Sermon 888. The Silken Fetter
Delivered on Sunday Morning, AUGUST 29, 1869, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Fear the Lord and His goodness."- Hosea 3:5.
THE whole verse runs thus: "Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God and David their king;and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days." A brief word may suffice upon the prophecy. I think no readerof Holy Scripture can doubt but that the seed of Abraham, however long they may be in blindness, will at the last obey theMessiah, Jesus, the Son of David, and in those days the goodness of God to them will be so extraordinary that they shall fearand wonder at it. Constrained by gratitude, they will be numbered among the most earnest servants of the Lord. May the Lordhasten so blessed a consummation in His own time.
O that the happy day would dawn, when Israel's sons shall acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, to be the Messiahthat was promised of old! The expression, "Fear the Lord and His goodness," much impressed me and I have therefore venturedto take it from its connection that we may meditate upon it. Is it so, that there are powerful motives and active causes forfear not only in God Himself, but also in His goodness? Alas, dear Friends, too many who enjoy Divine blessings are far enoughfrom fearing Him! His goodness, from the very commonness and continuity of it, casts them into a self-complacent slumber inwhich they dream that they will continue in prosperity forever-but they spend not even a single thought on Him from whom allgoodness flows.
Alas, another class of persons are even excited by the goodness of God to a height of pride and arrogance. If Pharaoh is fixedon a powerful throne. If his dominions are in peace. If the Nile causes Egypt to be fat with harvest, the proud monarch defiantlydemands, "Who is Jehovah that I should obey His voice?" If the hosts of Sennacherib are mighty in battle and if God givesprosperity to his kingdom, what will Sennacherib do but wax exceedingly haughty against God, the God of Israel and laugh Hispeople to scorn? Many a man has put his trust in his riches and has presumed against the Most High. Because he has enjoyedlong years of success, he believes that no evil can befall him, and his pride towers aloft, even to the very heavens!
Alas, even in those men who are right-hearted, in whom Divine Grace reigns, it has too often happened that the goodness ofGod has not worked in them a corresponding gracious result. Hezekiah is endowed with riches and displays them with ostentatiouspride instead of honoring his God in the presence of the ambassadors that came from far. He sought only to give them a highidea of himself and thus by the pride of his heart he brought upon himself a stern rebuke from his Lord. Asa prospered, butwhen he was lifted up in outward circumstances, he became also lifted up in heart and departed from the Most High. Even goodmen cannot always carry a full cup without some spilling. Even those whose hearts are right have not always found their headssteady enough to stand with safety upon the pinnacles of prosperity and honor.
Yet, my Brethren, though these things occur as the result of the goodness of God, in spite of the evil of our hearts, yetthe true and right effect of goodness upon us ought to be to make us fear God. Not to lift us up, but to keep us down. Notto make our blood hot with presumption, but to cool and calm it with a grateful jealousy-not unduly to exhilarate us untilwe become profanely defiant-but to sober us with conscious responsibility till we humbly sit with gratitude at the feet ofHim from whom our good things have proceeded.
This, then, is to be the drift of this morning's discourse-the right and proper result of the goodness of God upon our hearts.I shall address myself, first of all, to God's people and secondly to such as are yet unreconciled to Him.
I. First, TO GOD'S PEOPLE. It is yours, Beloved, to fear the Lord and His goodness. You have received of God's goodness intwo ways-the first and the higher is His spiritual goodness to you with regard to your immortal nature and
your eternal concerns. The second form of goodness in which God has been very lavish to some now present is the Providentialbounty of God towards you as a pilgrim in this present world.
Let us take the first and dwell upon it and survey the spiritual goodness of God to you, His people, for a moment. It wasno small goodness which chose you at the first, when there was no more in you than in others whom God beheld in the same glassof His purposes. He might have passed you by as He has passed by tens of thousands of others, but He chose you because Hewill have mercy on whom He will have mercy and He determined that you should be the vessels of mercy to be filled with HisGrace. It was no slight goodness which ordained a Covenant on your behalf with Christ Jesus, a Covenant ordered in all thingsand sure, which is, I hope, to you today all your salvation and all your desire, even if your house is not so with God asyou could wish.
It was no slight goodness which fulfilled that Covenant, by the gift of the Only Begotten. My words, when applied to sucha topic, seems to me to be threadbare and miserable things, too poor to set forth the loving kindness manifest in our IncarnateGod dwelling among men. In our holy Savior working out a perfect righteousness. And above all, in our bleeding Redeemer makingexpiation for innumerable sins by the giving up of Himself to death. Here are heights of goodness which the deer's foot ofimagination shall never scale. Here are depths of mercy which the plummet of most profound reasoning can never fathom-whatdo you not owe unto Him who loved you and redeemed you unto God by His blood?
Think again of the goodness of God to you when you were as yet unconverted-what longsuffering-what tenderness! When you weredetermined to perish, He was determined to save. When you rejected His offers of mercy, He did not reject you. He would nottake your denial for a reply, but He persevered with the sweet solicitations of His Gospel and with the silent influencesof His Holy Spirit, until at last He made you willing in the day of His power and brought you to that Cross to find your Hopehanging there. And you were filled with joy and peace as you looked up to Jesus and rested in Him. Months and years have glidedaway since then, but all along life's checkered way, Divine goodness has continually followed you.
My dear Brothers and Sisters, I need not be choice in my language in order to excite gratitude in you. If you will but nowturn over the pages of your diary, one by one, and think of what God has done for you since that dear hour when He broughtyou to His feet and placed you among His children. Why, your bread has been given to you spiritually and your waters havebeen sure. You have been preserved from temptations and preserved in temptations and brought out of temptations! You havebeen led first into one Truth of God and then into another. You have been conducted, step by step, in the pathway of experience.Little by little, as you have been able to bear it, He has revealed Himself to you. You have been kept until this day by Hispower-you have been comforted unto this day by His Presence-you are being taught every day by His Spirit and you are beingmade meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
Oh, the goodness of God to you! If you do not feel it, I desire to be, for my own part, overwhelmed with thankfulness, soas to say in my own soul, "Oh, the goodness of God to me in spiritual matters! Oh, His goodness to an unworthy one who continuesstill unworthy! Oh, His goodness in watering the plant that bears so little fruit! Oh, His goodness in ministering comfortto one so ready to create distresses by foolish fears! Oh, His amazing goodness in bearing in His teaching with one so proneto forget and so slow to understand." Brethren, we cannot mention even the small dust of our great Father's mercies! He hasoutdone all that we have asked or even thought in what He has revealed to us. He has dealt well with His servants accordingto His Word.
Now, all this goodness, which I would gladly recall to your remembrance should constrain you to fear the Lord. To fear theLord and His goodness-how is this to be done? First, there should be a fear in your souls of admiration to think that everthe infinite God should deal graciously with you-that He who made the heavens and the earth should stoop from His loftinessdown to you. That you, being sinful and having therefore provoked Him and angered His sense of purity-that He should stoopto you in your defilement and loathsomeness and should reveal His Son in you! The wonder grows as we think not merely thatHe should give mercy, but such mercy! Not merely Divine Grace, but such boundless Grace, such unsearchable goodness and lovingkindness!
A truly enlightened mind is bewildered amid the multitude of the Lord's favors and bowed down with sacred awe. The fear thathas torment, love has cast out-but the fear which must ever suffuse a spirit when it stands on the brink of the boundlessand gazes into the infinite-such a devout and wondering fear we feel when we behold the everlasting love
of God! I remember well being taken one day to see a gorgeous palace at Venice where every piece of furniture was made withmost exquisite taste and of the richest material. Where statues and pictures of enormous price abounded on all hands and thefloor of each room was paved with mosaics of marvelous art and extraordinary value. As I was shown from room to room and allowedto roam amid the treasures by its courteous owner, I felt a considerable timidity. I was afraid to sit down anywhere, nordid I hardly dare to put down my foot, or rest my hand to lean. Everything seemed to be too good for ordinary mortals likemyself.
But when one is introduced into the gorgeous palace of infinite goodness, costlier and fairer by far, one gazes wonderinglywith reverential awe at the matchless vision! "How excellent is Your loving kindness, O God!" I am not worthy of the leastof all Your benefits. Oh, the depths of the love and goodness of the Lord! Saints who have tasted that the Lord is graciousshould fear Him for His goodness with the worshipful fear of adoration. Everything which comes to us from Divine Love shouldbow us to our knee. Mercies should be the unhewn stones of which we should build an altar to our God. Even the sterner attributesof God compel devotion in right minds much more than the gentle glories.
Survey the nightly Heaven and feel how true it is, "An undevout astronomer is mad." Galen, the physician, when studying themarvelous fabric of the human body, declared that he who saw not there the handiwork of God must be devoid of reason. Whenone reviews the goodness of God the same feeling is produced-but it is more melting, personal, tender and practical. In theworks of creation we behold grandeur and goodness, but in the Grace that gave to man a Savior, you behold all the attributesof God in a soft subdued splendor which charms the soul to a more loving worship than Nature alone can suggest.
From Nature up to Nature's God is well, but from Grace to the God of Grace is the more sure and easy way. I have never worshipped,even in the presence of Mont Blanc, or amid the crash of thunder, as I have at the foot of the Cross. A sense of goodnesscreates a better worshipper than a sense of the sublime. In our best seasons the most excellent sublimities of Nature becometoo little for us-they dwarf rather than magnify our conceptions of God. The day in which I saw most of creation's grandeurwas spent upon the Wengern Alps. My heart was near her God and all around was majestic. The dread mountains like pyramidsof ice. The clouds like fleecy wool. I saw an avalanche and heard the thunder of its fall. I marked the dashing waterfallsleaping into the Yale of Lauterbrunnen beneath our feet, but my heart felt that creation was too scant a mirror to image allher God-His face was more terrible than the storm, His robes more pure than the virgin snow-his voice far louder than thethunder, His love far higher than the everlasting hills. I took out my pocketbook and wrote these lines-
"Yon Alps, who lift their heads above the clouds,
And hold familiar converse with the stars,
Are dust, at which the balance trembles not,
Compared with His Divine immensity.
The snow-crowned summits fail to set Him forth
Who dwells in Eternity and bears
Alone the name of High and Lofty One.
Depths unfathomed are too shallow to express
The wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord.
The mirror of the creatures has no space
To bear the image of the Infinite.
'Tis true the Lord has fairly writ His name,
And set His seal upon creation's brow,
But as the skillful potter much excels
The vessel which he fashions on the wheel,
E'en so, but in proportion greater far,
Jeho vah's self transcends His noblest works.
Earth's ponderous wheels would break, her axles snap,
If freighted with the load of Deity-
Space is too narrow for the Eternal's rest,
And time too short a footstool for His Throne.
E'en avalanche and thunder lack a voice
To utter the full volume of His praise. How then can I declare Him? Where are words
With which my glowing tongue may speak His name? Silent I bow and humbly I adore." But in musing upon the Person of JesusChrist and the plan of salvation, a very different result has been experienced. I have been prostrate under the weight ofDeity there revealed and ready to die amid the splendor there so graciously unveiled to my soul in rapt communion. Not fearwhich comes of bondage, but that which is borne of gratitude and bliss has bowed me before the mercy-throne with awful wonderat Divine goodness!
Further, the goodness of God to us should suggest aspiration as well as adoration. If He has treated us so as never any otherdid. If He has dealt with us in tenderness surpassing thought, then will we serve Him if He will but condescend to acceptthe sacrifice. There was never such a God as He. Oh, what an honor to be His servants! With tears of joy bedewing our eyes,we ask, "My God, may we be permitted to serve You? Is there anything of service or of suffering which You can condescend toallot to such as we are? Your goodness constrains us with Your fear-we are bound by it to be Yours forever."
Brethren, the greatness of God's goodness should suggest to us great service. The continuance of that goodness should moveus to persevere in honoring Him. The disinterestedness of the love of God should make us ready for any self-denials. And aboveall, the singularity and specialty of His goodness towards His elect should determine us to be singular and remarkable inour consecration to His cause. Each Believer is so remarkably a debtor to his Lord that he should not be content to rendermere ordinary tribute, but should be panting and sighing that he may attain to eminence in holy labor. He owes more than others-Heshould render a worthier return.
Oh, if the goodness of God would inspire but one here today to make a full surrender of his whole life to Jesus' love, whata gain would this be to the Church! If some young man whom God has favored with special mercy would say, "Here am I, indulgedas I have been with God's goodness I will press into the front rank of self-abnegation. I will give myself up, spirit, souland body, to the Master's service in foreign lands," what might he not achieve! Come, you gallant of heart, you generous ofspirit-you owe a boundless debt to Him-it is but your reasonable service that you give Him your all! Come, lay your handsupon His altar horns and dedicate yourselves this day as a whole burnt-offering unto Christ! This is that fear of God andHis goodness which every saint should covet.
We should also fear the Lord and His goodness in the sense of affection-an affection combined with the fears peculiar to holyjealousy. Has the Lord done so much for us? Then how we ought to tremble lest we should grieve so kind a God! If you havea master for whom you do not care because he is ungenerous or tyrannical, you will be little careful to please him, exceptso far as your sense of duty might demand. But when you are serving a kind and generous person who has been your benefactorfrom your youth up, you would not, for all the world, vex him either by negligence or fault. No father commands the obedienceof his children like the parent whose affection to his children has been most manifest and undoubted. Fathers who provoketheir children to anger must not wonder if they find them discouraged in their reverence.
Our gracious God wins the deepest affection of His people and they become jealous lest by anything done or undone they shouldgrieve His Holy Spirit. Oh, that blessed, holy fear, that sacred jealousy of sin! I wish we all had more of it. We had, Ifear, more of it at our first conversion, but alas, many professors have little of it now. They are too familiar with theworld. They have lost their sensibility of sin. They are no longer quick as the apple of an eye-they allow sins which horrifiedthem once. God save us from getting a film over our consciences by slow degrees. He that serves God serves One who is veryjealous. Remember, Beloved, there are some among us here who have been permitted to enjoy communion with Christ in a veryremarkable degree. You have been like John with his head on Christ's bosom, taken into the innermost chamber of Divine affection.
Now, none can grieve God so soon as you can! There are none that must pick their steps more carefully than you! A common subjectwould be allowed by a monarch to do 50 things which one of his familiars must not do. Are you a favorite of the King? It isan awful thing to be beloved of Heaven-it is as dread as it is glorious-and it calls for great care and deep anxiety. Maythe Lord grant that you may walk humbly before Him with that fear of His goodness which dreads lest for a single moment Godshould be provoked by your temper, your thoughts, words, or deeds.
We must fear Him again-for I have a sevenfold fear to describe and must therefore be brief upon each-with humiliation. Thegoodness of God to us, if it finds us in a healthy state, will always make us think less of ourselves. We shall be like Peter'sboat, which when empty floated high, but which when full began to sink. God's great mercy to us will make us sit down withDavid, overwhelmed with astonishment and say, "Why has this come to me? What am I and what is my father's house?" Reckon thatyour soul is right with God if His mercy humbles you. But if it puffs you up, there is some base thing within your heart thatmust be purged away.
Again, the goodness of God ought to make us fear Him with a sacred anxiety, an anxiety of a double character. Am I reallyHis? This great salvation which I hope I have received-have I really received it, or is my experience mere fancy? I see beforeme a vast estate, is it mine, or do I misread the title-deeds? Does it belong to some other, or actually to me? The higherthoughts you have of the Grace of God in the Gospel, the more carefully should you examine yourselves whether you are in thefaith-the more anxious should you be to go every day to the Cross to make your calling and election sure by looking into thosefive wounds again and counting once more the purple drops and crying with holy faith, "Thus my sins are washed away." Oh,if you had but a small Heaven and a God of little mercies, you might play fast and loose with them-but with a God who brimswith kindness and a Heaven that is flooded with glory, oh, be anxious that there is no question in dispute as to whether youare Christ's or not!
Our second anxiety should always be this, "If I am, indeed, His and I have such goodness bestowed on me, am I rendering toHim what He may expect?" Beloved, you are God's vineyard. He has built a hedge about you. He has watered you and planted inyour soul the choicest vine of the true spiritual life-but see how little fruit you have yielded to Him in return! He looksfor clusters and He finds but gleanings! You give harbor to the wild boar of the wood, but you find little room for the Lordof the vineyard. He looks at your branches and lo, they are covered with the moss of carelessness and at your root the groundis overrun with evil weeds of pride and self-seeking. What more could He do than He has done for you? What more of goodnesscould He show you? Oh, fear and tremble lest you give Him nothing where He has given so much, rendering no interest on yourtalents, no return for the outlay of His mercy.
Once again, there is another fear, We should fear the Lord and His goodness with the fear of resignation. You remember Job,noble Job? He was once very rich and increased in goods. God had been very good to him for many years, both in spiritualsand temporals and Job loved his God because of His goodness. This love he proved to be genuine, for when the cattle and thecamels and what was worse, his children and his health were all gone, he said, "What? Shall we receive good at the hand ofGod, and shall we not receive evil?" "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."
In the hour of the gladness of your spirit, you ought to say within yourself, "Ah, after He has pardoned me, made me His childand promised me that I shall be with Him in Heaven forever, He may do what He wills with me. Lord, here am I, do what seemsgood in Your sight. By Your Spirit's help, I will not complain though the bone comes through the skin through long tossingon the bed of sickness. Since You have delivered me from Hell, what is sickness that I should complain of it? If the windwhistles through my scanty rags and my table is bare and my house unfurnished-if I have a Christ on earth and a Christ inHeaven to be my portion-then I dare not murmur."
Now this is the true fear of God, and if we could always keep in it, how happy should we be! If we were so satisfied thatGod is good, that we would not believe He could do us an unkind turn, so overjoyed with His spiritual goodness that all elseappeared mere dirt and dross, we should honor our Lord more and be far more blessed ourselves. Thus I have spoken at lengthupon fearing the Lord and His goodness, taking it as spiritual goodness. Now, for a few minutes, I wish to address myselfto Believers in Christ who possess much of the goodness of God in Providential matters. All the saints are not poor. Lazarusis a child of God on the dunghill, but Joseph of Arimathea is no less beloved though he has great riches. Many were convertedto God from the poorest classes in the Apostles' days, but the Ethiopian eunuch, who had great possessions, was none the lessa genuine disciple.
Now, there are some of you whom God has always prospered in your business. You have a healthy family growing up around you,while you enjoy excellent bodily health-indeed, you have the comforts of this life in profusion. I beseech you above othersto fear the Lord for all this goodness. The tendency of prosperity is too often injurious. It is much harder to bear thanadversity. As the refining pot to silver and the furnace to gold, so is prosperity to a Christian man.
Many a man will pass through trouble and praise God under it, who, when he is tried with no trouble, will forget his God,decline in Grace and grow almost a worldling.
Believe me, there is no trial so great as no trial, even as an old Divine used to say that there was no devil so bad as nodevil. There is no state in which a man is in such great danger as when he can see no danger-
"More the treacherous calm I dread Than tempest howling overhead." Let me put these few thoughts to you, you who are blessedwith temporal goodness. Fear God much more than ever before, lest these temporals should become your God. Money is comparedin Scripture to thick clay, because it sticks. And what is more, it sucks a man into itself. Many a man sinks in wealth likea horse in a bog-his possessions suck him under. While your earthly goods are kept under foot, they will do you no hurt, butwhen they rise as high as your heart, they have begun to bury you alive. While a man carries money in his purse, it is well,especially if the rings are not too tight-but when he carries it in his heart, it is bad, be he who he may-his gold shalleat as does a canker and work him infinite mischief.
Child of God, need I tell you this? You know better than to trust in uncertain riches. Well, then, if you worship the goldencalf, you will be guilty, indeed. Oh, be anxious to fear your God and not to be an idolater! Fear Him more than you ever didat any time of your life before, and in proportion to your prosperity let the depth of your godliness increase. Fear God andHis goodness, again, lest you should undervalue your responsibilities. What you have is none of yours. As far as your fellowmen are concerned, your possessions are your own, but as far as your God is concerned you have nothing. You are but a steward-andis it the part of an honest steward to be constantly amassing for himself and refusing his master his due?
Why, if a steward should say, when he pays his master a certain part of his profits, "I have been generous and have givenmy master so much," is he not a rogue to talk so? All that he makes in a year, since he is but a steward, belongs to his masterand it is not generosity in his case to render it up! O Believers, all that you have belongs to Him who bought you with Hisblood! I pray you ask for Divine Grace that you may not accumulate sin as you increase your wealth! There is awful sin restingsomewhere in the Church. I know some Christians who are giving to God's cause beyond their means and others fully up to theirproportion. And yet there are souls perishing by tens of thousands because they have not the Gospel and they might hear theGospel within a week if we had the pecuniary means of sending it to them. We have the men waiting, but not the means to supportthem.
There are heathen nations in darkness ready to receive the Gospel-Providence has opened the door-but there is a lack of fundsfor entering the door. Now, I believe there is no lack of funds whatever among the whole body of professors, but the goldgets into the hands of certain pretenders to religion who are base hypocrites, since they profess to be wholly Christ's, buttheir actions belie them. They do no more than others, and what is done is rather to get their names in the subscription liststhan with an eye to God's Glory. It is a sad thing it should be so, for we ought never to give to receive honor of man, butout of love to God and God alone. The more you have, the more responsibility you have! Get Grace, then, to know and feel yourresponsibility and ask for more Grace as your talents increase, that you may be honest with your God.
Thirdly, fear God and His goodness, lest He turn His hand and make you poor. How soon can He dry the springs and send a droughtupon you! He can send seven years of famine to eat up all the years of plenty. If He should do so to you who serve Him somiserably, how you will wish that you had served Him when you had the opportunity! God never leaves His people, but He oftenchastises them. And I do not doubt that many a man is brought down in the world because God tried him in other circumstances,but he was not faithful. "Ah," says the Master, "he is not a good steward and I will not trust him any more." I should notwonder but that many of you might have been rich, but when in prosperity you did not give in proportion and the Lord said,"I will not put My talents out to so bad a servant."
Is it not often so, that when Christian men have given away their wealth in shovelfuls, God has given it back to them in wagonloads? "There was a man," said Bunyan, "and some did count him mad. The more he gave away the more he had." Let all wealthyChristians remember that He who gives them prosperity today may give them adversity tomorrow and therefore with holy fearlet them adore their God while they have the opportunity of serving Him. You should fear
the Lord now, especially while you have your children about you and you are in health, because you will have to leave allthese things very soon. They may leave you, but certainly you will have to leave them.
Oh, let loose of worldly comforts! Enjoy them as though you had them not. Take them and say as you receive them, "These arebut passing, fleeting things." Embrace not such deceptive clouds, look not on these as your rest, but as slight refreshmentson the way to your eternal Home. Beloved, fear God and His goodness because He is better than all His gifts of Providence.Let Him give you a fair house and a goodly estate. Let Him plant you among the rich and the noble. Let Him bestow on you goodhealth and cheerful spirits. Let Him give you a numerous and happy family. Let Him cause His candle to shine upon you-stillHe is better than all this!
All these put together could not fill a hungry soul. God alone can satisfy a true heart. You have Him, and having Him youhave more than all the rest can contribute to you! Therefore, fear Him and fear His goodness. This is a lesson for the prosperouspeople of God to learn.
II. May the Holy Spirit help us to say a few solemn words to SUCH AS ARE NOT GOD'S PEOPLE, but remain enemies to God, carelessand yet prosperous. God has been very good to you. He has spared your lives, that is something. You might to have been inHell, you ought to have been there. If Justice had had its due you would have been there. You have oftentimes provoked God.You could not bear to be teased 10 minutes and yet you have vexed your God these 40 years with your sins, your negligence,your despising of His Sabbaths, of His Word, of His Christ. You have put your finger, as it were, into the very eye of Godin speaking ill of His Gospel-perhaps in ridiculing those Truths in which His honor is most concerned. And yet you have beenspared!
You have not only been spared, but have been surrounded with the comforts of this life. I speak to many here who are not amongthe poorest and the neediest-you have received many comforts. In fact, you have all that heart could wish except the one thingnecessary. God has dealt very graciously with you, indeed. Now hear a message from God to you! Will you not fear Him and serveHim out of gratitude? Is it not unjust to receive so much and to give nothing in return, no love, no thanks, no service? Ifyou make a tool you make it for your own use and expect some benefit from it. God has made you for His own Glory and yet Hehas had no Glory out of you. If you keep any animal on your farm you expect service and yet God has kept you and you haverendered Him no return. Do you not feel ashamed that so good a God should be so ill repaid?
I know you have so much manliness about you that you would feel very hurt if any friend who had rendered you a kindness shouldaccuse you of being ungrateful. You have always felt through life that ingratitude is one of the vilest of vices and thatit lowers him below a brute, since the brute has a kindness for those that do it a kindness. The dog will fawn in return ifyou fondle it. The ox knows its owner and "the ass its master's crib." And would you despise yourself to be worse than they?And yet you are so if you fear not God who has treated you so well. Let me ask you, why will you not serve Him? Is there anythingthat you can set off against His kindness to you? Do you suspect Him of any sinister motive? If so, your gratitude might bewithheld. Do you suppose that Divine goodness does not lay you under any obligation? Surely you cannot be so foolish!
Well, then, if, indeed, God has for long years of remarkable goodness had from you no recompense but neglect, shall it alwaysbe so? Is there not an invincible power in tenderness? The old fable tells us of the sun and the wind which strove to seewhich could first remove the traveler's cloak. The wind blustered, but the traveler only wrapped his cloak more tightly abouthim. But when the sun shone warm and soft upon his head, the traveler speedily cast off his cloak. If God had dealt roughlywith you, I should not have wondered if you had said, "I will not serve Him." But after His being so kind to you-off withthat cloak of indifference and be His servant! Will not the warmth of God's love thaw your soul? The chilling frost of threatsmight have hardened you into a rock of ice, but this sunshine of prosperity which the Lord has given you-will it not meltyou-will it not bring you to Jesus? God grant that it may be so with many in this house, now and evermore.
Ought you not also, Brethren, to fear God out of hope? If He has dealt so exceedingly well with you in temporals, though youhave not feared Him, have you not every reason to expect that He will do as well for you in spirituals? You call at a friend'shouse-you are riding on horseback. He takes your horse into the stable and is remarkably attentive to it-the creature is wellgroomed, well housed, well fed. You are not at all afraid that you will be shut out-there is surely a warm place in the parlorfor the rider where the horse is so well attended to in the stable. Now, your body, which
I might liken to the horse, has had its temporal prosperity in abundance. Surely the Lord will take care of your soul if youseek His face!
Let your prayer be, "My God, my Father, be my Guide. Since You have dealt so well with me in these external matters, giveme Grace within my heart, give me the true riches, give me to love Your Son and trust in Him to be forever Your child. Youhave given me the nether springs, give me to drink of the upper springs. I have the blessings which You give to the ungodly,O give me the blessings of the godly, the peculiar heritage of Your saints!" O Holy Spirit, constrain many thus to hope andpray!
Should you not, again, fear the Lord and His goodness out of great admiration? For how well, how kindly, how strangely wellhas He dealt with you! You could not have been patient with anyone who had plagued you such a length of time and yet God hasbeen so with you! I have sometimes thought, as I have read the story of the dying Savior, that even if Jesus Christ had neverlived and died for me, if I had no part in His precious blood, I must still love Him because of His love to other people.He is so good and so kind, that were I lost, myself, I must admire the loving Savior. Do you not admire what you have seenof God's kindness to you? And do not you feel that such a God and such a Christ should have your heart?
Lastly, let me say you may well fear God out of apprehension concerning His goodness, for the goodness which He now rendersto you will pass away before long. All the temporal mercy of God is but like a land-flood-but the surface water. You havenot touched the great springs which cannot be dried up. The great deeps belong only to Believers. Theirs is the fountain ofJacob which never can be exhausted. Your comforts are but the surface waters and will be gone. What will you do, then, whenyou have only the goodness of God to think of to leave a bitterness upon the memory because you loved not God for His kindnesswhen you had it?
Remember, if God's kindnesses do not bring you to repentance, He will deal with you in another way. The axe of the Roman lictorswas bound up in a bundle of rods and the bundle was tied together with knotted cord-and the reason was this-when the judgeexamined the prisoner, then the lictors began to undo the cords, knot by knot, waiting to see if there was any hope that theprisoner might escape. They waited to see if there was any repentance that might permit the scourging to be put away. If not,when the cords were unbound, then the rods were used and if the culprit turned out to be a greater offender-still, then camethe axe-but only as a last resource.
So the Lord, up to now, has treated you with great mercy. He has not untied the knots yet, but the angel of Justice is beginningto untie them. There is trouble in store for you except you turn and repent! There will come first one rod- sickness to thechild. Then another-loss in business, sickness to yourself, death to your wife-more rods. I have seen this in observing God'shand in many. And if all the rods bring you not to repentance, then the axe remains to be used last. Woe to that man whomneither goodness nor severity can move-whom neither loving kindness could draw, nor justice drive! For such a man there remainsnothing but to be cast away forever from God whom he would not love, from Christ whom he would not accept, from mercy whichhe despised, from love which he rejected. O let it not be so with you!
I feel this morning as if my tongue were tied, comparatively, contrasted with the way in which I want to speak to you youngpeople who at present live in much gaiety and pleasure. It would be such a noble thing, such a just thing, such a fittingthing, if in the heyday of your joy you would come to Jesus because God's mercies draw you. O say in your hearts, "My Lord,You have shone on me and I, like the flower, will open to You and pour out the love of my heart like sweet perfume. You havekept me from poverty and from sickness. You have preserved me from many of the ills of life-here, then, Your lamb for whomYou have tempered the wind, comes to You and says-'Good Shepherd, carry me in Your bosom. Mark me with the red mark of Yourblood. Take me into Your flock.'-
'Dissolved by Your goodness, I fall to the ground, And weep to the praise of the mercy I've found.'"
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE THE SERMON-Psalm 103.