Friday, November 20, 2009
Preached at Providence Chapel, London, on Tuesday Evening, July 24, 1849, by J. C. Philpot
"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;
That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked."
What a different estimate men form of blessedness and happiness, from that which God has declared in his word to be such! If we listen to the opinions of men about happiness, would not their language be something like this– 'Happiness consists in health and strength--in an abundance of the comforts, luxuries, and pleasures of life; in an amiable and affectionate partner; in children healthy, obedient, and well-provided for in the world; in a long and successful life, closed by an easy and tranquil death.' I think a natural man would, if he did not use the very words, express his ideas of happiness pretty much in the substance of what I have just sketched out.
But when we come to what the Lord God Almighty has declared to be happiness; when we turn aside from the opinions of men, to the expressed words and revealed ways of the Lord, what do we find 'blessedness' to consist in? Who are the people that the unerring God of truth has pronounced to be blessed? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled; blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:3-11 And again, in the words of our text, "Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of your law." These are the unerring words of God; and by his words man will be tried. It is not the fleeting, fluctuating opinions of worms of the earth; but it is the unerring declaration of the only true God by which these matters are to be decided.
In attempting, then, this evening to unfold what the Lord has here declared to be real "blessedness," I shall,
1. First, endeavor to show in what this blessedness consists; "Blessed is the man whom you chasten, and teach out of your law."
2. Secondly, why the man thus chastened and thus taught is really blessed; "That you may give him rest from the days of adversity."
3. Thirdly, what is in preparation in the meantime for the ungodly. "Until the pit be dug for the wicked."
I. In what does this blessedness consists? Let us endeavor to look at the spiritual meaning of the words--"Blessed is the man whom you chasten, and teach out of your law." WHO IS THIS MAN? He is one whom God has taken in hand; one to whom the Lord has special purposes of mercy; a true-born child of his heavenly Parent; for "If you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers" (there is no exception), "then are you illegitimate children, and not sons." Heb 12:8 If a man, therefore, be exempt from divine chastening, his character is drawn as with a ray of light. He may congratulate himself on exemption from trouble; he may say, 'there has no evil touched me.' But his very exemption is only a proof that he is an illegitimate child. If he were a true-born child, he would come under the rod; but not being such, he escapes these proofs of God's eternal adoption.
We may observe this naturally. The children who are at this moment disturbing us by their noise in the street, we do not chastise; they are not ours. But if you, as a parent, were to see your child making a noise in the street, or otherwise misconducting himself, you would bring him in and chastise him. He is your child; you are interested in him; you cannot let him act as vagrant children do, because he is your flesh and blood. And therefore, while you pass the rest by, as having no concern in them, you bring your own children under especial chastening because they are your own. It is so spiritually. The wild vagrants, to whom the Lord has no regard, the children of Satan, who are filling up the measure of their iniquity, have no rod of chastisement; they are left, like these poor ragged children, to their own ways. But the heirs of promise, the children of the living God, those whom he is training to be with him forever in bliss and glory, he will not allow to go on in their own ways; for them he has a rod of correction.
But, we may observe in the words before us, that the Lord puts chastening before teaching. Is there not something remarkable in this? Why should chastening precede teaching? For this reason. We have no ear to hear except so far as we are chastened. Take the case I have alluded to. Your child does something wrong. Do you instruct him first, or do you chasten him first? You chasten him first. And then, when by means of the chastisement you have brought him to submission, to a proper state of mind, you tell him how wrongly he has acted. The rod smites the body before the instruction drops into the ear. So it is spiritually. In God's dealings with his children, he chastises first; and when by his chastisement they have received an ear to hear, a conscience to feel, and a heart to embrace the truth revealed to them, he drops his instruction into their soul.
The Lord has various ways of chastising his people; but he generally selects such chastisement as is peculiarly adapted to the individual whom he chastens. What would be a very great chastisement for you, might not be so to me; and what on the other hand might be a very severe stroke to me might not be so to you. Our dispositions, our constitutions, and our experiences may all differ; and therefore that chastening is selected which is suitable to the individual. It is as though the Lord has suspended in his heavenly closet a number of rods of different sizes; and he takes out that very rod which is just adapted to the very child whom he intends to chastise, inflicting it in such a measure, at a time, and in such a way as is exactly fitted to the individual to be chastised. And here is the wisdom of God signally displayed.
1. The Lord, for instance, sees fit to chasten some in body. We find this in the Scriptures. In the book of Job especially it is mentioned--"Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones, so that his very being finds food repulsive and his soul loathes the choicest meal. His flesh wastes away to nothing, and his bones, once hidden, now stick out." Job 33:19-21. There we have an instance of an individual laid upon a sick bed, in pain of body, distress of mind, and chastened by his gracious Lord for his good. So we find the Apostle Paul speaking to the Corinthians, who had misbehaved themselves at the Lord's supper; "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." 1Co 11:30 It was their unbecoming conduct at the Lord's supper which had brought on them bodily sickness. The Lord chastened their body for the misconduct of their soul.
So in the case of Hezekiah, we find the Lord took similar measures. The prophet was sent to him with this message in his mouth, "Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live." 2Ki 20:1 Sickness took hold of him, and he was stretched upon the bed of death. But see how it worked in him! "He turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord." He turned away from all human help, and fixed his eyes wholly and solely on him who is able to save. It is in sickness and affliction, oftentimes, that the Lord is pleased to manifest himself to our souls, bless us with his presence, and stir up in us a spirit of prayer. I myself am a living witness of it; the greatest blessings I have ever had, the sweetest manifestations of the Lord to my soul have been upon a sick bed. Illness is often very profitable. Bodily afflictions separate us from the world, set our hearts upon heavenly things, draw our affections from the things of time and sense, when the Lord is pleased to manifest himself in them. And yet there are other times and seasons when we are laid upon a bed of sickness, and yet no blessing is given. I remember once, after the Lord had blessed my soul upon a bed of sickness, when I got a little better, and the blessing had worn off, this thought crossed me, 'O, your spiritual state of mind was not the effect of grace; you were sick and afflicted; it was that, and not anything specially from God that brought those feelings.' Soon after, I was laid upon a bed of sickness again; had I then the same blessed feelings, the same views of Christ, the same spiritual-mindedness in my soul? Quite the contrary; all was hard, dark, dead, and barren. Then I saw that it was not the sickness that could make Christ known, loved, or precious; but the power of God made manifest in it. And thus, sometimes, we learn from our very barrenness, hardness, and deadness, profitable lessons, and are convinced thereby that we are utterly unable to raise up one spiritual feeling in our souls.
2. Others the Lord chastens in their families. Our children are very near and dear to us; they are our own flesh and blood, and touch our tenderest feelings. Now the Lord sometimes may pass by ourselves personally, and 'afflict us in our children or our partners in life'. We find this in the Scriptures. We see how Jacob suffered from his children, by losing one for a time, and others proving thorns in his side, and a grief to his soul. We see this also in David, when he wept out his soul with such bitter sorrow, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom; would to God I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" 2Sa 18:33 We see it in the case of Amnon and Tamar. 2Sa 13 What misery was produced by his children in his own household! We see it also in the taking away of the child which he had by the wife of Uriah the Hittite; which though it cut him to the very soul, yet he saw as the chastising hand of God for his fearful transgression.
3. Others again are chastened in their worldly circumstances. We see this in the Scriptures also. Look at Job; a man who in riches exceeded all the men of the East. But how in a moment all was struck away; his flocks, his herds, and all his possessions taken away at a stroke. Ungodly people do not see the hand of God in these things; it is all 'a chance' with them, or an 'unfortunate speculation, which did not succeed.' But when the children of God enter into speculations, or embark their money in enterprises which are not consistent; when a reverse comes, the speculation turns out to be a failure, and the money is lost, it is their blessing to receive it as a stroke from God and as a mark of divine chastisement. Their eyes are then anointed with eye-salve to see that it is a justly deserved stroke; and though it cuts them all the more deeply, yet they receive it as from the Lord, and submit to it as a dispensation of mercy, not of wrath.
4. Others I may say all in their measure, the Lord afflicts spiritually, in their souls. What I have hitherto been treating upon are mere EXTERNAL afflictions--afflictions of the body, in the family, and in circumstances. All these are the dispensations of God, and ought to be viewed as such; and when so viewed, they work together in the soul for good. They must not be put aside; we must not say, 'The hand of God is not in them; it is all a chance.'
Nothing comes to a child of God as a matter of accident or chance; it all proceeds from God, and all is dealt out in measure and for certain purposes. If the Lord touches our bodies, it is for our spiritual good; if he brings affliction through our children, it is for our spiritual good; if he afflicts us in our circumstances, it is for our spiritual good. When the eye is opened to see, the ear to hear, the heart to believe, and the conscience made tender to feel, we know and confess that these things are sent from God. Here is the difference between a believer and an unbeliever. Infidelity says 'it is a chance;' for unbelief sees the hand of God in nothing--faith says, 'it is the Lord;' for faith sees the hand of God in everything.
Now though a few may escape these outward troubles, yet there are spiritual afflictions which we cannot and must not escape. If we do escape them, woe be to us; we are only signing our death-warrant; only proclaiming aloud, 'We are illegitimate children.' If we are God's children, we shall have spiritual afflictions; and these will consist, proportionately to light and life in the conscience, in painful convictions of guilt; in deep repentance and grief of soul on account of our backslidings; in a discovery of our evil ways and crooked actions; in sorrow for the many things we have done which conscience bears witness against as sinful. The denial of answers to our prayers; the shutting up of the throne of grace to our cries; the darkness of mind that we labor under; the trying thoughts we may have at times concerning our state, or the dealings of God with our souls; the inability to raise up faith, hope, and love, in our hearts– these all are to be viewed as chastisements.
Is it not so naturally? Your child has done something wrong, and displeased you. Do you look upon him now as kindly as at other times? No! You keep him at a distance; you do not let him dine with you today; you abridge him perhaps a part of his food; you make him go to bed early and in the dark; and if you do not visit him with positive stripes, you manifest by your reserved countenance and serious look that you are displeased; you will not take him upon your knee, nor embrace him like his brothers and sisters, but send him to bed without a kiss. What are all these but marks to the child of your displeasure? These are chastisements; and if the child is tender-hearted, he will go sobbing to bed because his parent is displeased with him; for he knows he has brought this displeasure upon himself. It is so spiritually.
The Lord deals with us as a parent does with his children; he does not smile upon us, does not give us a kiss, will not speak kindly to us, or look upon us as in times past with looks of favor and love, and will not, as it seems, hear us when we call. You teach your child by similar means your displeasure. When you are reserved, and keep him at a distance, he knows the reason, and he feels the reserve as a mark of your displeasure. So it is with God. When he denies answers to our prayers; shuts up his manifested mercy; leaves us to wretched, desponding, and gloomy feelings, these are all chastisements, and are to be received as such; and when they are so received, they work good effects in the soul, for they produce submission, resignation, quietness, meekness, and humility.
In these, and other various ways, of which time will not suffice to mention the tenth part, God chastens his people. The Lord chastens those whom he loves; and "blessed is the man whom he chastens." There are many afflicted, but only few chastened--many have abundance of worldly trouble; but only God's people are really chastened, so as to see and feel the hand of God in the rod, and submit to it as such. Here is all the difference between a believer and an unbeliever, between a child of God and an infidel.
We pass on to consider the second part of the blessedness of the man whom God chastens. "And teaches him out of your law." We have just hinted at the reason why chastening precedes teaching. We have no ear for instruction until we feel the stroke of God upon us. It was so with the prodigal. Until he was brought to his right mind by strokes of hunger, he did not think of his father's house; he had no heart to return; but a mighty famine sent him home. So it is with God's children; as long as they are allowed to wander in their backslidings, they have no heart to return. But let the rod come--let them be driven home with stripes; then they have an ear to listen, while God teaches them to profit, instructs them by his blessed Spirit, and speaks into their heart those lessons which are for their eternal good.
"And teaches him out of your law." We would, I think, much err from the mind of the Spirit, if we confined the meaning of the word "law," as some do, to the law strictly and properly so called. "The law" in the Scriptures has a very wide signification; it means, in the original, instruction. The word is Torah, which signifies 'teaching' or 'direction.' And as the law given by Moses was the grand instruction that God gave to the children of Israel into his holiness and purity, the word Torah, or instruction, became fixed in a definite manner to the law as given at Sinai. But the word in itself has a far higher meaning, signifying instruction generally; and thus we find, in the New Testament, that the word "law" is not confined to the law of Moses given in thunder and lightning upon Mount Sinai. For instance, we read of "the law of the Spirit of life" in Christ Jesus, which has "made me free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2 The "law of the Spirit of life" there mentioned does not mean the law given on Mount Sinai. Again, "Whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." Jas 1:25 "The perfect law of liberty," does not, cannot mean the law given at Mount Sinai; it is the gospel of Jesus Christ; the instruction, the Torah, which the Spirit has given of the Lord Jesus, and therefore called "the perfect law of liberty."
So, in the Old Testament, "O how I love your law; it is my meditation all the day." Psalm 119:97 David was not meditating all the day upon the words given upon Mount Sinai; he was not utterly consumed with terrors by meditating upon the strictness and holiness of God as revealed in that law; but he was looking into the gospel, and in that law he delighted all the day, as beholding in it the glories of the Lamb.
And thus, in our text, when it says, "Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of your law," it does mean, I grant, in the first instance, the law strictly speaking as revealing the purity, holiness, and perfection of God; but we must not limit it, as some do, to the law definitely so called. A man, then, is blessed whom God teaches out of his law--that is, brings near those things which the law reveals, and seals them upon his heart. The law is a manifestation of God's purity, holiness, justice, majesty, greatness, and glory; and was given upon Mount Sinai in thunderings, lightnings, and earthquakes, to show forth the majesty of God. Now the Lord, in the first instance, teaches his people by showing to them out of the law his purity, holiness, majesty, the perfection of his character, his indignation against sin, and his wrath against sinners. And every feeling of guilt produced by a manifestation of God's purity, affection, uprightness, justice, wrath, indignation against sin, and direful vengeance that burns to the lowest hell-every such conviction, and every such feeling is a teaching out of his law. But there are some living souls whom God has taught, and is teaching out of his law, who because some definite words of the law have not been applied to their heart, are full of fear that they never had the sentence of the law written in their conscience.
But there is one mark, if not more, whereby we may know whether we have ever had the application of the law strictly speaking to our conscience. What is this? The law "brings bondage," that is, it generates or produces bondage in the soul. Now there may be some here this evening, who may say, 'I do not know that I ever had definite words applied to my conscience, such as, "Cursed is every one who continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." But let us see whether by bringing your experience to the word of God, you cannot find that you have experienced what sometimes you do not fear have not. Have you never felt bondage? Has your soul never been shut up, and unable to come forth? Have you had no slavish fear of God? Have you never been as it were bound in fetters of iron, and felt that nothing but the mighty power of God coming into your soul could set you free? Have you had no slavish fears of death? We read, that there were some who "all their life-time" were subject to this fear. Have you had no fear of death when the cholera is going about? Have you had no dread lest that dreadful scourge might enter your door, and you might be stricken with the fearful malady? Has no groan or sigh gone up to God through the dread of it? What is this but bondage? And what brings bondage but the law?
Not the letter, but the spirit of the law--because it brings, that is, generates, as a father, in the soul, what the dead lifeless letter cannot possibly do, a spirit of bondage. If you have felt this bondage, this fear, these doubts, these manacles and chains, which your sins have wreathed round your neck, then you have been taught "out of the law;" aye, you have felt the law; for it has produced a spirit of bondage in your soul.
Let us see whether we cannot find another mark. It is this; "By the law is the knowledge of sin." Have you any knowledge of sin? Have the sins of your evil heart ever been felt? Have you ever seen the purity and perfection of Jehovah; and felt the justice of God in his holy law? Do you ever feel that had God sentenced your soul to eternal damnation, he would be just; that you had deserved it all, and brought it on your own head? Can you say, that he would be just in condemning you to the lowest hell? If you have felt this, you have been taught out of God's law; for "by the law is the knowledge of sin."
But we pass on to consider "the law," in a different point of view. The "law," as I have already noticed, signifies not merely "the law," strictly speaking as the sentence of condemnation; but it includes also the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ--"the perfect law of liberty; the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus;" that law which was in the heart of the Redeemer, when he said, "I come to do your will, O God; yes, your law is within my heart."
Now, as the Lord teaches his children "out of the law," strictly so called, so he teaches them "out of" the gospel; and to my mind there is something exceedingly sweet and expressive in the words "out of the law." It seems to convey to my mind, not only that the law is a treasure-house of wrath, but that the gospel also is a treasure-house of mercy. And as those who know most of the law are only taught "out of the law," and not the whole of the law, only a few drops as it were, out of the inexhaustible wrath of God; so out of the heavenly treasure-house of the gospel, "the perfect law of liberty," it is but a little of grace and mercy that in this life can be known. As Christ said to his disciples in promising the Spirit; "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." John 16:15 He cannot take "all," and show it unto them; for none could live under the sight.
The Spirit, therefore, takes of the things of Christ, and shows here a little and there a little; some little blessedness here, and some little blessedness there; a suitable promise, a gracious testimony, a comforting text, an encouraging word, a sight of atoning blood, a smile of his countenance, a view of his Person, a discovery of his righteousness, or a glimpse of his love. This is taking of the things of Christ and revealing them to the soul. And thus, the man whom the Lord takes in hand, he teaches "out of" the gospel by making Christ experimentally known, and revealing his dying love. And thus he teaches each and all "out of his law"--both the law from Sinai, and the law from Zion.
But, observe the connection between chastening and teaching. This is what I am wishing to impress upon you. Suppose you are in a carnal state of mind; say you are a man of business, have done a good stroke today, have got something which has wonderfully pleased your covetous heart, have been carried away by some worldly project. But you have come to chapel this evening. Are you in a fit state to hear the word of God? Is the Lord about to teach you now out of the gospel? You are not the man, nor is your soul in a fit state to receive it. But suppose it otherwise. Say, the Lord has been severely chastening you of late; you are just recovering from a painful sickness; have lost a child; had an affliction in your family; something trying has happened today, yesterday, or the last week in your worldly circumstances; or the Lord has set to his hand, and wrought more powerfully upon your soul than he has for months past; you have been cut up with convictions, felt your backslidings, and could scarcely bear to creep to chapel, lest you should hear your own condemnation.
You are the very person whom God is chastening that he may teach out of his law. You were not in a fit state before to hear; you were thinking how tedious the minister was, and wondering when he would finish the sermon; your mind was full of wandering thoughts, or you were caviling at all you heard. But now you have an ear to hear; a sigh and a cry in your heart, and lips when you come to chapel; and in groaning out your petition before you come, you say, 'O Lord, will you speak one word to my soul tonight? Will you kindly look upon a poor vile backslider? O do manifest yourself to me!' This is teaching following chastening. You must have chastening first; you must first be brought to your senses, have a heart given you to feel; have many stripes laid upon you to bring your wandering feet back to the paths of righteousness; and then the gospel is for you.
The promises of mercy, the sweet invitations, the forgivenesses with God, and all the blessings which the gospel is filled with, are for those whom the Lord brings down and chastens. And therefore, there are very few people who are really in a state fit to hear the gospel, the precious love of God as revealed in the Person of Christ. This is the reason why we have so many hardened antinomians in our day; so many dry, doctrinal professors, whose lives, conduct, and conversation are disgraceful to the name they profess. It is because they are not chastened. And this makes them the bitterest enemies to real experimental truth, and to the men who speak out of the fullness of a believing, exercised heart. There is a connection, therefore, between being chastened, afflicted, exercised, and being taught "out of the law." God does not teach, and afterwards chasten for disobedience--but he first brings down the heart with labor, and then sows in it the seeds of instruction.
II. But we pass on to our second branch, which is, the reason why the Lord chastens and teaches his children--"that he may give them rest from days of adversity." There are "days of adversity" coming; and these may be more serious than any one at present expects. We may have days of great adversity and troublous times as regards the country generally. We may have persecutions. We may have calamitous times as regards business, trade, and worldly circumstances; and these things affect all men. We are so linked together, so dependent upon each other, that whatever touches one touches all. If troublous times come, they will touch the church as well as the world. What a blessing, then, for God's people, if they have a rest from the "days of adversity;" if they have a God to go to, a Jesus to lean on, a lap to be dandled in, and a bosom to pillow their aching heads.
But, supposing the political horizon is not overshadowed; supposing worldly matters are peaceable and quiet, there may be "days of adversity" of another character. You may have a long and painful sickness, be brought into very trying circumstances; you that are now in comparative comfort may be brought down to poverty; you may have a very heavy affliction in your family; and see little else but "days of adversity." These will come, and we cannot prevent them. We can no more say "the day of adversity" shall not come, than we can say, tomorrow will not be a rainy day, or that the shadow will not attend tomorrow's sunshine. The Lord, then, knowing the "days of adversity" which are in store; knowing that sickness and death are coming, has prepared a rest beforehand; "Come, my people," he says, "enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by." Isaiah 26:20
But how do we get this "rest?" By being chastened and by being taught. Until we are chastened, we make the world our home; and a very pleasant paradise it is. Our children, our friendships, our pursuits, our worldly ease, the many airy castles that we build up, are all very pleasant to us until strokes of chastisement come, and the Lord begins to afflict us in body, in family, or in soul. Yet how kind it is, and all the kinder for being painful, for the Lord to chasten us back to our true home. Our child may perhaps be away from home; there is a storm gathering; the thunder is ready to break forth; and he is about to be exposed to the lightning's flash. If he loiters, are you dealing unkindly with him if you whip him home? Is not every stroke a kindness that brings him out of the thunderstorm? It is so spiritually. The Lord sees that there is a thunderstorm gathering; the lightnings are about to flash; the rain to pour; the hail to strike. Is not every stroke a kind stroke, a stroke of love that brings the wanderer home to find shelter under God's wing until this storm be overpast? We might be wandering abroad in the world with our heads exposed to the lightning stroke; we might hear the warning peal, and be yet too far from home to get there in time; but the Lord foreseeing "the days of adversity," comes with strokes and drives us home. He will not let us lie down in the green fields and flowery meadows, and sleep under the trees.
His strokes are strokes dipped in love; and, however cutting to the flesh, if blessed by the Spirit, they are made instrumental in driving us home, bringing us to our right mind, and showing us where true rest is only to be found--in Christ, in his Person, love, blood, grace, and suitability; in all that he is and all that he has. What a wise and kind parent, then, he is to chasten us, though painful at the time, and to teach us out of his law and gospel, that he may give us rest from "the days of adversity."
III. But we come to our third point; what the Lord is preparing in the meanwhile for the ungodly. There is no chastening for them; no teaching for them; no preparing a rest for them; or preparing them for rest. What, then, is awaiting them? What a striking figure here the Lord makes use of! "Until the pit be dug for the wicked." What is the figure? Is it not this? In Eastern countries, the ordinary mode of catching wild beasts is to dig a pit, and fix sharp spears in the bottom--and when the pit has been dug sufficiently deep, it is covered over with branches of trees, earth, and leaves, until all appearances of the pitfall are entirely concealed. What is the object? That the wild beast intent upon bloodshed-the tiger lying in wait for the deer, the wolf roaming after the sheep, the lion prowling for the antelope, or the elephant breaking through the jungle, not seeing the pitfall, but rushing on and over it, may not see their doom until they break through and fall upon the spears at the bottom.
What a striking figure is this! Here are the ungodly, all intent upon their purposes; prowling after evil, as the wolf after the sheep, or the tiger after the deer, thinking only of some worldly profit, some covetous plan, some lustful scheme, something the carnal mind delights in; but on they go, not seeing any danger until the moment comes when, as Job says, "they go down to the bars of the pit." The Lord has been pleased to hide their doom from them; the pit is all covered over with leaves of trees, grass, and earth. The very appearance of the pit was hidden from the wild beasts; they never knew it until they fell into it, and were transfixed. So it is with the wicked; both with the professors and the profane. There is no fear of God, no taking heed to their steps, no cry to be directed, no prayer to be shown the way; no pausing, no turning back--on they go, on they go; heedlessly, thoughtlessly, recklessly; pursuing some beloved object--on they go, on they go; until in a moment they are plunged eternally and irrevocably into the pit!
There are many such both in the professing church as well as in the ungodly world. The Lord sees what they are, and where they are; he knows where the pit is; in what part of the wood; how situated in the jungle. God knows their steps; he sees them hurrying on, hurrying on, hurrying on. All is prepared for them. The Lord gives them no forewarning, no notice of their danger; no teachings, no chastenings, remonstrances, no frowns, no stripes; they are left to themselves to fill up the measure of their iniquity, until they approach the pit that has been dug for them, and then down they sink to the bottom!
This will never be the case with the righteous. They are forewarned; they take heed to their ways; the Lord chastens them before times; he teaches them out of his law; he gives them right and deep views of his purity and holiness; and shows them also the refuge which he has prepared for them in the love and blood of the Lamb. Thus, in "the days of adversity," they have a solemn resting-place in the bosom of God, in his covenant faithfulness and love.
Now do you lay these things to heart? How have you come to chapel this evening? What has God done for your soul? Has curiosity or some other motive brought you here? Or do you come hoping to hear that which will do you good, and be spiritually and lastingly profitable? Have you found anything spoken this evening suitable to your case and state? Can you find, looking back on the dealings of God with you in providence or grace, that he has been chastening you? Do fix your eyes, you who desire to fear God, on this mark– say to yourselves, 'Lord, have I been chastened of you? Can I see in my various afflictions the hand of God? Have they done my soul good? Have they been a voice speaking to my heart? Have they brought forth in me the fruits of holiness? Can I say, Lord, "Blessed is the man whom you chasten;" and I am that man?' If so, you are not the wicked. God is not digging a pit for you; he is chastening you before times that he may "give you rest from the days of adversity;" you have a God to go to, and a blessed bosom to lean upon when "the days of adversity" come, and the wicked fall headlong into the pit.
Preached at Providence Chapel, London, on July 28, 1850, by J. C. Philpot
"And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,"
The children of Israel, after the flesh, were a 'typical' people; and therefore the dealings of God with them were typical and figurative of His dealings with the spiritual Israel. When we see this, and read the Old Testament Scriptures with an enlightened eye, what beauty does it add to the sacred page! We read these records then, not as so many historical documents, but as descriptive of the children of God, and of His mercy, love and grace towards them. And thus their experience becomes brought home to our own heart and our own bosom. We can see in them our own features, and read in the dealings of God with them the dealings of God with our own souls now.
I need not run through the history of the children of Israel to prove this. Every step they took is, more or less, a proof that the Lord dealt with them outwardly as He deals with his spiritual Israel inwardly. Their state, for instance, in Egypt typified the death and darkness of the people of God before they are quickened by the blessed Spirit. The Paschal Lamb of which they partook, and the blood sprinkled upon the lintel and sideposts, showed forth the redemption of Christ, and the application of His precious blood to the conscience. The passing through the Red Sea signifies the baptism with which they are baptized, when the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit; and their seeing their enemies dead upon the seashore, signifies the rejoicing of a child of God at finding his sins cast into the sea, and overthrown into dead carcasses by the mighty power of Christ.
But we come now to a strange passage in their history. They little expected, as we should little expect, that so heavy a trial would come immediately upon the back of this astonishing deliverance. And what was this trial? "They went three days in the wilderness, and found no water." In this humid climate, we can scarcely conceive what a privation this must have been. But we would not like even in this wet climate, and at this dripping season, to be without water for three days. No water to drink, no water to wash with! But look at this vast multitude, amounting to two million, wandering in a barren desert, with a scorching sun above and parched sands beneath; men, women, children, cattle, languishing, and all but for dying of thirst! And this for three days!
One can scarcely conceive what a privation, what a scene of horror it must have been. But, at the end of three days, water is discovered. They catch a glimpse of palm trees in the wilderness, and perhaps see the glimmering of streams beneath them. You may well conceive what joy would fill the camp. We may well imagine what a universal shout of exultation there would be. What hurrying on to partake of the waters that glistened before their eye in the distance? But alas! when they came there, a further disappointment awaited them. "They came to Marah, and they could not drink of the waters of Marah." Though for three days they had been without water and were dying from thirst, yet when they came to these waters, they were so bitter and brackish, that absolutely they could not drink! What a blow! what a stroke upon stroke! This was indeed striking the dying dead. This was indeed adding grief to their sorrow and heaping calamity upon calamity.
Well, what did they do? What you and I no doubt would have done. They murmured and rebelled, and cried out against Moses for bringing them out of Egypt, with its beautiful Nile, and leading them into this wilderness, where for three days they had no water; and when they came to water, it was so bitter they could not drink. And what did Moses do? Did he join with them? Did he encourage their murmuring, or take part in their rebellion? No; he did what he ever did, and what every child of God must sooner or later do--he "cried unto the Lord." And did he "cry" in vain? Was the Lord a "God afar off, and not at hand?" Was His hand shortened that it could not save, or His ear heavy that it could not hear? No! The same almighty arm that had brought them through the Red Sea found a way of escape. "The Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet."
Now, upon this foundation I shall, with God's blessing, endeavor to raise a spiritual building. Four things seem to strike my mind as connected with, and flowing out of our text:
I. The bitter waters of Marah.
II. The murmuring of the people.
III. The cry of Moses.
IV. The healing of the waters.
May the Lord enable me to speak this morning in such a way as He shall condescend to bless to our souls.
I. The bitter waters of Marah.
In looking at these waters of Marah, it seems that we have to consider two things respecting them--first, what these waters spiritually and typically represented. Secondly, what is intimated by the bitterness of these waters.
We cannot understand by these waters the water of life. There is nothing analogous in the waters of Marah to the streams that gushed out of the rock when smitten by the rod of Moses; for those waters were and ever must be intrinsically sweet. Nor do they resemble the waters seen by the prophet Ezekiel that flowed out of the temple, which when they went into the salt sea healed its bitterness. Eze 47:1-9 These waters, then, cannot be the waters of life, the streams that flow out of the bleeding side of the Redeemer.
What then are they? Why, they seem to my mind to denote things in themselves perfectly suitable and adapted to our natural constitution, and yet embittered by sin; because by the bitterness that is in the waters, I mainly understand sin, and as its necessary consequence and never-failing attendant, sorrow.
When God created the world He pronounced it "very good;" the waters then were sweet. Man, in his primitive innocency, was adapted to the world in its original purity; but "sin entered into the world, and death by sin." Satan was allowed to cast bitterness into these waters; and ever since, sin and sorrow have embittered all circumstances, states and conditions, in a word, everything that would have been otherwise sweet and adapted to our present state of existence.
Let me illustrate this by a few particulars, and show how sin, and its consequence sorrow, have embittered all the streams that otherwise would have been sweet and innocent, healthful and pure.
A. First, look at the world generally. It is a fair world, even in ruins. There is a natural beauty in it, though shattered by the fall. Yet, though outwardly lovely, sin has marred all. We might, in traveling, see a beautiful prospect; a village, for instance, nestling in a valley, by some picturesque mountainside in Switzerland, or lake in the North of England, and say, "Beauty is here; and with beauty, there must be happiness and innocence." But, if we penetrated beneath the surface of this external beauty, what would we see but sin? This beautiful village is probably but a den of drunkenness and profligacy. Thus these waters, which naturally were adapted to the constitution of man, made suitable to him, and he suitable to them, have all been polluted, defiled and embittered by sin cast into them. So, wherever we go, we find sin embittering everything. There is not a country, not a town, not a village, not a family, not a bosom, in which sin is not, and which sin has not embittered--embittered by alienating it from the source of all true, real happiness.
B. Again. There is your lawful occupation in life; your business, your shop, your counting-house, your farm; the calling that God has appointed for you to gain your daily bread by. These are streams of water necessary to your actual existence. You could no more live without them than you could exist without the bread and water that perish. And yet, sin and sorrow embitter all; disappointment, vexation, temptation flow out of and mingle with everything you set your hand to. So that when you would satiate your thirst at these streams they are "waters of Marah" which you cannot drink. If not actual sin, yet disappointment will attend them. I do not believe that you can carry on your lawful calling without sin being intermingled with it. I do not mean open, allowed sin. But sin will interfere, will intrude, will creep in, will work. You can scarcely attend to your lawful calling without in some way partaking of the evil mingled with it. And if not sin, yet there will be sorrow and disappointment. If there be nothing in conscience against you in carrying on your daily business and concerns, yet there will be losses, crosses, bad debts, disappointments and vexations from others. Thus when you would take a sweet and luscious draught from the occupations of life, the cup is dashed from your lips by the bitterness of its contents.
C. Look again at the social relations of life. All are embittered. Let us picture for a few moments a young couple. How roseate is the hue which invests their life! how happy they are going to be, never dreaming of sorrow and trouble! All is bright sunshine. Let them live a few years; let them have children; let them get into middle life, and the cares of a family come upon them; and then see whether their young visions have been realized--whether all has been of a rosy color, whether dark clouds have not hovered over those domestic scenes from which they once thought to drink so much happiness. How often children grow up to be their parents' disappointment and misery! Wives and husbands, instead of being mutual sources of happiness and comfort, prove mutual plagues. Friends, who once seemed so true, turn into enemies; relations, from whom we would expect every kindness and help, grow cold or hostile. How all these domestic relations in various instances are marred and embittered by sin or sorrow! So that, when like the children of Israel, we would gladly stoop down, and drink at these sources of happiness, and they would be sources of happiness but for the marred state of the world, and the sin in men's hearts, we cannot drink the waters; they are embittered; they are "Marah."
D. And so with the human body. God made the body healthy, as He made the soul pure--but when sin entered into the soul, sickness came into the body. How many of God's people have their lives embittered through ill health, and all their pleasing prospects disappointed, broken up, crushed, and thrown down by a load of illness and bodily infirmities.
Now here are the waters of "Marah"--sorrow, vexation, bitterness, disappointment marring everything; so that we cannot drink of the otherwise sweet streams of life. And it is a mercy that we cannot. Could we drink of them we would want no other waters. Could we assuage our thirst at these earthly rills, we would want no streams of that river which "makes glad the city of God." If we could take our fill of earthly comfort and worldly happiness, we would never want to have the consolations of the blessed Spirit, or to drink out of the fullness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But this is very disappointing. To have bitterness in everything, and bitterness in those things most from which you would gladly derive most pleasure; that directly you are looking forward to some worldly happiness, as the children of Israel hurried onward to the waters glimmering under the palm trees, yet no sooner do you come to that scene of anticipated pleasure, than you find it embittered; some disappointment, some sorrow, some vexation, some sin mars all. Is this very pleasing? Is this what nature loves? Does this go down very smoothly? Not while man is what he is. Did the children of Israel like it? No; they "murmured."
II. The murmuring of the people.
And this brings us to our second point, which is– the murmuring of the rebellious flesh against these dispensations. When the Lord is not present to bless and smile upon the soul, is it not very hard work to have so many trials, vexations and disappointments; to find everything here embittered; that God will not let you have a gourd to rejoice in; that you cannot sit down and say, "Come, now I am going to be comfortable; here is at last a little rest?" Is it not very vexatious, very disappointing, very contrary to every feeling of our natural heart, that the Lord will never let us take comfort in anything but Himself? that when we would gladly stretch forth our arm and embrace an earthly joy, there is a hand that dashes it from our lips? when we would stoop, and drink the waters that glimmer in the desert, they are so salty, brackish, and bitter, that we cannot slake our thirst at them?
1. Now, say that you have many disappointments in business. Are they pleasing? When the postman brings you a letter, for instance, full of bad news--that someone has failed who owes you a large sum of money; do you feel very comfortable under it? Is it not much against the grain? And does not this raise up in your carnal mind murmuring and fretfulness, and a rebellious feeling that you should be so hardly dealt with? You can look abroad, perhaps, and see how others get on in the world– men whom you have known in poverty riding in their carriages--and you always crossed, disappointed, ground down and everything going against you. This is not very pleasant to flesh and blood; this is contrary to nature; and therefore nature murmurs, frets, repines, rebels against these dispensations.
2. Or, you have ill health, and cannot do things as others do them--exertion is a pain to you; your nerves are shattered and your whole frame disorganized from constitutional debility; everything is wearisome--the "grasshopper a burden." You look round, and see people walking about in such health and strength, and you perhaps racked with pain, or your frame altogether shattered, and constitution gone. Why, this will raise up in the mind, at times, some very unpleasant feelings. There will be murmuring, rebellion and fretfulness against God when you see others dealt with so favorably, and you dealt with, as you think, in a way so contrary.
3. Your own family, perhaps your sons and daughters, are not what you wish them to be. You look abroad and see the sons of others steady; their daughters doing well, married and settled comfortably in life; while, as regards yourself, things are just the contrary--everything is opposed to what your nature wants, and what your carnal mind loves. And, instead of sitting down quietly, and bearing these afflictions and sorrows, there is a heaving up of the carnal mind against them, a working of rebellion, a repining, a murmuring, as though the Lord dealt with you very harshly, and nobody ever had such a weight to carry as yourself.
4. Or again, you have a continual cross, and feel a body of sin and death always plaguing you; so as never to be let alone, but are vexed and tried day after day. There is some temptation, and you entangled in it; some bait, and you entrapped; some discovery of evil in your heart which you had never seen before. And you think there never was anybody like you; so harassed, so exercised, so tried, so tempted, so cast down; having withal so little grace, so little spirituality, and finding so little in your heart of which you can say, "Thank God, I have some real religion now." Now, when the mind is thus exercised, tried and cast down with a thousand things, unless God be present, and His grace intervene, there will be much of this fretfulness, repining and murmuring in the carnal mind.
But is this all? Would it do to leave you thus? Can a living soul stand here? No! There must be something more than this. It is sad work to have nothing but bitterness and murmuring; and therefore, we will pass on to our third point; which is what a living soul sooner or later must do and does.
III. The cry of Moses.
"Moses cried unto the Lord." And this is what we do when we have no one else to go to. When we come to the waters of Marah, and find we cannot drink; when there is nothing but bitterness and disappointment, then there is at first a struggle, a murmuring, a rebelling, which only makes matters worse than before. But, in tender mercy, the Lord is pleased to raise up a sigh and a cry in the soul, and to cause supplications to go up out of the heart. But this is hard work, because it seems as though we ought to have done this before. Conscience begins to say, "Why, you only pray to God when you need Him; you ought not to have murmured and repined; you ought not to have rebelled and fretted as you have done. How can you expect God to hear you now? You have tried all you could to creep out of it, and get the yoke off your neck; and not being able to do it, then you come to the Lord."
Yet this is what we are obliged to do; and I may add, what grace enables us to do, because trials in themselves will not raise up prayer; they rather crush it. We might be in the very belly of hell, and have no prayer except God put it there into our souls. We might have blow upon blow, stroke upon stroke, but no prayer. Afflictions without the grace of God only stupefy, harden and deaden. People think sometimes, "O, when I grow old, or get ill, then I shall pray, and seek, and serve God." Why, you would find your very illness and age would only stupefy the mind; and if you were in pain, you would have little to think of but pain. Your very sufferings would only harden your heart, and stop prayer instead of encouraging it. Therefore, it is not all the afflictions we go through, which can raise up one prayer to God; they only make us fight against Him; they only make us murmur, rebel and despair. It must be 'grace in sweet operation' that softens the heart in these trials, and the Lord's pouring out upon the soul "the Spirit of grace and supplication." The two go together, enabling us to "cry."
And what a mercy it is, that in all our rebellion, and in spite of all our rebellion, there is a God to go to; that though our rebellions do and will bring a cloud upon the throne, yet they do not push Jesus off the throne. Whatever darkness, whatever confusion, rebellion may bring upon our mind, Christ is still there. It is like a London fog. When you Londoners in November are wrapped up in fog and smoke, we that live in the country are perhaps enjoying the sunshine. All your fog does not blot the blessed sun out of the sky; he is shining upon others, if he is not shining upon you. So spiritually. When we get into a fog, we think sometimes that the sun will never shine again. We judge by our feelings, and the exercises of our minds; as though now there were no Christ; as though all He had promised were false, all His mercy had failed, and there was no longer anything for the soul to rest upon.
But how blessed it is in these seasons to find a little submission and prayer; a sighing, looking, longing, hungering, thirsting, waiting upon the Lord! This is what we must do; and what we shall do, if grace be in our hearts; for without it, we cannot expect any relief.
The Lord works generally thus. He brings afflictions, and lets us feel what we are in our carnal mind under the cross, to humble us and prove us. He then raises up and draws forth a spirit of prayer in the soul; and then He answers and blesses. The very power to pray is a gleam of light upon the soul; the very pouring out of the heart brings a relief; the very sight of Christ upon his throne dispels the rebellion that works in the carnal mind. The very coming to Him as filled with all grace; the very looking unto Him, interceding for us as our Advocate with the Father, seems to drive away the clouds of darkness and rebellion. It may not be, indeed it is not a complete deliverance, but it is deliverance from rebellion and murmuring. To pour out the heart before God brings a measure of relief, as Hannah and Hezekiah found. If it does not fill the soul with joy and peace, at least it brings it out of that stupefied state in which it was sunk through rebellion; it softens the heart which before was hard; it thaws the spirit which before was frozen; it communicates contrition where before there was little else but hardness and desperation. And thus, the very power given to the soul to seek, supplicate, cry, beg and pray, though it may not bring deliverance from the trial itself, yet is a help and encouragement enabling it to bear up. A praying soul will in due time be a praising soul. He that seeks shall find; he that asks shall receive. "To him that knocks, it shall be opened." The Lord has given many sweet promises to those who seek His face.
It is not only a mercy to have a God to go to, but to have a heart to go to Him. It is an inestimable favor not only to have a throne of grace, but to have grace to go to the throne. It is not only a blessing that there is a mercy seat, but that there is mercy reaching the heart to bring us there. And when there is this real heartfelt cry, then in due time comes a blessed, gracious answer; which brings us to our fourth and last point; and that is, the healing of the waters.
IV. The healing of the waters.
Now, in the healing of the waters, we may observe certain marked steps. "The Lord," we read, "showed Moses a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet."
1. The first thing to consider is, "the tree." I need not say what this signifies. Your hearts have pronounced it already. It is the tree of life--the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the tree; for "Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree." "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree." This is the tree--the tree of life; the cross of Jesus; salvation through blood; pardon through the atonement which He made upon Calvary's tree; reconciliation through the offering which He there once offered; for "by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified."
2. But this tree was shown to Moses. It was there before; but Moses knew it not. It needed to be revealed to his eyes and heart. The tree was standing there before Moses saw it. So with us. The cross of Christ is the same, whether hidden from our eyes or not. If we are God's children, we are even now reconciled, pardoned, accepted, saved. Our salvation is already accomplished; the work is finished; everlasting righteousness has been brought in; Christ has saved us from the wrath to come. "Who has saved us, and called us."
But what we need is a discovery of this tree to our soul. It does not say that God created the tree for the first time; but that he "showed" it to Moses. He took the veil off Moses' eyes and heart, and showed him the tree. And what is this but a blessed revelation to the soul of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; seeing Him by the eye of faith as the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world; a viewing Him by the eye of faith suspended as it were between earth and heaven, accomplishing our salvation by His own precious blood?
Now in all our murmuring, rebellion and fretfulness we do not see this. It is hidden from our eyes; and we have no union, no communion then, with a suffering Lord. If we could go to the cross, clasp it in our embrace, lay hold of a crucified Jesus, feel sweet communion with Him, gaze upon His sufferings, and see that face which was marred more than the sons of men, it would thaw away the rebellion, it would remove the murmuring, it would melt the heart down into contrition, brokenness, and love.
But we cannot see it; we only see our disappointments, our vexations, losses, crosses and sorrows. The mind is so wrapped up in darkness; there is such a fog over the soul that we can only "grope for the wall like the blind." We think ourselves harshly dealt with, wonder that God should be so unkind, and have no eyes or heart to look beyond all these things, and to see the Lord Jesus Christ reconciling us to God, and bearing our sins and sorrows in His own body on the tree. And therefore, we need it to be shown to us; we need the blessed Spirit to take of the things of Christ, and reveal them to our soul; to bring into our hearts a sight and sense of the bleeding Lamb, of the suffering "Man of Sorrows," of the crucified Immanuel.
3. But there is another step. It was not sufficient that there should be a tree, nor enough to show Moses the tree. The tree must be cast into the waters. The boughs of the tree might overshadow the streams; that did not heal them. Those too that stood on the banks of the stream might gaze upon the tree; that did not heal the waters. A further process was necessary. There was another step to be taken; and that was, the tree was to be cast into the waters. And does this not signify spiritually the bringing in of the cross of Christ into the soul; the revelation of a crucified Savior to the heart; the manifestation of Jesus in His sufferings and blood to the conscience; and this, by bringing the cross of Christ into the soul, as the tree was cast into the waters? Now nothing but this can heal the waters. But when the tree was cast into the waters, when it sank, and the waters covered in, then they were made sweet; their bitterness was taken away, and they could be safely drunk.
Let us APPLY this. I have endeavored to show you what these waters are, and how they were made bitter; and I must therefore just cast my mind's eye a little back, to show you how they are made sweet.
1. Now there are many things that are vexatious and disappointing in our daily calling. You have many things in business very plaguing, very trying. You cannot, therefore, take that pleasure in it which worldly men can; or if it much occupies your mind, you find guilt resting upon your conscience; you cannot take, as it were, a good draught of your worldly occupation, drink it down and enjoy it; but there is some disappointment, or some guilt of conscience connected with it, that when you would gladly take pleasure in it, you cannot succeed. Well, how is this to be sweetened? If there be some discovery to your soul of a precious Jesus, and you be indulged with some knowledge of, and communion with a suffering Immanuel, does not that sweeten to you your daily occupation? Does it not sanctify the lowest employment? Yes--sanctify it! Why, a man may be a garbage-collector, a chimney sweep, a nightman, and if he have the grace of God in his heart, the visitations of the Lord's presence and the bedewings of His love and favor will make this calling a holy calling, aye, much more a holy calling than many a bishop preaching in lawn sleeves, or a priest bowing before the altar. Aye, a poor old washerwoman, rubbing her stockings over her tub, may be worshiping God in spirit and in truth, and have her soul filled with happiness and holiness, when choristers and priests are mocking him with lies and hearts full of uncleanness. Thus, washing stockings may be a holier employment than chanting psalms. It is not church or chapel that makes us holy, but the blessed Spirit making our bodies His temple.
2. Or you may almost constantly have bad health, which may be your daily cross; and when the Lord does not favor you with His presence, a very hard cross it is to carry. But suppose the Lord is pleased to bless your soul, lead you to Jesus, give you communion with Him, show you the sufferings of "the Man of Sorrows," and that you have a saving interest in His precious blood and love--is not the bitter water sweetened? Can you not then bear your aches, pains and infirmities? Do you even see good springing out of your afflicted body; and would sooner have sanctified illness than unsanctified health?
3. Or your "house," like David's, does not "grow" as you wish. You have rebellious children, dissolute sons, carnal daughters, servants that plague your life out; with other domestic things that try your mind; and it seems as though you were always grieved and vexed. Well now, if your soul were blessed, watered, sanctified with some of the manifestations of the dying love and atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, do you think it would sweeten even these waters? If you felt Jesus to be your brother, and God your father, would you not be so swallowed up in this spiritual relationship, that you could say, "As to my worldly relatives, my earthly ties, compared with all this, what are they? Jesus is more precious to me than all worldly things--than husband, wife, or children." Is not this sweetening the bitter waters?
4. Or, if sin has marred everything in your soul, made you a wretch, given you a daily cross continually, troubles your mind, and subjects you, as it does all the children of God, to a constant exercise from the workings of evil in your carnal heart, and your spirit is plagued with it day and night, what then is to sweeten these bitter waters--these waters of Marah--but the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? Pardoning love, atoning blood, a sight of Jesus, an embracing of Him as our all in all, when felt, is a casting of the tree of life into the bitter waters; and when the tree is cast into the bitter waters, they are healed. Now you can drink; you can attend to your lawful calling; you may go about your daily duties; you can enjoy your family and home relationships; aye, and have sweetness in your soul amid all your sins and sorrows, when you realize anything of this grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as sweetening every bitter draught.
5. But there is one draught to come, which in bitterness exceeds all, and that is, the bitter draught of death. How is that bitter water to be sweetened? Die you must, and none know how soon. We know not the circumstances of our death--what long illness, what pain, langour, or suffering may attend it; or what the state of our minds may be when death seems to draw near and hold us in his grasp. This is a bitter draught, and how is it to be sweetened? By looking back to a well-spent life? By thinking of the duties you have discharged, the very religious part you have played, your being a member of a Christian church, having attended a certain chapel, prayed and read, and so on? Why all these things, if only these, would but embitter the draught more, because you would say, "I have been all this, and done all this, and where is my poor soul now?" Nothing but the casting in of the tree of life, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ into these bitter waters can sweeten them.
Many saints--all saints, I may say in their degree--have found these bitter waters sweetened; and though they shrank from the draught, yet when it touched their lips it went down like honey; it was sweetened by the manifestations of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the shedding abroad in their soul of His dying love.
Now, do you not see how needful it is, to find the waters bitter, that you may have them sweetened? Suppose you were to go through life with no bitterness, no sorrows, no disappointments, no vexations, no temptations, no exercises--might you not drink of these waters until you burst?
There might have been even a temporal mercy to the children of Israel in finding these waters bitter. If, after wandering three days in the wilderness, they had found them sweet, they might have drunk of them so immoderately as to have injured them, and perhaps fatally; there might therefore have been a mercy even in the embittering of the waters before they were sweetened. The water having being bitter, they would drink cautiously for fear of the bitterness returning. Well, so spiritually. If you were to have your own way, your own will, and enjoy what your nature cleaves to, what would you be? What sort of a Christian would you be? Where would be the love of God in your soul? Where would there be any experience either of mercy or judgment? Where any sighs or cries? Where any praises or blessings? You would live and die without God. But when everything is embittered by sin or sorrow, and the Lord does not let us do what we would, but mars all sources of earthly happiness, then we gladly turn to Him. And when He is pleased to drop a little measure of His grace and mercy into the soul, then these bitter waters are sweetened and healed; and you may drink safely of them.
And there is no other way. You may try a thousand ways; you may attempt to doctor the waters; put sugar or honey into them; you may try your best. These waters cannot be sweetened by sugar or honey--they can be sweetened only by the tree of life, the cross of Jesus, the manifestation of dying love, the application of atoning blood. Nothing short of this--nothing but this, can ever heal the bitterness; and to disguise the taste will only eventually make the bitter taste more bitter still.
Then, it is your mercy to have your daily draught of bitter things; to find life embittered, health embittered, family embittered, business embittered, your own soul embittered; so as to lead you to say, "Call me not Naomi, but Marah; for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me."
It is your mercy to be a "Marah." It is a mercy to weep bitter tears, to have bitterness of soul, and many griefs and exercises, when they lead us to see and feel that there is only one thing which can sweeten our trials, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, under the teaching of God, to embrace and cleave to that, and not be satisfied without its sweet enjoyment and blessed manifestation.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Good works are works of obedience done by true believers. Such works are good, not because they are perfect, for even our “good works” fall short of God's perfect holiness and righteousness. They are good, not because they make up any part of the righteousness by which we are justified before God. This is only by the work of Christ on the cross. They are good for the following reasons:
(1) Strictly speaking, they are not OUR works at all but GOD’S WORKS in and through us as they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and works in us to bring forth fruit unto God (John 3:21; Romans 7:4-6; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 2:10).
(2) They are done by those who have been justified by the grace of God in Christ, therefore, not only are our persons washed in the blood of Christ, but also our works (1 John 3:12).
(3) They are the evidence of saving faith by which we look to and rest in Christ for all salvation. All who truly believe in Christ repent of ever thinking that our works could save us or earn God’s favor and blessings for us (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
(4) They are motivated by grace, love, and gratitude to God for all salvation freely given to us in and by Christ. Faith works by love, not seeking salvation or any part of it based on our works, but motivated by God’s grace and our gratitude for all He has freely given us in and by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14).
(5) They are aimed toward God’s glory, to show forth His praises in our salvation by grace in and through the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:16). Good works are not done to draw attention to ourselves but lead men to Christ for salvation.
By Bill Parker
Sunday, November 01, 2009
The religion of men
With only one exception, every religion that has ever existed in this world maintains that the way to salvation is through good works. Their view of what constitutes salvation may differ (some may see it as a right relationship with God; or attaining to ones "higher self;" or a positive relationship with the universe; or access to heaven and bliss); however, the underlying way in which they all aim to obtain salvation is always the same – through their own dead works.
These religions all maintain that the exercise of the will; the performance of good works; the abstention from evil deeds; the improvement of character, thought and conduct; and/or the performance of certain religious rituals, observances, and other duties are all necessary factors in initiating their salvation, and often, in preserving their salvation.
The specific works at issue will vary from religion to religion, as will their opinions on what constitutes necessary moral reform, religious observance and duty, etc. However, if you strip away the specifics of these things, the core foundation is always the will and work of man. Likewise, the books they deem holy will vary; as will the names of their religious "holy men;" and even the names of their god or gods. Nonetheless, the works they have in view; their "holy" books and men; and their false gods will always point them back to self – and what they must think, say, or do to get right with the divine.
As a result, we see:
Talmudists (modern-day followers of the Jewish religion) attempting to keep the Old Testament law and otherwise working and exercising their fallen will in an attempt to get saved;
Arminians, Romanists, and all other so-called "free-will christians" going about "making a decision for Christ;" "accepting Jesus into their heart," "saying the sinners prayer," and otherwise working and exercising their fallen will in an attempt to get saved;
Muslims keeping the Islamic/Sharia law, performing the Hajj, praying towards Mecca, and otherwise working and exercising their fallen will in an attempt to get saved;
Hindus/Buddhist/Taoist etc., performing various rituals, observances, acts of self-denial, acts of obedience to their moral codes, and the exercising of their fallen will to reach their desired religious ends; and
Every other religionist likewise implementing their own rules, belief systems, acts of obedience, and manifestations of will-worship, that they deem necessary to reach their desired religious end.
The Religion of God
As stated above, there is one exception and that exception is Christianity. True, biblical, Christianity is the only religion that states that your best efforts at moral reform and religious observance, if aimed at forming the basis of your salvation, serves only to further distance you from God. God's word declares that exercises of the will and moral and religious activity (collectively known as works of the law) only serve to bring you closer to the pit of hell if you believe that these things can do anything to initiate, preserve, or improve upon salvation. The true Gospel (as opposed to the free-will counterfeits that abound in our day) declares that the Lord Jesus Christ completed all that was necessary for the salvation of His people. He performed all the work required to satisfy the divine law, justice, and wrath of God. He left nothing undone, no aspect of a sinner's salvation depends on something that they must do (as if to make up for something that the Lord Jesus Christ could not, would not, or otherwise did not do to obtain full pardon for His people).
True Christianity is not an "Ivory Soap" religion; it isn't 99.44% God's work, and 0.56% percent our own. Salvation is either all of God, as in one-hundred percent, or it is a damnable lie that cannot save anyone. Thus, any attempt to add ones own works into God's plan of salvation (whether the works be mental, verbal, or physical), is tantamount to attempting to steal the glory due to Christ and Him alone. It is tantamount to declaring Christ's blood common, impotent, and insufficient for the cause. Finally, it is tantamount to declaring the Lord Jesus Christ a liar, and declaring that the work wasn't really finished when Jesus declared "It is Finished."
By Curt Wildy