A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 10, 1871, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 8/12/2011*8/12/2011
The land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people who sat in darkness saw great light; and to those who sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. (Matthew 4:15,16)
1. Full of love for the place where he had been raised, our Lord had gone to Nazareth, and in the Synagogue he had preached the most glad tidings; but, alas, the greatest of prophets and the Lord of prophets, received no honour in his own country. “He came to his own and his own did not receive him.” Expelled from the city by violence, the patient one turned his footsteps another way, yet, even when justly angry, love guided his footsteps. He must go, for the Nazarenes had proven themselves unworthy, but where shall he go? He will go to the outcasts, to that part of his country which was most neglected, to that region where the population was mixed and degenerate so as to be called, not Galilee of the Jews, but Galilee of the Gentiles, where due to the distance from Jerusalem little was known about the worship of the temple, where error was rampant, where men’s minds were enveloped in darkness, and their hearts in the gloom of the shadow of death. The loss of Nazareth shall be the gain of Galilee. Even his judgment upon a place is overruled in mercy, and even so today there are some in this house who have often had Jesus preached to them from their very childhood, but until this hour they have refused obedience to the gospel’s command. What if he should now turn away from them; I pray he may not have done so already. Yet, in turning away from them, he will deal with others in mercy. Just as the casting away of the Jews was the salvation of the Gentiles, so the leaving of these privileged ones shall open a door of mercy and hope to those who have not previously enjoyed the privilege. To you who are not familiar with the gospel sound, to you who consider yourselves more unworthy than the rest of mankind, to you desponding and despairing ones who write bitter things against yourselves, to you is the gospel sent. As previously, the Lord preached to Zabulon and Nephthalim, and the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, even so today he is proclaimed among you.
2. From the text it appears that some are in greater darkness than others; and that, secondly, for such there is a hope of light; but that, thirdly, the light which will come to them lies all in Christ; and, fourthly (joyful news!) that light is already sprung up all around them: they only have to open their eyes to delight in it.
3. I. SOME SOULS ARE IN GREATER DARKNESS THAN OTHERS.
4. It appears from the text that it was so in Christ’s days, and certainly it is so now. Divine sovereignty runs through all God’s dealings. He does not even distribute the privilege of hearing the gospel to all alike, for some lands are as yet untrodden by the missionary’s foot, while here at the corner of all our streets the gospel is preached to us. Some, from the very circumstances of their birth and parentage, have never attended the worship of God, while others, even before they had the discretion to choose, were carried in their parents’ arms to the place where prayer is accustomed to be made. God distributes his grace and privileges even as he wills.
5. In the text, those people who were more deplorably disadvantaged than others are described first as being in darkness — “The people who sat in darkness”; by which is meant, first, ignorance. The Galileans were notoriously ignorant: few teachers of the law had been among them; they did not know even the letter of the law. So there are many, to whom the gospel, even in the theory of it, is a thing scarcely known. They may have gone to places of worship in this country from their youth up, and have never heard the gospel, for the gospel is a rare thing in some synagogues; you shall hear philosophy, you shall hear ceremonialism and sacramentarianism extolled, but the blessed truth, “Believe, and live,” is kept in the background, so that men may come to full age, indeed, and even to old age, in Christian England, and yet the plan of salvation by the righteousness of Jesus Christ may be an unknown thing to them. They sit in the darkness of ignorance.
6. The consequence is, that another darkness follows, the darkness of error. Men who do not know the truth, since they must have some faith, seek out many inventions; for, if they are not taught by God, they soon become taught by Satan, and they are apt scholars in his school. Galilee was noted for the heresies which abounded there. But what a mercy it is that God can save heretics. Those who have received false doctrine, and added darkness to darkness in so doing, can still be brought into the glorious light of truth. Though they may have denied the Deity of Christ, though they may have doubted the inspiration of Scripture, though they may have fallen into many traps and pitfalls of false doctrine, yet the Divine Shepherd, when he seeks his lost sheep, can find them and bring them home again.
7. In consequence of being in the darkness of ignorance and error, these people were wrapped in the gloom of discomfort and sorrow. Darkness is an expressive type of sorrow. The mind that does not know God, does not know the heart’s best rest. There is no solace for our griefs like the gospel of Jesus Christ, and those who are ignorant of it are tossed about upon a stormy sea, without an anchorage. Glory be to God; when sorrow has brought on a midnight, grace can transform it into noon.
8. This darkness of sorrow was no doubt attended with much fear. We do not love darkness because we cannot see what is around us, and therefore we are alarmed by imaginary dangers; and, in the same way, those who are ignorant of the light of Christ will frequently be the victims of superstitious dread; indeed, and true and well founded fears will arise too, for they will dread death, and the judgment bar of God, and the sentence of justice. Believe me, there is no darkness so black as the horror which surrounds many an awakened conscience when it sees its ruin, but cannot find a Saviour; feels its sin, and cannot see the way by which it may be expiated.
9. Here, then, we have considered one part of this sad condition; perhaps it describes some of you.
10. It is said next that they “sat in darkness.” Matthew did not quote from the words of Isaiah exactly; I think he purposely alters it. Isaiah speaks, in his ninth chapter, of a people who “walked in darkness”; but here the evangelist speaks of a people who “sat in darkness.” That is a state of less hopefulness. The man who walks is active, he has some energy left, and may reach a brighter place; but a man sitting down is inactive, and will probably stay where he is. “The people who sat in darkness” — as if they had been there for a long while, and would be there still longer. They sat as though they had been turned to stone. They “sat in darkness,” probably through despair; they had, after a fashion, striven for the light, but had not found it, and so they gave up all hope. Their disappointed hearts told them that they might as well spare those fruitless efforts, and therefore they sat down with the stolidity of hopelessness. Why should they make any more exertion? If God would not hear their prayers, why should they pray any longer? Being ignorant of his abounding grace, and of the way of salvation by his Son, they considered themselves as consigned to perdition. They “sat in darkness.” Perhaps they sat there so long that they reached a state of insensitivity and indifference, and this is a horrible condition of heart; but, alas! a very common one. They said, “What does it matter, since there is no hope for us? Let it be as fate appoints, we will sit still, we will neither cry nor pray.” How many have I met who are not only thus in darkness, but are half content to dare the terrible future, and sullenly to wait until the storm cloud of wrath shall burst over them. It is a most sad and wretched condition, but what a blessing it is that today we have a gospel to preach to such.
11. Our description is not complete, for the text goes on to speak of them as sitting “in the region of death”; that is to say, these people lived in a territory that appeared to be ruled by death, and to be death’s haunt and natural abode. Many at this time, and in this city, are truly living in the domain of spiritual death. All around them is death. If they have stepped into this house this morning, their position is an exception to their general one. They will go home to a Sabbath breaking household; they habitually hear oaths, profane language, and lascivious songs; and so they breathe the reek of the charnel house. (a) If they have a good thought, it is ridiculed by those around them. They dwell as among the tombs, with men whose mouths are open sepulchres, pouring out all manner of offensiveness. How sad a condition! It seems to such poor souls, perhaps, being now a little awakened, that everything about them is prophetic of death. They are afraid to take a step lest the earth should open a door to the bottomless pit. I remember well, when I was under conviction, how all the world seemed in league against me, the beasts of the field and its stones. I wondered then how the heavens could refrain from falling upon me, or the earth from opening her mouth to swallow me up. I was under the sentence of divine wrath, and felt as if I were in a condemned cell, and all creation were only the walls of my dungeon. “They sat in the region of death.”
12. But it is added that they sat “in the shadow of death”; that is, under its cold, poisonous, depressing shade; as though grim death stood over them in all they did, and his shadow kept from them the light of heaven. They are sitting here this morning: they are saying to themselves, “Preach, sir, as you may, you will never comfort me: you may tell me about love and mercy, but I shall never be cheered by it: I am chilled through my very marrow, as though the frost of death had stricken me: I am unable now to hope, or even to pray, even my desires are all but dead. My soul is like a frozen corpse.”
13. And it is implied, too, that to such death itself is very near, for those who are in the shadow of a thing are near to the thing itself; and the sinner, bewildered and amazed at the guilt of his sin, is only sure of one thing, and that is, that he is in immediate danger of being cast into hell. I have known some afraid to shut their eyes at night, lest they should open them in torments; others have been afraid to go to their beds, lest their couch should become their coffin; they have not known what to do, by reason of depression of spirit. Job’s language has been theirs, “My soul is weary of my life.” It is clear to me that the description of the text very accurately pictures many of the sons of men. I pray God that none of you poor darkened souls may be so foolish as to try to exclude yourself from it, though such is the perversity of despondency that I greatly fear you may do so. However small we make the meshes of the gospel net, there are certain little fish that will find a way of escaping from its blessed toils, though we try to meet the character, we miss it through the singular dexterity of despair. The fact is that when a man is sin sick, his soul abhors all manner of food, and unless the Beloved Physician shall interpose, he will die of famine with the bread of life spread out before him. Dear friends, may the Lord visit you with his saving health, and give to the saddest of you joy and peace in believing.
14. II. Having given the description of those in the darkness, let us now pass on to the second point. THERE IS HOPE AND LIGHT FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN A WORSE CONDITION THAN OTHERS.
15. The gospel came to the benighted land of Zabulon and Naphtali and the gospel has always come to souls enwrapped in gloom as a cheering and guiding light; and there are good reasons why it should be so. For, first, among such people the gospel has reaped very rich fruit. Among barbarous nations Christ has won great trophies. The poor Karens (b) are wonders of grace, the cannibals of the South Sea Islands are miracles of mercy, and among the once enslaved Ethiopians there are warm and loving hearts which rejoice in Jesus’ name. In this city, I will venture to say, that no churches reflect more honour upon the Master’s name than those which have been gathered from among the destitute districts. What wonders God has done by that blessed church in Golden Lane, under our dear brother Orsman? What conversions have taken place in connection with the mission churches of St. Giles’ and Whitechapel? churches composed of the poorest of the poor and the lowest of the low. God is glorified when the thief and the prostitute are washed and cleansed and made obedient to the law of Christ. When those who are healed stand at the pastor’s side, even ribald tongues are silent, or are made to exclaim, “What has God done?” The same is true of mentally depressed people, who are despairing of themselves; many such have been converted. Some of us were brought very low before we found the Saviour; lower we could not well have been: we were emptied like a dish that a man wipes and turns upside down; we do not have even a drop of hope left in us; but we rejoice in Christ today, and we say to despairing souls, we are personal witnesses that Christ has saved such as you are, he has in our case caused light to shine on those who sat in darkness, and out of death’s cold shade into life’s full light he has brought us as prisoners of hope; and, therefore, he can do the same with you. Be of good courage, there is hope for you.
16. It is a further consolation to sad hearts, that many promises are made to such characters, even to those who are most dark. How precious is that word, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Is that not made for you, you burdened and labouring sinners? What do you say to that gracious word — “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Jacob will not forsake them?” Is there no light in that word of love — “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon?” Is there no music in this passage — “Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and he will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea?” I remember when my soul meditated for weeks on that one short word, “Whoever calls upon the Lord, shall be saved.” I knew I called on his name, and therefore I hoped to see his salvation. Many have laid hold and rested themselves on this faithful saying, “Him who comes to me, I will in no wise cast out.” He will receive any “him” or “her” in all the world that comes, no matter how defiled they are. That also is a rich word, “He is able to save those to the uttermost who come to God by him, seeing he lives for ever to make intercession for them.” What a word was that of our Master when he commanded his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature, beginning at Jerusalem. They were to begin their labours among his murderers, among hypocritical Pharisees and proud Herodians; they were to begin where the devil reigned most supreme, and to present Christ to the very worst sinners first. See, then, that great sinners, so far from being excluded, are just those to whom the good news is to be first proclaimed. Be of good comfort, then, you who sit in darkness: there are special promises for you.
17. Moreover, remember, that the conversion of the more deplorably dark and despairing brings the highest degree of glory to God. When his glory passes by great sin, then it is mercy indeed. Where it is greatly displaced, it is greatly extolled. Many are saved by Christ, in whom the change is not very apparent, and consequently very little fame is brought to the good Physician through it; but, oh, if he will have mercy upon that mourner, who has been these ten years in despair; if he will say, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmities,” the whole parish will ring with it! If Jesus will come and save that black, ignorant sinner, whom everyone knows because he has become a pest and a nuisance to the town; if such a demoniac has the devil cast out of him, how all men will say. “This is the finger of God.” Yes, a poor wretch brought back again, as the sixty-eighth Psalm has it, “from Bashan, and from the depths of the sea,” is a splendid trophy to the conquering power of Almighty grace. God’s great object is to glorify his great name; and, since this is best accomplished when his mercy delivers the worst cases, there is surely hope for those who sit in darkness, bound in affliction and iron.
Moreover, when they happily behold the light, such people frequently
become eminently useful to others. Their experience aids them in
counselling others, and their gratitude makes them eager to do so. Oh
sweet light, how precious are you to blind eyes, when they are newly
opened. You do not know what it is to be blind: thank God that you do
not: there are some here, however, who painfully know what constant
darkness is; it is a grievous deprivation: but when their eyes are
opened, as they will be in another state, and they see that best of
sights, the King in his beauty, how sweet will light be to them!
Nights and days of total blindness
Are their portion here below;
Beams of love from eyes of kindness,
Never here on earth they know.
But on high they shall behold
Angels tuning harps of gold;
Rapture to the new born sight;
Jesus in celestial light!
19. So, when the spiritual eye has long been dim, and we have mourned and wept for sin, but could not behold a Saviour, light is sweet beyond expression. And, because it is so sweet, there is a necessity within the enlightened soul to proclaim the joyful news to others. When a man has deeply felt the evil of sin, and has at length obtained mercy, he cries with David, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you.” John Bunyan’s impulse when he found the Saviour was to tell the crows on the ploughed ground about it, and he lived to do better than talk to crows, for day by day, from generation to generation, his works proclaim the Friend of sinners, who leads them from the City of Destruction to the Celestial glory. Zealous saints are usually those who once were in great darkness; they see what grace has done for them, and for that very reason they feel an attachment to their dear Lord and Master, which they might never had felt if they had not once sat in the valley of the shadow of death. So, poor troubled ones, for these reasons, and fifty more I might bring if time did not fail me, there is hope for you.
20. III. But now, the best part of our discourse comes under the third heading. THE TRUE LIGHT FOR A SOUL IN DARKNESS IS ALL IN CHRIST.
21. Hear the text. “The people who sat in darkness saw great light.” Now Christ is not only light, but great light; he reveals great things, he reveals great comforts, saves us from great sin and great wrath, and prepares us for great glory. He is, however, a Saviour who must be seen. “The people who sat in darkness saw great light.” Light is of no use unless it is seen. Faith must grasp the blessings which the Saviour brings. “Look to me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth.” We must see the Saviour with a glance of faith, then we have light. Let us consider how clearly Christ Jesus himself is the light of every believing eye, and delivers the most troubled soul from its misery. In him is light, and the light is the light of men. Jesus personally is the day’s dawning and the morning without clouds.
22. First, there is light in Christ’s name for a troubled sinner. What is it? Jesus. Jesus, a Saviour. I am a sinner lost and ruined, but I rejoice, for Jesus has come to seek and to save those who were lost. My sins trouble me, but he shall save his people from their sins. Satan annoys me, but he has come to destroy the works of the devil. He is not a nominal, but a real Saviour. We know captains and colonels who have no troops, and never saw fighting, but not so the Captain of our salvation; he brings many sons to glory. If a man is called a builder, we expect him to build; if a merchant, we expect him to trade; and since Jesus is a Saviour, he will carry on his sacred business, he will save multitudes. Why, surely there is comforting hope here. Do you not see the dawning in the name of Saviour? Surely, if he comes to save, and you need saving, there is a blessed suitability in you for one another. A prisoner at the bar is glad to meet one who is by profession an advocate, a ship off course welcomes a pilot; a traveller lost on the moors is delighted if he meets one who is a guide by profession; and so a sinner should rejoice at the mere mention of a Saviour.
23. There is similar encouragement in the second name, Christ, for it means anointed. Our Lord Jesus is not an amateur Saviour, who has come here without a commission from God; he is not an adventurer, who sets up on his own account to do a kind of work for which he is not qualified: no, the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, for the Lord has anointed him to this work of saving souls. He is Jesus Christ, whom God has sent. God the Father has sealed him. He does not speak on his own authority, but God was with him, and in him. Why, beloved friend, now that I am in the light I can see a whole sunful of splendour in that double name Jesus Christ, and yet I fear that those who are in darkness may not perceive it. Whom God anoints to save, must surely be both able and willing to save the guilty. This name is as the morning star; look at it, and know that the day is near. It has such joy in it that misery itself ought to leap with holy mirth at its sound.
24. It is our delightful task to add that there is light for those who sit in darkness in our Lord’s person and nature. Notice very well who this Jesus Christ is. He is in the constitution of his person both God and man, divine and human, equal with God and yet sharing man’s humanity. Do you not see in this fact the love of God, that he should be willing to take humanity into union with himself? If God becomes man, he does not hate men, but has love towards them. Do you not see the suitability of Christ to deal with you, for he is like yourself a man, touched with the feeling of your infirmities; born of a human mother, he was nursed by a woman, he suffered hunger and thirst and weariness, and, dead and buried in the tomb, he was partaker in our doom as well as our sorrow? Jesus of Nazareth was most truly a man, he is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Oh sinner, look into the face of the man of sorrows and you must trust him. Since he is also God, in him you see his power to carry on the work of salvation. He touches you with the hand of his humanity, but he touches the Almighty with the hand of his Deity. He is man, and feels your needs; he is God, and is able to supply them. Is anything too tender for his heart of love? Is anything too hard for his hand of power? When the Lord himself, who made the heavens and dug the foundations of the earth, comes to be your Saviour, there remains no difficulty in your being saved. Omnipotence cannot know a difficulty, and, oh sinner, to an omnipotent Saviour it is not hard to save even you. A look of faith will give you perfect pardon. A touch of the hem of the Redeemer’s garment will heal you at once. Come, then, and trust the incarnate God. Cast yourself into his arms at once.
25. There is light, moreover, in his offices, and, indeed, a brightness of glory which a little thought will soon perceive. What are his offices? I cannot pause to mention a tithe of them, but one of them is that of Mediator. Your soul longs to speak to God and find acceptance with him, but you are afraid to venture into his terrible presence. I do not wonder about your fear, for “even our God is a consuming fire.” But be of good comfort, the way of access is open, and there is One who will go into the King with you, and open his mouth on your behalf. Jesus has interposed and filled the great gulf which yawned between the sinner and his righteous judge. His blood has paved the crimson way; his cross has bridged each stream; his person is the highway for those who would draw near to God. Now, since Christ Jesus is the Mediator between God and man, and you need one, take him and you will have light at once.
26. Today you also desire a sacrifice to make atonement for your iniquities; that also you will find in Christ. God must punish sin, every transgression must receive its just due; but, lo, Christ has come, and as the scapegoat he has carried sin away; as the sin offering he has removed transgression. Is this not good news? But I hear you say that your sins are too many and great. Do you then foolishly think that Christ is a sin bearer for the innocent? That would be ridiculous. Do you suppose that Christ bore little sins only? That is to make him a little Saviour. Beware of this. Indeed, but mountain sins, heaven defying sins, were laid on him when he hung upon the tree, and for these he made effectual atonement. Is there no light in all this?
27. Moreover, to mention only one other office, our Lord is an Intercessor. Perhaps, one of your greatest difficulties is that you cannot pray. You say, “I cannot put a dozen words together; if I groan, I fear I do not feel in my heart what I ought to feel.” Well, there is One who can pray for you if you cannot pray for yourself. Give him your cause to plead and it shall succeed. May God grant you grace, as you see each office of Christ, to perceive that it has a bright side for sinners. I do not doubt light streams continually from every part of the sun to cheer the worlds that revolve around it; so, from every side of Christ, there issues forth comfort for poor and needy souls. He delights in mercy. He is a Saviour and a great one. He is all love, all tenderness, all pity, all goodness; and the very chief of sinners, if they only see him, shall see light.
28. Once again, if you need light, think of his character, as the meek and lowly Saviour. Little children loved him; he called them and they willingly came, for he was meek and lowly of heart. Oh sinner, could he refuse you? Do you think he could give you a harsh word and send you about your business, if you were to seek mercy today? It could not be; it is not in the nature of him, who was both the Son of God and the Son of Man, ever to repel a heart that gladly would cling to him. Until he has once acted harshly to a coming sinner, you have no right to dream of his rejecting you, if you come to him.
Think for a minute of his life. He was “separate from sinners,” we
are told, and yet it is elsewhere said of him, “this man receives
sinners, and eats with them.” His name was friend of sinners, and it
still is. Think of that self-denying life spent among the sick and
the sinful for their good. And then think of his death, for here the
light of grace is focused; the cross, like a magnifying glass,
concentrates the light and heat of Christ’s love upon the sinner. See
him agonizing in the garden for sins that were not his own: see him
scourged with awful flagellations for transgressions in which he had
no share: see him bleeding and dying on the tree for his enemies;
sufferer for iniquities in which he never was a participator, for in
him was no sin. It must be true that God can save me, if Christ has
died in the place of the guilty. This argument has killed my
unbelief. I can only believe, when I see incarnate God suffering for
the guilty, the just for the unjust, to bring them to God.
Sinners! come, the Saviour see,
Hands, feet, side, and temples view;
See him bleeding on the tree,
See his heart on fire for you!
View awhile, then haste away,
Find a thousand more, and say:
Come, ye sinners! come with me,
View him bleeding on the tree.
I wish it were in my power to convey the light which I see in the
cross into the mental eyes of all my hearers, but I cannot; God the
Holy Spirit must do it. Yet, beloved, if ever you get light, it will
be in this way: Christ must be a great light to you. No one ever
found light by raking in his own inward darkness; that is indeed
seeking the living among the dead. You may rake as long as you ever
will among the embers of your depravity before you will find a spark
of good there. Away with self, away with your own resolutions, away
with your own prayers, repentances, and faith; you must look away to
Christ on the cross. All your hope and help are laid on Emmanuel’s
shoulders. You are nothing. Not a rag nor a thread of your own
righteousness will do; Christ’s robe of righteousness must cover you
from head to foot. Blow out your paltry candles, put out the sparks
which you have vainly kindled, for behold the Sun is risen! “Arise,
shine; for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen
upon you.” You need no other light than that of Jesus: dream of no
other. Give up self, give up self-hope, be in utter despair of
anything that you can do, and now, whether you sink or swim, throw
yourself into the sea of Christ’s love: rest in him and you shall
never perish, neither shall anyone pluck you from his hands.
Cast your deadly “doing” down,
Down at Jesus’ feet,
Stand in him, in him alone,
31. IV. But, lastly, we would say to every poor soul in darkness, you need be in darkness no longer; for LIGHT IS ALL AROUND YOU: it has already “sprung up.”
32. What a mercy, my dear despairing hearer, that you are not in hell! You might have been there: many are there who are no worse than you are; and yet here you are in the land of hope. Today God does not deal with you according to the law, but according to the gospel; you are not come to Sinai this morning, no burning mountain is before you, and no tones of thunder peal from it; you are come to Mount Zion, where the Mediator of the new covenant speaks peace and pardon. I have no commission to curse you, but I have distinct authority from my Master to invite you to come and receive his blessing. On Zion’s top today you have come to the blood of sprinkling; you might have been called to the blood of your own execution! No demons are around you, but an innumerable company of angels, who wish you well. See that you do not refuse him who speaks. Remember, dear hearers, that today the gospel command is sent to you all; you who are most despairing, you are invited to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Prove that,” you say. I prove it like this: he ordered his disciples go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; you are a creature, therefore we preach it to you. And what was the gospel? Why, just this: “He who believes and is baptised, shall be saved: he who does not believe shall be damned.” That gospel, then, comes to you — God commands all men, everywhere, to repent. Oh what mercy it is that the light of the gospel still shines around you! Will you shut your eyes to it? I beseech you, do not do so wickedly.
Moreover, the provisions of the gospel, which are full of light and
love, are all around you at this moment. If you will now believe in
Christ Jesus, every sin that you have committed shall be forgiven you
for his namesake; you shall be to God as though you had never sinned;
the precious blood shall make you as white as snow. “But that will
not suffice,” one says, “for God righteously demands obedience to his
holy law, and I have not kept his commandments, and therefore am
weighed in the balances and found wanting.” You shall have a perfect
righteousness in one moment if you believe in Jesus, “even as David
also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes
righteousness without works.” Happy is the man to whom Jesus Christ
is made wisdom and righteousness, and he is so to everyone who
believes. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in
Christ Jesus.” “Ah,” you say, “but I have a bad heart and an evil
nature.” If you believe, your nature is already changed, “Also I will
give them a new heart, and I will put a right spirit within them.”
“They shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and
do them.” He can change you so that you shall scarcely know yourself;
you shall be a new creature in Christ Jesus; old things shall pass
away and all things shall become new. He will take away the heart of
stone, and give you a heart of flesh. “Alas,” you say, “even this is
not enough, for I shall never hold on in the ways of righteousness,
but shall go back to perdition.” Hear, oh you trembler, these
gracious words: “I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall
not depart from me.” And what does our Lord himself say? He says,
“They shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of my
hand.” “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of
water springing up to everlasting life.” “But what, if I go astray,”
one says. Then he will heal your backslidings, receive you
graciously, and love you freely. “He restores my soul.” He will not
permit even his wandering sheep to perish, but once again he will put
them in the right way. “Ah, but my soul poverty is deep, and my needs
will be too great.” How can you say this? Is he not the all
sufficient God? Has the arm of the Lord become short? Did he not
furnish a table in the wilderness? Is it not written, “My God shall
supply all your needs?” He shall cause all grace to abound towards
you. “ ‘Do not fear, you worm Jacob, I will help you,’ says the Lord.”
“Ah, but,” one says, “I shall surely be afraid to die, for I am
afraid of it even now.” “He who lives and believes in me, though he
were dead, yet he shall live.” “When you pass through the rivers, I
will be with you.” Death is swallowed up in victory. Having loved his
own who are in the world, he will love them to the end. You shall
have such faith in your dying moments that you shall say: “Oh death,
where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory?” “But you do
not mean me,” one says. I mean you who sit in darkness, you who
are ignorant, you who are depressed, you who have no good thing of
your own, you who cannot help yourselves, you lost ones, you
condemned ones, I mean you. And this is God’s message to you: “God
did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that
the world through him might be saved.” “Whom God has set forth to be
a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his
righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the
forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his
righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him who
believes in Jesus.” “He who believes on him is not condemned.” Oh,
come, you guilty; for he is ready to forgive you. Come, you filthy;
the fountain is ready for your cleansing. Come, you sorrowful, since
joy is prepared; his oxen and fatlings are killed, for all things are
ready; come to the feast of love. But I hear you say, “I must surely
do something.” Stop your doings, and take Christ’s doings. “Oh, but I
do not feel as I should.” Away with your feelings: Christ’s feelings
on the cross must save you, not your own feelings. “Oh, but I am so
vile.” He came to save the vile.
Come, in all thy filthy garments,
Tarry not to cleanse or mend;
Come, in all thy destitution,
As thou art, and he’ll befriend.
By the tempter’s vain allurements,
Be no longer thou beguiled:
God the Father waits to own thee
As his dear adopted child.
“But I have been an adulterer, I have been a thief, I have been a fornicator, and everything that is bad.” So be it, yet it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven to men. It is true that you are much worse than you think you are: you may tell me you are horribly bad, but you have no idea how bad you are: the hottest place in hell is your just desert; but it is to you the mercy is sent; to you, oh man, to you, oh woman, to you who have defiled yourself with all manner of unmentionable enormities, even to you, thus says the Lord, “I have blotted out your sins like a cloud and like a thick cloud your transgressions; return to me and I will have mercy upon you.” I cannot say more. I wish I had the power to speak, I was about to say, with the tongues of men and of angels, but I have such a blessed message to deliver to you, that I feel it does not need good words, the message itself is all that is needed if the Spirit blesses it. Oh, do not reject it, I beseech you, you guilty ones! you despairing ones, do not turn from it, do not put the kingdom away from you lest you prove yourselves unworthy, and bring upon yourselves wrath to the uttermost.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.
Receive the Lord Jesus as your Saviour, now on the spot. May God
the Holy Spirit lead you to do this, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Matthew 4:12-5:12]
(a) Charnel House: A house for dead bodies; a house or vault in which the bones of the dead are piled up. OED.
(b) Karens: One of a group of non-Burmese Mongoloid peoples scattered throughout Burma, esp. to the east; a member of one of these peoples. OED.