Sermon 786. The Great Mystery of Godliness
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, DECEMBER 22, 1867, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen ofangels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."- 1 Timothy 3:16.
THE Apostle had just reminded Timothy that the Church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the Truth of God, andhe had pressed it upon him to behave himself aright in the midst of those faithful men to whom the Lord had committed theGospel. And, lest by any means the youthful minister should think that the treasure committed to the Church was of littlevalue, he declares that beyond all controversy it was great and precious. Every heathen religion had its mystery, its secretdoctrine revealed only to the initiated which was held to be the essence of the faith. The mystery of some religions was merefroth, foolish if untrue, and if true of no consequence to anyone. But even those who do not believe the facts of our religioncan hold no controversy with us about the unspeakable greatness of them, if they are, indeed, true.
Be a man what he may, if he is reasonable he will admit that Christianity does not deal in trifles. Like the eagle, it doesnot hawk for flies-it aspires to conquer the loftiest themes of thought. Right or wrong, the subjects with which we deal arenot secondary, but wear about them an awful interest which none but the frivolous despise. Jesus sits in no second place amongteachers. Paul mentions what the mystery of godliness is and declares that it concerns the manifestation of God in human fleshthat He might save men from their sin. Now, says he, without controversy this is a great matter. If it is received by us astrue, it becomes us to act as those who are put in trust with a priceless deposit with which we dare not be otherwise thanfaithful.
There is no room for indifference where the Gospel is concerned-it is either the most astounding of shams, or the most amazingof revelations! No man can safely remain undecided about it-it is too weighty, too solemn to be snuffed at as a matter ofno concern. Foes and friends alike confess that the mystery of godliness is great. It is no rippling rill of dogma but a broadocean of thought. It is no molehill of discovery, but an Alp of revelation. It is no single beam of light but a sun shiningat its strength.
I shall, this morning, first take up the Apostle's summary of our religion. Secondly, I shall give a few notes upon it. And,thirdly, draw one or two inferences from it.
I. First let us carefully look at THE SUMMARY OF TRUE RELIGION handed by the Apostle to his son in the
1. The first article in this most authentic Apostle's creed declares that "God was manifest in the flesh." This is claimedas an especially valuable part of the great mystery of godliness. My Brothers and Sisters, if you will carefully considerit, this is one of the most extraordinary doctrines that was ever declared in human hearing! And were it not well attested,it would be absolutely incredible that the Infinite God who fills all things, who was and is, and is to come-the Almighty,the Omniscient, and the Omnipresent actually condescended to veil Himself in the garments of our inferior clay!
He made all things, and yet He deigned to take the flesh of a creature into union with Himself! The Infinite was linked withthe infant, and the Eternal was blended with mortality. That manger at Bethlehem, tenanted by the express image of the Father'sGlory, was a great sight, indeed, to those who understood it. Well might the angels troop forth in crowds from within thegates of pearl, that they might behold Him whom Heaven could not contain finding accommodation in a stable with a lowly weddedpair. Wonder of wonders! God over all, blessed forever, became One with a newborn Babe which slept in a manger where the hornedoxen fed! "God was manifest in the flesh."
In this Paul testifies not merely to our Lord's birth, but to the whole of the Divine manifestation in His life of two orthree and thirty years. He was abundantly manifest among the multitudes and before His disciples during the latter part ofHis life. He was God in miracles most plenteous, but He was Man in sufferings most pitiable. He was the Son of the Highest,and nevertheless, "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." He trod the billows of the obedient sea and yet He owned nota foot of land in all Judea. He fed thousands by His power and yet all faint and weary He sat upon a well, and cried, "GiveMe to drink."
He cast out devils, but was Himself tempted of the devil. He healed all manner of diseases and was Himself exceedingly sorrowfuleven unto death! Winds and waves obeyed Him. Every element acknowledged the august Presence of Deity and yet He was temptedin all points like as we are. Our Lord's Manhood was no phantasm, no myth, no mere appearance in human shape. Beyond all doubt"the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." "Handle Me and see," says He, "a Spirit has not flesh and bones as you seeI have." "Reach here your finger, and behold My hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless,but believing."
Yet with equal certainty God was manifest in Him. As the light streams through the lantern, so the Glory of Godhead flamedthrough the flesh of Jesus. Those who were His nearest companions bear witness-"We beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begottenof the Father, full of grace and truth." That revelation of God in the flesh became yet more extraordinary when, at last,our Lord condescended to be put to death by His own creatures! Arraigned before human tribunals, condemned as guilty of thegravest crimes, He is taken from prison and from judgment with none to declare His generation. He is fastened to the accursedwood and put to a death of deepest shame and bitterest torture.
O you whose loving eyes have looked upon the ensanguined rills which gush from the wounds of your bleeding Lord and have delightedto behold the Lily of the Valleys reddened into the Rose of Sharon with the crimson of His own blood-you can see God in Christas you behold rocks rending, the sun darkened and the dead arising from their tombs at the moment of His departure from theearth! Behold in the writhing form of the Crucified Man the vengeance and the love of God, nor less behold Divine power sustainingthe load of human guilt, and Divine compassion enduring such agonies for rebels so ill deserving. Truly this Son of Man wasalso the Son of God!
Beloved, this is a mystery surpassing all comprehension. If any man should attempt to explain, or even to define the unionof the Divine and Human in the Lord Jesus, he would soon prove his folly. The schoolmen of the dark ages were very fond ofasking puzzling questions about what they called the hypostatical union of the Deity and humanity of Christ. They could notcast so much as a ray of light upon the subject. They amused themselves with enigmas and lost themselves in labyrinths. Itis enough for us to know that the Incarnation is a glorious fact and it suffices us to hold it in its simplicity. God wasmanifest in the flesh of Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word.
Beloved, this is a great mystery-great because it treats of God. Any doctrine which relates to the Infinite and the Eternalis of the utmost weight. We should be all ears and all heart when we have to learn concerning God. Reason teaches us thatHe who made us, who is our Preserver, and at whose Word we are soon to return to the dust, should be the first object of ourthoughts. Turn here, you wayward children of Adam, and behold this great mystery for your God is here! A bush burning andunconsumed would attract your curious gaze-what do you think of a Man who was in union with the God who is a consuming fire?The Truth of God manifest in flesh is great if you consider the great honor which is thereby conferred upon manhood!
Man honored in God's taking the nature of man into union with Himself, for verily He took not upon Him the nature of angels,but He took upon Him the seed of Abraham! Whichever of all the creatures shall come nearest to the Creator will evidentlyhave the preeminence in the ranks of creatureship! Which, then, shall bear the palm? Shall not the seraphs be chosen? Shallnot the swift-winged sons of fire be chief among Heaven's courtiers? Behold, and be astonished-a worm is preferred-a rebelliouschild of the earth is chosen! Human nature is espoused into oneness with the Divine! There is no gulf between God and redeemedman at this hour. God is first, over all, blessed forever, but next comes man in the Person of the Man Christ Jesus.
Well may we say with David, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You haveordained; what is man, that You are mindful of him? And the son of man, that You visit him? For You have made him a littlelower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands.You have put all things under his feet." Man is royal now that Christ is human!
Man is exalted since Christ is humiliated. Man may go up to God now that God has come down to man. This is great, is it not?A mystery, certainly, but great in every way! See that you despise it not lest you miss the abounding benefit which flowsto man through this golden channel.
My Brothers and Sisters, the mystery appears greatest of all because it is so nearly connected with our eternal redemption.There could have been no putting away of sin by vicarious suffering if God had not become Incarnate. Sin is not removed exceptby an atonement-neither would any person have sufficed to atone but one of like nature to those who had offended. By man camedeath-by man also must come resurrection. Jesus appears as Man to save His people from their sins by taking the sins of Hispeople upon Himself and offering a propitiation for them. What a wondrous sight was the dying Redeemer! The Cross is the focusof all human history. I was almost going to say it is the center of the life of God, if such a thing can be.
All the ages meet in Calvary. Jesus is the central Sun of all events. O, gaze again, and marvel more and more that God shouldput Himself into the place of His offending creature, and in the Person of His dear Son should offer to eternal justice acompensation for the insults which sin had cast upon law and rule! There is no greatness in Heaven or earth if it is not herein the bleeding flesh of Jesus, the Son of God! All else is dwarfed into nothingness in His Presence. Beloved, the manifestationof God in Jesus Crucified will appear to be great to you if you have ever drank deep into its meaning. If, standing at thefoot of the Cross, you have seen all your sins punished in the Person of the Incarnate God, and have heard the voice whichsays, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," you cannot think lightly of the Word madeflesh.
If you have learned that His blood has brought perfect pardon to all Believers, and that through the torn veil of His fleshthe saints have access to God and entrance into Heaven, you will lay hold upon the great Truth of an Incarnate Deity witha grasp which neither the trials of life nor the terrors of death shall unclasp! You will hate the very thought of denyingthe Godhead of the Lord that bought you-you will be jealous for His great name, and burn with sacred zeal for His glory. Yourheart will cry out indignantly, "Away from me, you rejecters of the Divine Redeemer! If you rob Christ of His glory I countyou the worst of thieves. 'Whoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father,' and in denying Jesus you reject the one GodHimself!"
2. The Apostle mentions, in the next place, the important witness by which the mission of Jesus was confirmed. He was "Justifiedin the Spirit." By the word "Spirit," we understand the Holy Spirit, although it may be understood of the spiritual natureof Christ in which He was always justified, though in the flesh He was condemned of men. It appears more natural to confinethe expression to the Holy Spirit.
Every religion demands our attention in proportion to the certainty of its teachings and the value of its confirmatory testimony.How matchless is the seal which is set upon the mystery of godliness, since the Holy Spirit has been pleased Himself, Personallyand repeatedly, to confirm it! If we demand trustworthy evidence, behold the Holy Spirit bearing witness to our most holyfaith, both in Heaven and in earth!-"It is the Spirit that bears witness, because the Spirit is truth."
Observe what part the Holy Spirit took in connection with our Lord. The formation of the Immaculate Body of the Holy ChildJesus was by the energy of the Holy Spirit-as the angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the powerof the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son ofGod." Afterwards, the Holy Spirit confirmed this same most sacred Person, in whom God was manifest, by descending upon Himat His Baptism in the waters of Jordan. John, who was the forerunner and witness of Jesus, bore record, saying, "I saw theSpirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize withwater, the same said unto me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeswith the Holy Spirit. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of
The heavens were opened, and the Spirit, the Voice of God, proclaimed, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."On one or two other occasions we have it upon the testimony of witnesses who were present that an audible voice was heardout of the excellent glory, saying, "This is My beloved Son: hear Him!" The greatest attestation which the Holy Spirit gaveto Christ was the raising of Him from the dead. In some respects Christ rose from the dead by His
own power, but it is a Scriptural doctrine that He was "declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit ofholiness by the resurrection from the dead."
The power by which we are converted is evidently the Holy Spirit, and we read in the Ephesians, "The exceeding greatness ofHis power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He worked in Christ, when He raisedHim from the dead." Moreover, let us not forget that 40 days after our Master had been taken up from us, while the discipleswere gathered together with one accord in one place, suddenly they heard a sound as of a rushing mighty wind which filledall the place where they were sitting. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had promised, had come to make good the Word of the Lord.You have not forgotten the miraculous flames of fire which sat upon each of the disciples and how they spoke with other tonguesas the Spirit gave them utterance!
You know how that day 3,000 were converted to the faith by the testimony of those first champions of Christ! Thus the HolySpirit bore witness with signs and miracles, and wondrous gifts, that He who professed to be Incarnate Deity was most trulyGod and the Savior of men! Beloved, if you complain that this attestation has now ceased and that the record of miracles israther a strain upon your faith than an assistance to it, I would remind you that the Spirit of God has not ceased from themidst of the Church. The Holy Spirit no longer operates upon material substances-the sick are not healed and the dead arenot raised-this we freely confess. But He still acts with equally wonderful results upon the minds of men.
In this very house there have been miracles performed, which, in lasting value, put the raising of the dead to shame! Manyof us who are now present bear witness that by the Spirit of God we have been newly created, raised from spiritual corruption,delivered from the dominion of Satan and translated into the kingdom of God! The swine of drunkenness have been made loversof holiness! The beasts of sensuality have become partakers of the Divine nature! What better sign is needed? When heartsof stone melt like wax and streams of penitence flow from souls as hard as flinty rocks-who will refuse to believe? Let theGospel be judged by its fruits and we are satisfied with the trial. If it does not turn the moral desert into an Eden, transformthe lion into a lamb, and raise up the beggar from the dunghill, then let it be rejected!
But since it has done this, and is doing it, let its despisers beware lest they commit the sin against the Holy Spirit whilethey reject the solemn evidences which He daily thrusts before our eyes. Brethren, in our own souls the blessed Spirit hasborne most overwhelming witness when we have been bowed in penitence at Jesus' feet, and have been lifted up into the loftiestjoy as we found pardon in His blood. The Spirit of God is with us still, working with the Word of God. See the savage castingaway his weapons, the cannibal softened into the man! What philosophy could not do and did not care to attempt-what civilizationnever could have accomplished alone, the Cross of Christ has effectually performed! The Spirit of God is with us, and bothin the holiness of the saints and in the conversions of unbelievers He bears witness that God was in Christ.
3. Our Apostle writes, as the next part of the great mystery of godliness, that Christ "was seen of angels." Jesus was seenof angels at His birth. They appeared to the shepherds and bade them hasten to Bethlehem while they, themselves, looked onwith holy wonder-
"They saw the Hea ven-born Child, in human flesh arrayed, Benevolent and mild, while in a manger laid. And praise to God,and peace on earth, For such a birth, proclaimed aloud."
Our Lord was watched by holy spirits in the wilderness where, after He had conquered that arch tempter, angels ministeredunto Him. He was with the wild beasts at one moment and seraphic spirits waited in His train. An angel ministered unto Himin Gethsemane when His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood. Upon Calvary they watched Him, too, and doubtless, asthe poet says-
"Around the bloody tree they pressed with strong desire
That wondrous sight to see, the Lord of Life expire.
And, could their eyes have kno wn a tear,
Had dropped it there in sad surprise." Visions of angels were seen by the witnesses of His Resurrection. Two clothed in whitesat the one at the head and the other at the foot where the Body of Jesus had lain. Angels met Him at His Ascension when theclouds received Him out of
the sight of His gazing followers. And they attended Him up to Glory, crying, "Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be youlift up, you everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in."
The Apostle mentions this to show the greatness of our religion since the most noble intellects are interested in it. Didyou ever hear of angels hovering around the assemblies of philosophical societies? Very interesting papers are sometimes producedspeculating upon geological facts. Startling discoveries are every now and then made as to astronomy and the laws of motion.We are frequently surprised at the results of chemical analyses, yet I do not remember ever reading, even in poetry, thatangelic beings have shown any excitement at the news! The fact is that the story of the world's history in geologic times,and all the facts about this world are as well known to angels as the letters of the alphabet are to us!
All our profound sciences and recondite theories must seem utterly contemptible to them. Those august minds which have beenlong ago created of God and preserved from defilement by His decree, are better able to judge than we are of the importanceof things. And when we find them deeply interested in a matter, it cannot be of small account. Concerning an Incarnate God,it is said, "which things the angels desire to look into." Their views of God's manifesting Himself in the flesh are suchthat over the Mercy Seat they stand with outspread wings gazing in reverent admiration. And before the Throne they sing, "Worthyis the Lamb, for He was slain."
The doctrine of Incarnate Deity may be folly to the Greeks, and the vainglorious wiseacres of this world may call it commonplace,but to angels it is an ever flowing fountain of adoring admiration. They turn from every other sight to view the IncarnateRedeemer, regarding His condescending deed of Divine Grace as a bottomless ocean of mystery, a topless steep of wonder! Jesuswas seen of angels and they still delight to gaze upon Him-this, to the Apostle's mind, was conclusive evidence that the doctrinesof our faith are of the greatest importance.
4. Then, he passes on to the next Truth-Jesus Christ was preached unto the Gentiles. Was this a great thing? Is preachinga wonder? Yes. The preaching of the Gospel proves conclusively the grandeur of our religion. The nearest to Christ were theangels-He was seen of them. The furthest from Christ were fallen Gentiles who had given themselves up to the worship of theworks of their own hands-to these, also, Jesus came. That Jesus Christ was preached to the Gentiles at all was a wonder whichit behooves us not to forget.
As Paul says, "Therefore remember, that you, being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by thatwhich is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands: that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens fromthe commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: butnow in Christ Jesus you who some times were far off are made near by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who has madeboth one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even thelaw of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of two one new man, so making peace."
The Gentiles were brutalized with groveling vices and no form of spiritual faith had ever found footing among them. Was, then,the most spiritual of all religions to be taught to them and carried to them by no other means than that of preaching? Thissurprised our Apostle! And what surprises me still more is this-that Christ was preached to the Gentiles by Jews-that thosewhose bigotry at that time was invincible so that they could not imagine such a thing as a Gentile being in covenant withGod were the very men who with indefatigable ardor went among the Gentiles to preach Jesus
If you had told an intelligent Jew that some of his fellow countrymen would become Apostles to the Gentiles, to declare thatthe wall which surrounded the favored nation was broken down, he would have smiled incredulously and exclaimed, "Impossible!You may cut the Jew in pieces first. The belief that his race is peculiarly favored of God lies in the very heart and marrowof the Israelite. He will never consent to become one with the Gentile dogs." Yet Jesus the King of the Jews, Israel's hopeand consolation, was first published to the heathen by Jews, and chiefly by one who boasted that he was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews.As touching the law, a Pharisee."
Paul, the most ferocious of bigots, who counted that he did God's service when he hunted out the disciples of Christ, becamethe Gentile's friend and spiritual father! This is a startling fact. It is a most noteworthy fact in the history of our faiththat Jesus is still preached among the nations, and the Church labors to make him known everywhere. What other religion spendsso much energy in seeking converts?
If any of you were foolish enough to wish to become Jews, you would not be welcomed among the Jewish fraternity. No Israeliteever attempts to proselyte us to his opinions. It would be a novelty, indeed, to hear of Jewish missionaries sent out to convertthe heathen from their superstitions, or to recover Christians from their errors! No, the Jew does not want us-he prefersto keep his heritage for himself and his heirs. How far different is it with the followers of Jesus, whose very watchwordis "preach the Gospel to every creature!"
In the case of all other religions, the preaching to the Gentiles is absent. I am not aware of any Muslim society for theconversion of the world to the Prophet. I never saw in the streets of London a Brahmin, come from far, to convert the crowdsof London to the doctrines of the Shasters. Nor have I ever seen a Buddhist thrusting himself into the midst of peril to winthe savage to his creed. Can any other faith than the Christian show me a man traversing alone the center of Africa, likeLivingstone, or dwelling alone with Bushmen, as Moffat has done? The fact is that the spirit of false creeds is rather monopolythan extension. But as for the religion of Christ, it is expansive as the arch of Heaven!
If I could, I would have all men saved! If it were possible, I would have every one of you partakers of Christ Jesus thisvery morning. And we would cheerfully lay down our lives if we could extend the kingdom of Jesus Christ to the utmost boundsof the earth. What is it that keeps up this incessant preaching of Christ? Nothing but the real force of our faith. O youheathens, if your religions are true, why do you not promulgate them? Gods of the heathen, if you are gods, why do you notcommand your worshippers to convert the nations to your allegiance?
But no, they confess the worthlessness of their system in that these systems are not preached among the Gentiles, and haveno vitality to secure their spread. When these religions do attempt to spread themselves, which is rare enough, how do theydo it? Mohammed put a scimitar into the hand of each one of his followers, and said, "That is the strength of Islam-use thatsharp argument upon the nations." But Christ refused all carnal weapons and chose the simple preaching of the Word. What otherfaith can dare to depend upon preaching-upon one man's testimony to other men about Truth precious to himself? Surely thisgoes to show that the things which we believe are powerful and worthy to be considered with attentive respect.
5. Another great part of the mystery is that Christ is believed on in the world. I will acknowledge that I have often wonderedat this sentence, and have asked why Paul should write it down as a great mystery that Christ should be believed on in theworld. And yet it is a marvel of marvels! If you think how sunken the world was in vice-how darkened the understanding ofman was with ignorance-it is astounding that such men should receive so holy and so spiritual a religion as that which JesusChrist preached by His servants.
We come to you who are fond of sin and we tell you that you must give up your favorite pleasures, that cherished vices mustbe abandoned, that holiness which is distasteful to you must rule your life-and yet obnoxious as these things are to fleshand blood, when the Holy Spirit comes with the Word-you believe them and accept them joyfully. The Apostle, in his first Epistleto the Corinthians, uses the following language: "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, noreffeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners,shall inherit the kingdom of God.
"And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus,and by the Spirit of our God." Was not this extraordinary that such horrible characters should become lovers of the pure andholy Jesus? Must not a religion which can change such as these be something more than a cunningly devised fable?
In another place, we are told of all mankind, "There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They areall gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one." Is it not a wonderthat such depraved minds should perceive beauties in the Lord Jesus and yield their full confidence to Him? Indeed, to everysaved man it is the greatest miracle of all that he is himself a Believer! When I come to look at the Truths of God upon whichI rest, they are very simple, indeed, and yet around them so many doubts are cast by the evil of my own heart that I standamazed my faith retains her hold!
I believe that Christ died for my sins with much more assurance than I believe anything else. No fact in history is one-halfas certain to me, and yet, at times, it is so hard to believe it that it is clear to me that true faith is not of man butis a fruit of the Spirit. Great must be the Truth which forces itself upon the conviction of minds so dark and so benightedas ours. The Apostle winds up his summary of the mystery by reminding us that Christ was "received up into glory." This is
no small Truth, surely, that the Apostle and High Priest of our profession has not gone from us into obscurity, but is atthis day sitting upon the Throne of God!
At this hour Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, upholding all things by the word of His power. He shall shortly cometo be our Judge. He shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel and the voice of God, and allmen shall be gathered before Him to receive their final sentence. This is no small Truth, but a great one to be proclaimedwith zeal! Thus, throughout, the burden of our religion is far from trivial. "Great is the mystery of godliness."
II. I must now detain you with a few NOTES UPON THIS SUMMARY. Paul has here given us an outline of the Christian faith andwe note upon it as follows-First, it is all concerning Christ. Out of these six articles of Paul's creed, they all speak ofChrist, from which I gather that if we are to preach the Gospel faithfully. We must preach much concerning Jesus Christ. Mydear Brothers, this must be the first, the middle and end of our ministry. That man of whom it cannot be said that he preachesChrist does not behave himself aright in the house of God. He evidently is not a messenger sent from Heaven.
It is our business here to cry with John the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world." Brothersand Sisters, as it is ours to preach Christ, so it is yours to receive Him. If you have received a Gospel of which Christis not the top and bottom, throw it away! If you are resting on anything beside Christ Jesus, you are resting upon a rottenfoundation. Get off from it lest you be deceived at the last! But if Christ is All in All to you, and His work and Personare the sum and substance of your hope, then be of good cheer-where Jesus is honored, souls are safely sheltered.
I notice, in the second place, that there is not here a single word upon Sacramentarianism. Now, in these days we are perpetuallytold by men who are manifestly in earnest that the great thing is the sacrament. According to their teaching God has committedto bishops and priests the fullness of His Divine Grace which we meekly and reverently may receive at their venerable hands.We are told that in connection with a few drops of water, sprinkled by the successors of the Apostles, children become regenerate!We are assured that through the laying on of these same blessed hands, we afterwards become confirmed in the faith and assuredof our salvation!
We are told that through priestly power we are made partakers of the very body and blood of Christ, which, according to them,becomes literally present through their operation. When we come to die, they can anoint us with oil, consecrated by theirpower, and by this unction all our sins are forgiven us! The top and the bottom of the system is the priest, the priest, thepriest! A man like ourselves, and not a whit better, but 10,000 times worse for his infamous impudence in pretending to bewhat he is not-this man, dressed out in as many colors as the peacock-is the divinely appointed medium of grace!
If this is the Truth of God, Paul did not know it, for, if he had known it, he would say, "Great is the mystery of godliness:God dwells in the priests. Hasten and kiss their feet, for by their ceremonials you get salvation." Paul says nothing of thekind! He has nothing to reveal about candles, and capes, and pompous processions! All he has to say is this, "God was manifestin the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up intoglory," and that is all. How different this simple Gospel from the complex machinery of Popery and Anglicanism!
I want you to notice, still further, that in this summary there is no exhibition of mere doctrine. I believe, most firmly,in the doctrines commonly called Calvinism, and I hold them to be filled with comfort to God's people. But if any man shallsay that the preaching of these is the whole of the preaching of the Gospel, I am at issue with him. Brothers, you may preachthose doctrines as long as you like, and yet fail to preach the Gospel! And I will go further and affirm that some who haveeven denied those truths, to our great grief, have nevertheless been Gospel preachers for all that, and God has saved soulsby their ministry.
The fact is, that while the doctrines of election, final perseverance, and so on, go to make up a complete ministry, and areinvaluable in their place, yet the soul and marrow of the Gospel is not there, but is to be found in the great fact that "Godwas manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit," and so on. Preach Christ, young man, if you want to win souls! Preachall the doctrines, too, for the building up of Believers, but still the main business is to preach Jesus who came into theworld to seek and to save that which was lost. The Apostle tells us in the Corinthians that first of all he
delivered unto us as soul-saving Truth, "how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried,and that He rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures." Facts about Christ Jesus, and the promise of life throughHim-these are the faith of the Gospel!
Let me also say that I do not perceive anything in this summary tending remarkably to exalt prophecy. I would not make thisremark were it not that there is a certain troublesome sect abroad nowadays to whom the one thing needful is a perpetual speculationupon prophecy. All the bells in their steeple ring out, "Prophecy! Prophecy! Prophecy!" They plume themselves upon an expectedsecret rapture, and I know not what vain imaginings beside! Where prophecy is preached in connection with their shibboleth,there the Gospel is preached, but all ministers beside their own, however honored by God, are railed at by them as part ofBabylon against whom men are to be warned.
They, indeed, are wise men, and can afford superciliously to look down upon their fellow Christians as the slaves of sectand system, being, I venture to say, far more sectarian than the worst of us, and more bigoted to their system than Romaniststhemselves! My dear Friends, if you have any time to spare and cannot find any practical work for Jesus, study the dark placesof prophecy, but do not read modern prophetical works, for that is a sheer waste of time and nothing better. Hold off as youwould from a serpent the idea that the study or preaching of prophecy is the Gospel, for the belief that it is so is mischievousbeyond conception.
The Gospel which is to be vehemently declared is this-"God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels,preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." So long as London is reeking with sin, andmillions are going down to Hell, let us leave others to prophecy. Let us go with anxious hearts to seek after souls and seeif we cannot, by the Spirit's power, win sinners from going down into the pit.
You will, doubtless, have observed that this summary of the Gospel is very simple. Whenever you meet with teaching which iscloudy and complicated, you may generally conclude that it is not the Gospel of your salvation, for the Truth of Christ isso plain that he who runs may read, and the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err. Perhaps some of you have been thinkingthat conversion and salvation are dark and mysterious things, and that you have to pass through many singular operations andfeelings in order to be saved. Now, Beloved, the whole of our faith lies in a nutshell-he that believes in Jesus Christ theIncarnate God, is saved. These few Truths of God, if grasped by the mind, received and trusted in by the heart, will saveyou.
It is at the Cross that salvation must be found. We have not written over our religion, "Mystery, mystery, mother of harlots,"that is the sign of Babylon. But we have this to tell you, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. He that believesnot shall be damned." And the things which you have to believe are just these simplicities-Jesus the Son of God has come intothis world as Man to save men. He has bled and died. He is proclaimed and preached. He is to be received and believed in.He has gone up to Glory to prepare a place for them that trust Him-and that is all!
III. THE INFERENCES I draw from this are just these. If this is a great Gospel, then how important it is for us to receiveit! If the Gospel were a laborious system of ethics there are many in this house who never could be saved, for they couldnot understand it. But since it is so simple, why do men refuse it? "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, ofwhom I am chief." O will you not lay hold upon that Truth of God? I do pray the Spirit of God to take your minds off all philosophiesand mysteries that you may come to Jesus only!
Trust in Christ and you are saved! Receive this simple truth! God calls it great. Angels think it great. The Holy Spirit attestsit to be great. We who preach it feel it to be great. They who receive it acknowledge it to be great. Christ in Glory bearswitness that it is great! O accept this great salvation! May the Spirit lead you to believe in the great Savior of great sinners!
Again, if it is so great, how important it is for us to spread it! It does not require us to go to college in order to tellof Jesus-we can, each in our sphere, publish His fame abroad. If this simple Truth is the message of God to perishing sinners,then in the name of common humanity, and above all, in the name of the love of Christ, let us deliver it! How this text oughtto encourage us to spread the Gospel! When I am preaching the Gospel, many may say, "Oh, he is only telling us commonplaceTruth." Just so, I know that. And yet I feel within myself as if I were wheeling up God's great cannon which will yet blowthe gates of Hell to pieces! What? None of the venerable mysteries of Rome? What? None of the new philosophical discoveries?None of the imposing ceremonies? No, Brothers and Sisters, not one of them-they are all wooden guns, shams and counterfeits-andif ever they are fired off they will go to shivers.
This plain Truth of God, that "God was made flesh and dwelt among us," is God's great battering ram against which nothingcan stand! Never lose heart in the Gospel, my Brothers, but think you hear the Apostle calling across the ages, "Great isthe mystery of godliness." Look for nothing greater, the Gospel is great enough! Keep to it. Never think you have told menenough times about it. As Napoleon told his warriors at the pyramids, "A thousand ages look down upon you!" Bleeding martyrs,from their graves, call to you to be faithful. Confessors who ascended to Heaven in fiery chariots implore you to be steadfast.Hold fast that you have received. Attempt not to mend the Truth! Venture not to shape it according to the fancy of the times,but proclaim it in all its native purity.
By this hammer the gods of Rome and Greece were dashed to shivers. By this lever the world was turned upside down! It is thisGospel which has brought glory to God, filled Heaven with redeemed souls, and made Hell to tremble in all its palaces of flame.Bind it about your heart and defy the hosts of Rome or Hell to unloose its folds! Wrap it about your loins in death and holdit as a standard in both your hands in life. This simple Truth of God, that "Jesus Christ has come to seek and to save thatwhich is lost," and that, "whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life," must be your jewels, yourtreasure, your life!