a radical change in their characters. They never can rest where they are; and hence the Bible represents them as "like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt."
(4.) I remark again; that many persons have got such ideas of regeneration, that when God calls upon them to become new creatures, they wait for God to change their hearts. They expect to have something done to them that shall act like an electric shock, and so they wait, instead of at once breaking away from their selfishness, and coming to Christ.
(5.) Again, how divine influence is communicated to men is, the context tells us, very mysterious, but the influence is felt, though not seen. Every Christian knows that he has been born again. He knows that he was thinking of certain truths and gave himself up to their influence, when the Spirit began to operate upon his mind, and reveal the truth to him; and he was so influenced, that his desires and disposition were changed, and he gave himself up wholly to God.
(6.) Again; where the truth is apprehended, men have no cause to wait for anything. God requires them to act: "turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die." Now, when they are waiting for something else, they overlook the fact, that God is just doing the very thing that they need.
(7.) In the next place, the mind is highly intelligent in regeneration. The mind must be intelligent in regeneration, or it is not a virtuous act. After regeneration, the mind acts more intelligently than ever it did before; and it may well be so, for that act was the only truly rational of all its acts. The soul now comes to act in view of God's truth, and in harmony with God's will, his interests, and his authority. Is this regeneration, then, to be called fanaticism, mysticism; and to be branded as something unintelligible? I trust, that my hearers will say, No! I will not detain you longer than to ask--If there are those in this house to-night, who have never been born again, but who see the necessity of it, I ask such, do you see that what you are to do is to cease to live for the end that you are living for, and that you are to live in future to God's glory, and to recognize solely his authority, and set your heart upon him? You must not cleave for salvation to any works of your own, but when God draws you, as he is doing now, you are to say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." You are to answer the invitations of God, as Paul answered, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Implying that you recognize Christ's authority, and that whatever Christ tells you to do, you will do. Now, why not make up your mind and come to God at once? There never could be a better time! Why not renounce self now, and make a new heart and a new spirit? Do you ask, can I do that? To be sure you can. Suppose Adam and Eve had asked--Can we make ourselves new hearts? Why, God might have said, Did you not just do it? But, a little while ago, you had holy hearts that were consecrated to me, and you have withdrawn your allegiance from me; and have you not, by that act, just created wicked hearts? This was your own act, and I only require you to undo what you have just done. And now, my dear hearers, I may safely warrant you, that if you will consecrate yourselves to God, God will not condemn you for want of regeneration. But that if you can make up your minds to renounce all your self-interests as the end of life, and freely devote your powers to God, you are safe, you are in a state of regeneration, or call it by what name you will. Remember I am not denying that God has something to do with your regeneration and salvation. It is God that draws you, and your duty is, when he draws, to say, Yes Lord, I consent to take thy dear, easy yoke, and do thy will. I will do it, Lord, and do it now; I do it once for all, and for ever--thy will shall be my everlasting and universal law. Amen.
"Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." --Hebrews xi. 5.
IN speaking from these words I shall inquire--
I. Who gave this testimony to Enoch?
II. Notice the nature of the testimony!
III. Consider how this testimony was given!
IV. The conditions upon which he must have received it, and upon which we may obtain such testimony?
V. The importance of having this testimony!
VI. Consider some of the reasons why so few seem to have the testimony that they please God?
This is the outline of thought to which I would call your attention, and I suppose that these several points will include subjects on which every thoughtful mind will naturally desire to be informed.
I. Our first inquiry is--WHOSE TESTIMONY WAS IT THAT ENOCH HAD THAT HE PLEASED GOD?
Surely it must have been God's testimony, for who could give this testimony, but God? If God was pleased with Enoch, and he knew it, how otherwise could he have become possessed of this knowledge but by a revelation from God? And this was doubtless the apostle's meaning, and it was the fact, that Enoch had God's testimony that he pleased him.
II. I inquire, secondly, into THE NATURE OF THIS TESTIMONY.
(1.) And I remark first, that it was not simply a negative testimony, a mere absence of sin and guilt, and that God was not displeased with him. It was not a mere absence of anything. A hardened sinner will sometimes have this negative kind of testimony: he may not feel the frown of God, nor have any sense at all of God's displeasure.
(2.) The testimony then, that Enoch had, was a positive testimony. God in some way, doubtless, convinced Enoch, and let him understand that he was pleased with him. He indicated the fact that he was pleased with him. Enoch himself had God's testimony that he pleased him.
III. The next inquiry is--HOW ARE WE TO SUPPOSE THAT THIS TESTIMONY WAS GIVEN TO HIM.
(1.) I observe first that it was not given merely in a providential manner--God did not manifest to Enoch by the course of his providence that he was pleased with him; this has never been the course of God with man. Every one knows that oftimes it is quite impossible to know the moral character of a man by the way in which God deals with him in this world. And this fact completely shows that this world is not the state of retribution, of rewards and punishments. I fear that there are many mistakes made on this subject. The friends of Job, manifestly reasoned wrong on this subject, they supposed, and argued, that God's dealings with Job proved him to be a wicked man; but Job resisted this mode of reasoning, and insisted that they had a false view of the subject. Almost the entire scope of the book of Job goes to establish this point--that God does not by his providence in this world indicate his view of the moral character of man. The Bible in many places affirms this. "He makes his sun to shine upon the evil and upon the good, and his rain to descend upon the just and upon the unjust." The wicked are often exalted whilst the righteous are trodden down and afflicted. Neither in their life nor in their death does God often manifest his views of their character. The Psalmist observed this, and he says, "the wicked flourish like a green bay-tree, they are not in trouble like other men, neither are they plagued like other men, verily I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocency." But he said this before he was well instructed. When he thought to know this it was too painful for him, he stumbled at it, until he went into the house of God, and there he understood the matter. There he saw how God dealt with men according to their characters, that God set the wicked in slippery places, and cast them down at last into destruction. These remarks are designed to illustrate what I have just said--that we are not to suppose that God providentially gave this testimony to Enoch. And it is according to the universal observation and testimony of mankind, that God does not show his special pleasure in men by this means.
(2.) I remark again: that God must, doubtless, have in some way indicated the fact to the mind of Enoch through his word, by his Spirit. How else could he have made the communication? It must have been either by providence that God revealed to Enoch that he was pleased with him, or it must have been indicated to his mind directly by the Spirit, as I suppose, through his word. It should be borne in mind that at that time the scriptures were not filled up as they are now, and, therefore, the Spirit of God could not, without a direct revelation from heaven, have made any application to his mind of much that is written in the Bible. Yet, doubtless, God did manifest himself to Enoch through his word by his Spirit. And here, let me say, that in all cases where men have this testimony, it must be of this character. It must be that God gives this testimony through his word by his Spirit.
(3.) But let me say again: it is done by speaking peace to the soul, giving the soul to understand that God is at peace with it, shedding peace and diffusing it over his soul, giving him the Spirit of adoption, leading him to understand by God's smile on his soul, drawing him into union with himself, and shedding abroad his love in his heart, and thus creating such a state of mind that the individual can clearly understand that he is accepted of God, and that God has pleasure in him. If I had time to dwell upon this part of the subject, I think it would be very easy to show that it is in exact accordance with the experience of every Christian that has ever known anything of experimental religion. Any one that has ever had real communion with God, that has ever known what it is to be drawn into union with God in such a manner as to sympathize so deeply with him as to partake of his holiness, and drink of the river of his pleasures, and so to understand what the mind of God is, as to partake in part of its nature, and understand the nature of the peace which God enjoys. And let me say that there is such a thing as God giving to the mind a sense of justification, in other words, a sense of his approval, so that the mind can have no doubt of it at the time. It perfectly understands its acceptance with God. God so smiles upon the soul, and so sheds himself into the soul, that it seems to breathe an atmosphere of peace, so deep and so calm that it is in no doubt of its acceptance with God, no doubt of being in that state which God is pleased.
IV. In the next place--THE CONDITIONS UPON WHICH ENOCH RECEIVED THIS TESTIMONY, AND UPON WHICH EVERY ONE ELSE MAY RECEIVE IT.
(1.) The first condition that I notice is, that the individual who will have this testimony must actually please God, for God will bear no false testimony. It is not enough that Christ has pleased God, that in some mysterious manner Christ's righteousness is imputed to the man. It is only a mere trueism to say that God is pleased with Christ. In the text it is said that God was pleased with Enoch. Now I suppose that we are to understand something more than this--that God accepted him for Christ's sake. I suppose that we are to understand that God, for Christ's sake, gave him so much of the Holy Spirit as to secure in him a state of mind actually pleasing to God, and that through the Spirit he actually did that which pleased God. We say then that any one who would enjoy this testimony that he pleases God, must be in such a condition of mind as is acceptable to God, and live a life that is pleasing to God.
(2.) I remark again: that there must be, as a condition, implicit confidence in God. There is no duty that is so pleasing to God. When Enoch lived, the atonement had not yet been made, but then it was understood that an atonement was to be made. And if this was so, it is certain that he would have had implicit confidence in God as a condition for pleasing him. The Bible affirms that without faith it is impossible to please him; Enoch must therefore have had implicit confidence in God. But what is implicit confidence? I mean by implicit confidence, that he must have abjured all self-confidence, and have cast himself upon God's grace. And in order to this, he must have had some knowledge of the manner in which God expects man to have implicit confidence in his truthfulness, and faithfulness, and mercy.
(3.) But let me mention another condition--he must have lived to God. It is said of him in the Old Testament that he walked with God three hundred years, and then was translated, and was not, for God took him. This walking with God implies agreement--for the Bible says, "how can two walk together except they be agreed"--which in Bible language, means, that two cannot walk together except they are agreed. Therefore when it is said that "Enoch walked with God," we are to understand that his will and his heart were at one with God; and if this was true he might well have the testimony that he pleased God. And be it remembered that every one who would please God, and would have this testimony, must do as Enoch did; he must agree to have God's government and no other, he must live for every end for which God lives.
(4.) Again: he must set his heart upon pleasing God. No individual will have the testimony that he pleases God unless he really means to please him. A man, I say, who would have the testimony that he pleases God, must have an heart set upon pleasing him, he must regard it as of the greatest importance that he please God, he must give himself to the work of pleasing God as a condition of pleasing him.
(5.) Again: Another condition is, that he must not be contented at all to live without the testimony that he pleases God. He must not only aim to please him, but must not be content to live without the testimony that he does please him. If he truly aims to please God, and his heart is set upon this, he will not be satisfied without he succeeds in that which he aims to do, that he really does please God. If an individual does aim to obtain this testimony, but if he considers it only of little importance whether he succeeds, of course he will not have it.
(6.) I remark again: another condition is, he must believe it possible for him to please God. If he does not believe it possible for him to please God; if he has such an idea of God's requirements that they are so exceedingly strict, and that he requires so much of man, that it is almost hopeless of man to expect to please him, if he has this idea, I say, he need not expect to please him. I have heard many persons talk as if it was the height of presumption to try to please God in this world, as if it would be most dangerous to the soul to indulge in the belief that it could please him. These persons represent God as so infinitely exacting, that the highest angel in heaven might hardly hope to please him--then how could man hope to do it? Now when an individual has this idea--that God requires his creatures to make brick without straw, that he requires of men that which they cannot do, because he does not give them the ability to do it, then he rejects every expectation of pleasing God. When an individual has this idea he is in a state of mind that cannot please God. It is true that God is holy, that his requirements are perfect. It is true that he requires men to love him with all their heart, and soul, and strength, and their neighbours as themselves, but it is also true that his grace is equal to his requirements; and in his requirements he pledges his grace to enable us to perform. It were infinitely strange, not to say unjust, if it were otherwise.
(7.) But again: another condition of having this testimony is this--a belief that we may have the testimony--not only that we may please God, but that we may secure his testimony to the fact that we do please him. If we forget the idea that God is slow to manifest his pleasure, it will no doubt effectually prevent our having the testimony. It is the tendency of sin to prevent the soul enjoying this delightful assurance of its acceptance with God, and the arch enemy of souls is ever ready to prevent us rising to this belief and conviction.
Now, let me pause here, and apply what I have I said to all classes of persons: not only to professed saints, but to those also who are not professed saints. Now, do you really desire the testimony that you please God? Of course, you cannot expect to have it while you remain impenitent. But, may you not enjoy this testimony, if you set your heart upon pleasing God? Yes! you may. To be sure you have not this testimony now, and some of you may say, it will be a great while before I can have it. Why? Will it take you a great while to repent, and set your heart upon obeying God? Oh, no! Well, it is as important for you to have this testimony as any body else,--then why not say at once, As I can have this testimony by the grace of God, I will not live another day without it. But I would observe, here, that the spirit of self-sacrifice is a condition of having this testimony. Christ lived not to please himself, but to please his Father: and, in order to do this, he was willing to sacrifice everything and his own life also. Now, if any of his followers would have the testimony that they please God, they must have the self-sacrificing spirit of their master. They must be willing to be used up, for the good of his kingdom. They must be willing, as Christ was, to sacrifice even their lives. But, I must hasten to consider
V. THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING THIS TESTIMONY.
(1.) And, I remark, first: if persons have it not, who are professors of religion, or seriously disposed, the best that can be said of them is, that they live in a state of continual doubt. If they have not the testimony that they do not please God, yet they fully admit that they feel such a sense of condemnation as to be as far as possible off from having the testimony that they do please him. Now, perhaps, it is so with some of you--that everything condemns you, every sermon that you hear condemns you, your own consciences condemn you, you cannot go into your closet and pray as you feel that you ought: God seems to frown upon you. You have the clearest evidence that you do not please God. Others of you, perhaps, may not be in exactly this state of depression, but your life, to say the best of it, is full of doubts; you have no such evidence that God is pleased with you, as will allow you to rest satisfied. You are the subjects of many doubts, fears, and anxieties. Perhaps, you seldom, if ever, rise higher than to be greatly anxious about yourselves: or, perhaps, you are too careless even to care about it at all. When you have heard some searching preaching, instead of going with clear testimony that you please God, you seldom go further than to get many doubts and perplexities about it. No wonder that you doubt whether you love and please God. If you have not the testimony that you do, you have good reason to doubt: and I beg of you, that unless you have this testimony, not to persuade yourselves that you ought to do other than doubt! The only rational way for you to act is to decide that you do not please God. If you do please him, why this state of anxiety? Why this everlasting halting? Is it because God is unwilling to manifest himself to you, although you do please him? Let your own hearts answer the question.
(2.) In the next place, as professors of religion, if you have not this testimony, when you are called upon to proclaim the gospel to sinners and pull them out of the fire, you will find that you have so much to think about yourselves as to be able to do nothing for any body else. This is a great and sore evil! In how many thousands of cases have I found sinners becoming inquirers, and going for advice and comfort to the church, but the church was unable to do anything for them, because they were in doubt, whether they were Christians themselves. You ask them to pray for sinners, and they can only say, Lord have mercy on me. Now, is not this a great evil? Indeed, it is an evil of the greatest magnitude. Professors of religion, unless they have this testimony, can do but very little for God. I have heard ministers during the time of a Revival, say that they could neither preach nor pray? they had so little evidence of their own acceptance with God that their mouths were shut. What a great evil is this! What can they do for others, when they are in this lamentable condition themselves? They cannot go out and work as men of God ought to work. With what confidence can they preach that which they really do not know that they believe themselves, or hold forth the salvation of which they touch not, taste not, handle not! All such persons are a dead weight upon the cause of God, and hang like millstones round the necks of those who would otherwise pull sinners out of the fire. What minister has not found it true, that when his people were living without knowing that they pleased God, that an immense number of difficulties were thrown in the way of good being done! When the church can only hang upon the minister, they are in a very bad condition. Perhaps it is the case with some of you--that you are hanging like dead weights on the energies and prayers of those who are labouring for the salvation of souls? And it always will be so, if you are without the testimony that you please God. Professors of religion--where are you? what are you doing? If you have not the testimony that you please God, you are stumbling blocks, you misrepresent religion! What do you mean? You profess to be Christians, children of God; then you ought to have the witness of the Spirit, and hold forth the blessedness of such a salvation to others. But, what are really the facts? Alas! alas! in general professors are always complaining of their leanness and their trials. It would seem, to hear them talk, as if God was the hardest master that any body ever had to serve; that he dealt out his pleasures with so sparing a hand as quite to discourage them! How many times have I heard persons say, if such and such a person's religion is the religion of Christ, it may do very well for a death-bed, but not to live in the world with. Must I go mourning all my days and never have any cheerfulness, if so, I am afraid of such a religion! And well they may be.
(3.) But, let me say again: that without this testimony you cannot use the promises. How many times have I heard persons say, if I knew that I was accepted of God, how gladly would I apply to myself such and such promises, but they are meant for the children of God, and I do not know whether I am a child of God or no. O that I did but know that I was a child of God, and I would claim all the promises as mine own. Perhaps this is the language of some of you. Now, the promises may lie in the Bible, and the Bible may rot upon your shelves, and you make no use of them, because you lack the testimony that they belong to you--because you do not know whether you are children of God.
(4.) Again: this testimony is indispensable to a rational hope of salvation. What reason has a man to believe that he is personally interested in the salvation of Christ, if he has not this evidence. I know that some persons have a hope that they shall be saved, while they are really living in a state of condemnation. But is this a rational hope? I say, NO; it is not a rational hope. I know that such persons as have it cleave to it, but they have no right to cleave to it, most assuredly.
(5.) Again: this testimony is indispensable to peace of mind. No man is at peace till God speaks to him, but when God speaks peace to his soul, he is at peace. But God will not speak peace to his soul till he comes into a state of mind with which God is at peace.
(6.) Again: it is indispensable to Christian liberty. Many professors of religion have no conception of Christian liberty. Christian liberty seems to be with them a kind of license that they suppose themselves to have, as resulting from the imputed righteousness of Christ: and as Christ's righteousness is imputed to them, they imagine that they can be personally sinful, and yet acceptable with God. I know that salvation does not depend upon personal holiness; but, without it the man is not a Christian. No man, therefore, possesses Christian liberty, unless he has the testimony that he pleases God.
(7.) But I remark again: this testimony is indispensable to Christian cheerfulness. No individual has true cheerfulness without it; the mind will be so oppressed with a sense of guilt that the man can hardly speak a word; from day to day he will go bowed down with a sense of guilt. Real Christian cheerfulness that arises from love, and communion with God and deep sympathy with him, is a kind of cheerfulness which they do not understand who have not this testimony. And, let me say, that it is of the greatest importance that Christians be cheerful, for it recommends their religion to others, and often very materially influences their conduct. Four or five years ago, one of the principal lawyers in the State of Ohio, Judge Andrews, an unconverted man, came to hear me preach; and when I had done, he came and asked me if I would go with him to see an individual that evening. I agreed; and it was to me a great treat indeed. It was a truly Christian woman that we went to see; and, as soon as we were seated, she began to talk with great cheerfulness, and fulness, of what the Lord had done for her soul. Judge Andrews sat and listened with the greatest attention, and by and by a tear trembled in his eye, and the old lady went on conversing with such cheerfulness, that it rivited him, and he sat for three quarters of an hour to hear that woman talk. When we left, he said to me, if this is the religion of Jesus Christ, I am determined that I will not rest till I possess it and know what it is: and there is good reason to believe that he did not rest till he did know what it was by experience. Now, many cases of this kind occur where persons, unconsciously perhaps, influence those around them. How often have I heard men say, when they have seen religion thus cheerfully exhibited, that is the religion for me, that is the religion which meets the demand of our being. Without cheerfulness, a man can scarcely be said to be useful. Let a minister preach to his people without it, and the utmost he will do will be to preach them into condemnation. Said a minister to me, "Brother Finney, tell me what you think is the defect in my ministry; I find that sinners are brought under conviction, but they get no further." I made but a brief answer at the time, but I prepared a sermon in a few days, on the seventh chapter of Romans, contrasting it with the eighth chapter. I showed that the seventh chapter was descriptive of a state of bondage, of law; but, that the eighth was descriptive of the state of Christian liberty. I preached the sermon in the hearing of my brother, and when I had done, he came to me and said, "Brother Finney, if what you have been preaching is true, I do not know anything about religion, for my experience does not go any further than the seventh chapter." Now, said I, you have answered the question that you asked me the other day. You do not know what it is to have liberty, and how can you preach a gospel that you do not understand. The man did not live long in that state. Let me remark here, that it is a mournful fact that the great mass of religious teachers go no further than the seventh chapter of Romans; they can go so far and cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" but they cannot go on to the eighth and say, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." Now, a minister cannot lead his people further than he goes himself; and, if the people were to get into the liberty of the gospel otherwise than by his means, he would pour cold water upon them, and tell them that they were getting into a strange fanatical state of mind; but how different will it be when the minister has come into this liberty which the gospel is calculated to give. I now come to consider
VI. SOME OF THE REASONS WHY SO FEW PERSONS SEEM TO HAVE THIS TESTIMONY?
When I say few, I do not mean to say that the whole number is small, for I am happy to know that it is not. Wherever I go I find persons that understand it, and when they hear the sound, they recognize it as the gospel. But taking the great mass, comparatively few know what it is to enjoy this testimony.
(1.) The reason why they have it not, is not because it is so hard to please God. His commandments are not grievous, he says. He is not exacting and hard to please. He expects a willing mind in his service, but he does not expect from man that which he hath not, but only that which he hath. If the heart and will is right, God accepts it; and the man who gives his heart and will to God shall have the testimony that he please God. So that when a man has not the testimony that he please God, it is not because God is unwilling to manifest his pleasure when he is pleased. Some people seem to think that it is dangerous to praise even virtue itself. Flattery is always dangerous, but condemnation is only just where it is deserved. Take a family, for example, where the children are endeavouring to please their parents, and when they know that they have done their best, if they are not commended, they think that injustice has been done them, and they relax in their efforts, because they conclude that it is impossible to please so as to gain commendation, let them do what they will. Just so with a wife who is always endeavouring to please her husband, and if he is never pleased, the effect is, that she gives up trying, because she sees it is of no use. God in his government supplies this demand of our nature. Let sin be put away from any moral agent, and God loves the agent and manifests his pleasure; it is in his very nature for him to do so. It is but an exception to this rule, that God in a very remarkable and marvellous way hid his face from Christ. Christ was the representative embodiment of sin, and it was necessary that God should make a public demonstration of his hatred of sin, and although Christ was personally holy, since he had become the representative of a sinful race, it was necessary that he should have to utter that agonising cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But ordinarily when any body please God, he has just as much willingness to manifest it as the most indulgent of parents have to commend their children when they do right. Some persons, I know, are unwilling to commend their children, and I know that by such conduct they greatly injure their children. When the wife is not commended for kindness to her husband, or the husband to his wife, or children for dutifulness to their parents, great injustice is done, and an immense amount of injury.
(2.) In the next place, the reason why so few have this testimony is, because so few really please God, so few really aim to please him. If they were conscious of being sincerely aiming to please God, they would undoubtedly expect to please him; but being conscious that they do not live for that end, they cannot rationally expect to please him, and of course they cannot expect any manifestation of his pleasure.
(3.) But again, another reason that so few have this testimony is, that they consent to live without it. If men consent to live without knowing whether they please or displease God, they will assuredly not have the testimony that they please him.
(4.) I remark again, that many do not have it, because they have more regard for the approbation of men than the approbation of God. They care so little about pleasing God, that they have ceased to inquire what will please him, and they will not hesitate to do what they know will displease God rather than displease man. These persons, of course, cannot have the testimony of which we are speaking.
(5.) I remark again; that great multitudes of person seems satisfied with mere negative testimony; if they can manage not to have a conscious sense of condemnation they can get along very well. Dearly beloved, as I have gone over these points, have I been stating the history of any of you? You are all strangers to me, and I always feel embarrassed in preaching to persons of whose spiritual state and condition I am ignorant. God only knows, therefore, whether the things spoken to-night meet the case of any of you, or not.
A few remarks will close what I have now to say.
(1.) When a soul has once had the testimony that it pleased God and has lost this testimony, it cannot rest without it. Let an individual who once enjoyed the testimony that he pleased God, fall into sin, and such a person will be among the most unhappy and wretched of mankind.
(2.) This accounts for the fact, that backsliders in heart are ever the most unhappy of mankind--the man that backslides in heart from God is wretched. I deeply pity the man who is a backslider. I pity the husband who has a backsliding wife--I pity the wife who has a backsliding husband--I pity the children who have backsliding parents--I pity the parents who have backsliding children--I pity the minister who has a backsliding church, and I pity the church who has a backsliding minister; the effect is, that the backslider in heart is filled with his own ways--he is wretched wherever he is, and the language of his heart will often be--
."O where can rest be found?
Rest, for the weary soul."
Perhaps some of you remember, and often say--
"Those peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still."
When you walked with God and had the testimony that you pleased him. You once enjoyed his testimony, and now you are fallen. Well, let me ask if you are not very uncomfortable in that fallen state? Do not your very dreams torment you? Are you not almost afraid to be alone? Dare you commune with your own heart, and be honest with yourselves? If you are in the condition which I have supposed, you are most unhappy and wretched, wherever you are. You may try to be happy and comfortable, but you never can be till you return to God; but when you have done this, and when God's frown is taken away, and he smiles upon you, then you may have peace. Now will you return? Great as your sins are, will you return? Do you say that your sins are so very great, so that you cannot even lift up your eyes to heaven! Neither could the publican, but he smote upon his breast, and cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner." You can do that! If you cannot hold up your head before God, you can get down into the dust, where the Psalmist was when he cried out in the agony of his soul to God and confessed his sin before him. You can do that, and the question is will you do it?
(3.) I remark again, what I have said to-night to Christians may with equal propriety be applied to anxious sinners. And to such, I say, you can have the testimony that you please God, if you give yourself up to please him. If you renounce your sins and have no fellowship with iniquity, so great is his grace, that through his Son Jesus Christ you may breath the spirit of liberty and of love, and possess the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. If you will but believe; if you will but make up your minds to walk with God, you may know what it is to have the testimony that you please him. Some of you may be ready to say, O, if I could have this testimony, there is nothing that I would not do; there is no part of the world to which I would not go, if I could obtain acceptance with God. Yes, you want to buy it; but, until you will be content to do the will of God, and cast yourselves wholly upon the grace of Christ for it, you will never possess it. You may say, I have thought, desired, and prayed, and avowed my willingness to do anything if I might but obtain acceptance with God. Did it never occur to you that there was much self-righteousness in your desire to do something to obtain this, otherwise than by the means which God has appointed--it was a self-righteous effort. It is not very difficult to come to Christ; why do not you come to him? What say you, may I come to Christ? Can I come to Christ just as I am? Will he accept me? Yes, you may come to him, and he will accept you. Hear what he says, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." If you come to Christ, you may have the testimony that you please God; that you believe on him, and cast yourselves upon him, is all God requires of you. And now, you who are professors of religion, and you who are not, is it not best for you one and all to say--"by the grace of God we will have this testimony." What minister, what professor, what sinner, in this house, but will say, "If by the grace of God, it is offered to me, I will have it and enjoy it, or I will die for it. O God, I will accept thy offered mercy. Lord Jesus, I believe thy gospel, and I accept it. You that have the testimony that you please God, I know that in the depth of your emotions you often groan within you, on account of the miserable death in which some persons are that pretend to live: your souls, pray for them, let them pray on, God's spirit is in the midst of you, and now is the time for a resurrection from the dead. What say you sinner? Will you arise from the dead and come forth? Christ calls you, and presents you with his life-giving blood. He puts it even to your lips. Do you dash it away? Do your soul not want the testimony that God is reconciled to you? Do you not desire the testimony that you please God? If you do, then believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall have the very thing that you require. Now we are going to God in prayer, and what say you, shall we go on your behalf in the name of Christ? Who of you are prepared to go with us to a throne of grace, and cast your souls upon God? What individual now in bondage is willing to be released? Come and sore away from all your unbelief, and cast yourself upon Christ. Empty your vessel--cast it bottom upwards and make it quite empty, and then bring it to Christ, and it shall be filled. Will you come? Will you come? WILL YOU COME? Let your heart answer! Let your heart respond! Let it speak out, LORD JESUS MY SOUL HEARS, AND I COME, I COME. Amen.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." - Psalm cxxxix. 23, 24.
IN speaking from this text I shall of course be obliged to assume many things as true without attempting to prove them. This indeed is almost always the case in preaching. It is taken for granted that certain things are agreed upon both by the speaker and the hearer, and unless this was assumed, we could scarcely preach at all. I shall therefore take it for granted that my audience believe in the existence, and attributes of God, and that they also admit that he exercises a providential government over all the affairs of the universe; and that directly, or indirectly, he is concerned in everything that takes place; either positively in bringing it about, or that when it is about to occur he knows it, and permits it, in order that he may make some use of it. I shall take it for granted that you believe that no event occurs without God either positively causing it, or else permitting it to occur, with a design to make some use of it, and in some way to overrule it for his own glory and the good of man. I cannot of course enter into a discussion upon the Divine perfections, but must assume that my hearers admit that God's providence is in some sense universal, and that it extends to every individual. In speaking from these words I design to show: -
I. What is implied in the sincere and acceptable offering of such a petition as that contained in the text?
II. Notice some of the ways in which God answers requests of this kind.
"Search me O God," says the Psalmist, "and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
I. I INQUIRE WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE SINCERE AND ACCEPTABLE OFFERING OF SUCH A REQUEST, AS THIS, TO GOD?
(1.) First it must imply the realization of the omniscience of God. When David penned this Psalm he was in a state of mind that deeply realized the omnipresence of God, and the searchings of his eye. He begins the Psalm by saying, "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and know me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising; and thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path, and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whether shall I go from thy Spirit? or whether shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." I have read these verses to show that the Psalmist, at the time of offering this petition, was under a deep impression of the omnipresence, and omniscience of God, and the searching blaze of his eye throughout his whole being. And I suppose that this is always the state of mind of every individual when he asks God to search him. The very request implies the belief, that God understands his real heart, and is able to search him.
(2.) Again: an acceptable offering of such a request as this, implies a sense of the moral purity, or holiness of God. Observe, he prays to be searched - that his whole being may be exposed, to see if there was any iniquity within him, and that he might be led in the way everlasting. It is plainly implied that he had such a sense of the purity of God, as to be convinced that God was infinitely opposed to all iniquity.
(3.) It implies in the next place the necessity of being perfectly pure himself. An individual that offers such a petition as this, does not, and cannot, offer it without this conviction.
(4.) Again: an acceptable offering of this petition must imply, a thorough wakefulness of mind to one's moral or spiritual state. It must be that he is in a very honest, searching, state of mind himself - thoroughly in earnest to know all about himself: he is wide awake to his own spiritual condition and heartily desires that all his errors may be rectified.
(5.) Again: it implies an intense anxiety to be perfect as God would have him to be - conformed to the holy will of God. Observe, he prays that his heart may be searched to see if there was anything wicked within, and to be led in the way everlasting, which plainly implies that he was willing to be led to abandon all iniquity. An individual who makes such a request as this must have an intense longing of mind to be entirely delivered from the dominion of iniquity.
(6.) Again: this request, to be acceptable, must also imply, I suppose, that the individual offering it, is not at the time conscious of living in sin - conscious of indulging in any known sin. Now the Psalmist would not have made such a request as this, if he had been at the time indulging in sin: he would surely not have asked God to search him to see if there was any wickedness in him, if he was at the same time conscious of indulging in known sin. Had this been the case he could not have made such a request as this without downright hypocrisy.
(7.) But again: the acceptable offering of such a petition as this implies the assumption, on the part of the petitioner, that he needs to be deeply tried - penetrated with the light of truth to the deepest recesses of his soul. When an individual offers such a petition, he assumes that there may be such things about him as he has himself overlooked, and he asks for the scrutiny of God's eye to search it out, and to apply such tests as that he may see it.
(8.) Again: the acceptable offering of such a petition, implies a willingness to be subjected to any process of searching that God may see to be needful. He does not point out any particular way in which he desires to be searched, and tried, but he leaves that to the Divine discretion - he only asks that it may be done, without attempting to dictate how it shall be done. When we ask to be searched, without any real design to be searched, there is an inclination to dictate the way in which it shall be done, but this is not an acceptable way of offering such a petition. The time and manner of the searching must be left entirely to the Divine discretion. Let the thing be done! Let God do as seemeth him good! This is the state of mind in which the prayer must be offered.
(9.) Again: an acceptable offering of such a petition, implies of course, that the petitioner is really willing to have the petition answered, and will not resist any process through which God causes him to pass as the means by which he is answered. I pass now to consider secondly -
II. SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH GOD ANSWERS REQUESTS OF THIS KIND.
And I observe, first: by his Spirit and by the application of his truth. By these means light often shines into the mind, so as to give individuals such a view of themselves as without this searching they never would have had. But, while it is true that God often searches in this way, and has done so in all ages, yet it is by no means the only way in which he searches the human mind: nay, it is certain that he much more frequently searches individuals in other ways. Observe: God's object in searching is not to inform himself respecting us, but to discover us to ourselves, for he knows well all about the state of our minds, our spiritual latitude and longitude: what we are in our present state, and what sort of characters we should develop under any, and all circumstances. Consequently, God, in bringing us out to our own view must apply such tests to us, as shall assist in this development so as to let us see ourselves as he himself sees us. In order to do this - make us understand ourselves, and those around understand us - God answers such petitions as these, by means of his Providence without, and by his Spirit within; and, observe, these never contradict one another. God is working without by his Providence, bringing us into various states and circumstances for the development of character, and then comes by his Spirit, and presents it to our minds when it is developed. But I said that I should notice some of the ways in which God answers these petitions, and I will do so.
(1.) For example, he often suffers things to occur that really will show to us, and to those around us, what sort of tempers we have. For instance, people speak against us, and the way in which we bear their accusations show what our tempers are. Now when we pray to be searched, God often applies such tests as this: he allows us to be defamed, and spoken against, in order to try the state of our minds and show whether we posses the virtue of meekness, or whether we will say that we do well to be angry. Now, perhaps, some of you have had such a test as this applied to you this very day. Some one has said or written something of you of a disagreeable and injurious tendency; well, let me ask, what state of mind did it develop? Did it develop the meekness and gentleness of Christ, or did it make you angry? Perhaps you had been praying that you might be searched, and God caused your character to be developed that you, and that those around you, might see it; and what sort of character was it, hearer?
(2.) Again: God often arranges matters so that we are treated with neglect - perhaps, sinfully so - by those about us. Now God does not prevent this, but suffers it to be done. He could have interposed to prevent it, but did not: well, how does this effect us? it developed the state of mind that we were in. And what was the real state of mind that it brought out? Did it make us angry and manifest an unholy temper, or otherwise? Perhaps God allows us to be treated with manifest injustice, and when thus tried do we manifest the Spirit of Christ? Do we find working in us the temper that was manifested by Christ on such occasions? Remember, that it is written, "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." Now we should be exceedingly ignorant of ourselves if none of these tests were applied. When persons have nothing to try them, they are in great danger of deceiving themselves; but when persons are tried, then their real disposition, and the temper of their minds are developed. Let me ask, has somebody cheated you? has some one taken advantage of you - has injustice been done you - has some one refused you honest wages, or repudiated a just debt? Well, under these painful circumstances, what spirit did you manifest? Did you find the Spirit of Christ within you? Mark! these are Providences occurring to search you that you might understand yourselves, and that those around you might understand you. Perhaps you have been misunderstood, and misrepresented; well, how have you borne it? Perhaps you have been treated disrespectfully by those who are under particular obligations to you; well, how did you bear it? Did your indignation rise - did you manifest an un-Christ-like spirit? or did you find the Spirit of Christ was in you? You prayed to be searched, and in answer to your prayer, your children or domestics, or those related to you, and who are under particular obligations to you, treated you in a very improper manner - directly the reverse to what you had a right to expect from them - perhaps your domestic servants or those otherwise in your employ, have done that which is exceedingly wrong. Now admit that all this was very wrong and exceedingly provoking, what has been the effect upon yourself? What has it taught you? and what has it taught those who witnessed the development? Has it brought out your state of mind? Doubtless, it has; and if it was not outwardly manifest, what were the feelings within? Some one, perhaps, has contradicted you! Can you bear contradiction? Do you bear it well? Were you patient under it? Did you act as Christ would have acted under the circumstances - or did you behave un-Christ-like? Perhaps, in your business this day, some of those whom you employ have not attended to their duty, or have destroyed your property - and all this might have been exceedingly wrong, and highly provoking. But, let me ask, what spirit did you manifest to them who had done the wrong? Such a spirit as Christ would have manifested? What has been the result of such an occurrence? Observe, these things never occur by accident: God designs that every one of them should develop our characters - that they should try us and prove what there is in us, and bring it out on to the field of our own consciences, and reveal to us the springs of action within us. Now when these tests of your character and disposition have been applied, what has been the result? Did you find that you were nothing but the same old sinner yet? That instead of finding Christ within you, and his temper developing itself, you found the old man with his deceitful lusts?
(3.) I remark again, on this part of our subject: How often when individuals pray to be searched, and tried, God gives them opportunities in their business to prove if they love their neighbours as themselves - or whether they will speculate with a view to make all they can out of their neighbours, and adopt any means to this end that will not subject them to any criminal charge, or ruin them in a business point of view. God tries them to see if they will really consult their brother's interest as well as their own - to see if they will share the profits where there is any money to be made; or whether they will be disposed to dip their hands as deeply in their neighbours pockets as they can without losing their character for honesty. Now God often tries men in this way. He will often give them opportunities to take some advantage in the way of trade. A man who is in want of a loan of money comes to an individual that professes to be a Christian, and who is quite able to lend it, but he pretends, that to accede to the request and oblige his friends, he shall have to make great sacrifices; when, at the same time, he really means that his friends shall have the money if he will but give an exorbitant interest for it, and good security. This is a searching for him. He finds a neighbour in trouble; how does he act? Does he come right out like a Christian man and help his neighbour, as Christ and the apostles would have done, had they been placed in similar circumstances? Now, whenever cases of this kind occur, they are golden opportunities for us to know ourselves, and are designed to search us to the bottom of our hearts.
(4.) But again: oftentimes, God so arranges it, that individuals can take advantage of others, without danger to their own reputations. They are very cautious not to take advantage when their is danger, they have no design to ruin themselves. But, sometimes, there is little or no danger to their business characters by being dishonest, and now is the time of trial when an individual has no selfish reasons for being honest. A man may be naturally dishonest, but he will not take advantage when it is likely to hurt himself: but when this is not the case - when he can be honest or dishonest, without injury to his business character, then is the time for a man to try himself, and see whether it is the love of God or the fear of man that actuates him. Suppose that an individual has, in change at your store, paid too much, and it is never likely to be found out, or suppose you have found something in the street, and you can keep it, or restore it as you please: now these are searchings from God; and how completely such circumstances show to men what their true character for honesty is. The honest man would no more take, and appropriate, the mistaken change, than he would cut his own throat; nor keep the articles found in the street any more than he would leap into the fire. Now suppose, that instead of finding the Spirit of Christ manifesting itself, he developed the opposite spirit, and has to resort to some selfish reasonings to quiet his conscience, and make himself appear an honest man. Well, it is written upon him, Mene, Mene, Tekel - weighed in the balances and found wanting.
(5.) Again: God often allows men to accumulate property that they may have an opportunity to extend the cause of truth and righteousness in the earth; he tries them to see if they will do it or not. Professors of Christianity acknowledge themselves to be but stewards for God - that everything they possess is his; and, consequently, is at his disposal. Now is it a fact, that these men act in harmony with their professons? Well, God often tries them to see if they are acting the hypocrite or no.
(6.) Again: God in his providence often causes us to suffer losses by bad debts, or by fire, or by some such means, just to see whether we will think and speak of these losses as being our losses - whether we regard these losses as God's or our own. As professors of religion, we profess that everything is God's, and that we are only stewards. Well, look at a professor who once had large property to manage, by some means he lost it all, and he goes about saying, that he has sustained such and such great losses, and proves by such conduct that he acted hypocritically in professing that he believed it to be God's property, and that he was only the steward of it. Suppose a clerk, whose master had sustained heavy losses, should go about and complain that he had sustained the losses, how absurd and untrue it would be. When we are in possession of property, we may profess that it belongs to God, and even deceive ourselves into the belief that we are sincere in our professions, but when a loss occurs, it often shows to us that we did not regard it as God's, but our own.
(7.) Again: he will develop our temper to us, and enable us to see whether we are impatient, or otherwise; and he will show us whether we are ambitious - whether we desire to climb and scramble up some height, from which we can look down with scorn or contempt upon our fellows.
(8.) Again: God oftimes gives us opportunities of self-display, to see whether we will display self; and, on the other hand, he often denies us such opportunities, to see if we will murmur and be envious of those who have. Many persons will be found often speaking against display, when they have not the means to indulge in it; they will be very loud in their censures upon other professors who ride in their coaches, and furnish their houses in a superior style - but give these declaimers the means of doing the same, and see what they will do - see if they will not imitate, and perhaps act more extravagantly, than those whom they before condemned. A little while ago, they were very piously complaining of display, but now they have the means of doing the same thing, and they do it; so that it was not principle, that caused them to speak as they did, but simply because they could not indulge in those things themselves, they pretended to be greatly grieved with others for doing so.
(9.) But again: Sometimes God will deny individuals many things, to see if they will be satisfied with the providence of God. Do they bear poverty well, or are they envious at the rich? Are they in their poverty what Christ would have been in their circumstances? Thus riches and poverty, sickness and health, and a thousand other things, are sent to try men, and prove to themselves, and to those around them, what their real state is.
(10.) God oftimes try us to see if we are self-willed - to see if our wills are ready to submit to his will; or whether we shall make ourselves unhappy and wretched because God so wills respecting us. How often is it the case that individuals do not know whether they are self-willed; so long as the providence of God seem to pet them they are very pious, and can talk about submission with the greatest apparent sincerity; but let God just drive across their path: lay his hand upon them: blow their schemes to the winds of heaven: and see whether they will talk of submission then; see whether they are self-willed, or whether as little children they will instantly submit. Can they say with the Psalmist, "O Lord, thou knowest that I am not haughty; surely, I have behaved myself as a child weaned of its mother: my soul is even as a weaned child." Blessed man! when he was tried, he says, "Surely I have behaved as a child that is weaned of its mother." Probably, most of you have had opportunities of knowing by actual observation what this means - perhaps you have seen a self-willed child ready to wrestle with everybody, but what a great change comes over it, when its will is subdued. God often in his providence tries individuals, but who, instead of being a weaned child have been as an unweaned child; instead of being able to say as the Psalmist did, are obliged to confess, "I have been as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke" restive, self-willed, domineering, and ready to make war upon God. Most of the persons, to whom I address myself to-night have doubtless, passed through such scenes as these. Now, let me ask, how have they affected you? What was the state of mind that you discovered in yourselves? God was searching you, applying the tests that should infallibly show what was the working in your minds.
(11.) But, let me say again: it is oftimes of the greatest importance for God to introduce measures to show if we are disappointed at any course that he adopts towards us. When the man is devoted to God, he is willing that everything which he possesses, and his own life also, should be devoted in any way that God should choose. If he is in a right state of mind, he will not be disappointed at any providence, believing that everything occurs by the will of God; and, this being the case, all must be right and conduce to their real good. Now when circumstances occur to disappoint us, if we will not allow ourselves to be disappointed, we may understand and conclude, that our will is such as it ought to be.
(12.) Again: God often tries us to see if we idolise our friends; he visits them with affliction, or the loss of property, to try whether our affections and love are set as much upon God as upon our friends. You recollect the case of Eli, when he was informed of what had occurred to his family: he said, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." Now it is a great thing for individuals to have opportunities occur in the providence of God to try them. There is, no doubt, a meaning in all things that God is perpetually bestowing upon us: and the very things that we are apt to regard as evil things, when we are in a bad state of mind, are working for our good. But let a man be in a right state of mind, and he will not object to be thoroughly tried, for he knows that the grace of God will be given to assist him to bear the trial. He can say with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." And how much good the trial does him. It is good for him to be searched and tried and stripped; if need be, of property, health, friends, and all else, no matter what, for these individuals have the satisfaction of feeling the grace of God spring up in their hearts, and it shines forth on all around them. My design is, as you perceive, to pass very rapidly over an outline, which I beg you to fill up by looking back from time to time at what is occurring around you. What has occurred to-day to try you? Say, how did it if affect you? Keep an eye upon this to-morrow, and remember that God is searching you to try your temper and state of mind. Perhaps, you are a Christian mother and your child is unruly and unreasonable, how does this effect you? Do you know that God is suffering this to see whether you will be patient or not?
(13.) But again: How often will God try us to see whether we are really willing to lose the good opinion of the world - to lose the respect and confidence of our friends, and to lose cast in society for the truth's sake. Some man, perhaps, has been cast down from the heights of society, and has become poor, and loses friends and reputation; how now is he effected? Does this trial cause him to shine forth a holy man, caring but little how men regard him, if so be that the event is for his spiritual good, and the honour of God? Indeed everything that passes in society - new fashions - new style of dress - new colours - are constantly developing the state of our minds. Are our minds intent upon these things? Or to what extent do they affect us? It is often interesting to see how such things will effect Christian professors, and others also. The design of God in this dispensation is to make all classes of men understand themselves - whether they be professors of religion or not. Thus he says of the church in ancient days, "Forty years have I led thee in the wilderness to humble thee and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldst keep his commandments or no."
(14.) But again, let me say, that oftimes he will introduce dispensations that may severely test Christian professors, and prove whether they love God supremely. Now I have observed that there are many professors of religion who profess to love God supremely, who will stand by in silence while God's name is blasphemed by men who seek to bring dishonour upon his name and to subvert his kingdom; but these same professors, if any word is spoken against themselves, are in the greatest excitement. They can see contempt, and abuse, heaped upon God without exhibiting, or even feeling, much grief - or being able to sympathise with the Psalmist, when he said, "I beheld the transgressors and was grieved." "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law." Now do they think that the Psalmist expressed himself in a manner that was not true? No, surely! Wickedness took place before his eyes, and how did it affect him? Why he tells us, and tells God himself how it affected him, "I beheld the transgressors and was grieved." Now nothing is more common, than for God to suffer wickedness to occur before the eyes of professors, to see what state of mind it will develope. To see whether they are more devoted to their own characters than the honour of God. Now whenever these things occur the fact is revealed whether we love God or ourselves supremely.
But I must hasten to make a few remarks, and close.
(1.) The first remark that I make is this - men do not always realise what is implied in the prayers which they offer to God. They offer requests to God without seeming to realise what is implied in the requests which they offer. For example, they pray to be searched, but they do not understand what is implied in such a request? Do they know for what they are asking? People, in making requests, ought to understand for what they ask! And what may be necessary as a condition of receiving an answer.
(2.) Again: men often receive answers to their prayers without recognizing the answers. They are praying, but looking in another direction - they have their own thoughts about the manner in which they expect God to answer. For example, how many persons have offered the prayer which is contained in our text; and they have an idea in their minds that the searching would take place when they were in their closets - not thinking that it was really impossible for God to do this. Now when persons pray with this idea, they do not recognize the answer to their prayers, because they come in a different direction to that in which they are looking. Perhaps some of you have received such answers to your prayers as have wholly confounded you. You have prayed to be searched, and instead of having the inward light that you expected, you find yourselves in such a state as if the spirit of Satan was developing itself within you.
(3.) But let me say again, that person oftimes resist the answers to their prayers. It is no doubt true that God frequently answers petitions, in a certain sense, even when they are not offered in a right spirit, and perhaps the answers are intended expressly to show that they were not offered aright. For example, an individual prays to be searched, and God searches him to show that he is not able to be searched. Professors pray that they may be searched, and the minister comes forward with their portraits drawn full length and hold them out to their view. Now just look at them! they cannot bear it? What is the matter with them? They prayed but a few days before, that they might be searched, and now see the effect of the searching! I am just reminded of a fact that once occurred under my own notice. A Presbyterian church, in the centre of New York, had existed for many years without a revival of religion, till it was in danger of becoming extinct. I went there for the purpose of merely spending a night. The members of the church were holding a prayer meeting. I declined to take the lead of the meeting, being a stranger, so one of the elders led the meeting: he began by reading a long Psalm, or hymn, and they sung it; and he then read a passage of scripture and did what he called pray - he doled out a long talk to God, in which he said a great many things about their state and condition, how long they had been so, and that they had met there every week for many years to pray, &c. Another hymn was sung, and another leader did the same as the first. They had about three such prayers, when one of the elders desired that I would make some remarks before the meeting closed. I complied with the request, and took their prayers as my text. I asked them plainly if it was understood that the meeting was called to mock God? They had met together once a week for many years, and had confessed their sins, but they had never forsaken them, and what was that but mockery? I took up each man's prayers separately, and pointed to him, while I remarked - if what that man said is true, he is a hypocrite! I then took another one's prayer, and said to him, now you are certainly a hypocrite too, if what you said in your prayer is true - that is self-evident. Well, they looked so angry, that I did not know but they would get up and leave the house, yet I did not spare them. I just threw their prayers back in their faces, and charged them with holding a prayer meeting to mock God. They turned and twisted about in their seats for some time, and were most uneasy, till at length one of the elders fell forward in tears, saying, "it's all true, it's all true." This was the commencement of a revival, which in a few weeks spread throughout the neighbourhood. These men had not understood that they did but mock God while they pretended to hold a prayer meeting - they asked to be searched, and God searched them in a way that they did not expect. As I said, persons will often pray to be searched without understanding what is included in the answer. Just take up their own confessions sometimes, and ask them if they mean what they say? and tell them if you are guilty of what you say you are, what wicked men you are, and you will certainly be lost unless you repent immediately. Just adopt this course, and you will soon see whether they are willing to be searched, whether they are in earnest.
(4.) I remark again, that all the trials of saints are in answer to their prayers - are sent to try them. Sometimes this fact is not recognised, and sometimes when persons do recognise this, they are really afraid to be searched. I have known persons afraid to have spiritual blessings bestowed upon them, lest the trial attending the bestowal should be too severe. A woman said to me once, "I am afraid to ask the Lord to sanctify me, for if he does I am fully persuaded that he will take my husband from me." Well now, although it is not often the case that persons understand so distinctly the state of their minds in this respect, yet there is no doubt that persons oftimes really fear that God should introduce some sanctifying dispensation, lest he should deeply wound them in some tender part - perhaps deprive them of friends, of children, or perhaps even of their own characters.
(5.) But I remark again, that these things which try the unregenerated part of mankind are often in answer to the prayers of the saints. The saints pray that God will convert the sinners, and God adopts the means that are needed to this end, and the means that are adopted perhaps were little anticipated, and are not always recognised as answers to prayer. It comes to pass oftimes that individuals need to lose their character, their friends, or their property - they are so hedged in, that God must adopt some stringent measures in order to bring them into a right state of mind and cause his truth to operate upon them.
(6.) Again: saints who ask to be searched must be willing to suffer anything which God sees fit to lay upon them - they must make up their minds to submit to any dispensations of his providence.
(7.) Again: saints should be prepared to receive answers to prayer in their own persons. Perhaps God lays them on a bed of sickness just when they had some very great object in view. Well it is intended for their good, therefore they ought not to repine nor murmur, but receive with thankfulness the good that is intended for them.
(8.) Again I remark, that it is necessary that these trials should be awarded us, for it will not do that God should always feed his children on sweetmeats. We need severe discipline: it makes us good soldiers. A mere silken religion that passes through no trials has little efficiency in it. These providential trials take away the dross and tin, and make us strong in the Lord. How lovely is the character of the Christian who has patiently endured the trials through which he has had to pass. He becomes like a weaned child, and quiets himself under all the dispensations of providence: he receives every thing as bestowed upon him from his father. I might add a great many other things, but I must close by saying - the more holy Christians become the more sincere, and earnest are they to have their whole character, and being, completely searched, developed, and cleansed: and the more needful they find it to lay their whole heart before him, and ask him that his providence may search it, and purify it on every side, until he is satisfied with his own work. Christians, are you in the habit of asking the Lord to satisfy himself; to do that which shall bring you into a condition that will please him? Do you not long for the pruning knife to be applied, and to be purged of all your selfishness and everything that is offensive to God, so that you may stand before him as a young child in meekness and love, while he looks upon you and says, this is my handiwork, and it is very good. Ask God to search you then, and do not be afraid to have it done. Look upon all the trials of life as coming from your heavenly Father, in order that if you are really self-deceived you may know it, and if you are not, that you may grow up into the likeness of the Son of God. Amen.
"Thy kingdom come." --Matthew vi. 10.
YOU will instantly recognise this petition as being one of those contained in what is generally denominated "the Lord's Prayer." In considering these words I propose briefly to explain,--
I. What is meant by the Kingdom of God.
II. What is implied in an acceptable offering of this petition to God.
III. That the state of mind that can acceptably offer this petition to God, is universally binding upon all men.
IV. That it is also a condition of salvation.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
In some respects there are two ideas concerning the kingdom of God. One class of divines suppose that the kingdom of God is purely spiritual; others suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ will reign personally upon the earth, that when he comes a second time, it will be to set up his kingdom in this world, and reign here in his visible presence. These two classes, however, agree in this--that his kingdom must be spiritual, whether outward and visible or not; in either case he can reign over man no further then he reigns in their hearts. A spiritual kingdom must be set up in the soul--the Divine law must be written in the heart. If the Lord Jesus Christ should come and dwell visibly in London, walk in its streets, and mix with its people, and be here as truly as the Lord Mayor is, what would it advantage the people unless they were converted and truth prevailed in their hearts? Unless the laws of his kingdom were written in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, the people of London would be none the better for the Lord Jesus Christ's living amongst them. Therefore, whether the Lord Jesus Christ come and reign personally or not, his kingdom will be established and his dominion extended by the same means that it is now. When persons pray, therefore, "thy kingdom come," if they pray sincerely, they pray that there may be universal holiness in the earth--that this kingdom of grace may be set up in all hearts, and that Christ should exercise universal influence over the minds of men. I am to notice--
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN AN ACCEPTABLE OFFERING OF THIS PETITION TO GOD.
And here let me say that it was not part of the design of our Lord Jesus to give his disciples merely a form of prayer, the words of which they might repeat without knowing or caring what they meant or said; he did not give this prayer to be repeated over as a ceremony merely, without significance or interest. There is no greater profanity in the universe than to gabber it over in such a manner as it is frequently used. The Lord Jesus gave this prayer to be understood, and that the petition should be offered with sincerity and with faith, and in a certain state of mind. Who can doubt this? Did he intend to teach his disciples and his people in after-ages to be hypocrites? No, indeed! Did he intend them to offer insincere worship? No, indeed! Then he must have designed that they should offer these petitions with sincerity. Now, the question is, what is implied in sincerity? When is a man sincere in offering this petition to God? What are the characteristics and elements of sincerity? What is implied in being sincere?
(1.) I observe, first, that a sincere and acceptable offering of this petition implies repentance of past sins,--for sin rejects God, and tramples down his laws. No man who lives in sin can offer this prayer without gross hypocrisy--that's very clear; the man who rejects Christ and tramples on his laws, lives in sin, and cannot offer such a prayer as this acceptably. It implies, then, repentance and renunciation of all sin.
(2.) It implies confidence in God: observe, it is a petition to God, that his kingdom may come. Now, if an individual have not implicit confidence in the character and wisdom of God, in the perfection of his government, and in all the provisions of his kingdom, why should he pray it may come? Now, it is not enough that a man believes as a mere speculation that God is good, that his law is good, that his kingdom is what it should be; the devil knows this as well as anybody else. It is not enough that a man should admit intellectually that these things are so, but he must confide in God with his whole heart: to offer this petition acceptably he must really have heart-confidence in God's existence, in his wisdom, in his universal right to legislate for the world, in the perfection and wisdom of his government; he must have full confidence in God, I say, ere he can offer this petition acceptably--this is very certain.
(3.) Another thing implied in the acceptable offering of this petition is, that the heart obeys the law of God. An individual, for example, who does not in his heart submit to God's law, cannot pray that his kingdom may come, for what would he mean by that? That others may obey it, that others may submit to Christ's authority, that God's law may be set up in others' hearts, but not in his own. He cannot pray acceptably thus. The petitioner must have the law of God set up in his own heart, and his own life must be governed by it. But this leads me to say,
(4.) That, inasmuch as man's outward life is always of necessity, by a law of his nature, as his heart is, it implies an obedient life as well as an obedient heart. The term "heart" is used in various senses in the Scriptures--but whenever it is used in the sense that implies virtue, it means the Will. We say of those whose will is devoted to God, that their hearts are right--they are devoted to God, consecrated to him. Now, if we consider the heart as the will--and that is the sense in which I now use the term--the will governs the outward life; and if this will, or heart, devotes itself to the will of God, and yields itself up to obedience to the law of God, the outward life must be in conformity with the law of God, so far as it is understood. Let no man say, then, that his heart is better than his life. Let no man say that his heart has received the kingdom of God, while his outward life disobeys it.
(5.) Sincerity in offering this petition implies universal sympathy with God. By this I mean, first, that the petitioner really does sympathise with the great end which God is endeavouring to secure through the instrumentality of his law, and by the government of his kingdom. Now, government, remember, is not an end, but a means; neither is God's government an end, but a means. He proposes to ensure certain great ends by means of his government and his kingdom. Now, when a man prays that God's kingdom may come, to be sincere in his petition, he must fully sympathise with the end which is sought to be accomplished, and on which God has set his heart, which is his own glory, and the interests of his kingdom. A man, to offer this petition acceptably--"thy kingdom come," must understand this to be the great end, and set his heart upon it; to this he must consecrate his being, as the end on which God has set his heart. But it also implies, secondly, sympathy with God in reference to the means by which he is endeavouring to secure this great and glorious end. Again, sympathy with God implies a real and hearty aversion to all that stands in the way of the progress of his kingdom--all sin, in every form and in every shape. The individual that is not deeply and thoroughly opposed to sin, does not want God's kingdom to come; for God's kingdom would destroy all the works of the devil, would destroy sin in every form and degree. Those who offer this petition in sincerity, virtually pray that all sin may cease. Now, how can a man who does not cease from sin himself present such a petition as this? How can he pray for God's kingdom to come, while he is violating the known laws of that kingdom? If a man be not opposed to all sin, he cannot offer this petition acceptably.
(6.) It is plain that sincerity in offering this petition must imply supreme attachment to the King, his law and government. Observe, the petition does not express a partial attachment to the kingdom of God, but is an expression of entire agreement with God in reference to his kingdom--a universal submission, a universal attachment to the King and his entire administration. Every one, I think, will say that no man is or can be sincere in offering this petition, if he is not heartily and devotedly attached to the King and his government--to every principle and precept of his holy law and Gospel, and to his entire administration.
(7.) A sincere offering of this petition implies a sympathy with all the means that are used to establish this kingdom in the earth--to establish it in the hearts and souls of men. Now, if an individual prays that this kingdom may come, he prays that men may be made holy, as the condition of their being made happy, and of their being saved. Now, the man who does not truly love the souls of men, and desire their salvation, never offers this petition in sincerity; in order to do this, he must care for the souls of men.
(8.) It implies a supreme desire that God's kingdom may come. It is one thing for an individual to say "thy kingdom come," and another thing for him supremely to desire that it may come. It is common for a man to ask in words for what he does not deeply and sincerely desire; but I said that a man, to offer this prayer acceptably, must deeply, and sincerely, and supremely desire that God's kingdom may come. But, if a man is in bondage to his own lusts, and desires their gratification supremely, no one in this house, I presume, would affirm that such a man could offer this petition acceptably. Now, I suppose that, to offer this petition acceptably, there must be a supreme desire for the object prayed for; that no desire shall be allowed to prevail over this; that no merely selfish enjoyment or selfish indulgence shall have a chief place in the heart. Let me ask any one of you this question,--Suppose you should see a man on his knees offering this petition, and if you knew, at the same time, that he was a self-indulgent man, not willing to make any sacrifices, or hardly any, to promote the interests of this kingdom, spending ten times more on his own lusts than he gave to the cause of Christ, how could any of you believe that such a man was sincere in offering such a prayer? Such a man, if he uses this petition, virtually says,--"Lord, let thy kingdom come without my exercising any self-denial; let Providence enrich me, but let me keep all I get: let thy kingdom come, but let me seek my own gratifications." Now, if a man should pray in words in this way, you would say it is little less than blasphemy! But he might not say this in words for very shame; yet, suppose he said, "let thy kingdom come," and acted quite the opposite to any such desire, would his prayer be any the better?
(9.) But not only does an acceptable offering of this petition imply supreme desire--that is, without more influence than other desires--but it implies also, that the mind is supremely devoted to the end for which it prays; the voluntary power of the will devotes itself, and devotes the whole being, to the promotion of this end. Now, suppose we should hear a man pray in this way--"Lord, let thy kingdom come, if it can come without my being devoted to its interests; let thy kingdom come, if it can come without my ever giving my heart, time, energies, property, possessions, sympathies, and prayers, to promote it; I will say let thy kingdom come, but I will go on in my own way, and do nothing to promote it or hasten its approach:" you would say that this is not an acceptable offering of this petition. I suppose that none of you are disposed to deny that an acceptable offering of this petition does really imply that the heart is truly and sincerely devoted to the kingdom of God.
(10.) An acceptable offering of this petition must imply self-denial. Now, please to understand what I mean by self-denial; remember, it is not the forsaking of one gratification for another: it sometimes happens that men forsake the gratification of one appetite in order that they may gratify another. Persons may deny themselves in a great many respects, and yet be guilty of much selfishness. Suppose a man be avaricious, and love money, his heart is supremely set upon acquiring it, and hoarding it up. That man may be very frugal in his expenditure--he may be very much disgusted with many who spend money for their own gratification; this avaricious man may deny himself many things; he may go so far as to deny himself the comforts of life, as misers do, and berate everybody who do otherwise; but the man is selfish nevertheless: the love of money prevails over the love of everything else--his heart is set upon that. What people call self-denial, is often no self-denial at all; self-love is very frequently at the bottom, after all. But real self-denial consists in this--an individual's refusing to live to please himself; to promote his own profit and interests, as distinguished from God's kingdom; who refuses to do anything simply and entirely for self. It implies that an individual ceases from self and consecrates himself to God; lives to please God and not himself, and sympathises with nothing whose ultimate end is not to serve and glorify God. Now, when a man who does not deny himself offers this petition to God, what does he mean? He is a rebel against God, opposed to his law. Why does he want God's kingdom to come? Let no selfish man, then--no man who lives in any form of self-pleasing, suppose that he can offer this prayer acceptably.
(11.) It implies, on the part of those who offer this prayer, a real and whole-hearted embarking of their all with God in this great enterprise. If we offer it sincerely, it implies that we have come into such sympathy with him as to embark ourselves, body and soul, for time and eternity, our characters and affections, our all, in making common cause with God in the advancement of the interests of his kingdom. Now, I think it cannot be doubted that all this is included in a sincere offering of the prayer, "thy kingdom come." Take the case of an earthly prince desiring to establish a kingdom--true patriotism consists in sincerely seeking the promotion of the aim of the prince. The fact is plain, that the acceptable offering of this petition must imply that those who offer it have given themselves up to the promotion of this object; that they have embarked their all in this great enterprise; that for this end thy live, move, and have their being.
(12.) Let me say again, that it implies a fear towards whatever would be calculated to retard the progress of this kingdom. Persons in a right state of mind hate everything that would hinder the advancement of this kingdom, because they have set their hearts on its establishment. Sin and every form of evil is loathsome to them, because it retards the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth. It is a law of man's being which makes him quiveringly, tremblingly alive to any interests on which he has set his heart, and causes him to be keen-sighted, and ever on the watch to remove anything that stands in the way of the progress of that upon which his hopes are so deeply set. Now, be it remembered this law of mind invariably shows itself in religious, as well as in worldly matters; it does do so, and must.
(13.) I observe, in the next place, that those who offer this petition sincerely, manifest grief and indignation at whatever is contrary to God's will. If they see an error, but which does not involve sin, they are grieved; but if it involves sin, they feel indignation. I do not mean malicious indignation, but a benevolent, a holy, a compassionate indignation.
(14.) Lastly, under this head, I observe that a right offering of this petition implies the joyful exercise of an economy in our lives, whether of time, talents, influence, or whatever else we possess; there is a joyful economising of everything for the promotion of this end. Now, who does not know that when men set their hearts upon any great object, that just in proportion to their attachment to that object will be their devotedness to it--just in that proportion are they cheerful, eager, and ready in using every economy for the promotion of this object--they husband everything for the promotion of that end. As an illustration of this, let me notice an affecting circumstance that occurred within my own knowledge. A woman, who was a slave in one of the southern states of America, had escaped from her bondage, but she had left her husband and children in slavery: the master of these individuals offered to sell them their time, and let them go free. This poor woman gave herself up to earn the money to redeem them; and it was very affecting to see how she toiled, and denied herself even the necessaries of life, in order to secure their liberty. Nothing daunted her; no hardship discouraged her; in the cold, when the snow was on the ground, you might see her working, with but little clothing, and her feet bare; if you gave her a pair of shoes or a garment, she would soon sell them, to get money to increase the fund which was to secure the liberation of her husband and children. Now, this poor creature practised economy for the promotion of the great end she had in view; I do not say that was wise economy in her case, for she nearly sacrificed her own life to it. Now, you mothers can understand and appreciate this woman's conduct; if you had husbands, sons, or daughters in slavery, would you not do as she did? This woman had no love for money, or for anything, only as it sustained a relation to the one great end on which her heart was set. This circumstance illustrates, I say, most powerfully this great principle, that whenever our hearts are supremely set upon any object, we count everything dear as it sustains a relation to, and secures that object; and he, therefore, who prays sincerely, "thy kingdom come," must have his heart so set upon the object as to exercise a joyful and perpetual economy, with an especial reference to that end.
III. THE STATE OF MIND THAT CAN ACCEPTABLY OFFER THIS PETITION, IS UNIVERSALLY BINDING UPON MEN--ALL THE MORALAGENTS OF OUR RACE.
The heathen themselves, by virtue of their own nature, know that there is a God, and that this God is good. They know that they ought to love their neighbours as themselves, and to love God supremely. The Bible teaches us that the light of nature, which they possess, leaves them wholly without excuse, if they do not love and obey their Creator. To believe and embrace the Gospel, then, is an universal duty. This you will all admit, and, therefore, I need not enlarge upon it.
IV. THIS STATE OF MIND IS A CONDITION OF SALVATION.
Understand me, my hearers, I do not mean that it is a ground of acceptance with God--that is not what I mean: I do not mean that men are saved by their own righteousness--that on this ground they will be accepted of God. I know, and you know, that men are to be saved by the righteousness of Christ, and not by their own righteousness; therefore, when I say that this state of mind is a condition of salvation, I mean what I say--it is a condition as distinct from a ground; a condition in the sense that a man cannot be saved without being in this state of mind, but that this state of mind is not the ground of salvation. "All have sinned, and" therefore "come short of the glory of God." First, to be in this state of mind is a natural condition of salvation. Could anybody that cannot offer this petition be happy in heaven? What would such a man do in heaven? God has perfect dominion there. Now, unless an individual is in a state of mind that he can sincerely, acceptably, and prevailing offer this petition to God, unless it be the natural expression of his heart, what possible enjoyment could he have in heaven? None whatever. Secondly, it is governmentally a condition of salvation. Every attribute of God in his moral government of the universe forbids any man to enter heaven who cannot present this petition acceptably to God. But we cannot further enlarge.
Let us now conclude with a few remarks.
(1.) This state of mind is not only a condition of salvation in the sense in which I have mentioned, but it is also a state of mind that must always be a condition of prevailing with God in prayer. Now, let me ask, Can any man expect to prevail with God if he is in a state of opposition to him, or not in the state of mind I have already described? While in a state of rebellion, while resisting God's authority, not having the heart in sympathy with God, not desiring the kingdom of God to come, how can an individual expect to have his prayer answered? No, neither this nor any other petition--that is very plain. It is true that God hears the young ravens when they cry--a mere cry of distress. And even when Satan himself prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ that he might not be sent out of the country, but that he might go into the herd of swine, his petition was granted; but the devil was not in a state of mind for prevailing, in the sense of offering prevailing prayer to God. I speak now of a state of mind that can secure the things promised, and this must be the state of mind in which a petitioner can acceptably offer the Lord's prayer--he must be within the meaning of the injunction of Christ's promise, as a condition upon which he has promised to hear and answer.
(2.) We can see from this subject why it is that prayer is often repeated by the petitioner, and is so seldom answered. God is "the hearer of prayer," not of hypocritical utterances in which the heart does not unite. Such prayers are not heard, because, in truth, they are not prayers at all. Individuals may repeat the Lord's Prayer every day, ten times a-day, and the more frequently they repeat it, the more they grieve the Spirit of God, and expose themselves to God's righteous indignation.
(3.) Those who offer this prayer acceptably are universal and very liberal contributors to the great cause of missions, and zealous supporters of all those various societies whose aim is to extend Christ's kingdom in the earth. By this I do not mean to say that these persons are always in a condition to give large amounts; but they will be cheerful and large contributors according to their means. And why? For the same reason that the slave mother was a cheerful and large contributor to that upon which she had set her heart, because their hearts are set upon the coming of Christ's kingdom in all its fulness, and power, and blessedness. I know that some may not be able to contribute more than their two mites, but I know, also, that they can give even this little with a full heart and a liberal hand. In a congregation to which I preached several years, in the city of New York, there was a woman named Dina, who had been brought up a slave, and continued a slave until she was forty years old and incapable of work; but although so poor, she always gave a quarter of a dollar--about a shilling--every Sabbath, to assist in meeting the current expenses of the congregation, and other things to which the money was applied. This was a free church; all the seats were free to every one. When Dina was asked how she could afford to give so much, she replied that the first quarter of a dollar which was given her in the week she laid by till the next Sabbath, for the purposes of the sanctuary. "I live upon God every day," she said, "and I know he will give me what I want." At the monthly missionary meeting, also, a box was carried round, and individuals put in their money, wrapped up in a piece of paper, with their names written upon it. Constantly, among the rest, was Dina's name written on a paper, enclosing a dollar. One of the collectors asked her if she really meant to put in so much as a dollar, and with some surprise, she replied, "Why, it's only a dollar--it's only a dollar; can't I give a dollar a-month." This poor woman seemed to have no interest in anything, only as it bore upon the advancement and interests of the Redeemer's kingdom.
Now, it must be that individuals who can really offer the Lord's Prayer, and mean it, will prayerfully do everything they can towards promoting his kingdom.
(4.) This leads me to say again,--The end for which a man lives will always reveal itself in his life; his sympathies will lie in the direction in which his efforts tend, and the reverse. If a man sincerely offers this petition, he will do everything in his power to spread a knowledge of the Gospel among men, and so extend the Saviour's reign upon earth.
(5.) The true Christian finds it "more blessed to give than to receive;" for example, the slave mother never felt so happy as when she was paying the price of her husband's and children's release. When she gave that money to the master, she felt it much more blessed to give than to receive; a great deal more blessed than to have spent it to please herself, to gratify her own appetites. Impenitent men are greatly deceived when they profess that Christians feel it a great sacrifice, a great trial, to be asked to contribute of their substance for the promotion of religion. I have known impenitent men keep away from God's house because they felt it to be such a hardship to be called upon to give to a collection; and I have even heard professors of religion talk in that way, and have abstained from going to meeting when there was a collection, because they did not like to be dunned. Now, what sort of a conception have such men of religion? Why, they know nothing about it. Suppose that a number of men were to meet together for the originating and carrying out of some object of business or benevolence, which they professed to have deeply at heart, and that when they came together, they found that money must be subscribed by each of them, and they were to say that it was a great and intense abomination to be called upon to give money,--what would you think of their sincerity? But would they act thus? Why, no, they would be anxious to give of their substance, in order that the object which they had at heart might be realised. The real Christian never gives grudgingly, but thankfully and joyfully. When you have dropped your contribution into the box, Christian, don't your heart go away echoing, "God bless it! God bless it!" And if you have nothing to give yourself, you will pray for a blessing on the contributions of others. A collection will now be taken up for the London Missionary Society, before we close this morning's service, and another, for the same purpose, will be made in the evening; but I trust no person will stay away on that account. Amen.
"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" --Matthew vi. 10.
These words are part of what is commonly called "The Lord's Prayer," and it is one of the petitions which our Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples to present to God. I must assume that certain things are admitted by my readers, among them, that you admit that the will of God is perfectly done in heaven, that God is perfectly obeyed there, and that everything is done there perfectly in accordance with His will. This I shall not attempt to prove, but shall take for granted that it is admitted by all my readers. In speaking from the words of our text, I design to call to your attention:
I. Some of the principal relations in which the will of God may be contemplated.
II. What is implied in an acceptable offering of this petition to God.
III. That to be in this state of mind is a present and universal duty.
IV. The guilt of not being in this state of mind.
V. This state of mind is a condition of salvation.
I. SOME OF THE PRINCIPAL RELATIONS IN WHICH THE WILL OF GOD MAY BE CONTEMPLATED.
Now, observe that God must be a moral agent if He is a virtuous being. This I take to be a universally known truth and conceded-that God's virtue must be voluntary, that it must consist, substantially, in the same thing in which all virtue consists. If, then, God is a moral agent and a virtuous being, and has an intelligent will, He must live for some good and desirable end. He must exercise His will for some good purpose, and not act at random and without discretion or aim; but that wherever He exercises His agency, it is for some good purpose or end.
We say then, first, that God's will may be contemplated in relation to the end upon which it is fastened and which it is endeavouring to realize. In this must the virtue of God, and all other moral agents, substantially consist. If God has chosen a worthy and good end, He is a worthy and good being; but if He has chosen an unworthy end, He cannot be called a good being; for goodness cannot consist in divine substance, irrespective of divine action and will. God's virtue, then, consists in the attitude of His will.
Now, if I see that God has proposed to himself some great and good end, upon which His heart is set-upon which it was set from all eternity-and that this design and aim is really what it ought to be-what the divine intelligence would point out as an end worthy of being chosen and realized, then I can understand the relation of God's will and character thus far: that He is pursuing an end well worthy of himself. We are told in His Word that this end is to secure His own glory and the good of the entire universe.
In the second place, the will of God may be contemplated in respect to the means which He uses in order to secure this end. I refer to the government of God: as all that is implied in the movements of the universe that secure the end at which He aims. We may contemplate the will of God as it relates to both physical and moral government: as it relates to the arrangements and order of nature-the physical universe which He has created; and as it relates also to the moral government-rewarding the good, and punishing the guilty.
The will of God also may be contemplated as the will of a sovereign, who exercises sovereignty over His people; not ar bitrarily, for which there is no reason, but in that He acts according to His own will without consulting any other being. God's will, then, may be contemplated in relation to His character, His government, the exercise of His providential government in the physical creation; and in respect to all moral agents, prescribing the law and showing how it was to be obeyed, and then punishing those who refuse to obey and rewarding those who do obey. God's will may be regarded as the law of the sovereign, acting according to His own discretion, and aiming at those things which to himself shall seem wise.
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN AN ACCEPTABLE OFFERING OF THIS PETITION TO GOD.
"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Now, doubt less, when our Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray this prayer, He meant something more than that they should just repeat these words. They were intelligent beings and moral agents, and doubtless He intended that they should express the state of their own minds. He would not, therefore, have them understand that they would be regarded as offering acceptable prayer because they offered this mere form. He intended that they should use this language in sincerity of heart, understanding and meaning what they said. I suppose this will not be doubted. Then the question which we have to answer is, "What is the state of mind required in an individual, and which must be implied in his offering such a petition as this to God?"
The acceptable offering of this petition must imply that the petitioner understands what God's will is. I mean this, he must have some knowledge of the true character and will of God. If he has not a true conception of this, he may fall into grievous errors. Suppose an individual should conceive of God as a selfish being. Suppose that he should conceive of God's will as being neither wise nor good; and if with this state of mind, he should pray for God's will to be done in the earth, would he offer an acceptable petition to God? By no means. Then, to be acceptable, he must conceive rightly of what God's will is. He must regard God as a wise and good being. For if God's will was neither wise nor good, people ought not to do His will. Suppose that God's will was neither wise nor good, and yet He should require us to offer this petition, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven"-and that there was nothing, neither wise nor good, done in heaven, it could not be our duty, as moral agents, to offer such a petition. The offering of this petition, then, implies that we understand God's will as perfect, both as to its wisdom and goodness.
An acceptable offering of this petition must imply that we have implicit confidence in His will, as being perfectly wise and perfectly good; for if we have not this confidence, we cannot honestly and intelligently pray this prayer.
The acceptable offering of such a petition as this implies sincerity of heart. If an individual asks anything of God, he is required to ask it in sincerity. But what is implied in an individual being sincere in asking this of God? It must imply that he really desires God's will should be done, that this petition is in accordance with His will and expressive of the true state of His heart. If it is not so, then the offering of such a petition would be hypocrisy. Of course it follows, secondly, that the state of mind which can sincerely offer this petition to God must be in entire harmony with the will of God, so far as God's will is known. If there is anything in which his will is not conformed to the will of God, he cannot offer this petition without base hypocrisy.
The acceptable offering of this petition implies, of course, that we understand and embrace the same end that God embraces; that is, that we really consecrate ourselves to the end for which God lives, and that we sympathize with Him in the end for which He consecrates and exercises all His attributes. If we have not the same end in view that God has, how can we say, "Thy will be done"?
Unless we sympathize with Him in the means that He uses, how can we say, "Thy will be done"?
An acceptable offering of this petition to God also implies a willingness to say and do just what He tells us. If we are not satisfied with the divine conduct in all respects, how can we say, "Thy will be done"? If we are not willing for Him to require of us just what He does; if we have in our hearts any objections to what He does; if we regard His will as exacting and unjust to us, we can never offer this petition acceptably. But suppose that intellectually we admit that His will is not grievous. That is not enough if the heart does not fully consent, for observe this prayer is to be the prayer of the heart.
The acceptable offering of this petition not only implies that we are willing that He should require just what He does, but that He should require it on the condition of all the pains and penalties upon which He does require it.
It implies an entire willingness on our part to obey Him.
How can a person sincerely pray, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," who himself is not willing to do the will of God? If he is not truly and really obedient, to God's will as they are in heaven, so far as he knows His will, how can he offer such a petition as this? If he is resisting God's will on any point and in any form, he cannot without gross hypocrisy offer this petition. The offering of this petition implies that we sympathize with the spirit of heaven, that our hearts are really yielded up in most solemn and earnest devotedness to God. For how can people whose wills are not yielded up to the will of God, without being hypocrites, say to God, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven"? In heaven, the will of God is perfectly done, universally done; and shall a person acceptably offer such a petition as this if he is not in a state of mind to go the full length of God's will and subscribe heartily to it? It cannot be.
Observe, then, that the acceptable offering of this petition must imply present obedience in the heart to God. The will of the petitioner must have been given up to the control of the will of God. His will must be the expression of God's will so far as he knows it, or he cannot honestly offer such a petition as this to God. I say that the acceptable petitioner must do the whole of the will of God, so far as it is expressed, in whatever way it is made known: whether through Christ, through the Spirit, through providential arrangements and occurrences, through the Word of God, through the workings of his own heart and mind, or in whatever other way this will is made known.
The heart that is sincere in offering this petition must really embrace and express the whole of God's will as really and truly as it is embraced and expressed in heaven itself. By this I do not mean to affirm that the will of God is known to the same extent in earth as it is in heaven; but so far as it is known, the petitioner must as really and truly embrace it and obey it as they do in heaven. It is not to be supposed that God's will is fully known upon earth; undoubtedly many things concerning the will of God have not been fully revealed to us, so that we cannot understand all the details of His will; but, in so far as we understand it, there will be a willingness to obey it entirely.
The acceptable offering of this petition implies the absence of all selfishness in the mind that offers it. God is not selfish; selfishness is the will set upon itself, regardless of all else. The person who offers this petition cannot be selfish. The very pe tition implies the present absence of selfishness.
An acceptable offering of this petition implies that we really hold ourselves at the divine disposal as honestly and truly as we suppose they do in heaven. Who does not suppose that every being in heaven holds himself at the divine disposal? It must be that every being there considers himself as belonging to God-that to God all his powers are consecrated; and that any indication of the divine will as to how these powers are to be disposed is to be readily adopted and carried out by the agent himself. Who can conceive that there is any hesitation to do the known will of God in any particular?
To sincerely offer such a petition as this to God, there must be an entire consecration of the will and the whole being to Him. A person who offers this petition acceptably must be in such a state of mind as to consider that he has no right to the disposal of himself. He must lay his whole being upon God's altar and hold himself entirely at the divine disposal. The same is true of all he possesses. Who doubts that everything in heaven is held as belonging to God? We know not what things the inhabitants of heaven have in possession, or what their employments are-what they may be employed about, and what instruments they may use to promote the great end that God is intending to realize. But this we know, that whatever they have influence over is all held at the divine disposal. No one in heaven thinks of disposing of anything to promote any selfish interests of his own. Who can believe that anyone there has a separate private interest?
Now, how should we regard our possessions if we are to offer this petition acceptably to God? Why, God's will respects the release of our possessions, our time, our talents, our influence, our character and everything to Him. These must be held at the divine disposal, given to the divine discretion, laid on His altar and left there. No one can offer this petition acceptably to God without doing this. If he would be selfish, and selfishly use anything in the whole world, he is in no state of mind to offer this petition to God. If he is endeavoring to promote his own will, do you suppose he is fit for heaven? Do the inhabitants of the heavenly world act without consulting God, without reference to His will? No, indeed! When people say, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," does not this imply that everything on earth is to be done at the divine disposal, and to be as truly disposed of for God as they are disposed of in heaven? Let it be understood, then, that he who offers this petition to God must as really design to obey Him, use all his powers and everything that he possesses for His glory, just as they do in heaven. If he has not this deliberate and solemn purpose in his mind, what does he mean by such a petition as this?
The offering of this petition implies that the petitioner is really and truly willing to make sacrifices of any personal ease and comfort for the promotion of God's glory, so far as he un derstands that he ought. Who doubts that in heaven they are willing to be sent to any part of the universe, or to give tip personal case or anything else for the promotion of the great end for which God is aiming? We are informed in the Bible that "angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who are heirs of salvation." Any moment they may be called to self-denial and arduous labor. Doubtless they are often called, but do they hesitate, do they consider it a hardship? No; because they sympathize with God and with Christ in this great work. They do not hesitate to make any personal sacrifices that are demanded of them. They are perfectly cheerful and happy in it. Now, a person who would say, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven," must be willing to make any sacrifice that he knows is to be in accordance with the will of God. If it is plainly a matter of duty for him to do this or that, to go here or there, he must be perfectly willing to comply, or how can he offer this petition?
The state of mind in which this petition can be acceptably offered implies that there is an opposition to sin as real as there is in heaven. I suppose not to the same degree, because we have not the same appreciation of its character that they have; but, insofar as it is understood here, the individual that offers this petition is as really opposed to sin as they are in heaven.
An individual who offers this petition acceptably to God must have as real a sympathy with all that God has as they have in heaven. In heaven they doubtless sympathize with all that is good, so the individual who offers sincerely this prayer must have intense hatred to all that is wicked, and must deeply sympathize with all that is good. There must be as true a renunciation of self and all selfishness, and as genuine a disposition to please God in every heart that offers this petition, as there is in heaven. I speak not of degree, because I suppose we do not apprehend these things so clearly as they do; but, insofar as we understand what God loves, our sympathy must be as real as it is in heaven.
III. THAT TO BE IN THIS STATE OF MIND IS A PRESENT AND UNIVERSAL DUTY.
Every person is bound, now, to be in this state of mind. I say every man; not merely Christian ministers and professing Christians, but every moral agent is bound to be in this state.
It is demanded by the nature of things. How can people be released from this obligation? Every person knows that he ought to obey God; he affirms it by an affirmation that is irresistible. Everyone knows that God's will is wise and good. Who ever heard this called in question by anyone who had a true idea of God developed in his mind? Every moral agent admits he is bound to consent that God's will should be done, and that he ought himself to do it.
Every moral agent knows, too, that it is not his duty merely to do this sometime or other, but it is his present duty. He has no right for a moment to resist the divine will. I need not, of course, enlarge upon this part of the subject, because I suppose that these truths need only to be stated to be universally rec ognized and affirmed to be true, as seen in the light of their own evidence. Are not men so constituted as to have it confirmed by a law of their own nature that they ought to conform to the will of God? They would not be moral agents if they were under no obligation to obey the will of God.
IV. THE GUILT OF NOT BEING IN THIS STATE OF MIND.
If an individual is not in this state of mind, he refuses to sympathize with God. If he knows that all God's aims are directed toward an end worthy of the pursuit of God, worthy of the Creator of the universe, and yet he refuses to agree with God in this end, he sets it at naught, he turns his back upon it, though he knows it is good.
If an individual is not in this state of mind, he is unwilling that God should govern the universe, not only in relation to the end that He seeks, but also in the means that He uses. He refuses his consent that God should govern the universe in any shape. The man who will not obey God's law, really rebels against the will of the lawgiver; he actually refuses to consent that God should govern.
Let me say that the individual who is not in this state of mind really refuses in his heart to consent that God should be good. He would not have God do what He is doing. He is unwilling to obey Him. He would rather that God did not require what He does; that He would not do what He does do; and yet these things are implied in the goodness of God and are essential to His goodness. God would not be a good being if he did not require and do just as He does. The individual who is not in this state of mind, then, refuses to consent that God should be a good being-that God should do that which He knows is proper to do. Now just think of this, he rebels against that which constitutes the very goodness of God.
The individual who is not in this state of mind really refuses that God should comply with the necessary conditions of His own happiness; for the necessary conditions of God's happiness must be His virtue. An individual who is unwilling to obey God is unwilling that God should comply with the necessary conditions of His own happiness. The individual who is in this state of mind cannot say, "Thy will be done," for he is really at war with the holiness and happiness of God-he is arrayed against both. He is unwilling that God should will as He does. And since holiness belongs to His will and consists in willing as He does will, all God's actions are included in the actions of His will. The individual who is not in harmony with God not only refuses to sympathize with Him, but he also refuses to consecrate himself to the end for which God is consecrated. He arrays himself against God. Yes, he virtually says, "Let God cease to be. Let Him not require what He does. Let Him not pursue the end that He does. Let Him not govern the universe; let not His will be universal law!" He may just as well go one step further and say, "Let God not be happy; let Him be infinitely and eternally miserable." For if God were not holy, who does not know that He would be infinitely unholy? And I tremble to say it, but who does not know that if God were a wicked being, instead of a good being, the workings of His own infinite nature would fill His mind with infinite agony?
Now, observe, what does a man mean when he takes this attitude-that he will not consent to have God's will done, that he will not obey Him, that he is virtually opposed to His being good? Why, if God is not good, what must be the consequences? If He may not will as He does, and require as He does, and do as He does, He must do the opposite! And does not sin imply this-that the sinner really takes this attitude? Yes, it does! People who refuse sincerely to offer this petition are opposed to the holiness and the happiness of God, and would consent to the eternal overthrow and total ruin of God and His whole empire! This is certainly implied in resistance to the will of God.
Let it be understood that no moral agent can be indifferent to the will of God: he must either subscribe to it, or resist it: he must yield himself to it, or array himself against it! And if against it, no thanks to him if there is any particle of good in God's universe; no thanks to any moral agent who cannot honestly and sincerely subscribe to this petition. It matters not to him if any being in the universe is either holy or happy! He is opposed to it all! The state of his mind is perfectly opposed to it all, and, were he to have his will, he would annihilate the whole of it, and introduce sin and misery into every part of the universe. How great, then, must be the guilt of an individual who has his will opposed to the will of God. I could expand upon this at large, but must now proceed to my next point.
V. THIS STATE OF MIND IS A CONDITION OF SALVATION.
By a condition of salvation, I don't mean that it is the ground upon which sinners will be saved, that they will be saved because of universal and perfect obedience. But I affirm this, that it is a condition in this sense, that without being in this state, salvation is both naturally and governmentally impossible.
It is naturally impossible. Heaven is no place for the person whose will is not in harmony with the will of God. Suppose that he entered there, he would introduce a jarring note. He would introduce discord; heaven would be no place for him.
It is governmentally impossible for him to possess heaven, whose will is not in harmony with the will of God. God is the Governor of the universe. God's will is infinite, and where God is, His will must be the law. In every community there must be some one mind that sways every other, or there will be discord. Some will must give law to the universe. There must be someone whose will is universally confided in as perfect, and that will must be universally performed or there will be jarring, there will be clashing. God, therefore, as Governor of the universe, must be obeyed. The indication of His will must carry all minds with it. Now, to the person who hates God's will, this would be intolerable; therefore, governmentally it is impossible for any person to enter heaven who cannot sincerely say, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."
I must now conclude by making a few observations. How shocking it must be for people to use the Lord's Prayer as a mere form. Just think of it! While he is living in known sin, an individual offers such a petition to God! What can he mean? What profanity! What blasphemy is involved in it! It makes one's hair stand on end to hear an individual pray in that manner to Jehovah, the heart- searching God.
How shocking it is for some congregations (many of whom, perhaps, are unconverted, ungodly men and women) to make use of such petitions as this, pretending to worship God. Yet how common it is to repeat this prayer as a mere form; and it is often introduced into the nursery, and the children repeat it without being told what is implied in it. Why, no wonder their hearts become hardened. But perhaps someone will say, "If this be so, I will not offer this petition at all." But what petition, I ask, will you offer? For remember that you can offer no petition acceptably unless you offer it sincerely!
For example, let us read over these very petitions. "After this manner, therefore, pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven." What does this imply? Why, the recognition of God's relation as our Father. "Hallowed be thy name." What is implied in that? Why, a similar state of mind as that which I have just pointed out. "Thy kingdom come." What is implied in the offering of that petition? Why, that you have set your heart upon the same end that God has, that your will is to obey His will, that you are consecrated to the interests of His kingdom.
Then follows the petition contained in the text, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." "Give us this day our daily bread." What is implied in that? Why, the recognition of the universal providence of God. "And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"; not, as some say, "forgive us our trespasses, and enable us to forgive them which trespass against us"; but "as we forgive them which trespass against us." If you do not forgive the trespasses of others, you pray to God not to forgive you yours. It implies, then, a most forgiving state of mind on your part. I have often been acquainted with the state of mind of certain individuals in respect to others, and I have wondered, when they attempted to pray the Lord's Prayer, that this petition did not choke them. How many people, when they pray this prayer, really pray to God that He would not forgive them at all'? For they don't forgive their enemies.
But let us proceed a step. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." What state of mind does this imply? Why, a dread of sin, and an opposition of the heart to it; and a most sincere yearning of soul to be conformed to everything that is good. "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
Now, suppose that any should say, "Why, if this is a true exposition of the Lord's Prayer, I shall never dare to offer it again." And what prayer will you offer? Take any other petition, and does not an acceptable offering of it by you imply that you agree with God, and that you will submit to all His will? Can you expect Him to hear and answer you unless you are in an obedient state of mind? Why, if you expect Him to hear and answer you while you refuse to obey Him, you do not regard the plain declaration of His Word, which says, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."
"Well," some of you say, "if this be true, it is no use for a sinner to pray." What do you mean by that? Of no use for a sinner to pray! Well, of what use can it be for a sinner to lie to God and mock Him? Do you ask me if I mean to prohibit sinners praying? I say, no! But I want to prevent their being hypocrites. Let them pray, but let them cease to be sinners, and submit themselves to the will of God. They should consecrate themselves to God at once. It is their present duty. They need not say, "I will not pray because I am a sinner!" What business have you to be a sinner? "My will is not in a right state," you say. But why is it not in a right state? The sinner is bound to pray on pain of eternal death, but he has no right to tell lies to God. He is bound to be sincere and honest with God. And is it difficult for people to be honest and sincere? Is it an impossible thing? For my right hand, I would not discourage any individual from praying; and neither, for my right hand, would I encourage him to pray with a heart wicked and rebellious against God. The truth is, men ought to know that they are shut up by the divine requirements and the affirmations of their own minds to unqualified submission to the will of God upon pain of eternal death.
It is easy to see, from what has been said, that a great many individuals offer the Lord's Prayer and other prayers, and leave it for others to do the will of God. They pray, "Thy will be done" but they leave it to others to perform this will.
It is easy to see what it is to be truly religious; it is to have the will entirely given up to God. It implies, of course, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and much more of which it is not now my design to discuss, as I must confine my attention to the point before us.
Many people will say that this ought to be the state of their minds, that they ought to offer this prayer in sincerity without solemnly inquiring, "Am I really willing that God's will should be done? Do I really do it?" But this is implied in an acceptable offering of this petition, that, for the time being, we are in a state in which we really do all we know of our duty. By a necessary law, if the will is right, the outward life will correspond.
There is an amazing degree of carelessness among many people as to what they really say in prayer. They begin, and talk right on, without considering that God requires truth in the inward parts. They often say many things that are not true. They verify what the Lord says, "They did flatter him with their mouths, and they lied unto him with their tongues."
While individuals are not in this state of mind, there is no true peace. While their wills are not under the control of God's will, and while they are not devoted to him, what multitudes of things are continually occurring to agonize them and destroy their peace of mind! But when individuals yield up their wills to the will of God, they breathe an atmosphere of love, and live in profound peace and tranquillity.
When people are in this state of mind, and regard everything as an expression in some sense of God's will, how easily God's will sits upon them!
Much that is called prayer is really an expression of self- will. I would here refer to a case that occurred some years ago in the western part of the State of New York. A gentleman of high standing, intelligent and influential, became very annoyed by the minister of the congregation where he usually attended, pressing upon his hearers the fact that they were not willing to be Christians. The man to whom I refer insisted that he was willing- had long been willing-to become a Christian. His wife remarked that she had never seen him so irritated before upon any subject.
The minister kept turning that over, and pressing it upon the people that they were not Christians because they were not willing to become Christians. But this man was obstinate in affirming that he knew, for his own part, that he was willing to become a Christian, and would anybody deny that he knew the state of his own conscience? He went home in this state of mind one evening, and in the morning his mind was so weighed down that he sought relief by going in a place alone to pray. He kneeled down to pray, but found that he could not pray; he could not think of anything that he really wished to say. It occurred to him to say the Lord's Prayer. The moment he opened his mouth to say, "Our Father," he stopped to consider, Do I recognize God as my Father? He hesitated and trembled to say it. "Hallowed be thy name." No, that is not the expression of my heart. "Thy kingdom come" was the next petition, and he said he was conscious he never wanted the kingdom of God to come, that he had never lived to promote it, and was not living now to promote it. Then he came to the next petition, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." He paused for a moment, and the inquiry rushed upon him, How is God's will done in heaven? Am I willing that it should be done in earth? Am I willing to do it myself? As these inquiries came over him, he perceived for the first time what was included in being a Christian. He now saw that to be a Christian implied that the heart should be consecrated to God, that he should fully obey God's will. He felt that he did not do that; that he never had done that; that never, by his own will, had the will of God governed him.
He continued upon his knees, and the perspiration poured down him, because he was in such agony of mind. He now felt what the minister had said was true, and the question came up, Why am I not willing to be a Christian? He felt there was no reason why he should not, and no excuse that he could make for refusing any longer. If he was not willing to do as he ought, he felt he ought to go to hell, and be willing to go and take the consequences-that he ought to be sent there and have no disposition to open his mouth by way of objecting. He himself said, "I gathered up all my soul and energies, and rose up in my strength, and cried at the top of my voice, 'Thy will be done.' I know that my will went with my words; and then so great a calmness came over me that I can never express it, so deep a peace instantly took possession of me. It seemed as if all was changed; my whole soul justified God and took part against itself."
I need not enter into this further; but let me say, dearly beloved, when you go away, can you kneel before your Maker and say, "O my God, let Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven, require just what Thou doest, require of me just what Thou doest; O God, my whole being cries out, Let Thy will be universally done in earth as it is in heaven"? Or can you not say that? You ought to be able to say it, and to be honest in saying it; but if you never have yet, let me ask you to do so at this very moment. If you have never found peace before, you shall know what it is to go to bed in peace for once. You shall know what that peace of God is that passes understanding, and drink of the river of His pleasures. Do not rest until the attitude of your mind is to do all the will of God.
Regeneration - 21 November 1849
Pleasing God - 22 November 1849
Heart Searching - 27 November 1849
The Kingdom of God upon Earth - 12 May 1850
Acceptable Prayer - 12 May 1850
The Reward of Fervent Prayer - 15 May 1850
The Promises of God - 17 May 1850
Christ Magnifying the Law - 19 May 1850
Christ the Mediator - 19 May 1850
The Conditions of Prevailing Prayer - 21 May 1850
How to Prevail with God - 22 May 1850
The Use and Prevalence of Christ's Name - 24 May 1850
Making God a Liar - 26 May 1850
The Great Business of Life - 28 May 1850
The Spiritual Claims of London - 29 May 1850
Mocking God - 31 May 1850
Why London Is Not Converted - 5 June 1850
Holiness Essential to Salvation - 7 June 1850
Real Religion - 9 June 1850
Great Cities - What Hinders Their Conversion? - 12 June 1850
Proving God - 19 June 1850
Total Abstinence a Christian Duty - 27 June 1850
Quenching the Spirit - 14 July 1850
The Sabbath School - Cooperation with God - 28 August 1850
The Sabbath School - Conditions of Success - 4 September 1850
Not Far from the Kingdom of God - 8 September 1850
The Christian's Rule of Life (A Farewell Sermon) - 11 September 1850
Seeking Honour from Men - 1 December 1850
Hardening the Heart - 1 December 1850
Purity of Heart and Life - 8 December 1850
The Sinner's Self-Condemnation - 8 December 1850
Refuges of Lies - 15 December 1850
The Spirit Ceasing to Strive - 15 December 1850
The Conversion of Children - 16 December 1850
The Wonderful Love of God - 22 December 1850
The Infinite Worth of the Soul - 22 December 1850
Family Government - 23 December 1850
Christ Appearing among His People - 29 December 1850
The Awful Ingratitude of the Sinner - 29 December 1850
Little Sins - 5 January 1851
The Sinner's Self-Destruction - 5 January 1851
The Rationality of Faith - 12 January 1851
The Certain Doom of the Impenitent - 7 March 1851
A Public Profession of Christ - 28 March 1851
The Whole Counsel of God (A Farewell Sermon) - 2 April 1851