Sermon 526. No Illusion
A SERMON DELIVERED BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision." Acts 12:9.
FANCY, not fact! A dream! A delusion! That would be the world's estimate of the most blessed Christian experience. "Fanaticism"is the name by which they call it. But call it by whatever name you please, the Divine Grace that interposes and rescues asinner from the Law's threats, from Satan'styranny, from the malice of men, and the fears of one's own heart is matter of abundant joy. Then let it be witnessed bya life of undeviating principle and devoted service of God- sneer who may-suspect it who will-it is a noble triumph.
Such triumphs of Grace we have among us, and there are many who can witness to the fact. Still, dear Friends, not infrequentlydoes it happen that you, whose salvation is our joy, of whom we speak with the utmost assurance, are yourselves in straits,exercised with fights without and fears within.And you are unable to satisfy your own consciences that the work is Divine. Observe now that Peter was brought out of prisonby a great miracle, and yet it seemed to him as a vision or a dream. I need not recapitulate the circumstances. I have justread them in your hearing. Thismuch I propose.
First, let me endeavor to draw out some reflections from the narrative. And then, secondly, I shall take up the text itselfand try to show you that there is no illusion, whatever you may think, in the mighty operations of the Lord.
To begin-the first remark we think we are justified in making is this, that if ever our enemies can get hold of us, they willbe quite sure to hold us as fast as they can. When Herod had been able to apprehend Peter, he was not content with ordinarymeans of keeping him in custody. He hasPeter put into the strongest prison in Jerusalem. To make assurance doubly sure, he is chained not to one soldier, but totwo. He was too great a prize to be readily lost. He anticipated as much satisfaction for himself from the applause of thepeople, for putting so eminent aservant of Christ as James to death, that he could not afford to lose an opportunity of getting further prey.
So he seizes upon him who was accounted a pillar in the Church with singular avidity. Mark you, Brothers and Sisters, if byany fault of our own we ever fall into the hands of our enemies, we need expect no mercy from them. And if without fault weare delivered for a little season into their hands,we have good reason to cry aloud to God, for whoever may be spared, the Christian never is. Men will forgive a thousandfaults in others, but they will magnify the most trivial offense in the true follower of Jesus. Nor do I very much regretthis. Let it be so and let it be acaution to us to walk very carefully before God in the land of the living.
You young members of the Church, who are often engaged in your worldly calling, where a great number of persons are watchingfor your falling, let this be a special reason to walk very humbly before God. If you walk carelessly, remember the lynx-eyedworld will soon see it and then, with itshundred tongues, it will soon spread the story. You may say- "Tell it not in Gath; publish it not in the streets of Askelon,lest the daughters of Philistia rejoice." But they will tell it. With many an addition of their own they will repeat the story.You shall hear themsay-"Aha! Aha! So would we have it! All these Christians are inconsistent, they are all mere professors, they are hypocritesto a man, every one of them."
Thus will much damage be done to our good cause and much insult offered to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Cross ofChrist is in itself an offense to the world. Let us take heed that we do not add any offense of our own. It is "to the Jewa stumbling block." Let us mind that we put nostumbling blocks where there are enough already. "To the Greek it is foolishness." Let us not add our folly to give pointto the scorn with which the worldly deride the Gospel. Oh, how jealous should we be of ourselves, for we serve a jealous God!How rigid should we be with ourconsciences, for we serve One whose name is "Holy, Holy, Holy!"
Yes, in the presence of adversaries who will misrepresent our best deeds and twist our best endeavors into something selfish-impugningour motives where they cannot censure our actions-how circumspect should we be! We pilgrims travel as suspected persons throughthe world. Not only arewe under surveillance, but there are more spies than we reckon. The espionage is everywhere-at home and abroad. If we fallinto their hands we may sooner expect generosity from a wolf, or mercy from a fiend, than to find anything like patience withour infirmities from the menof the world, or anything like the hiding of our iniquities from the men who spice their infidelity towards God with scandalsagainst His people.
The world is too much like the accursed Canaan who pointed to his father's nakedness. We can only expect of our own Brothersand Sisters, the conduct of Shem and Japheth, who shall go backward to cast the mantle over us. Better far that we shouldso act and so live as to not ever need this mantleof charity, but be able to say, with all humility, yet with holy courage-"Lord, You know that in this thing I have not sinned,but have walked uprightly in Your ways." That is the first lesson which I feel bound to inculcate. "For what glory is it,if when you are buffeted foryour faults, you shall take it patiently?"
The second lesson is this. When a case is put into God's hands, He will certainly manage it well and He will interfere insufficient time to bring His servants out of their distress. Peter's case was put into God's hands. The company that met atthe house of Mary, the mother of Mark, were appealingto the great Advocate. If any man is in prison, "we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Withtheir humble prayers and tears they were pleading for their Brother, whose valuable life they could ill afford to spare, forthe infant Church needed the Apostles,at least for a season.
I think I hear them pleading one after the other-"Lord, remember Peter! You know how we love him. Our desires go up for him.James is dead. Alas, we took up his body and mourned him! Let not Peter be slain! Oh, take not You the prop from under us!Remove not the pillar from the wall, nor thestone from its place." The Lord has heard their cries. Peter's cause is in His hands. He will interfere in due time. Theassurance that prayer is heard is the earnest that prayer will be answered. The petition is accepted, though no answer hasyet been received. Well, we can leaveit there.
But look, Brothers and Sisters, Peter has been lying in prison the whole week. The feast of unleavened bread is over, it isthe last night, the last night! The evening has crept on. No, the dark hours have set in. It is midnight. The sun will soonbe rising-in a few more hours-and thenwhere is Peter? Lord, if You do not interfere, where is Peter? If You come not now to help him, his blood shall make thepopulace of Jerusalem glad while they gloat and delight in his slaughter! But just at that last and dark hour of the night,God's opportunity overtook man'sextremity.
A light shone in the dungeon. Peter was awakened. God never is before His time. Nor is He ever too late. He comes just whenHe is needed. But look, there is Peter asleep! Peter is asleep, doing nothing, doing nothing! Well, and the best thing forhim, too, for the case was put into God's hands. Iask you, dear Friends, suppose Peter had been awake, what could he do? Had he been fretting and troubling himself, whatgood could he have done? Finding, therefore, that nothing remained for him, he just throws himself upon the mercy of God,shuts his eyes as peaceably as though hewere to wake tomorrow to a wedding feast and not to his own execution.
Sleep on, blessed Peter! Well might Herod envy you that peace which his kingly robe could never give him. You sleep, thoughyour hands are chained, for your spirit is free. And it may be that in your dreams you are rejoicing "with a joy unspeakableand full of glory." When the case is taken intoGod's hands and you and I feel that we can do nothing for ourselves, we may take sleep in perfect quietude, for so He givesHis Beloved sleep. While we sleep, His watchful eyes do keep their ceaseless guard. Jesus might seem on one occasion to beasleep, but you know where Heslept-it was in the back part of the ship. Why there? Methinks He slept with His hand on the tiller, so that the momentHe awoke, He might steer the vessel-
"Though winds and waves assault your keel, He does preserve it, He does steer- Even when the boat seems most to reel. Storms are the triumphs of His art, Sure He may close His eyes, but not His heart."
God never sleeps. He is ever on the watch for His people. "Well, but," says one, "surely the Lord should have interfered beforethis time, for Peter is not only asleep, but he is bound-bound to two soldiers! How can he escape?" Ah, that word "How?"-thatword "How?" What a deal ofmischief it has done to faith! Don't you know that true faith has no such word in all her vocabulary? Faith never says "How?"God has said "It shall be," faith believes it will be. As to how it shall be, that is God's business, not mine. It is Unbeliefthat says "How? I do not seeit. How? How? How can it be?" Hush, Unbelief! The fetters shall drop off, gates shall open of their own accord. The caseis in God's hands, Man! If it were in man's hands it would fail, for cursed is he that trusts in man and makes flesh his arm.
The strongest sinew in an arm of flesh must crack. There must be impossibilities to humanity, but to Deity impossibilitiesare nothing. Be quiet, for the case is with Him. It may be the last moment. The Apostle may be asleep and he may be bound,but Peter must come out. For God has heard the prayerand Peter shall be free. Yet a third remark, we think, lies like a precious stone upon the very surface of this narrative.It is this-that when God shall come to deliver His people, all the circumstances which seem to go against their deliveranceshall only tend to set forththe more His glory. What contempt He puts upon chains, prisons, cords, iron gates, wards-inner and outer wards-look howHe breaks their bonds asunder and casts their cords from Peter!
I know of nothing that seems to illustrate more God's splendid triumph over man's cunning than the resurrection of Christ."His disciples will steal Him away while men sleep." "Well," says Pilate, "you have a watch, go and make it as sure as youcan." He trusted to men, who were sure to do thething well-the men that hated Him. They keep the watch, they roll the great stone, they seal it, they go home to their beds.Ah, men of the Sanhedrim, proud priests! You have done the work, go to your rest and say "This deceiver shall never shakethe earth again, nor call usdumb dogs that cannot bark, nor tell us that we are blind leaders of the blind. He is buried and the seal is on Him."-
"Vain the watch, the stone, the seal, Christ has broke the gates of Hell."
Look! He rises! And as the angel sits down upon the stone, he seems, in quiet sarcasm, to say to the priests, to earth, toHell, "Roll it back again if you can, and seal it once more, for He is risen and has overcome the wiles of men." So, Christian,rest assured that everything that looks black toyour gaze now, shall only make it the brighter when God delivers you. Every dark and bending line shall surely meet in thecenter of His love, and but express more to your mind His power, His wisdom, His faithfulness, His Truth.
Furthermore, the whole story seems to teach us that no difficulty can ever occur which God cannot meet when He makes bareHis arm. The chains are gone, the warders are passed, but there is that iron gate. Oh, that iron gate! I think there are someof you tonight that are troubled about it. God hasbeen helping you. You have had faith up till now, but you have got to the iron gate. Oh, if you could but pass that-it leadsinto the city-all would be well. But that iron gate! Some of you get dreading the iron gate a month before you get to it.You get to fretting andtroubling yourself for three months, perhaps, about the iron gate. You do for months as those holy women did for hours,who went out at break of day to the sepulcher, and as they went along they said, "Who shall roll away the stone?"
There was no stone to roll away! And when you go to this place, you will find that there is no iron gate there, or if thereshould be, it will open of its own accord. Oh, how often have we had to wonder at our own folly and we have said, "Well, Iwill never do that again. I will never more borrowmisery. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. I will never go out to get a loan of sorrow for tomorrow." But alas,we have done it the very next day.
Wait, wait, O Christian, on the Lord! Leave all anxiety about the iron Gates to Him! Since the day when you did believe inHim and put your soul into His hands by prayer, it has been God's cause, not your cause. It has been God's work to deliveryou and not your work-
"The gates of brass before Him burst, The iron fetters yield."
There is yet this one further remark. See, Beloved, see clearly, see indisputably-the omnipotence of prayer. If all thosedisciples had sworn an oath that they would get Peter free, they could not have accomplished it. What could they do? Herodhas an army. The prison is strong. The guardsare not to be bribed. The last night is come. What can they do? There was only one weapon they could use and that was hangingat their girdles-the weapon of all-prayer.
They told Jesus about it. When every other gate was shut, there was the gate to Heaven open-so they sent messages up to Himwho is able to loose the prisoners, and to their own surprise Peter is loosed. Have not we, in this Church, often felt thepower of prayer? I sometimes fear, Beloved, weare lagging here now-lagging in prayer. I may be permitted to say there are some of you I do not see so often at PrayerMeetings as I would wish. It is a busy time of the year, I know, and therefore I make plenty of excuses for you. But whenit was not so busy I did not seeyou!
And then there are some who grow dull in their recollections of fact. At Park Street have not we had seasons when our heartswere hot within us, when we could not speak because we thought, "Surely God is in this place"? It seemed an awful place tous. We were prevailing with God, we were drawingdown the blessings and those blessings continued up till now as the result of earnest supplication. What simple prayersthey were! Strangers that came in found much fault, but the Lord did not. There were often things said that were not verygrammatical. But what mattered it if theheart was in the thing?
We stormed Heaven's gates and down came legions of mercies to us. We want more prayer, more prayer! I am always glad to hearthat your special Prayer Meetings and your social assemblies for supplication are well attended and that there is a desireamong the members to have such Prayer Meetingsoften. I am sure the elders of the Church will join with me in advocating and encouraging them. We will lend the rooms connectedwith this Tabernacle, convicted that more we meet together and more we supplicate the Throne of Grace, the blessings willcome down.
There are a few Brothers and Sisters who have met every morning for these last four years, or five years it may be. They meetnow every morning, wet or dry, winter or summer, every morning in the Chapel at Park Street, always praying for our prosperity.Their numbers are few to what they used tobe. We have not got the fire now that we once had, I fear. May the Lord put the embers together and fan them with His breathand make them blaze again! And then our ministry shall be sent down from Heaven with the Holy Spirit and the multitudes shallhear the voice of God speakingin their hearts.
Brethren, pray for us, pray for your children, your households-take everything to God in prayer, no matter how hard, how intricate,how difficult. If there is a knot you cannot untie, cut it with prayer. God knows how to deliver you when you cannot deliveryourself. Be much in supplication,for this will make you mighty, make you prevalent with men when you have prevailed with the Maker of men. Such are the reflectionsthat occur to us from the narrative.
II. But now I turn more closely to my text itself. When Peter came out of prison, his deliverance was so marvelous that hedid not know whether it was true or whether it was a vision. Like the Psalm which says, "When the Lord turned again the captivityof Zion, we were like them that dream." Thuswhen a sinner is saved, pardoned, justified, he is utterly astonished and thinks it cannot be true, because it is so good.The astonishment lies in this-"It cannot be true," says he, "that I am saved. I! I! I! If it had been all the people in theworld, I could have believedit, but can it be that I am delivered? How is it that He should have mercy upon me? I, that was so lately in fetters? Thata week ago could blaspheme? That a day or two ago could have talked all the idlest jests and could have lived upon the foulestof earth's pleasures? That I, Ishould be saved-delivered from sin, though so filthy-set free, though so fast bound?"
I must try to interpret this peculiar reflection-this dream-like feeling. The reality of God's mercy is only apprehended byfaith. And because faith has to do with things not seen, you are apt to throw suspicions on its evidence. You see no tangibleinstrumentality equal to the mighty task.Our ruin was, in some sense, effected by degrees. We can trace the course of evil. The soul of man is like a temple in ruins.The temple built for God has become an abode for unclean spirits. God suddenly deserted it, but it gradually fell into itspresent dilapidation anduncleanness.
The eyes that were once as lamps which flashed with light and love, have become contracted and their habit now is to lovedarkness rather than light. The tongue that was once a fountain that did send forth sweet water, pure and refreshing, hasbecome as a noxious spring whose bitter streams savorof enmity to God and envy of the Brothers and Sisters. The heart that was once as the holy place of all our frame, wherethe beauty of holiness reposed in heavenly calm, has now become the place of idols and the abode of secret abominations. Thevery breath that sent up its sacredincense in rich perfume, acceptable to God, has grown corrupt and breathes out its baneful poison and its foul impurities.
Will God in very deed dwell with man upon the earth? Will He take up His abode with us? Shall the change be worked in thetwinkling of an eye? Does it suffice that the Word sown in weakness, springs up with power of the Holy Spirit? Man fallenmay baffle us, but man redeemed is a mystery we cannotfathom. It seems ever to mere mortal sense as a vision, the dream of poets, or the work of imagination. But, Beloved, whymarvel? The angel of the Covenant has descended from Heaven to earth and you knew not it was he till he loosed your bonds,broke up your path, or rather openedevery door with the keys that hang at his girdle and gave you knowledge of salvation by the remission of your sins.
Then you thought it was a vision, because you had not known redemption except that your own soul was redeemed. You had notunderstood salvation except that you were yourself redeemed. And that matchless secret of the new birth penetrated your understandingin the same hour that it was worked uponyour own heart. Thus it is commonly with us, Brothers and Sisters. We see, as a main fact, the downward course by whichwe corrupted our ways when we were dead in sin. But the hour we first believed, that blessed season when we were translatedout of the kingdom of darkness into thekingdom of God's dear Son seems like a vision to us.
Another reason why it appears so visionary to us is because no forethought or intention of our own helped and availed. Howthis is true with some of you in one way. Never were your purposes less inclined to seek the Lord than they were when He foundyou. Your plans were broken off before you wereaware of it. You were asleep when the angel entered your cell. And you were dreaming of other things than those that werein store for you. Perhaps you dreamed that the bolts were not heavy, the bars were not thick, the locks were not fast, andyou might get up and let yourself outwhenever you liked.
It was only when you were delivered that you saw how fast you had been held. The rescued soul, alone, can know how "Satanbinds our captive minds fast in his slavish chains." And in yet another way some of us have proved the same. We had our schemesto get loose and many a bitter day we had triedand toiled in vain, till at length we had fallen asleep in blank despair, dreaming of nothing but our fearful doom. Whenthe deliverance came in such an unheard of manner, we could scarcely persuade ourselves it could be true. And so it is, Brothersand Sisters, we never believeanything to be so real as what we see with our own eyes, and work with our own hands.
And I suppose it is just the natural idea which flesh and blood is prone to take of the things of God. They seem more likea vision than the work of a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. And still, I scarcely think I have probed the matter to thebottom yet. The simplicity of God's method ofDivine Grace has not ceased to be a marvel. The Jews seek after a sign. And there is something of the Jewish nature aboutus all. At least I find a host of exercised souls who are asking for signs. Well, and the Greeks, who are rather a refinedclass of unbelievers-they seekafter wisdom. They want some extraordinary endowment. And this craving has not died out among us.
For the first, I hear one say, "I am afraid, Sir, that my experience is only a dream. I want a sign to give me assurance."Let me tell you that simple faith gives clearer evidence than any fancy that could possess your mind. Are you still boundwith the chains of your sins? Are you still shut up inthe stronghold of unbelief? Have you never seen the key in the Savior's hand that opened the door to set you free? "Oh,yes," you say, "but I am afraid it was only a vision, for I am but a poor, helpless creature after all." And what else couldyou be? You are never so safe as whenyou are emptied of all confidence in self. Paul could boast of extraordinary revelations, but the Lord sent him a thornin the flesh, lest he should be puffed up by them.
Then, again, there are those who show more anxiety after gifts than after graces. And to them all the mercy they have receivedseems but a vision because they are not raised up above common mortals. After this extraordinary release of Peter, you donot find any display. The Apostle was but a poor,trembling Believer. He would not have Mary or the damsel Rhoda talk too loudly, or express their gladness too cheerfully-hebeckoned them with his hand to hold their peace. He just declared how the Lord had brought him out, and then he departed andwent into another place.
Brethren, I would have you make your boast in the Lord and speak of what He has done for your souls. But I would warn younot to vaunt your experience, or attempt to magnify yourselves as if we, any of us, had herein matter for glory. The verymanner of God's delivering Grace is to hide pride fromour eyes. And the reality is none the less palpable, because the angel did all for us to show his strength and then withdrewfrom us that we should feel our own weakness.
Once again-the suddenness of this deliverance will surprise you. "So Suddenly, too!" It seems like a vision. We have oftenknown persons suddenly renewed in heart that would not believe it. They knew it was so, but still, in thinking it over, itdid seem as though it could not possibly betrue that they were saved. They had to rub their eyes again to see whether they were not asleep and dreaming. It was muchtoo good to be true and happened all so quickly. The greatness of the mercy has made them stagger. That God should just forgivethem and let them into Heavenwould have been marvelous, but that He should make them His children, His sons, heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ-thissurpassed all belief!
Their fears had got such hold of them that they were ready to die. But little prepared to be saved. Their convictions hadbeen terrible, but now the joy is so excessive they cannot think but that it must be all presumption, all a dream. Many andmany have there been who have come to the pastor andsaid, "Oh I had such joys! I did believe in Christ, I know I did. I cast myself wholly on Him and I felt such a change.I became so different a person from what I had ever been before, but now I come to look back upon it, I cannot think it wastrue, it must have been a vision, itcannot possibly be a matter of fact."
Now, dear Friends, lest you should give way to this apprehension too much, let me remind you that inasmuch as this is a greatthing, it is all the better evidence that it comes from God. So great a river may well have a rapid tide. So glaring a sunmay well shine with uncommon splendor. The greatGod does not do little acts of Divine Grace. His works are all great, sought out by all them that fear Him. Inasmuch asyou confess that you are a great sinner and therefore this is a surprising thing, let me remind you that this is the ordinaryway in which God works to give greatmercies to great sinners. He does not give His favors to men who think they deserve them.
He searches the heart with a glance and He abhors the proud. But to those who are made to feel that there is no good thingin them and rest on His Grace because they have nothing else on which to depend, the mercy comes and the prisoners are loosed.Dear Friends, do you not remember that the Gospelthat we preach is a very great Gospel? Is it not called in Scripture, "The great salvation"? Now when you find your salvationto be great, do not shrink back and say, "Oh, it cannot be genuine because it is great." It would not be the genuine Gospelif it were little. If it were nota surprising wonderful thing, if it were not superlatively astonishing, it would not be the Gospel.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above theearth, so are My thoughts above your thoughts and My ways above your ways." Besides, remember, my Brothers and Sisters, thatJesus died in pangs unutterable on the Cross. DidHe die there to buy farthing mercies, to purchase little favors for little sinners? The blood of bulls and goats might achievesome little, but the blood of Him who was the only begotten of the Father cannot have been shed for trifles. Therefore considerthat this must have beentrue, because it is so great, so strange, so surpassing all your thoughts. God help you to say with the Apostle Peter, "NowI know that God has sent His angel."
Thus shall you know for sure that the Lord has sent His angel and has delivered you out of the hands of your enemies and fromall the expectation of your doubts and fears. I will tell you how to prove the reality of it. If you should fear that yourfeelings have been all a dream, come with me, handin hand, and let us go and prove the authenticity of our faith at the Cross. You and I, a pair of sinners, full of sin,covered with the leprosy of it from head to foot-let us go and stand at Calvary's Cross. There He hangs! His hands and feetare pierced. The blood distils.
Jesus! O my Lord! For whom do You die? "For sinners," He says. Here are two, most gracious Master! Remember us when You comeinto Your kingdom! I think I hear Him say, "You shall be with Me in Paradise," for never souls breathed that prayer in humblefaith and were unheard. Jesus, we look to Yourwounds and they are clefts in the rock into which we fly like doves, or if we may not compare ourselves thereunto, we willfly as ravens and we will hide till the tempest is over. Your blood we trust to redeem us, Your merit to clothe us from headto foot, Your plea to preserve us,Your strong arm to keep us, Your love to give us life now, and in eternity!
And now, before I close, let me tell you that the picture may be inverted. If there are those to whom reality seems to bea dream, what multitudes there are, on the other hand, to whom mere dreams appear to be real and true. Ah, such dreaming isthe saddest thing I know. And about the hardest taskit is that I ever tried-to awake such slumberers from their delusions. Hear me, you that seek out your own inventions, yetsubmit not yourselves to the righteousness of God! Do you believe in God? Yes? Then the god you believe in is not the Godwho created Heaven and earth,but the god of your own imagination.
Do you profess Christ? The Christ you profess is not the Son of the Father, but the child of your own fancy. And do I hearyou talk of your experience? Alas, then, it is not the witness of the Holy Spirit, but the incoherent ramblings of a deliriousbrain. O you poor deluded souls. Who put yourthoughts for God's counsels, your devices for His decrees, and your efforts for His interposition. You "shall be as a dreamof a night vision. It shall even be as when an hungry man dreams and, behold, he eats. But he awakes and his soul is empty.Or as when a thirsty man dreamsand, behold, he drinks. But he awakes and, behold, he is faint and his soul has appetite."
Christians you call yourselves today, but Christ shall say to you another day, "I never knew you." Ah and it is true, foryou never knew Him. Do you dream of peace? Without pardon it is a dream. Do you dream of Heaven? Without holiness it is adream. Do you dream of joy at God's right hand? But youare not His people. You have never renounced the world, overcome the Wicked One, confessed the faith, or followed the Masterin the regeneration, which is the earnest of a blessed resurrection. Oh, my Hearers, consider the words, I beseech you-"Asa dream when one awakes, so,O Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image."
Here are many, I dare say, who do not understand what I have been talking about. God give them understanding. Sinner, youmust either be in Christ, or perish. Remember, Sinners, tonight there is one of two things for you-either to be shut up inthe prison of Hell, or else to be delivered fromthe prison of sin. Your destiny hangs here-salvation or damnation-life or death. Dare you die, Sinner, dare you die? Dareyou die with your sins about you, like millstones strapped about your neck-dare you die? No! But when the time comes for youto die, you willsay, "Now I cannot live, I must not live and I dare not die."
Would you like to be able to die peacefully, Sinner, and to rise joyfully and to reign forever hereafter? Trust Christ withyour soul and He will save you. He, the Son of God, begotten of the Father. The man of Nazareth, conceived of the Holy Spirit,and born of the Virgin Mary. He, God over all,blessed forever, and yet your Brother, born to bear your sins! He says, "Trust Me and I will save you." O may His electinglove move the hand of His effectual Grace to incline you now to trust in Him! And that done, you are saved and out of thisHouse you may go a lawfully deliveredcaptive, though perhaps you will scarcely know what it is and know not whether it is true that is done unto you.
But it is true for all that. He that believes on Him is not condemned and he that believes not is condemned already, becausehe has not believed on the Son of God. O that I might speak in God's name to some of you who perhaps may never hear my voiceagain! I will meet you, as the spirit said toBrutus, on the plains I will meet you another day, each one of you. And if you live and die without trusting in that Lordwhose open wounds I have tried to set before your eyes, whose bleeding heart, streaming with His life blood, I have triedto set all warm before you-if youdie without Him, on your own heads be your destruction!
You have heard the Gospel-O that you would turn at its rebuke! Trust Christ! The feeblest touch of the hem of His garment-alook to Him-and you are made whole! As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so may he lift up the Cross on high.O lift it up, my Brothers andSisters, you that know Christ! Christian men and women, lift up that Cross in your families. It is mine to lift up hereand to cry with the Hebrew Prophet, "Look, look and live!" Sin-bitten, covered with the wounds of sin-LOOK!-It is all He asks.
"Look and live," is written on the clouds of Heaven, legible only by the light they give. And there, too, stand the soul-quickeningwords-"Believe and live." Leave your doings for Christ's doings-not your tears but Christ's tears, not your blood but Hisblood, not your groans but Hisgroans, not your penance but His agonies. Come and rest in Him! Join with me in saying, from your heart-
"My faith does lay her hand On that dear head of Yours, While like a penitent I stand, And here confess my sin. My soul looks back to see The burden You did bear When hanging on the accursed Tree, And hopes her guilt was there. Believing, we rejoice To see the curse removed, We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice, And sing His bleeding love."
The Lord bless you, the God of Heaven and earth bless you, from this time forth and forever. Amen.