Sermon 2703. The Preservation of Christians in the World
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, DECEMBER 2D, 1900.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT NEW PARK STREET CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK, ON A THURSDAY EVENING, IN THE YEAR 1855.
"I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil." John 17:15.
THE text, as we observed on a former occasion, [Sermon #47, Volume 1-CHRIST'S PRAYER FOR HIS PEOPLE contains two prayers-anegative prayer and a positive prayer. First, there is the negative prayer-"I pray not that You should take them out of theworld." There are wise ends to be observed by their remaining here. It will ultimately increase their happiness in Heaven.It will give glory to God. It shall be the means of the conversion of others-therefore, "I pray not that you should take themout of the world," but I do pray-and here comes the positive prayer-"that, while they are in it, 'you should keep them fromthe evil.'"
I. Let us first, then, CONSIDER THE EVIL FROM WHICH CHRIST PRAYS THAT HIS PEOPLE MAY BE KEPT.
We have no hesitation in declaring that the only evil here intended is the evil of sin. It may be true that Jesus Christ pleadswith His Father to preserve us from some of the direful afflictions which might be too much for our mortal frame to endure.It may be that, sometimes, the blows and attacks of the enemy are warded off by the arm of the intercession of Jesus. It maybe that the great aegis of Almighty God is often held over our heads in matters of Providence to keep us from evil when wewalk, and to guard us lest we dash our feet against a stone. We feel persuaded, however, that neither of these things is hereintended, but that, "the evil," so continually spoken of in Scripture, the evil pre-eminently here meant, is sin and nothingelse. "I pray that you should keep them from the evil."
Afflictions are often beneficial, therefore Christ does not plead that we should be kept entirely from this kind of evil.Trial brings us to His feet and gives new life to prayer, therefore Christ has not asked that this bittersweet might not begiven to us. Death itself, which seems an evil, is a good thing for Believers, so Christ does not ask that we may not die.The petition He puts up here for His people is, "I pray that You should keep them from the evil"-the special evil, the particular,the deadly evil of sin.
Let us here remark that sin is an unqualified evil I t is the evil without the mitigation of any good in it. In sin therecan be no good-it is evil, only evil and that continually. The lowest form of sin is "the evil." The highest is "the evil"more fully developed. Sin in an angel was "the evil," for it turned him into a devil. Sin in Eden was "the evil," for it pluckedup the fair trees by the roots and blasted all their fruits-and sent Adam out to till the ground from where he was taken.Sin is always an evil-it brings no profit to anyone. It shall not profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and losehis own soul, and in especially the Christian it is evil, nothing but evil. Sin can never benefit him, it is an evil, onlyan evil, a powerful evil and a dreadful evil-it is unmitigated evil-it is "the evil."
It is true, out of evil God brings good. Sometimes the very sins of God's people are overruled so as to preserve them fromsome greater sin, but that does not destroy "the evil." If God sends out bears from the woods to execute his commission, andthey slay the mocking children, they are still bears. And if sin is sometimes made to be the means of honoring God, yet sinis sin, notwithstanding any purpose that God may accomplish by it. And no false preaching can ever make us
believe any doctrine which would take away the deadly character which by right belongs to sin. It is always hurtful and dangerous.
The Christian who trusts that, by any one sin, he may keep himself out of difficulty, or get himself out of difficulty, makesa terrible mistake. This cannot bring you good. "But," you say, "I am in real difficulties. My creditors are pressing me,what shall I do? If I could draw that accommodation bill, or forge that note, there might be some good in it." There cannotbe any good in it! Sin is evil! It is "the evil." It is "the evil" without a single particle of goodness. It is "the evil"without any mitigation whatever. "Oh," says another, "if I were to do such-and-such a thing-it is but a little evil-I shouldthen prosper in business! And then I could dedicate myself to God and serve Him better! And so, out of the evil, I could bringa good. The end would justify the means." No! If the means are bad, they are bad. If the means are evil, they are evil. Sinis sin and nothing but sin-and however there may, sometimes, appear to be temporary advantages in it-it is still evil, andonly evil. What though the noxious draught may sometimes stimulate the man and seem to make him mightier, it really weakenshim-and it will ultimately destroy him. A man may fancy sin to be good for a time. It may patch him up in respectability andmake him stand a little more favorably in the eyes of worldlings, but the house repaired with such rotten material as thatshall fall, notwithstanding all that is done to prop it up! All sin is unmitigated evil, and the only name we will give toit is, "evil." Let the monster plead as it may and ask us to call it good, we charge it with having slain our Lord-and wecondemn it as an evil to be hated and avoided. A serpent may have beauteous blue hues upon his scales, but he is a deadlything and is to be crushed to the earth.
Next, we say that sin is "the evil" because it is an unparalleled evil You can find nothing in the world so evil as sin. Nothinghas so desolated this fair earth of ours as sin has. Tell me that war has slain its tens and hundreds of thousands, that earthquakeshave shaken down vast cities, that pestilence has devoured millions-describe to me the concussion of the elements, speak tome of the wild uproar of Nature abroad, and remind me of how it smites down man, and destroys his handiwork-but when you havewritten out the black catalog of all the terrible things that have happened to man, I will still tell you that sin standsup as the monster evil, the giant topping them all, head and shoulders above them, the most unqualified and unparalleled evilin the world!
You ask me whether sin has done much evil, I answer you, "Yes." Look at Eden's garden blasted, a whole world drowned withwater, even the tops of the mountains covered! Watch the earth open and Korah, Dathan, and Abiram go down into the Pit. Watchfire rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah and see the cities of the plain, with all their inhabitants, destroyed. But sin has donemore than that-it has dug a Hell somewhere, we know not where-not in the caverns of the earth. That were a direful thought,that this home of the righteous for a season should become the dwelling of the damned. If there is anything worse than that,sin is guilty of it, for it slaughtered Emmanuel, it slew the Lord of Life and Glory! Sin betrayed Him, scourged Him, puta crown of thorns upon His head, spit in His face, crucified Him, nailed His hands and His feet to the accursed tree! Sinsat by and watched Him till He died. And that moment-blessed be His name!-the sins of all His people were finished. Sin isunparalleled. No evil can compare with it. Find what evil you please, sin stands out first and foremost as "the evil."
Sin also, in some sense, is an evil that has no remedy. You may, perhaps, be somewhat startled by that thought, especiallywhen you have so continually heard me say that the death of Christ takes away from a Christian the very guilt of his sin,so that he is not guilty before God, but stands accepted in Christ, with his Savior's righteousness on, so that he can pleadthat before God and even claim the merits imputed to him through Jesus. Still, what I have said is true-that for sin therestill remains no remedy, even to the Christian, when he has committed it. There is the remedy of forgiveness, so far as heis concerned, but there is no remedy for the sin itself. Where, for instance, is the remedy for a sinful word that I havespoken? Can my tears bring it back and stop it from doing an injury to my fellow creatures? Even though Christ has forgivenme, that will not end the wrong I may have done to others. When I drop a single stone of sin into the ocean of this universe,it will continue to make circle after circle, always expanding. I may, through my whole life, labor with more than seraphiczeal, and with a Christ-like heart to undo the evil I have done-but if I might work throughout eternity I could never untiethose knots that I have tied, or dash down those mountains that I have piled, or dry up the rivers I have dug.
True, the sin is all forgiven. It will never be laid to my charge, but, I think, though Christ has forgiven me, I shall neverforgive myself for some things in which I may have disgraced His name and dishonored His blessed Person. When
some of you old blasphemers recollect that some in Hell were damned by your means, you may thank God that you are saved, butyou cannot undo that ruin to immortal souls. Sin is the evil. Well might Jesus pray for His people, "Father, keep them fromthe evil," for an evil it is, which, though it has a remedy as to itself, has no remedy as to its consequences upon others.God grant that any evils which we may have worked, may be as much remedied as it is possible by the future holiness of ourlives!
Once more, sin is a most pestilent evil because it brings every other evil with it I think the worst evil sin has ever doneto me is this-it has sometimes robbed me of the Presence of my blessed Master. There have been seasons when the Spirit hasbeen withdrawn from me. There have been times when I have sought my Beloved, but have not found Him- when I have ardentlydesired His Presence, but could not find it, and my only song was-
"What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still!
But now I find an aching void
The world can never fill."
Sin was that veil that came between me and my Lord. Dear old Joseph Irons used to say, "Christ often hides His face behindthe clouds of dust His own children kick up." So we make dust by our sins and Christ hides behind it. We build a wall by ourtransgressions and our Beloved hides behind that wall. Ah, Sin, you are, indeed, an evil, for you have robbed me of His sweetsociety, and taken away His blessed company! You have been sitting on the throne of my heart and He will not tolerate suchan insult-He will not stay where sin is. You have entered into my soul and Jesus has said, "I will not tarry where there issin. My Presence shall drive out sin, or sin shall drive out My Presence." "O Sin, how much misery I experience through you!"the Christian can say. Ah, Sin, how many poor and fettered Believers have had their fetters first forged by you? Sin, youare the anvil on which our doubts are welded. Sin, you are the fire in which our spirits are often molten down to grief. Wecould do all things were it not for you. O Sin-you clip the wings of faith, you dampen the flame of love, you destroy theenergy of zeal-you are "the evil." My Master calls you so, and such you are. You need not to be renamed-that name once givenyou shall bear forever-and throughout eternity you shall be pointed at, in the pillory of scorn, by all the saints, as, "theevil." Well might Christ ask His Father that while He did not wish His children to be taken out of the world, He did wishthat they might be kept from the evil!
I charge you, you young converts who are about to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, remember that sin is "the evil." Through allyour future lives you must remember that this is "the evil" you are to shun. Fear not affliction, fear not persecution-rather,rejoice, and be exceedingly glad if that should be your lot, for great is your reward in Heaven! But, I charge you, fear sin!I commend you to the God of all Grace who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the Presenceof His Glory. But yet I beg you always to recollect that sin, itself, is "the evil" to you. It will always be so to you aslong as you live and, though forgiven, it is still pardoned sin. Shun it in the least degree! Do not give way to little sinsand you will not give way to big ones. Remember the proverb, "Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves."Beware of little sins and you will not commit great ones. I charge you, keep your hearts in the love of God and may God, Himself,preserve you, according to our Savior's prayer, "that You should keep them from the evil."
II. We can make only a very few remarks upon the second point, which is THE DANGER TO WHICH CHRIST'S PEOPLE ARE EXPOSED. Isthere any danger of Christian men running into sin? After they have believed in Jesus and after they have been pardoned, willthey commit sin again? After they have been adopted into God's family, will they sin? Will they, can they sin after all that!O Beloved! I thought once, when my Lord first pardoned me, that I could never sin against Him anymore. When black from headto foot, He spoke the cleansing word and made me white-when He took off my rags and clothed me in royal garments, and kissedme with the kisses of His love, and showed me His deep, affectionate heart, I thought, "O blessed Jesus! Can I ever againsin against You? Can it be that I, a pardoned rebel, whom You have forgiven so much, could do such a thing?" "No, preciousJesus," the young, convert thinks, "I can come and wash Your feet with my tears and wipe them with the hairs of my head, butI cannot sin, I will not sin." Ah, how soon is that beautiful vision taken away! How soon the theory is spoiled by experience!
Beloved, do you not find that you are in danger of sinning right now? Those of us who are young-what danger of sinning weare in! While our passions are strong and our lusts furious, we have need to be kept of God, or we shall sin against Him.And you middle-aged gentlemen, to you, also, I have a word or two to say. You always pray so particularly
for the young and the young people are very much obliged to you-and they always intend to pray especially for you, becauseyou are in the most dangerous position! I remind you of what I have told you before, that there is in Scripture no instanceof a young man falling into sin, but there is more than one such instance of a middle-aged man!
You grandparents with snowy heads, whose hairs are whitened with age-know you not that you still have need of Divine keepingor you will fall? O you veterans in the army of the Lord, do you not acknowledge that if His Grace were withdrawn from you,you have enough tinder in your hearts to catch fire, for your souls are not yet perfectly purified? When I ask my old Brothersand Sisters whether sin is still present with them, each one of them always says, "Well, I thought I had a bad heart, once,but I knowI have one now. I thought I was vile, once, but I know I am now. I grow viler and viler as the years roll on andI see myself to be more and more so every day." Is it not so with you? Ah, is it not just so with you perpetually? And willyou not confess, till your last dying moment, that you will be kept if God keeps you, but that if He were to leave you, youwould be lost? I was pleased to hear some of the good answers the young people gave me when I asked them, "Do you think youwill be kept faithful to Christ to the end?" "Yes, by God's Grace," they said. "But suppose God should leave you?" I nextasked, and how exceedingly proper the answer was! "God will not leave me, so I cannot tell anything about that." That wasa sweet way of answering the question. He has promised that He will not leave us, nor forsake us, so, Christian, while wewarn you of the danger if God should leave you, we comfort you by telling you that He will not leave you!
Mark the terrible threats that those poor Arminians have been speaking of so much. Those who know nothing of the Doctrinesof Grace make out that sinners fall and come in again, and fall again, and come in again-and a more unscrip-tural doctrinecannot be propounded, for God solemnly declares that if it were possible for a man, once regenerated and sanctified, to apostatize,he would be lost beyond all remedy and there would remain no hope for him-"but a certain fearful looking for judgment andfiery indignation." I charge you to remember that if it were possible for you thus to fall, there is the precipice over whichyou must drop. There is no ransom for you in such a case as that! If true conversion fails, God will never try twice! If onceHe puts His hand on you, and fails, He has done with you. But it is not possible, glory be to His name! He has not yet failedand He never will! Still, we warn you, and Scripture tells us to do so, to remember that we shall be kept only through faithunto salvation and that our Lord Jesus Christ said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I giveunto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gavethem to Me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand."
III. This brings us to speak, thirdly, concerning THE KEEPER OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE. "I pray that You should keep them from theevil."
We often get to keeping ourselves, Beloved, and a bad job we make of it, when we do that. If a Christian tries to keep hisown heart without asking the help of God, he will be just as good a keeper as those guards whom Herod set to watch the ApostlePeter, and who, when they opened the prison doors in the morning, found that the prisoner had escaped. You may stand and watchyour heart without God, but you will find that it has escaped and gone after sin, notwithstanding. The Christian must nottrust to his guarding himself because he will sometimes be asleep, and then the enemy will catch him unawares. People areoften ready, as the saying is, to put a lock on the stable door when the horse is gone. And Christians are sometimes verycareful after they have sinned. Ah, but the thing is to lock the door while the horse is in the stable-and to take care beforeyou sin. It is better to keep your house from being on fire than to get the fire put out ever so quickly.
We, all of us, have need to be kept by God. We think we can keep ourselves, but we cannot, for poor flesh and blood will fail.Though the spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak, and if it were possible for us to keep ourselves a little while, we shouldsoon be overcome with spiritual slumber. And then, you know, the devil would come walking into the camp in the middle of thenight, and if he caught us slumbering, and off our guard, he would, if allowed of God, hurry us away to perdition! If youtrust yourselves to God, He will preserve you. But if you try to keep yourselves, you will fail. How many different schemespeople have for keeping themselves from sin! Why do they not go and ask God to keep them, instead of binding themselves handand foot to this thing and the other, and so thinking to avoid sin? Let us give our hearts to God thoroughly, for He willpreserve His own people. Oh, what a gracious promise the Lord has given concerning His vine-yard-"I the Lord do keep it; Iwill water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." Is not that a
precious expression, "I the Lord do keep it"? The Lord seems to speak in His own defense, "They say I do not keep it, butI do. They say that I let My people fall away, but I do not. Look at My vineyard, 'I the Lord do keep it.' Whatever they maysay, 'I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.'" This is the only ground of our con-fidence-thatGod keeps the feet of His saints and none that trust in Him shall be desolate.
We must now conclude, praying on behalf of the Lord's people that God would keep them. Remember, Believer, that while it saysGod will keep you, He does it by means. You must look after each other. I like to admonish you to look after your Brothersand Sisters. Why, there are some of you sitting with only a rail between you, and yet you do not know your next door neighbors!Some of you, I know, sometimes talk too much, but I would rather you talk a little too much than not talk at all. Oh, howlittle like Christians some of you are-sitting down, side by side, and yet not knowing one another! The Church is meant tobe a place where we shall be like children at home. Be sure to look after these young friends who are coming into the Church-tryand take care of them. We need a few fathers who will lead them in the right way. Poor Souls, you cannot expect them to knowmuch. Some of them, indeed, may have been long in the service of God-others have just commenced to run the Christian race-youmust look after the young ones, and then the prayer of Christ will be fulfilled in their case, "I pray that You should keepthem from the evil."
Finally, remember that the only Keeper of the saints is God, and put your souls day by day into His hands. I beseech you,by the love of Christ, forget not His holy prayer of which I have been speaking to you! Often meditate upon the Grace thatput you into the Savior's custody. Oh, forget not that you have been His from all eternity, and that it ill becomes you tosin! Do not forget that you are elect in Christ and it would be a disgrace to you to transgress. Recollect that you are oneof the aristocracy of the universe-you must not mix with vile worldlings! Remember that the blood royal of Heaven runs inyour veins-therefore do not disgrace yourselves by acts which might be tolerated in a beggar, but which would demean a princeof the heavenly household! Stand on your dignity! Think of your future glory! Remember where you stand and in whom you stand-inthe Person of Jesus! Fall at His feet daily! Grasp His strength hourly, crying out-
"Oh, for this no power have I My strength is at Your feet to lie."
O Beloved, you who do not love the Lord, I cannot pray that God would keep you from the evil because you are already in it!But I do pray God to take you out of it. There are some of you who do not feel sin to be an evil and shall I tell you why?Did you ever try to pull a bucket up a well? You know that when it is full of water, you can pull it easily so long as thebucket remains in the water-but when it gets above the water, you know how heavy it is. It is just so with you. While youare in sin, you do not feel it to be a burden-it does not seem to be evil! But if the Lord once draws you out of sin, youwill find it to be an intolerable, a heinous evil! May the Lord, this night, wind some of you up! Though you are very deepdown, may He draw you up out of sin and give you acceptance in the Beloved! May you have new hearts and right spirits whichare alone the gift of God! Remember the words of the Lord Jesus-"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find;knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asks receives; and he that seeks, finds; and to him that knocksit shall be opened." God give you Grace to ask, and seek, and knock, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: ISAIAH49:1-23.
Verses 1, 2. Listen, O isles, unto Me; and hearken, you people from far; the Lord has called Me from the womb; from the bowelsof My mother has He made mention of My name. And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow ofHis hand has Hehid Me, and made Me a polished shaft; in His quiver has He hid Me. Our Lord Jesus, that great Prophet of the Church, was ina special manner the Lord's in the matter of His birth. A wondrous holy mystery hangs about His birth at Bethlehem-He was,in that respect, the Lord's in a very remarkable sense. "He has made My mouth like a sharp sword." You know how our Lord'smouth, or the Word of His Gospel that issues from His mouth, is like a sharp sword-how it conquers-how it cuts its way-how,wherever it goes, it pierces "even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discernerof the thoughts and intents of the heart." "In the
shadow of His hand has He hid Me." You know how the protecting hand of God always covered Christ and how His Gospel is alwayssheltered by the Providence of God.
3. And said unto Me, You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. I t is wonderful condescension on Christ'spart to take the name of His Church so that He, Himself, is called, "Israel," in this passage. And there is another passage,equally remarkable, where the Church is allowed to take one of the names of Christ-"This is the name wherewith she shall becalled, The Lord Our Righteousness." Such an intermingling of interests, such a wonderful union is there between Christ andHis Church, that these two are truly one!
4. Then I said, Ihave labored in vain, Ihave spent My strength for nothing, and in vain: yet surely My judgment is with theLORD, and My work with My God. Our Savior did, in His earthly ministry, to a large extent labor in vain. "He came unto Hisown, and His own received Him not." He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, yet how few of them recognized Himas the good Shepherd. He told His disciples that after He returned to His Father, those who believed in Him should do evengreater things than He had done. That promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost and since then it has been fulfilled overand over again in the history of the Christian Church.
5. And now, says the LORD that formed Me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, Though Israel is notgathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength. What though the Jews still rejectthe Messiah, their sin does not affect His honor. His Glory is still as great as ever it was in the esteem of the Most High!
6. And He said, It is a light thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preservedof Israel: I will also give You for a light to the Gentiles, that You may be My salvation unto the end of the earth. Whata blessed passage this is for you and for me, Beloved! Strangers to the commonwealth of Israel were we, but, now, we who wereafar off are made near by the blood of Jesus and so are made fellow-heirs with the seed of Abraham, partakers of the sameCovenant blessing as the father of the faithful enjoys. In this let us exceedingly rejoice! And for this let us praise andmagnify the name of the Lord.
7. Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One, to Him whom man despises, to Him whom the nation abhors.What a true picture this is of the way in which the Jews still treat the promised Messiah! To this day they gnash their teethat the very mention of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And the bitterest words of blasphemy that are ever uttered by humanlips come from the mouth of Israel against the Lord Jesus-"Him whom the nation abhors."
7. To a Servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, andthe Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose You. The Father has chosen Christ to be the precious cornerstone of the eternalTemple and He has also chosen all the living stones that are to be joined to Him forever.
8, 9. Thus says the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard You, and in a day of salvation have I helped You: and I willpreserve You, and give You for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;that You may say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, andtheir pastures shall be in all high places. Dear Brothers and Sisters, what honor the Lord has put upon Christ! In proportionas He has been the despised of men and the abhorred of the Jewish nation, God has made Him to be His own delight, His Well-Beloved.He displays through Him the marvels of His saving power for His own Glory. I pray that it may be displayed in our midst justnow, and in the way mentioned here-"I will preserve You, and give You for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth,to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that You may say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness. Showyourselves." Come, Beloved, after you receive such a message as this from God's mouth, what prison can hold you? What darknesscan conceal you? The Word of Christ shall break your bonds asunder and change your darkness into the glory of noonday! Maythis gracious work be done for any of you who are prisoners!
10. They shall not hunger nor thirst. To the woman at the well, Christ said, "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall givehim shall never thirst." That is a parallel to this passage-"They shall not hunger nor thirst."
10. Neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for He that has mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of watershall He guide them. Oh, the wondrous sweetness of these exceedingly great and precious promises! They are all concerningChrist, you see. Undoubtedly they are given with an eye to us, but yet much more with an eye to Him, that He may be glorifiedin the deliverance and guidance of His people, in the protection of them from danger, and in the abun-
dant provision for the supply of all their needs. It would not be for Christ's honor to let you die of thirst, poor thirstyone! It would not glorify Him to lead you where there were no springs of water. Be sure, then, that God will always do thatwhich will glorify His Son-and He will therefore deal well with you for His sake.
11, 12. AndI will make allMy mountains a way, andMy highways shall be exalted. Behold, these shall come from far and, lo,these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. From far-away China they must come to Christ! Theresult of His death is not left to chance. Some say that His death did something or other, which, somehow or other, will benefitsomebody or other. But we never speak in that indefinite way. We know that Christ, by His death, did eternally redeem Hispeople, and we are quite sure that He will have all those for whom He laid down the ransom price. He died with a clear intent,a definite purpose, and for the joy that was set before Him, He "endured the Cross, despising the shame." "He shall see ofthe travail of His soul and shall be satisfied." The Divine intent and purpose of the death of Christ cannot possibly be frustrated.He reigns from the Cross and He shall win and conquer world without end!
13. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord has comforted His people,and will have mercy upon His afflicted. How? Why, by the very coming of Christ, by His birth at Bethlehem, and all the blessingswhich come with the Incarnate God, His afflicted ones are consoled and all His people are Divinely comforted. Shall we not,then, rejoice in Christ, who is Himself so full ofjoy that He teaches the very heavens to sing and the mountains to breakforth in praise?
14. But Zion said. Hear the lament of the poor Jewish Church, like a castaway left all alone-
14. The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me. When we are glad In the Lord and are singing out our heart's joy,there is pretty sure to be someone or other who sorrowfully sighs, "The Lord has forsaken me." People say that there neverwas a feast so well furnished but that somebody went away unsatisfied-but God will not have it so at His festivals and, therefore,the rest of the chapter shows how the Lord comforted this poor Zion, whose lamentation and mourning He had heard. Notice howHe begins.
15. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? "Can a woman"-the mosttender parent of the two-"forget her child"-her own child, her feeble little child that still depends upon her for its nutrimentand life-"her sucking child"?
15. Yes, they may forget. I t is just possible. There have been such monstrosities-"they may forget."
15. Yet will I not forget you-
"Yet, says the Lord, should Nature change, And mothers, monsters prove, Zion still dwells upon the heart Of everlasting love."
How that gracious assurance should comfort the little handful, the "remnant, weak and small," of God's people among the Jews!How it should also comfort any of God's servants who are under a cloud and who have lost, for a while, the enjoyment of HisPresence!
16. Behold, Ihave engraved you upon the palms of My hands. Where they must be seen and where He can do nothing without touchingHis people while doing it. When a name is engraved on the hand with which a man works, that name goes into his work and leavesits impress on the work.
16, 17. Your walls are continually before Me. Your children shall make haste; your destroyers and they that made you wasteshall go forth of you. Jerusalem, the very Jerusalem that is in Palestine, shall be rebuilt! God will remember her walls andthe Church of God in Israel shall yet rise from that sad low estate in which it has been these many centuries. And all God'scast-down ones shall be comforted and His churches that seem to be left to die, shall be raised up again, for our God is nochangeling. His heart does not come and go towards the sons of men-
"Whom once He loves, He never leaves, But loves them to the end."
18. Lift up your eyes round about and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to you. What are all convertedGentiles doing, after all, but coming to the one Church? It is no longer a matter of Jew or Gentile, but all who believe areone in Christ Jesus. Let poor Zion rejoice that she herself is enriched by the conversion of these far-off sinners of theGentiles!
18. As I live, says the LORD, you shall surely clothe yourself with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on you, asa bride does. Converts are the garments of the Church, her bridal array, her ornaments and her jewels. I wish that all churchesthought so, but many of them think that gorgeous architecture, the garnishing of the material building in which they meet,the sound of sweet music and the smell of fragrant incense and choice flowers make up the dignity and glory of a church-butthey do no such thing! Converts are the true glory of a church-"You shall surely clothe yourself with them all, as with anornament, and bind them on you, as a bride does."
19, 20. For your waste and your desolate places, and the land of your destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reasonof the inhabitants, and they that swallowed you up shall be far away. The children which you shall have, after you have lostthe others. The children of your childlessness-so it runs-the children of your widowhood. It was strange that she should havechildren then. It is not so among men, but it is so with the Church of God-"The children which you shall have, after you havelost the others."
20-23. Shall say again in your ears, The place is too small for me: give me a place that I may dwell. Then shall you say inyour heart, Who has begotten me these, seeing Ihave lost my children, andam desolate, a captive, andremoving to and fro? Andwho has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been? Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I will liftup My hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people: and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughtersshall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be your nursing fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers: theyshall bow down to you with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet I have heard this passage quotedas a reason why there should be a State Church-that kings should nourish the Church-Henry VIII, for instance, and George IV.It was poor milk, I am sure, that they ever gave the Church of God. Yet I have no objection whatever to this text being carriedout to the fullest-yes, to the very letter-only mind where the kings are to be put! What place does the verse say that theyare to occupy? "They shall bow down to you with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet." There isno headship of the Church, here-nothing of that sort! The kings are to be at the feet of the Church, and that is what theState ought to do-submit itself to God and obey His commands, and give full liberty to the preaching of the Gospel! This isall that the true Church of Christ asks, and all she can ever fairly take if she is loyal to her Lord.
23. And you shall know that I am the LORD. "Jehovah." "You shall understand the greatness of your God, His in-finiteness,His majesty, His all-sufficiency. 'You shall know that I am the I AM.'"
23. For they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me. Glory be to His holy name, none that wait for Him shall ever have causeto be ashamed! May we all be of that blessed number, for Christ's sake! Amen.