Sermon 231. Faith in Perfection
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 2nd, 1859, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me. Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine ownhands."-Psalm 138:8.
I HAVE SELECTED THIS TEXT, or, rather, it has been given to me to furnish a motto for the whole year to all the believingfamily of God now present. It was brought under my notice from the fact that I have a very dear friend, a venerable ministerof the Church of England, and an earnest lover of the truth as it is in Jesus, who always sends me, at the beginning of theyear, or a day or two previously, a little envelope sealed up, that I am not to open till New Year's day,containing a printed text of Scripture, which he desires to be preserved during the remainder of the year, to act as astaff whereon we may rest through the pilgrimage of the next twelve months. When I opened my envelope I found this text, andit charmed me. It contains in itself the very essence of the grace of God. It reads like music to the soul, and is like abottle of water in the desert to the thirsty lip. Let me read it again, and remember it, and dwell upon it, and digest itduring allthe year. "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me. Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the worksof thine own hands."
In the opening, I must remark that this is not the heritage of all mankind. The word, "me," in the text, cannot be appropriatedby any man, unless he, in some respects, resembles the character of David, who penned this psalm. The text, however, itself,is its own guard. If you look at it, you will see that there is in its bowels a full description of a true Christian. I willask you three questions suggested by the words themselves, and according to your answer to thesethree questions, shall be my reply, yes or no, as to whether this promise belongs to you.
To begin, let us read the first sentence-"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Now, have you a concern in and a concern about heavenly things? Have you ever felt that eternity concerns you more than time; that the mansions of heaven are more worthyyour consideration than the dwelling-places of earth? Have you felt that you ought to have a greater concern about your immortalsoul than about your perishing body? Remember, if you are living thelife of the butterfly, the life of the present, a sportive and flowery life, without making any preparation or takingany thought for a future world, this promise is not yours. If the things of God do not concern you, then God will not perfectthem for you. You must have in your own soul a concern about these things, and afterwards you must have a belief in your heartthat you have an interest in heavenly things, or otherwise it would be a perversion of Holy Scripture for you to appropriatethese precious things to yourselves. Can we then, each of us put our hand upon our heart and say, without stammering,which suggests a hypocrite-can we say honestly, as in the sight of God; "I am concerned about the things of God, of Christ,of salvation, of eternity! I may not have assurance, but I have concern. If I cannot say, I know in whom I have believed,yet I can say I know in whom I desire to believe. If I cannot say, I know that my Redeemer liveth, yet I can say I desirethat I maybe found in him at last, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing." Well soul, if thou hast a concern about the thingsof God, this is thy promise, and let not Master Clip-promise take it away from thee; suffer him not to take any part of itspreciousness; it is all thine, "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth thee."
Another question is suggested by the second clause, "Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever." Have we then tasted of God's mercy?Have you and I gone to the throne of grace conscious of our lost estate? Have we made confession of our sins? Have we lookedto the blood of Jesus; and do we know that the mercy of God has been manifested to us? Have we breathed the dying thief'spetition, and have we had the gracious answer of Jesus? Have we prayed as the publican did? and have wegone to our house justified by God's mercy? Remember, O man! if thou hast never received God's pardoning mercy and hisforgiving grace, this text is a divine enclosure, into which thou hast no right to intrude; this is a banquet, of which thouhast no right to eat; this is a secret place, into which thou hast no right to enter. We must first taste God's mercy and,having tasted that, we may believe that he will perfect that which concerneth us.
A third question, and I beseech you put these questions to your heart, lest you should be misled, by any comfortable wordsthat I shall hereafter speak, into the foul delusion, that this promise signifies yourself, when it does not. The last questionis suggested by the prayer, "Forsake not the works of thine own hands." Have you then a religion which is the work of God'shands? Many men have a religion which is their own work, there is nothing supernatural about it; humannature began it, human nature has carried it on, and as far they have any hope they trust that human nature will completeit. Remember there is no spring on earth that has force enough in it to spout a fountain into paradise, and there is no strengthin human nature that shall ever suffice to raise a soul to heaven. You may practice morality, and I beseech you do so; youmay attend to ceremonies and you have a right to do so, and must do so; you may endeavour to do all righteousness, but sinceyou are a sinner condemned in the sight of God, you can never be pardoned apart from the blood of Christ; and you cannever be purified apart from the purifying operations of the Holy Ghost. That man's religion which is born on earth, and bornof the will of the flesh or of blood, is a vain religion. Oh! beloved, except a man be born again, or from above, as the original has it, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and cannot enter heaven;only thatwhich is born of the Spirit is spirit, and is, therefore, capable of inheriting a spiritual inheritance, which God reservesfor spiritual men. Have I then the work of God in my heart? am I sure it is not my own work? If I am, experimentally, an Arminian,and if I think I have proved the truth of Arminian religion, then I have no religion that will carry me to heaven. But if,experimentally, I am compelled to confess that grace begins, that grace carries on, and that grace must perfect myreligion, then God having began the good work in me, I am the person for whom this verse is intended, and I may sit downat this celestial banquet and eat and drink to my very full.
Let each hearer, then, pause and put these three questions to himself,-Am I concerned about religion? Have I tasted the mercyof God? Is my religion God's work? They are solemn questions; answer them! and if ye can even humbly say "Yes," then comeye to this text, for the joy and comfort of it is yours.
We have three things here. First, the believer's confidence,-"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Secondly, the ground of that confidence,-"Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever;" and thirdly, the result and outgrowth of his confidence expressed in the prayer,-"Forsake not the works of thine own hands."
I. First, then, THE BELIEVER'S CONFIDENCE,-"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." I think, perhaps, the best way to preach upon a text, if we would have it remembered,is to take it word by word. Let us spell it over then, as Uncle Tom did, when he was on board of the steamer, and could notread the long words, but sucked more sweetness out of the text by spelling it over, than he could have done in any other way.
"The Lord." Well then the Psalmist's confidence was a divine confidence. He did not say, "I have grace enough to perfect thatwhich concerneth me;" "my faith is so strong that I shall not fail;" "my love is so warm that it will never grow cold;" "myresolution is so firmly set that nothing can move it;"-no, his dependance was on the Lord-"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." And O Christian, if thou hast any confidence which is not grounded on theLord and rooted in the rock of ages, thy confidence is worse than a dream; it shall deceive thee, pierce thee, wound thee,and cast thee down to thine own future sorrow and grief. But here, our Psalmist himself builds upon nothing else than uponthe Lord's works. Sure I am the Lord began the good work in our souls, he has carried it on, and if he does not finish it,it never will be complete. If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of my righteousness, which I am to insert myself,thenI am lost. If there be one drachma in the price of my redemption which I am to make up, then must I perish. If there beone contingency-one "if," or "though," or "but," about my soul's salvation, then am I a lost man. But this is my confidence,the Lord that began will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, he will do it all. My confidence must not be in whatI can do, or in what I have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do. "The Lord will perfect thatwhich concerneth me." "Oh," says unbelief, "you will never be able to purify yourself from sin. Look at the evil of yourheart, you can never sweep that away: look at the evil fashions and temptations of the world that beset you, you will surelybe lured aside and led astray." Ah! yes, I should indeed perish if it depended upon myself. I am but as clay upon the wheel.If I had to fashion myself into a vessel of honour, fit for the Master's use, I might give up the work in despair. I am butas alittle lamb; and if I had to travel through the wilderness by myself, I might indeed lie down and die. Yet if I be clay,he is my potter, and he will not suffer me to be marred upon the wheel; and if I be a lamb he is my shepherd, and he carrieththe lambs in his bosom-he wardeth off the wolf, he smiteth the destroyer, and he bringeth every sheep into the fold upon thehilltop of glory. The Lord, then, is the Christian's divine confidence. We can never be too confident when we confide in theLord. "Jehovah will perfect that which concerneth me."
Take the next word, "will." So the Psalmist's confidence was a confidence for the future; it is not only what the Lord does, but what the Lord will do.I have heard people say that they could trust a man as far as they could see him; and I have often thought that is about asfar as many professors trust God, so far as they can see him, and no farther. They believe God is good when the meat is onthe table, and the drink is in the cup, but would they believe God ifthe table were bare, and the cup were empty? No; they have good faith when they see the ravens coming, that they shallhave their bread and meat; but if the ravens did not come, would they believe that even then their bread should be given themand their water should be sure? They can believe the thing when they get it, but until they get it they are doubting. ThePsalmist's faith, however, deals with the future, not merely with the present. The "Lord will," says he, the "Lord will."He lookson all through his life, and he feels sure that what God has done and is doing he will carry on even to the end. And nowyou that are afraid about the future, rest with us in this sweet promise. How often do you and I stand star-gazing into thefuture, and trembling, because we think we see divers portents, and strange sights, which portend some future trouble. O childof God! leave the future to thy God. O leave everything that is to come in the hand of him to whom the future is alreadypresent, and who knows beforehand everything that shalt befall thee. Draw from the present living water with which tomoisten the arid desert of the future; snatch from the altar-fires of to-day a torch with which to light up the darkness ofthat which is to come. Depend on it, that He who is to-day thy sun, shall be thy sun for ever-even in the darkest hour he shall shine upon thee; and he who is to-daythy shield shall be thy shield for evermore; and even in the thickest part of thebattle he shall catch the dart, and thou shalt stand unharmed.
Let us turn to this word "will" once again. There is a little more in it; it does not say the "Lord may," it does not say, "I hope he will; I trust he will,"but it says he will; "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." A few months after I first sought and found salvation, I enjoyed the sweet privilege offull assurance, and in talking with a godly Christian I expressed myself very confidently concerning the great truth thatGod would ne'er forsakehis people, nor leave his work undone. I was at once child, I was told I had no right to speak so confidently, for itwas presumptuous. The longer I live, the more I feel persuaded that confidence was proper, and the chiding was not deserved.I believe that the happiest of Christians and the truest of Christians are those who never dare to doubt God, but who takehis word simply as it stands, and believe it and ask no questions, just feeling assured that if God has said it it will beso. ThePsalmist in our text had no more doubt about his own ultimate perfection, than he had about his existence. He says, "theLord will perfect that which concerneth me." There are many things that may or may not happen, but this I know shall happen,
"He shall present my soul,
Unblemish'd and complete,
Before the glory of his face,
With joys divinely great."
All the purposes of man have been defeated, but not the purposes of God. The promises of man may be broken, many of them aremade to be broken, but the purposes of God shall stand, and his promises shall be fulfilled. He is a promise maker, but henever was a promise breaker: he is a promise-keeping God, and his people shall prove it so. Come then, ye that are alwayshoping amidst trembling, and fear, but are never confident, for once take that doubting note out of yourmouth, and say assuredly "the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." If I be really his child, though full of sin, I shall one day be perfect; if I have reallyset my heart towards him, I shall one day see his face with joy; and let whatever foes obstruct, I shall conquer through the Lamb's redeeming blood. He "will perfect that which concerneth me." I like to hear God's people speak diffidently of themselves, but confidently of theirGod. Doubts are the greatest ofsins, and even though Christians have doubts, yet doubts are unchristian things. The spirit of Christ is not a spiritof doubting, but a spirit of believing. Doubts may exist in the hearts of spiritual men, but doubts are unspiritual, carnal,and sinful. Let us seek to get rid of them, and speak confidently where God's word is confident.
Now, take the next word, "The Lord will perfect." That is a large word. Our Wesleyan brethren have a notion that they are going to be perfect here on earth. I should be veryglad to see any of them when they are perfect; and if any of them happen to be in the position of servants and want a situation,I would be happy to give them any amount of wages I could spare, for I should feel myself greatly honoured and greatly blessedin having a perfect servant; and what ismore, if any of them are masters and want servants, I would undertake to come and serve them without wages at all if Icould but find a perfect master. I have had a perfect master ever since I first knew the Lord, and if I could find that thereis another perfect master, I should be greatly pleased in having him as an under-master, while the great Supreme must everbe chief of all. Did you ever see a perfect man? I did once. He called upon me, and wanted me to come and see him, for I shouldgetgreat instruction from him if I did. I said, "I have no doubt of it, but I should not like to come into your house; Ithink I should be hardly able to get into your room." How is that? "Well, I suppose your house would be so full of angelsthat there would not be room for me." He did not like that; so I broke another joke or two upon his head; whereupon he wentinto a perfect furor. "Well friend," I said to him, "I think I am as perfect as you after all; for perfect men get angry?"He deniedthat he was angry, although there was a peculiar redness about his cheeks that is very common to persons when they areangry; at any rate I think I rather spoiled his perfection, for he evidently went home less satisfied with himself than whenhe went out. I met another man who considered himself perfect, but he was thoroughly mad; and I do not believe that any ofyour pretenders to perfection are better than good maniacs, superior bedlamites; that is all I believe they are. For whilea man hasgot a spark of reason left in him, he cannot, unless he is the most impudent of imposters, talk about his being perfect.What would I not give to be perfect myself! And you can say also, what would you not give to be perfect. If I must be burntin fire, or dragged through the sea by the hair of my head; if I must be buried in the bowels of the earth, or hung up tothe stars for ever-if I might but be perfect, I would rejoice in any price I might have to pay for perfection. But I feelperfectly persuaded, that perfection is absolutely impossible to any man beneath the sky; and yet, I feel sure, that toevery believer future perfection is an absolute certainty. The day shall come, beloved, when the Lord shall not only makeus better, but shall make us perfectly good; when he shall not merely subdue our lusts, but when he shall cast the demonsout; when he shall make us not only tolerable, and bearable, and endurable, but make us holy and acceptable in his sight.That dayhowever, I believe, shall not come until we enter into the joy of our Lord, and are glorified together with Christ inheaven.
Say, Christian, is not this a large confidence? "The Lord will make me perfect." He will most assuredly, beyond a doubt, bringto perfection my faith, my love, my hope, and every grace. He will perfect his purposes; he will perfect his promises; hewill perfect my body, and perfect my soul. "He will perfect that which concerneth me."
And now there is the word "that"-"that which"-"The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Very indefinite, it seems; but how broad it is. What a broad faith thePsalmist had! "Whatever concerns me," says he, "the Lord will perfect." Once pardon of sin concerned me; that he has perfected. Then imputed righteousness concerned me; that he perfected. Now, sanctification troubles me; that he will perfect. One day, deliverance was my fear;now it is support. But whatever is laid upon my heart to be concerned about, this comprehensive term, "that" embracesall, be it what it may, if I have a spiritual concern upon my soul about any heavenly thing, that will God perfect.
Go on a step further. Here is a trial of faith. "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Alas, beloved, we cannot say we have any good thing without having concern for it. I suppose God never gave us a blessing,but we doubted whether we should have it before we obtained it. Somehow or other, our doubts always go before God's mercies;whereas we ought to believe, and not to feel any anxiety and distrustful concern. My faith is sometimes tried and concernedabout heavenly things now. But though that faith be tried by an inward concern about the things of God, yet it surmountseven its own doubts, and cries, "The Lord will perfect even this." Have you learnt this lesson aright-being troubled abouta thing and yet believing about it? A christian man will find his experience to be very much like the sea. Upon the surfacethere is a storm, and the mountain-waves are rolling, but down in the depths there are caverns where quietude has reignedsupremeever since the foundations of the earth were digged; where peace, undisturbed, has had a solitary triumph. Beloved, itis so with the Christian's heart. Outwardly, he is concerned about these things. He doubts, he fears, he trembles; but inhis inmost heart, down in the depths of his soul, he is without a fear, and he can say confidently, "The Lord will perfectthat which concerneth me."
But I hasten to dwell upon the last word. The faith of our text is a personal faith. "The Lord will perfect that which concernethme." Here is the loudest note of all; this is the handle whereby we must lay hold of this sword if we would use it aright-"thatwhich concerneth me." Oh, it is a sweet truth to know and believe that God will perfect all his saints; 'tis sweeter still to know that "he willperfect me." It is blessed to believe that allGod's people shall persevere; but the essence of delight is to feel that I shall persevere through him. Many persons are contented with a kind of general religion, an universal salvation. They belongto a Christian community; they have joined a Christian church, and they think they shall be saved in the lump-in the mass;but give me a personal religion. What is all the bread in the world, unless I myself feed upon it? I am starved, though Egyptbe full of corn. What are all the riversthat run from the mountains to the sea, if I be thirsty? Unless I drink myself, what are all these? If I be poor and inrags, ye do but mock me if ye tell me that Potosi's mines are full of treasure? You do but laugh at me if you speak of Golconda'sdiamonds. What care I for these, unless I have some participation for myself? But if I can say even of my crust, "It is myown," then I can eat it with a grateful heart. That crust which is my own is more precious than all the granaries of Egyptifthey are not my own, and this promise even if it were smaller would be more precious than the largest promise that standsin the Bible, if I could not see my right to it personally myself. But now, by bumble faith, sprinkled with the blood of Christ,resting in his merits, trusting in his death, I come to the text, and say throughout this year, and every year, "The Lordwill perfect that which concerneth me"-unworthy me. Lost and ruined me. He will yet saveme; and
"I, among the blood-wash'd throng,
Shall wave the palm, and wear the crown,
And shout loud victory."
This, then, is the believer's confidence. May God grant you the same!
II. The second thing is THE GROUND OF THIS CONFIDENCE. The ground of it is this-"Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever." Thebeliever is sure he shall be saved. Why? Because of his merits? No. Because of the strength of his own faith? No. Becausehe has something which will recommend him to God? No; he believes he shall be perfected because of God's mercy. Is it nota strange thing that the advanced believer, when he reaches to the very height of piety, just comes to thespot where he commenced? Do we not begin at the cross, and when we have climbed over so high, is it not at the cross thatwe end? I know my pilgrimage shall never end to my heart's content till at his cross again I cast my wreath and lay my honoursdown. My sins I laid there, and aught else that he has given me I would lay there too. Ye began there and your watchword isthe cross. While yet the hosts are preparing for the battle, it is the cross. And ye have fought the fight and your swordisred with blood, and your head is crowned with triumph. And what is the watchword now? The cross. That which is our strengthin battle is our boast in victory. Mercy must be the theme of our song here; and mercy enduring for ever must be the subjectof the sonnets of paradise. None other can be fit sinners; nay, and none other can be fit, grateful saints.
Come then, beloved, let us just look at this ground of our confidence, and see whether it will bear our weight. It is saidthat elephants when they are going to cross a bridge are always very careful to sound it, to see whether it will bear them.If they see a horse going over safely that is not enough, for they say to themselves, "I am an elephant, and I must see whetherit will bear me." Now, we should always do the same with a promise and with the groundwork of apromise. The promise may have been proved by others before you, but if you feel yourselves to be like huge elephantinesinners, you want to be quite certain whether the arches of the promise are quite strong enough to bear the weight of yoursins. Now, I say, here is God's mercy. Ah! this is indeed all-sufficient. What was it that first led the Lord to bring youand me into the covenant at all? It was mercy, pure mercy. We were dead in sin. We had not any merits to recommend us, forsome of usused to curse and swear like infidels; some of us were drunkards, sinners of the deepest dye. And why did God save us?Simply because he has said, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy."
"What was there in you that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?"
'Twas mercy. Well, then, if mercy made God choose me, if he chose me from no other motive than mercy, if that mercy alwaysis the same, he always will choose me, and always will love me. Do you not know it is a rule which none can dispute, thatthe same cause must always produce the same effect. We are told that the volcano is caused by certain fires within the earth,which must find their vent. Now, as long as there are those inward fires, and they are in a condition torequire the vent, the vent they must have. When the cause is the same, the effect must be the same.
The sole cause then, of the salvation of any man is the mercy of God, and not his merits. God does not look at you whetheryou are a good man or a bad man; he does not save you because of anything in yourself, but because he will do as he pleases,and because he loves to act mercifully: that is his only reason. Oh! my God, if thou lovedst me when I had not any faith,thou wilt not cast me away because my faith is weak now. If thou lovedst me when I had all my sin about me,thou wilt not leave off loving me now thou hast pardoned me. If thou lovedst me when I was in my rags, and beggary, andfilth, when there was nothing to recommend me; at least, my God, I am not further fallen than I was then, or, if I am, thesame boundless mercy that loved me when I was lost, will love me, lost though I be even now. Do you not see it is becausethe basis of eternal love is that on which we build we derive this inference, that if the base cannot move, the pyramid willnot. "Themercy of God endureth for ever: the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me."
Note the very words of the text: "Thy mercy, O Lord." David brings his confidence into the court of Divine inspection, inorder that it may there be proved. He says, "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." It is very well for you andI to speak thus here this morning, but dare we go up to the very temple of God, and there, feeling his presence, actuallypresent our confidence before him, and ask him to try it. There are many hypocrites in the world that wouldtremble to play the hypocrite if they felt that they were in the presence of God. But here we have a man that dares tobring his faith to God's tribunal; he puts it in the scales of infinite justice, and waits the decision. "Thy mercy, O Lord."Can you do the same? Who among us can cry out with Toplady-
"The terrors of law and of God,
With me can have nothing to do,
My Saviour's obedience and blood,
Hide all my transgressions from view."
Can you come into God's presence and say this, or, to quote Hart's words, can you say
"Great God I'm clean,
Through Jesu's blood I'm clean."
He that can say that is blessed indeed; the Lord shall perfect that which concerneth him.
Ah, what if God's mercy towards men should change? Blessed be his name it cannot; it endureth for ever. But what if he shouldremove his mercy from one man to another? That also he will never do; it endureth for ever. But suppose we should sin so muchthat God's mercy should give way? It cannot give way; it endureth all the weight of sin; it endureth for ever. But what ifwe should live in sin so long that at last God denied mercy to us even though we believed in him? Thatcannot be; we cannot sin longer than for ever-his mercy cannot be tried longer, and even if it could be tried for everit would endure for ever. All the weight of my trouble, all the weight of my backsliding, all the weight of my evil heartof unbelief-all these the everlasting arches of divine mercy can and will sustain. Those arches never shall rock; the stonenever shall be crumbled; it never shall be swept away by even the floods of eternity itself. Because his mercy endureth forever,God will most assuredly perfect the work of his hands.
And now I come to the third and last point, and here may the Holy Spirit help me to stir up your minds to prayer.
III. The third particular is-THE RESULT OF THE BELIEVER'S CONFIDENCE-it leads him to prayer. Out upon those men who have aconfidence that helps them to live without prayer. There are men that live in this world who say we do not need evidences,we do not need prayer, we do not need good works. "The Lord has appeared of old unto me, and said unto me, Thou art one ofGod's elect, an thou mayest live in sin, and do whatever thou pleasest, I will save thee at last." Suchcharacters I hope are getting rare. Alas! there are certain places of worship where such a religion as that is fostered,if it be not begotten. There are some ministers-I trust they hardly know what they are about-who by leaving out the doctrineof man's responsibility, naturally lead men into that guilty and abominable doctrine of Antinomianism which has done so muchto injure the cause of Christ. Hear then, ye seed of the presumptuous, and ye that bear the whore's forehead, hear andtremble. The Lord hath not chosen you, neither has he cast your name into his lap. He has chosen no man who lives anddies presumptuously, trusting that he is chosen when he has no evidence of it. Do you live without prayer? Ah! soul; electionhath nought to do with thee. What is intended by the doctrine of reprobation is far more likely to be thy lot than the gloriousinheritance of election. Dost thou live in sin, that grace may abound! Every man's damnation is just, but thine shall beemphatically so. What! dost thou dare to palm thyself off as a child of God when thou art a brat of hell? Dost thou claimthat thou art a heir of light, when the damning mark of Cain is on thy very forehead? What! when thou art like Balaam, presumptuousand abominable, dost thou dare still to claim a lot in the inheritance of the saints in light? Away with thy confidence; "Hailshall sweep away thy refuge of lies." The true-born child of God has a spot that is not like thy spot; he is of adifferent mould and make from thee. Thou art a deceiver-not the legitimate child of God.
Mark, my friends, in the text, that a genuine confidence in God does not lead us to give up prayer, but leads us to prayer."The Lord will perfect me." Am I, therefore to say, "He will do it, and I will not pray?" No, because he will do it, thereforewill I pray. Many persons have such shallow minds that they cannot perceive how God's determination and our own free actioncan go together. I never find these people making the same mistake in common life they do on religioussubjects. A man says to me, "Now, sir, if God intends to save me, I need do nothing." He knows he is a fool when he saysit; or if he does not know it, I will soon make him see it. Suppose he says, again, "If the Lord intends to feed me, he willfeed me, and I will go without my dinner. If the Lord intends to give me a harvest, he will give me a harvest, and I shallnot sow any wheat, and I shall not plough." Suppose another were to say, "If the Lord intends to keep me warm to-day, he willdoit; so I will not put on my coat." Suppose a man should say, again, "If the Lord intends me to go to bed to-night, I shallgo to bed; and, therefore, I shall not walk towards home, but sit here as long as I like." You smile at once, because thefolly is self-convicting. But is it not just the same in religion? Because "the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me,"am I to say I shall not pray? Why, no, my dear friends, the fact is, that a knowledge that a thing is certain prompts a wisemanto action. What made Oliver Cromwell fight so bravely, but because he felt convinced that he should conquer? He did notsay, "I know that I shall conquer, therefore I will not fight;" no, he said, "I know that I shall conquer; therefore keepyour powder dry, trust in God, and at 'em!" So with you; if you believe the Lord will perfect that which concerneth us, beginwith prayer; trust the promise, and let us go on cheerfully through the world, rejoicing in the Lord our God. Confidence mustnotlead to idleness, but to diligent activity.
And now, note this prayer,-"Forsake not the works of thine own hands." The prayer is full of confession; it must be that,or else it is never true prayer. The Psalmist confesses, that if God did forsake him it would be all over with him, and thisis a truth, brethren, that you and I ought ever to keep in mind. We sometimes pray that God will not forsake us in temptation;do you not know we should be as much lost if he were to forsake us in communion as if he were toforsake us in temptation. When God puts you on the pinnacle of the temple, you need say, "Lord, hold me up and I shallbe safe; do not forsake me here." When you are down on the ground, if the Lord were to forsake you, there you would perishjust as easily as on the pinnacle of the temple. I have known the Christian on his knees in the den of leopards, cry, "Lord,save me now," but do you know that he has as great a need of help when he is on the top of Pisgah? for he still wants to bekept.Every moment of our life we are on the brink of hell, and if the Lord should forsake us, we should certainly perish. Lethim but withdraw the salt of his grace, and the proudest believer must be cast into the depths of hell, and fall, like Lucifer,never to rise again. Oh! let this always make us cry aloud, "Forsake us not, O God."
There is yet another confession in the text-the Psalmist's confession that all he has he has from God. "Forsake not the worksof thine own hands." I will not however dwell upon it, but urge you who are believers, to go home and cry aloud to God inprayer. Let this be a new year's-day prayer. "Forsake not the work of thine hands. Father, forsake not thy little child, lesthe die by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, forsake not thy lamb, lest the wolves devour him. Greathusbandman, forsake not thy little plant, lest the frost should nip it, and it should be destroyed. Forsake me not, OLord now, and when I am old and grey headed, O Lord, forsake me not. Forsake me not in my joys, lest I curse God. Forsakeme not in my sorrows, lest I murmur against him. Forsake me not in the day of my repentance, lest I lose the hope of pardon,and fall into despair; and forsake me not in the day of my strongest faith, lest my faith degenerate into presumption, andso I perishby mine own hand." Cry out to God, that he would not forsake you in your business, in your family; that he would not forsakeyou either upon your bed by night, or in your business by day. And may God grant, when you and I shall come to the end ofthis year, we may have a good tale to tell concerning the faithfulness of God in having answered our prayers, and having fulfilledhis promise.
I would now this day crave a part in your prayers. My dear friends, I am confident that God will perfect that which concernethme. There has been a work done in this place, and God has blessed the congregation; but the work is not perfect yet. It isnot enough to rouse other ministers to preach the word. I hope I shall never, while I live, cease to have another projectalways in hand. When one thing is done, we will do something else. If we have tried to make ministersmore diligent in preaching, we must try to make the churches more earnest in praying. When we have built our new chapel,we must build something else; we must always have something in hand. If I have preached the Gospel in England, it must bemy privilege to preach it across the sea yet; and when I have preached it there, I must solicit longer leave of absence thatI may preach it in other countries, and act as a missionary throughout the nations. I am confident that God will perfect thatwhichconcerneth me; I rely on that. Do I therefore say that you need not pray? Oh, no. Pray that he would not forsake the workof his own hands. This work is not of our own hands. This labour of love is not mine, but God's. I have done nothing, exceptas the instrument; he has done it all. Oh, my dear friends, you that love me, as a brother in Christ, and as your pastor inthe church, go home and plead with God for me this day and henceforth, that he would not forsake his work; but that the firewhich has been kindled here may run along the ground, till all England shall be in a blaze with a revival of grace andgodliness. Be not content to warm your hands at the sparks of this fire. Ask that the breath of God's Spirit may blow thesparks across the sea, that other lands may catch the flames, till the whole earth burning as a holocaust to heaven, shallbe accepted as whole burnt offering before the throne of God Most High.
"May the Lord bless you, and keep you, and cause his face to shine upon you and lift up the light of his countenance uponyou, and give you peace," and unto the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, shall be glory for ever!