Sermon 489. Broad Rivers And Streams
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, JANUARY 18, 1863, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: your eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall notbe taken down. Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. Butthere the glorious Lord will be unto us a place ofbroad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord isour Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King. He will save us. Your tacklings are loosed, they could not wellstrengthen their mast, they could notspread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided, the lame take the prey." Isaiah 33:20-23.
THIS prophecy was uttered when the city of Jerusalem was reduced to the direst extremity. The Assyrian hosts threatened thecity with utter destruction. Rabshakeh, a fitting herald for his tyrannical master, had advanced to inspect the walls whileSennacherib tarried at Lachish. False to alltreaties, the heavy sum paid down by Hezekiah could not ensure the promised mercy from the ferocious despot. The treasuriesof the city were exhausted, and therefore no further attempt in that direction could be made. No help could be looked forfrom any other nation. Even Egypt wasin deadly fear of the great power of Nineveh.
The Assyrians were strong as lions, and cruel as evening wolves. No nation had ever equaled them in remorseless and wantoncruelty. Punishments the most horrible were constantly executed upon those whom they vanquished. Impalement, flaying alive,and piercing out the eyes were their ordinaryamusements after the close of battle. Look at the stones disinterred from Nineveh, and you will see engraved there by themselvesmemorials of the horrible barbarities which they constantly perpetrated. Sennacherib's army was exceedingly great. It hadalready stormed many cities.
Arphad and Sepharvaim, Hamath and Samaria had fallen an easy spoil-cities that were surrounded by rivers had been defeatedby diverting the current and so drying up the streams. Or else by using galleys with oars, the Assyrian monarch had reachedthe walls and applied the scaling ladders. Thearmy was so well equipped, so numerous, and so thoroughly well supplied with all munitions of war, that there was not theslightest hope of the escape of Jerusalem except by Divine power. Yet the Assyrians did not shoot an arrow there, nor didthey cast up a mound against it, for atnightfall the angel of the Lord went forth and slew a hundred and forty thousand men, and Sennacherib hastened back to hisown land.
Brethren, you know the analogy here, how the Church of Christ is every day surrounded by the most ferocious adversaries. Sheis like Jerusalem. All round about her the dogs of Hell are yelping for her as their prey. Satan has multitudes of faithfulservants too glad to engage in battle against theLord's Anointed, and against the Church which He has redeemed by His own blood. They are well armed with an infernal protection.They are very skillful, determined and resolute. Not a stone will be left unturned to blot out the remembrance of Christ'skingdom from under Heaven.
But rejoice! Even if the dark day should come, be not dismayed! God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.The Church is not in danger. She is impregnably garrisoned. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against her, and she shallabide in her place until He shall come who hasmade her beautiful for the situation, the joy of the whole earth. He shall come to translate her to the skies, to be theNew Jerusalem-the Bride, the Lamb's wife-to glitter forever in the brightness which far outshines the light of the sun.
Let us now with profound attention meditate upon our text, and notice that, as the existence of Jerusalem was imperiled, thefirst promise of Isaiah was that Jerusalem should still exist-"Your eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation," and so on.But, further, inasmuch as during the siegemany unbelieving persons had found fault with the position of Jerusalem, because it was not surrounded by a river, the promiseis given that she shall have a glorious position-"There the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams."
No, more than this, as a climax of blessing, she is promised perpetual triumph over all her enemies, since in her streams,"shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby." Or, if they come, they shall prove a wreck-"Yourtacklings are loosed. They could not wellstrengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail."
I. The first promise made to the Church of God in our text is one SECURING TO HER AN EVERLASTING EXISTENCE. The Church isnot a temporary institution-it shall never be removed, but abide forever.
1. From the words of the text I gather that the Jerusalem of God shall exist as she is. What was she in those days? She wasthe city of solemnities. She was the place where prayer and praise were custom to be made. So is she to continue throughoutall generations. The Church of God is in this worldthe city of all true solemnities. Any prayer and praise that are not offered by the chosen of the Lord, who constitute thetrue and invisible Church of God, are but vain oblations.
Zion-the chosen Church, redeemed by blood, called by the Spirit, and preserved by Divine Grace-Zion is the one consecratedenclosure in which sacrifices of righteousness can be acceptably offered. This hallowed temple shall stand forever as theLord's chosen dwelling place. Beloved, theday shall never come when the Church shall cease to be the temple of prayer. The fire upon this altar shall never be quenchedday nor night-
"To Him shall constant prayer be made, And princes throng to crown His head. His name like sweet perfume shall rise With everymorning's sacrifice."
There shall never lack a man in our Israel to hold up holy hands, like Moses, upon the mountain, that the hosts of God mayprevail in the plain below. Elijahs may be taken away, but Elishas shall follow. Apostles may cease their perpetual supplications,but a train of intercessors shall follow intheir footsteps. While earth brings forth her harvests, the Church shall yield her sheaves of prayer. Nor shall praise evercease. The hallowed hymn, the psalm of victory, the hallelujah of triumphant joy-these shall never be suspended in the worstdays of the Church. Evenwhen she assembled in the catacombs and gathered her sons for worship in the caves of the earth-even then she had her hymnsof praise-even then they sang of Christ ascended and about to come.
The roaring of the sea may cease, the thunders may be hushed, and the spheres may end their songs, but the redeemed of theLord must praise the name of Jehovah world without end. Neither shall the Church ever cease to be the fountain of ministry.The ministration of the Word is a part of oursolemnities. There shall never come a time when the Prophet's voice shall be stilled. Our Lord will still raise pastorsafter His own heart, and teachers anointed for His work. The living waters shall ever gush from the foot of Mount Zion, andthe stream which welled up when Jesussent forth His twelve disciples shall flow on, ever widening, ever deepening, "Till, like a sea of glory, it spreads frompole to pole."
City of our solemnities! We delight to behold the feet of the ambassadors of the Lord. They are beautiful upon the mountains,for they proclaim to us glad tidings. How greatly do we rejoice that we shall never lack the messenger sent from Heaven, norshall the candlestick be removed out of itsplace. Moreover, Beloved, the ordinances of God's house, such as Baptism and the Sacred Supper, these shall never cease.There was a day when Baptism was hardly known in the Christian Church, save only among a persecuted few who were called heretics.
Nevertheless, the hallowed stream has always been stirred by some who, "faithful to their Master found," were buried withHim in Baptism unto death, and gave in Baptism the answer of a good conscience towards God. And the Lord's Supper, too, hadalmost ceased from the Christian Church. The "mass,"of course, continued, but what of that? Is that the Lord's Supper? No, verily, but a profane prostitution of the simplicityof God, a silly mystery more fitted to be styled the incantation of a haggard witch, than to be called the Supper of our LordJesus Christ.
But still, there were a faithful few, called heretics, who met together and broke bread in remembrance of their Lord and Master.And so, Brothers and Sisters, while seedtime and harvest, summer and winter shall continue, until He comes, we will show forthHis death, we will set forth His burial,celebrating, according to His own will, the commands and ordinances which He Himself has given us. City of our solemnities,methinks I see you now in vision! You are the place where God dwells between the curtains, hidden from the gaze of unhallowedeyes, seen only by those whomChrist has made kings and priests unto God!
Never, never, never from you, O Church of God, shall the presence of the Holy One depart! No rushing of wings shall be heard,as in the siege of Jerusalem. No mysterious voice shall thunder, "Arise, let us go from here." "Lo I am with you always, evenunto the end of the world," secures to you, OZion, the Presence of your Lord and Master forever. Methinks I see your altar-on it smokes the Lamb that has just been slain-stillacceptable before the Lord, and ever to remain the finished sacrifice-
"Dear dying Lamb, Your precious blood Shall never lose its Power, Till all the ransomed Church of God Be sa ved to sin nomore."
Hallowed courts, you shall never be desecrated! Sacred rites, you shall never cease! The Lord has said it, and it must be!His Church abides-though the mountains depart, and the hills be removed, yet shall not His Covenant of love depart from her-norshall her safety ever be imperiled,even unto the world's end.
2. Further, my Brothers and Sisters, it appears to me that the city is to exist, not only as the city of our solemnities,which it is, but as a quiet habitation which we would desire it to be. The Church of God is always a quiet habitation, evenwhen her enemies surround her. Some of you may haveseen, some months ago in the Exhibition, a Belgian picture representing the reading of the statute of the Duke of Alva inthe Flemish Towns, establishing the Inquisition. Godly merchants are listening in deep solemnity of sorrow. The young maidenweeps upon her sister's bosom, theaged woman turns her streaming eyes to Heaven.
All this the painter could depict, but he could not paint the deep Heaven-born peace which still possessed the souls of thethreatened ones-who for the Master's sake could suffer all worldly loss. That peace of God which passes all understanding,lives even in the day of trial. You know whatMartin Luther said, whenever any trouble came, "Come, let us go in and sing the forty-sixth Psalm, and defy the devil."And oh, how grandly that old Psalm would swell from the deep bass voices of the Reformer and his companions-"God is our refugeand strength, a very presenthelp in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midstof the sea."
With all her foes about her, I say, the Church of God is evermore a quiet habitation. But how quiet is she, Beloved, whenher enemies are not allowed to prey upon her! "Then had the Churches rest," says the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles,and verily, the text applies to us now. We sit,every man, under his own vine, and under his own fig tree, none making us afraid. And besides the quiet we enjoy politically,I thank God that in this Church, at least, we know what quiet means in our communion with one another. Where ever the HolySpirit dwells, there will bequietness. The Holy Spirit, you know, is represented to us as a dove-doves love not the storm, and the Spirit of God abidesnot where there is noise, strife, controversy and division. No. There must be peace and quietness.
And you, my beloved Friends, who are really in the Church of Christ-mark, you may be in our Church, and not in the Churchof Christ-you may make a profession of being in the Church and not be in the invisible, mysterious, secret body of the faithful.But if you really are among thatchosen number, you will enjoy great quietness, you will be able to say with the Apostle, "Therefore being justified by faith,we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." You will get a hold of the Psalmist's meaning when he said, "So Hegives His beloved sleep." You willrest in God's love even as God rests in it.
Happy day! Happy day! For those who, by the eye of faith, can look into the future after Christ shall come, who can beholdthe glad millennial age-they shall understand yet more fully the meaning of this prophecy, "Your eyes shall see Jerusalema quiet habitation." When everywhere Christshall be known. When in every land the fifth and last empire shall rule. Then, as in the days of Solomon, there shall beno war, but peace, peace forever. Till then the God of all peace is with us and we may be sure that all is well.
Our quietness must continue, for the Church nestles under the wings of God. How can she be disquieted? The mountains of Hispower are round about her. How can she be carried by storm? Her Lord is a wall of fire encircling her. Who can touch her?He is the glory in the midst of her. How can shefear? He is All in All to her. He wears her on His breast, He has written her name on His hands. She is the jewel of Hiscrown and the bracelet of His arm. Oh, how blessed must she be!
3. But, further, our text seems to indicate that there were some persons who doubted all this and said, "Well, but you speakof this city as though it could stand an attack. It cannot-it is such a feeble place, it is like a tent, it can soon be stormed-agust of wind can blow it over."The Lord anticipates this difficulty and shows that the feebleness of Jerusalem should be no reason why she should not stillcontinue to exist. She is a tabernacle-a mere tent-but she is a tabernacle that shall not be taken down.
It is true that to human eyes she seems to have no huge stones, no gates of brass, no bulwarks of solid masonry. But thoughshe has nothing but cords and stakes, yet her stakes shall not be loosed, nor shall her cords be snapped. Oh, Beloved, onedelights to think of the feebleness of the Church,as magnifying the power of Him who keeps her! What can be more feeble than the Church of God? She has no carnal weapons."My kingdom is not of this world, else would My servants fight." The true Church has no great riches. The most of her followersare poor. She has no wisdom. Theywho use logic and cunning can soon overthrow her disciples and ridicule her advocates.
She understands not the wisdom of human speech, or, rather, she renounces it and speaks with simplicity, as she ought to speak.Philosophers laugh at her. Kings hardly take her into account. They think the Church so insignificant that they can put outher candle when they will. But, ah, not so. TheChurch is still secure, despite her feebleness. It is wonderful, how during these last nineteen centuries, God has beenpleased to keep that spark alive. All the devils in Hell have been spitting at this candle, but it burns still-they have soughtto throw the whole of thefloods of evil upon the Heaven-kindled spark, but the spark still lives.
They have tried to stamp it out, but it has blazed the more. The Church's feebleness, because it drives her to God, is theChurch's strength. I pray God that our Church may never confide in wisdom, or wit, or eloquence, or riches, or rank, or fame.No, Lord, You are the reinforced pillar of YourChurch's sure support, and if we rest on You, we are secure. But if once we depend elsewhere, we fall to our confusion.
4. Further, complete this part of the promise, the city, notwithstanding all her feebleness, is to be forever complete. IfI understand the last two sentences-"Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereofbe broken," we learn here that all thetrue members of the Church are safe. Some of them may be driven into the earth as the stakes are driven, with a heavy mallet-butthe strokes of tribulation shall only give them a better hold and minister stability to the whole structure.
Satan may seek to pull them up, and the winds may blow on the tent enough to tear up the stakes that hold it, but no hurricaneor raging typhoon shall cast down the Divine habitation. Cords are apt to be snapped, and if they are long used, the strandsat last may rot and new cords and new stakesmay be required-but not so with the Church of God. If you are one of the cords or the stakes of the Church, you shall neverbe cast away, the Lord will take care, not only to preserve the Church as a whole, but each individual part of it.
I need not enlarge here, for you are all sound in your belief of final perseverance. What should we do without that preciousdoctrine! Oh, Brothers and Sisters, if one cord could be snapped, surely it were myself! If one stake could be removed, Ithink I hear you say, "It must be I. I must bemoved, I must be cast away." But not one shall be. Just as the stones were taken out of the quarry and all shaped, to beput in their own position in Solomon's temple, and no one stone could take another stone's niche, so you have your place appointedyou. And you are being quarriedtoday to be made into the right shape for it, and you, and no one but you, can occupy that place in the temple of God inHeaven. And you shall shine there as a polished stone forever.
But I think, dear Friends, that this also relates to the doctrines of the Gospel. Every day produces some improved divinity.Every now and then, to suit the times, a new edition of the Gospel is issued. Young gentlemen at college are taught not topreach the common ordinary doctrines, such as JohnCalvin, St. Augustine, and the Apostle Paul preached. They must go to Germany and muddle their own heads, and then comeforth to muddle other people's. They must have some philosophical divinity, some novelty, something more refined than thatwhich would attract the mob and gathertogether the common people.
Thinking people must be cared for. Sermons must be full of intellectual matter. The old Apostles were but fishermen, and ofcourse they could not preach more than fishermen's education would enable them to comprehend. But these gentlemen have takentheir degrees, and can climb to far greaterheights, and descend into far more profound depths than plain Peter or illiterate John. Well, dear Friends, we are contentwith the old wine since it is the best. Christ's Gospel is no new Gospel.
And moreover, we are old-fashioned enough to believe that not one doctrine is to be altered, nor half a doctrine, nor thethousandth part of a doctrine! No, nor yet the form of a doctrine. We would "hold fast the form of sound words"- not onlythe principle, mark-but the words. And notonly the words, but the very form in which the words were molded. "Words, words, words," says somebody, "what is the useof words, and forms, and creeds? Why, these are old musty, crusty documents, only sectarians care about them."
Yes, then let us be sectarians. Let us hold with force and strength of mind the very form of sound words which have been deliveredunto us. Not one of the stakes shall be removed, nor one of the cords be loosened. So with the ordinances. We do not believe,for instance, that we have any power tochange the immersion, which was practiced by the Apostles, into sprinkling-nor take infants instead of Believers. We thinkthat not one of the cords can be removed, nor one of the stakes be taken out of its place. We do not think we have any rightto change the breaking ofbread and the drinking of wine into a "mass," and thus make a new ceremony, instead of perpetuating that which was deliveredunto us.
No, let the old Gospel be the old Gospel. "To the Law and to the Testimony, if they speak not according to this Word, it isbecause there is no light in them." We must keep to the same practices and believe the same Truths of God even unto the end.Alas for you, you cities of earth, you havetottered to your fall! A heap of sand, a mountain of ruin is to be found where once Babylon lifted her proud head, and whereNineveh exalted her brazen brow! Even old Rome has crumbled, and her pillars lie prostrate! Her theatres are but a place ofemptiness, and her temples butdeserted fanes.
But you, O Church of God, you still exist! Not one of your pillars has been shaken! Not a column has left its base or lostits capital. Riveted and held fast by more than iron bands, the whole of your fabric is as unmoved as the pillars of the universe.Every stone is as new and strong as whenfirst Jehovah dug your deep foundations, and laid your stones in the fair red cement of Jesus' precious blood!
Still do your pinnacles glisten in the sun, O you bejeweled city! No change has tarnished you. Time has no tooth to devourthe glories, no foot to trample on your joys. You are the Eternal City and all things else are but shadow, mist and dream.Like the God that made you, you are immortal,invisible, the only true Church, as He is the only true God. Unto Him that built you, and that dwells in you, be glory bothnow and forever. Amen.
II. The second part of our subject is THE PREEMINENT POSITION. It was a cause of lamenting to many of the sinners in Zionthat Jerusalem was not better defended. The most approved method of ancient defense was to surround the city by a broad moat.Joab thought it no mean achievement when he tookthe "city of waters." Hence, God here meets all the wishes of His people by telling them that He will be to them all thatbroad rivers and streams could possibly be.
Jerusalem had nothing but its little brook Kedron, which was not worth the mentioning, for it could be no means of defenseat all in a day of siege. But He, even Jehovah, will be to them all that broad rivers and streams would by comparison suggest.At the meaning of this promise I must now veryhastily glance. First I think it means fertility. Understand that especially in the East broad rivers and streams are verynecessary to fertilize the earth. Egypt owed all her harvests to the Nile.
And the great plain of Mesopotamia, in which Nineveh and Babylon were situated, was watered by two great riv-ers-the Tigrisand the Euphrates-and by innumerable streams which intersected the intervening country. The whole land was irrigated by canalsand little brooks. It is now adesert because there is no irrigation, but then it was the most fertile part of the world. We are told in the first chaptersof Genesis concerning Eden, that there went a river through it. It had not been Eden without its Hiddekel.
Well, now, Jerusalem had none of these broad rivers or streams, but her God is to be all that to her. O, Beloved, how fertileGod makes His Church! Let but the Lord Jehovah come among His people, and there are many conversions. Her sons and daughtersare as many as the sand of the sea, and heroffspring like the gravel thereof. Only let the Lord be with the minister, and with the Church, and we shall have to say-"Whoare these that fly as a cloud and like doves to their windows?"
Moreover, in your heart and mine, if we have Jehovah there, He will be to us a place of broad rivers and streams, and we shallbe fertile in all Divine Graces. Perhaps this morning you feel like a desert, bringing forth no fruit. Ah, but think of yourglorious Lord! Think of the glory of all Hisattributes-especially think of the glory of His Grace, the glory of His finished work for you, the glory of His Cross, andof His Throne. You will find that He will give you fertility-your faith shall grow and all your graces shall flourish! Theglorious Lord can make uslike a tree planted by the rivers of water so that we shall bring forth our fruit in our season.
And as for good works, which are the true fruit of such as the Lord loves, let but Jehovah dwell in us, let His Spirit abidein us, let Christ be in constant fellowship with our souls, and we shall abound in every good work to the glory of God. Wewant no Tigris. We need no Euphrates. We seek noNile-Jehovah is to us a place of broad rivers and streams. Our fruit surely blossoms and ripens in its time when God, theglorious Lord, is with us.
Broad rivers signify not only fertile soil, but abundance to the inhabitants. Places near broad rivers produce a great varietyof plants. We know that the children of Israel regretted that they had left the leeks, garlic, onions, cucumbers and melonsof Egypt-plants that grew by the rivers.Besides, where there are rivers there is an abundance of fish of all kinds, and in the fat pastures, such as Goshen, whichwas well watered by the Nile, abundance of cattle are reared. And the abundant harvests which are produced there through theadmirable irrigation, make thatland blessed which has broad rivers and streams.
Well now, our God is all this to His Church. Having God, she has abundance. What can she ask for that He will not give her?What want can she have which He will not supply? Oh, you citizens of Zion, what are your wants this morning? My Master sendsme out like a herald from a king, and He bids mecry in the streets of this Zion, "Ho, you that have any need, come to your king and He will supply you." Want you the Breadof Life? It drops like manna from the sky. Want you refreshing streams? The Rock follows you, and that Rock is Christ.
"In this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fatthings full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." If you have any want, it is your own fault! If you are straitened,you are not straitened in Him, but in your ownheart.
Broad rivers and streams in like manner point to commerce. We know that in Holland, especially the broad rivers and streamsmake that nation what it is. The harbors are so safe, the rivers so broad, and the canals so innumerable, that commerce iseasy in every place, and the ends of the earth arelinked to the nation by its broad rivers and streams. In that country we find curious importations hardly known to any otherpeople, because they have gathered up the treasures of the far-off lands. There was a time when their broad rivers and streamsenabled them to engross themercantile power of the whole universe.
Well, Beloved, our glorious Lord-keep the adjective as well as the noun-our glorious Lord is to be to us a place of commerce.Through God we have commerce with the past. The riches of Calvary, the riches of the Covenant, the riches of the old age ofelection, the riches ofeternity-all come to us down the broad stream of our gracious Lord. We have commerce, too, with the future. What galleys,laden to the water's edge, come to us from the millennium! What visions we have of the days of Heaven upon earth.
Through our glorious Lord we have commerce with angels, commerce with the bright spirits washed in blood that sing beforethe Truth of God-no, better still, we have commerce with the Infinite One, with eternity, with self-existence, with Immutability,with Omnipotence, withOmniscience-for our glorious Lord is to us a place of broad rivers and streams. I wonder how Unitarians find comfort, sincethey have no glorious Lord-they have an inglorious Lord. And I think I may say of Unitarianism as our Prophet here says concerningAssyria, that,having no glorious Lord, "their tacklings are loosed, they cannot well strengthen their mast, they cannot spread the sail.There is the prey of a great spoil taken from them, the lame take the prey." But we who have a glorious Lord, an IncarnateGod, God in Christ Jesus, we, I say,have commerce with Heaven.
Finally, broad rivers and streams are specially intended to set forth security. We have already alluded to our own happy island.Dr. Watts has said of it-
"Oh, Britain, praise your mighty God, And make His honors known abroad. He bade the ocean round you flow, Not bars of brasscould guard you so."
In the memorable '88, when the Spanish Armada, as the old Divines of that age said, "turreted the seas" till the high prowsof the vessels hid the waves of the ocean, God blew with His winds and all Spain's mighty hosts were broken, and God's favoredisle was free.
We were doubtless spared the horrors of war under the first Napoleon through our narrow sea. It was especially so in the oldtimes of ancient warfare. Then a narrow trench was almost as useful as a broad channel would be now, for they had no readymeans of crossing so well. Although on old Assyriansculptures we see galleys with oars crossing over rivers and we have one or two sculptures, I believe, in the British Museum,of the Assyrian king turning the river into another channel so that he might the more easily take the city.
But still, rivers were for a defense. Oh, Beloved, what a defense is God to His Church! Ah, the devil cannot cross this broadriver of God. Between me and you, O fiend of Hell, is my God. Do remember this, Christian, between you and your archenemyis your God. Satan has to stand on the other sideand oh, how he wishes he could dry up that stream, but God is Omnipotent. How Satan wishes he could change the current,but fear not, for God abides Immutably the same.
How Satan wishes he could get at you and me-but only once let us get safely in Zion-we may look over its walls, across thebroad rivers and streams, and remember that we are out of gunshot of the enemy so far as our spiritual existence is concerned.He cannot destroy us! Worry us, hemay-for we are such timid souls-but kill he cannot, for God, even our mighty God, keeps us safe beyond all possibility ofdestruction.
III. We come now to offer one or two words on the last point, upon which we have already entrenched. The last point is ETERNALSAFETY. I have already said that these broad rivers did not always answer the purpose of defending the city, because the Assyrianking carried galleys with him overland,and thus took the city. But concerning this broad river it is written, "There shall go no galley with oars, neither shallgallant ship pass thereby," to come up to the walls to attack the bulwarks.
Our text teaches us that to the eye of faith the Church has no enemies at all. "Wherein shall go no galley with oars." "Noenemies at all." "But," says one, "there are enemies to the Truth of God everywhere! We see the enemies of God creeping ineverywhere. The whole world is in arms against us."But faith so clearly perceives the feebleness and the frailty of man that, like her Lord, she takes up all the nations asa very little thing and counts all her adversaries to be but as a drop in the bucket. You ramble in your garden, perhaps,in the summer time, and a spider hasspun its stoutest web across your path. You walk along and you never think that there is anything to hinder you, and yetthere are those spiders' strong webs, which would have caught a thousand flies, but they do not impede you.
So is it with God's glorious Church-there are barriers across her path, but they are only spider's webs. On she walks-shehas no adversaries, for she counts her adversaries to be nothing. "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, andevery tongue that rises against you injudgment you shall condemn." This is the heritage of the people of the Lord. "They that war against us shall be as nothingand as a thing of nothing." Thus says the Lord.
Further, mark, dear Friends, that when we are compelled to see that the Church has adversaries, yet, according to the promise,those adversaries shall be put to confusion. They have launched the ship. The galley with oars is on the sea. The text doesnot say that no galley with oars shall ever bethere, but "no galley with oars shall go there." Now, in order to make it "go" they must fix the mast. They must gird thetacklings, or how shall they spread the sail, and how shall they proceed on their way? Ah, but they cannot, they cannot strengthentheir mast. Their tacklingsare loosed.
They are like mariners reeling to and fro. They stagger like drunken men. They are at their wit's end. They know not how tomake the mast stand in its socket. It was shaped and fashioned at Nineveh. It has been used in other sieges and it answeredwell. But this time it will not fit into itssocket. The wind blows furiously. They cannot fasten the tacklings in their proper places. They know not where to find theropes and spars. They cannot strengthen the mast nor spread the sail! Oh, how glorious it is to see the confusion of God'senemies!
Some say the devil is wise, but he is a fool, and has been a fool from the very beginning. All he has ever done has been tothrow stones in the sky which have fallen down upon his own head. He always shoots his arrows the wrong end foremost, andthen they come back again with their points towardhim. Somehow or other the crafty old fox, when undermining the Church's fall, manages to cover himself with filth. Whenthe whole of this world's drama shall come to an end, there will be one tremendous laugh from earth and Heaven against thedevil, for they will say, "Aha! Aha!Aha! He has been God's slave all the while.
"He has been but God's dupe, working out God's Glory. He thought he was having his own way and doing his own will, but hehas been but a pitiful slave to carry the materials out of which God shall bring forth triumphs that shall shine throughouteternity." O Beloved, we need not be afraid! Ourenemies are in confusion. They do not know how to attack us.
And then, faith not only sees the confusion of her adversaries, but she also believes they are so utterly destroyed that shemay go out and spoil them. They could not spread the sails. They could not fix the mast. Look! The wind has driven them onyonder rock! How the ship breaks. How she splits.There, now, she divides in pieces, and her cargo is drifted on the shore- and the men and the women and lame men are leaningon their staves. And little children all run down to the beach and gather the spoil from the wrecked ship. So it always hasbeen in every attack thathas been made on the Church-we have always seen the wreck of our adversaries and gathered spoils from them.
I see the ship launched once again. She has had her name altered. She has sailed from a distant port-not quite from the landfrom where Solomon derived his apes and peacocks, but almost as far. She has a proud helmsman, who wears a miter on his head.This time there are terrible expectationsthat Zion's city will be taken and destroyed. What will be the result, do you suppose, of the recent attack upon Christianity?Why, the result of it will be that we shall have the richest spoil we have had for years!
The Pentateuch, the blessed old Pentateuch, which was the only Bible, you remember, David ever had to read-the Book whichDavid used to spell over and say blessed was the man who searched it day and night-that old-fashioned Pentateuch- why, wehad almost forgotten it! People said,"Ah, yes, all very well to preach on the Gospels and sometimes on the Epistles, but the Pentateuch is an old-fashioned bookof little importance." Consequently there are very few comments upon the Pentateuch, which is, perhaps, the most neglectedpart of all Inspired Writ.
And what will be the effect of this new galley with oars? Why, we shall all read the Pentateuch more. I believe that the Pentateuchis the text of all the Bible, that the Pentateuch is the Law, the statute, the Book. And if any part of Scripture has thepreeminence, it is the five books of Moses.We shall look over those five books again. "In His Law we will begin to meditate both day and night." And then there willbe comments written, there will be sermons preached, and even those who are the feeblest in our Zion, even the little children,will get some of the spoil. Weshall gather some of the rich and rare treasures that have been hidden in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers.
We shall have to say, "Thank God that ever the galley with oars came here, for the spoil is very great, and we are all maderich thereby." I wish they would attack some other part of Scripture. Let some other portion of Scripture be attacked, andas silver tried in a furnace of earth, purifiedseven times, so shall the Word of God be. Wherever I see the devil's black finger I am obliged to him, for I feel inclinedto think there must be something there that is good, or else he would not have pointed it out as an object of attack to hisfollowers. Let us rest assured,dearly Beloved, that the spoil shall surely come in, and that we shall not be destroyed.
And what is to be the end of it all? Our text ascribes glory to a Triune God. The Church is, after all her attacks, and allher salvations, to ascribe glory to the Three-in-One Jehovah. Read the verse, dear Friends, "For the Lord is our Judge. TheLord is our Lawgiver. The Lord is ourKing"-Three, yet One. O Lord, be You exalted! Our Father which are in Heaven, You sit on the Throne and You are Judge! Jesus,son of Mary, and Son of God, You, by Your holy life, have set us such an example that You are our Lawgiver! And you, indwellingSpirit, You are withus, and therefore the shout of a King is in the midst of our camps.
Instead of doubting, fearing, and trembling, let us betake ourselves to song. The hope of the Church does not rest in herministers, but in her God. Not in her wisdom, but in Him. Not in her eloquence, but in His promise. Not in her might or inher numbers, but in His great strength, and in themultitude of His loving kindnesses. Dear Friends, let us roll all our cares on God this morning. Look up to God alone. Remember,you are saved. Do not believe Satan's lies. Hold fast to God's Truth. He is on your side. You have trusted yourselves in yourRedeemer's hand. You are aBeliever in Christ. You are, therefore, saved.
Being saved, expect to see every temptation minister to your growth. Expect that every trial shall make you richer in DivineGrace. And go home and keep your heart in tune, singing unto God, praising and blessing and magnifying His name. Oh, I wishwe were all citizens of Zion! I wish we were allmembers and had rights of citizenship in this blessed city! The gates are open and aliens who enter become citizens at once.
To become a citizen all that is needed is to be nothing, and to let Christ be everything. Trust Christ and you are enrolleda free man-and then from that day all the glorious things that are spoken of Zion are spoken of you! You shall share her blessednesson earth and her triumph above. TheLord now seal these words with His own Spirit for His own sake. Amen.