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II. God is faithful to souls in Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye are called unto the fellowship of his Son.' When a soul is in affliction, temptation, or desertion, his cry is, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me.' Sometimes this feeling approaches to actual despair. Here is a rock for the soul to lean upon, 'Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,' and 'God is faithful' who called us to share with Christ. Hearken to the voice of the great shepherd, My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.' Satan desires to have you. The world are laying snares Your own wicked heart would some
times be for leaving the hand that has saved you. But none is able to pluck you out of the Father's hand.' Hearken to the Father's own word, 'Thou art my servant, I have chosen thee and not cast thee away,' Isa. xli. 9. The soul united to Jesus is not like the grass, but like the palm tree. Even in old age he shall bear fruit, he shall be full of sap and flourishing. To show that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him,' Psal. xcii. 15. At the very time when Zion was saying, 'My God hath forgotten me,' God had her walls engraven on his hands, Isa. xlix.16. Look still to Jesus, oh! deserted soul. The love of God shines unchangeably on him. Abide in him and you will abide in the Father's love. Your afflictions may only prove
you are more immediately under the Father's hand. There is no time that the patient is such an object of tender interest to the surgeon, as when he is bleeding beneath his knife. So you may be sure if you are suffering from the hand of a reconciled God, that his eye is all the more bent on you.
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.'
'If ever it should come to pass
Would fall a thousand times a day.
Thou soon would'st take it Lord from me.'
'Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 2 Tim. i. 9.
THERE are two ways in which men are called to believe the gospel. There is an outward and an inward calling, an earthly and a heavenly calling. All believers are partakers of the heavenly calling,' Heb. iii. 1.
The outward call comes to all who hear the
gospel sound: Many are called, but few chosen.' Every time the church bell rings it is a call. It says, 'Come away sinner, thy sabbaths are numbered. Eternity is at hand. God's people are hastening to the house of God, God's stewards are dealing out the bread of life. Sinner do not stay behind; Jesus is ringing for thee, inviting thee, wooing thee. If thou wouldst but listen, it would sound as joyfully as a marriage bell.' Ah! there are multitudes in Scotland who hear no more of the gospel than the bell, and that will be enough to condemn them in the great day. The open church door is a call. It seems to say, 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able.' 'Go ye to them that sell, and buy for yourselves,' lest the bridegroom come and the
door be shut.
Come in, come in,
Eternal glory thou wilt win.'
The lighted windows of the church at evening are a solemn call. They cry in your ears, ‘Jesus is the light of the world.' 'Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.' Jesus hath lighted a candle, and is sweeping the house, and seeking diligently to find lost pieces of silver. The village spire that points the way to heaven,' is a silent call. It says, Look up stedfastly into heaven, and see the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. 'Seek those things which are above. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.' The voice of the preacher is a call. It says, 'Repent and believe the gospel, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 'We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God.' Every tract given in at your door is a divine call. It says, 'I have a message from God unto thee.' 'Behold I stand at the door and knock.' Every leaf of your Bible is a call. It says, Search the
scriptures.' I am able to make thee wise unto Bless God, you who have been 'saved and salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. called with an holy calling,' for it is not accordI am given by inspiration of God, and am profit-ing to your works, but according to his purpose .able for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. The death of every unconverted friend is a loud call. It says, 'Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.' 'It is appointed unto all men once to die, and after death the judgment.' Prepare to meet thy God.' It may truly be said of every sinner that shall read these words, that you are now called, warned, invited to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on Christ set before you. If you have not got enough to save you, you have enough to condemn you.
But all who are in Christ have received the inward call. All, who like Timothy, have unfeigned faith,' and have received 'the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,' have been saved and called with a holy calling.' This is the work of the Holy Spirit; and therefore it is called a holy calling. It is the call of the unseen Almighty Spirit who sweetly inclines the will, and melts the heart of the sinner. It is therefore a saving call. When Jesus said to Matthew, 'follow me,' the Spirit breathed upon his heart, and made him willing: 'He arose and followed Jesus.' When Paul preached to the Thessalonians, he gave the outward call. Had Paul stood alone, they would have remained as hard as the rocks that dash back the waves of the Ægean sea. But the Spirit breathed upon their hearts, and so the gospel came not unto them in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance,' 1 Thess. i.
When Paul preached at Philippi by the river's side, many a Grecian matron had the outward call. His words fell pleasantly upon their ears. Still all remained unmoved but one; one heart was opened, a foreigner whose dark eye told that she came from the sunny plains of Asia. "The Lord opened the heart of Lydia,' Acts xvi.
O sinner! do not think that your reading or hearing the gospel will of itself save your soul. Do not think that because you have a Bible, a minister, and a place in the house of God, that you are therefore on the way to heaven. Remember God must save you, and call you with an holy calling. If you are not quickened from above, your outward calls will only be the savour of death unto death to your soul. It will be one of the chief miseries of hell to remember the texts and sermons that you heard on earth, when you would not come to Christ and have life.
and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.' Every saved soul can say, 'He hath not dealt with me after my sins, nor rewarded me according to mine iniquities.' He has called me out of darkness into marvellous light, from under wrath and curse to pardon and peace with God, from death unto life. How many he has passed by that were no worse than me. But he has been willing to make known the riches of his glory on me, a vessel of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory. How sure my sinful soul is of glory. He calls from heaven, and calls to heaven. Whom he did predestinate, them he also called, and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified.' 'Bless the Lord, O my soul.' Now I may sing with Toplady,
'Sweet to look back, and see my name
'But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth,' 2 Thess. ii. 13.
WHEN travelling through popish countries, where the people bow down to images of wood and stone, and where God's word is forbidden, the mind of a believer turns to the fearful words in the preceding verses with a feeling of unutterable sadness; and, again, when the mind wanders from these desolate regions to the little flock of dear believers in happy Scotland, it realizes something of the joyful feeling with which Paul wrote these words-But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord,' ver. 13.
I. We are here taught that God is sovereign in choosing the souls that are saved.
1. He is sovereign in choosing men, and not rebel angels. We read in the bible of two grand apostacies from God. The first took place in heaven. Lucifer, son of the morning, one of the brightest cherubs that stood round the throne, rebelled through pride along with myriads of the holy angels. They kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation.' 'God spared them not,
but cast them down to hell, and delivered them | he hath compassion upon whom he will have into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judg- compassion.' ment,' 2 Pet. ii. 4. The next rebellion was in paradise. Man believed Satan rather than God, and ate of the forbidden fruit. 'By one man's disobedience many were made sinners.' Both of these families sinned against the same God, broke the same holy law, fell under the same curse, and were condemned to the same fire. Now it pleased God, in infinite compassion, to provide a way of pardon for some of these lost creatures. He determined to save some 'to the praise of the glory of his grace.' But whom shall he save―men or rebel angels? Perhaps the unfallen hosts of heaven pleaded that their once brother angels should be taken, and men left. They might have said that the angelic nature was higher and nobler, that man was a worm. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!' He spared not the angels. He passed by the gate of hell. He raised no cross of Calvary there. He took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham,' Heb. ii. 16.
2. He is sovereign in choosing the countries that have the light of the gospel. All nations are equally lost, and vile in the sight of God. He hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth' And yet how differently has he dealt with different peoples. Why did God choose Israel to be a peculiar treasure to himself, and to have the oracles of God committed to them? Was it because they were more righteous than others. No; that is expressly denied: Understand, therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people,' Deut. ix. 6. Neither was it on account of their greatness: 'The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; (for, ye were the fewest of all people ;) but because he loved you,' Deut. vii. 7. Again, why has China, with its teeming millions, been walled around for centuries, and left to the darkness of its vain idols? Why has India been left under the cruel chains of Hindooism? Why has Africa been given over to witchcraft and superstition? Why has the fair face of Europe been almost given over to the delusions of the man of sin; and why has our own bleak island been chosen to be so long the brightest repository of the truth in all the world? Are we better than they? No, in no wise. There are sins committed among us that would make the heathen blush. His way is in the sea.' 'He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and
3. He is sovereign in choosing the most unlikely persons to be saved. You would have expected that most of the rich would have been saved. They have most time to study divine things; they are not harassed by the fears of poverty; they can procure all advantages. And yet hear the word of God: 'Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom,' James ii. 5. Again, you would have thought God would have chosen the wise and learned, to be saved. The gospel is a subject of deep wisdom. The Bible is written in ancient languages, hard to be acquired. And educated men are generally free from prejudices, to which the common people are subject. And yet hear the word of our Lord: 'I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.' You would have thought that surely God will save the most virtuous people of the world. He is a God of purity, who loves what is holy; and though none are righteous, no, not one, yet some are much less stained with sin than others. Surely he will take these. What says the Lord Jesus to the Pharisees? The publicans and harlots do enter into heaven before you.' The blameless young ruler is left to go away sorrowful, whilst the king of glory enters in at the pearly gate of the New Jerusalem with a thief washed in his blood by his side.
If my soul is saved, am I not bound to give thanks? If ministers are bound to thank God for the free salvation of their people, how much more are we bound to praise him ourselves for saving us. I am no better than a rebel angel. Devils never rejected Christ as I have done, and yet he passed them by and saved me. I am no better than a Chinese or a Hindoo, and yet grace has passed millions of them, and come to me. I was no better than the sinners round me, perhaps worse than most, and yet I trust I can say, 'Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.' Glory to God the Father, that he chose me before the world was. Glory to Jesus, that he passed by millions and died for me. Glory to the Holy Spirit, that he came out of free love and awakened me.
II. We are here taught that God chooses the means as well as the end. He hath chosen us unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.' The first step that God chooses his people to come to, is 'belief of the
truth.' God does not choose men to leap from their sins into glory. But he sends the free Spirit to anoint their eyes, to melt their hearts, to persuade and enable them to embrace Christ freely offered in the gospel. A simple heart-felt belief of the truth, is the first mark that we have been chosen to salvation. All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me.' Have I come to Jesus? Then I know that I am one of those whom the Father gave to him before the world was. Do I really believe the truth as it is in Jesus? Then God has chosen me to salvation. The second step that God chooses his people to come to, is 'sanctification of the Spirit.' It is written, 'After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,' Eph. i. 13. The moment the soul cleaves to the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit takes up his abode in that bosom; he abides there for ever. He changes the cage of unclean birds into a temple for Jehovah's praise. He makes the soul all glorious within. He destroys the dominion of sin; he fills, quickens, renews the whole inner man. Have I received the Holy Ghost? Has that heavenly seal been applied to my heart, impressing upon me the features and the mind of Jesus? Have I the sanctification of the Spirit? Then I have the clear evidence that my calling and election are sure. I can look back to my election before the world was; and forward to my salvation when the world shall be passed away. How foolish is the presumption of those who say, 'If I am not elected, I cannot be saved, whatever I do; and if I am elect, I shall be saved in whatever way I live.' The simple answer is this, Whether you are elect or not, you cannot be saved without believing the truth, and being sanctified by the Spirit. What is written in the Lamb's book of life, I do not know; but what is written in the holy Bible, I do know, that he that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.' And without holiness, no man can see the Lord.'
"To God's holy child, so strong to redeem,
'But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; (by grace ye are saved),' Eph. ii. 4, 5. WHAT a fearful discovery do these words give of what was once the condition of all true believers?
'We were dead in sins.' The apostle classes himself with the Ephesian believers in the humbling confession. The most living and burning saint, who now tunes his harp before the throne of the Lamb, was once a dead soul. This is the true condition of all unconverted men at this moment; they are dead in sins. Even our highly-favoured country is like the valley which Ezekiel saw full of bones: And he caused me to pass by them round about; and, behold, there were very many in the open valley, and, lo, they were very dry,' Ezek. xxxvii. 2. The understanding of a natural man is dead: 'He is wise to do evil, but to do good he has no knowledge,' Jer. iv. 22. 'There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God,' Rom. iii. 11. The mind is often clear and penetrating on earthly things, but it is dark and dead in heavenly things. The heart is dead. True, it is alive toward worldly friends, and worldly objects. In pursuit of their lusts they have made ready their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait.' But set the loveliest of all beings before them, the precious corner-stone, the desire of all nations, the pearl of great price; and their heart is not affected, it melts not, it moves not, it loves not; it is dead. The conscience is dead. They feel wrongs done against themselves or against their neighbours, but they do not feel wrongs done against God, or against Christ, or against the Holy Spirit: Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled,' Tit. i. 15. In some the death of the conscience is total, so that they are past feeling, 'having their conscience seared as with a hot iron.' How many swearers can pour out their oaths, without once imagining that they are striking at the throne of God. How many can put away the gospel message, without feeling that they are making God a liar. How many can come unconverted to the Lord's table, without once thinking that they are crucifying Christ afresh, and putting him to an open shame. In such cases their 'consciences are seared as with a hot iron.'
Turn we now to consider the blessed change that has been wrought in the heart of every believer: He hath quickened us together with Christ.' It was a solemn scene when Jesus stood beside the rocky sepulchre of Lazarus. It was a little way from the village of Bethany, embosomed in its fig and almond trees. Martha and Mary stood weeping, and many Jewish friends beside them. They had rolled away the stone from the mouth of the cave, and as the Saviour looked into the dark silent tomb he cried,
'Lazarus come forth. And he that was dead came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face bound about with a napkin.' This was giving life to the dead. A still more marvellous scene, compared to which this is but as the drop before the thunder shower, shall yet take place upon this earth. The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation? When the voice of Christ is heard, then from every lonely church yard, from the deep caverns of the sea, and from silent battlefields, the myriads of sleeping dead shall rise and come forth. It will be a day of joy to some, and of woe to others, joy and woe unspeakable. But more wonderful, even than this, is the quickening of the soul in conversion. It is spoken of in these words, 'The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live,' John v. 25. In every part of the world where the Spirit accompanies the preaching of the gospel, this secret, silent resurrection of dead souls is going on every day, little noticed by men, though well known in heaven, and in hell. When the Spirit comes he gives life to the dead conscience; he makes it accuse and condemn the sinner, so that he feels lost and undone. He gives life to the understanding, anointing the eyes with eyesalve, so that the sinner sees the way of pardon provided by God. He gives life to the heart, melting it, and persuading the sinner to cleave to Jesus; and so he 'quickens us together with Christ.' The Spirit thus raises the soul out of its grave, looses his grave clothes, namely, worldly lusts and attachments, and lets him go free. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us.' If He quickens my soul, then no power can keep it dead. Truly, the guilt, indwelling sin, temptations, and spiritual enemies of my soul often confound me. But I pray to know 'the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe,' Eph. i. 19. And then I sing
"With Christ the Lord I died to sin,
With him to life I rise,
To life, which now begun on earth,
Is perfect in the skies.'
But what is it in the bosom of God that moves him to quicken a dead soul? The answer is to be found here: 'God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (by grace ye are saved). The free rich grace of God is the fountain from which the quickening Spirit flows.
When God came to save Paul he found him dead
There is good news for those who feel themselves loathsome as the putrid dead. You may be quickened, for such were all believers once. Good news for those who feel helpless as the dead. The Lord can quicken such. And he is rich in mercy; He willeth all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.' He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. In him compassions flow. He is ready to forgive. One poor soul who had long been tempest-tossed under the conviction of a life time of sins, was brought to full peace in Christ by meditating on the 1st verse of the fifty-first Psalm: According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.' She said, 'I will just put the multitude of his tender mercies over against the multitude of my sins.' And so she found rest for her soul. Surely this soul, and all who have been thus saved by free sovereign grace, will have cause to join in Rowland Hill's favourite hymn :