Sermon 566. General And Yet Particular
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, APRIL 24, 1864, BY THE REV. C, H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"You have given Him power o ver all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him." John 17:2.
THIS was used by our Savior as an argument why the Father should glorify Him in His dread hour of conflict. Our Lord did asmuch as say, "You have already given Me what I now ask. Therefore, since You have virtually bestowed it upon me in the Covenant,give it Me now in very deed." So the Believer,when he prays, asks for what is already his own. And when we come before the Lord in prayer this should encourage us much,that our heavenly Father has already given us all things in giving us His Son, so that we ask for what is virtually our own.
The text itself we will try to open up briefly. It contains two statements-first, that Christ, as a Mediator, has receivedfrom God universal authority over all flesh. And secondly, that the object of this is special and peculiar, that He may giveeternal life to as many as the Father hasgiven to Him. You have universal power, but you have within it a special purpose. We know that our Lord Jesus Christ hasall power given to Him in Heaven and in earth-"Angels and men before Him fall and devils fear and fly." All things, whetheranimate or inanimate, confessthe majesty of Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Our text, however, mentions the most stubborn thing in all the world-"flesh." Jesus has power over all flesh. That willful,wicked, disobedient thing called flesh Christ knows how to govern. He has power over all men as fallen men, for such the term,flesh, describes. I understand, then, thatChrist has power over all men, to pardon all whom He wills. Christ has this day as Mediator, power to convict of sin everyliving soul by His Spirit, if so He wills. And power to bring all men to the footstool of His Grace and to give them pardonif so it seems good in His sight. Wedo not believe that there is any exception to this rule-Christ has power over every man born of Adam, to give to him theGrace of conviction and the Grace of pardon, if so it should please Him to do.
He has power also to make those who are not convicted of sin and who are not pardoned, subservient to His purpose. He haspower to restrain their evil passions from running to an excess of riot. He can use them as His drudges to effect His purposeseven when they proudly rebel against Him-sothat though they boast themselves in their own free will-they shall really be working out His own eternal purpose. He hasa bit often in the mouth of His fiercest enemy and a hook in the jaw of the bloodiest persecutor.
Over all flesh He has authority whether it is crowned with royalty or wrapped in rags! Whether it curses with profanity orbows down with reverent adoration. There is not a mortal man from the equator to the poles, of any rank or any language, orbearing any hue upon his skin who is not subject tothis universal mediatorial power of the Lord Jesus Christ. If I understand my text and Scriptures parallel with it, it wasordained in order to the salvation of the chosen, that the whole world of man should be taken from under the immediate ruleof God as absolute God and placedunder a new form of government of which the Mediator should be King and Head.
As the result of this gracious arrangement a fallen race is permitted to exist-a sinful world coming into contact with anabsolute God must have been instantaneously doomed to Hell. Man, while yet a rebel, lives on in virtue of the mediatorialpower of Jesus! He has stepped in betweenavenging Justice and the sinner and so the sinner is spared. I trace to Christ's Atonement the continued life of the mostobdurate. All the long-suffering mercy of God seems to me to flow through the channel of the Savior's authority over all flesh.
It is in virtue of this power that the Gospel is preached to all men-"All power is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth. Goyou, therefore, and teach all nations." Hence the command to believe receives its Divine sanction and those are condemnedwho believe not in His name. On account of thisuniversal dispensation of mediatorship, an honest, gracious, and sincere invitation is given to whomever will, to drinkof the Water of Life freely. It is, I say, on account of this universal mediatorial power of Christ that I can stand uponthis platform and say in the broadestpossible terms, that whoever believes on the Lord Jesus shall never perish, but have eternal life! And I can preach a Gospelwhich, in its proclamation, is as wide as the ruin and as extensive as the Fall.
But why all this? The text tells us that the object and design of all this was not universal, but special-that the intentionof God in thus putting all men under the power of Christ was not that all men might receive eternal life, but that He mightgive eternal life to as many as had beengiven to Him. So that in all this universal dealing there is the special and peculiar design that the chosen may receivelife-that the elect may be filled with spiritual life on earth and afterwards enter into the Glory life above.
God might doubtless have acted upon another plan and have given Christ power only over His elect if He had willed, that Hemight give eternal life to them. But it has not so pleased God. It has, on the contrary, pleased Him to put the whole raceunder the mediatorial sway of Jesus in order that Hemight give eternal life to those who were chosen out of the world. God might have commissioned His servants to go into theworld and preach the Gospel to the chosen only- He might have told us to present Christ only to certain persons upon whomthere should be a peculiar mark.It has not so pleased Him.
He bids us go "into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." His high decree and Divine intent being that thosewhom He has ordained unto eternal life shall, through believing, enter into the life which He has ordained for them. I donot know whether I have brought before you what Iam certain is the full idea of the text-a general power given to the Mediator over all flesh-as the result of which a proclamationof mercy is universally published to men and a general declaration of salvation through faith presented to all creatures.But this alwayswith a special, limited, definite design-that a chosen people-separated from before all worlds from the rest of mankindshould obtain eternal life.
I have aimed in my ministry constantly to preach, as far as I can, the whole of the Gospel rather than a fragment of it. Thereforethose Brethren who are sounder than the Bible abhor me as much as if I were an Arminian. And on the other side, the enemiesof the Doctrines of Grace often represent meas an Ultra-Calvinist. I am rejoiced to receive the censure of both sides! I am not ambitious to be numbered in the rollof either party. I have never cultivated the acquaintance nor desired the approbation of those men who shut their eyes toTruths of God which they do not wish tosee.
I never desired to be reputed so excessively Calvinistic as to neglect one part of Scripture in order to maintain another.If I am thought to be inconsistent with myself, I am very glad to be so, so long as I am not inconsistent with Holy Scripture.Sure I am that all the Truth of God is reallyconsistent, but equally certain am I that it is not apparently so to our poor, finite minds. In nine cases out of ten hewho is nervously anxious to be manifestly consistent with himself in his theological system, if he gains his end, is merelyconsistent with a fool!
He who is consistent with Scripture is consistent with perfect Wisdom. He who is consistent with himself is at best consistentwith imperfection, folly and insignificance. To keep to Scripture, even though it should involve a charge of personal inconsistency,is to be faithful to God and men'ssouls. My text seems to me to present that double aspect which so many people either cannot or will not see.
Here is the great Atonement by which the Mediator has the whole world put under His dominion. But still here is a specialobject for this Atonement-the ingathering, or rather out-gathering-of a chosen and peculiar people unto eternal life.
I. Let us, this morning, meditate upon the principle of the text and our first remark shall be that THE DOCTRINE OF A GENERALDISPLAY OF POWER FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF A SPECIAL OBJECT IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ANALOGY OF NATURE. In the world aroundus we shall find the Creator accomplishingspecial purposes by a far wider display of power than the immediate object appears to require. Take, for instance, yonderplant. What is the main object for which a plant lives? Every botanist and every common observer will tell you that its objectin living is that it may produceseed and perpetuate its like.
God's object, then, in yonder plant is to produce a seed from it that its species may be perpetuated. How will He do it? WillHe send an angel to watch over the seed and the seed alone? No, my Brethren, there shall be a watchful care over root, stem,cells, tissues, leaves and flowers. Althoughwhen winter comes, every leaf will drop off and rot in the ground and never be heard of again, yet those leaves have beenthe object of a superintending care, most marvelous and wise. Though the real object of it all has been the seed alone, yetstem and leaf and cell have all beenwatched over.
Just so, I think, it is in God's dealings with His elect. He is looking to them as to the seed and substance of mankind, butthose graceless ones who will perish forever like fading leaves have been the object of His tender care. If you tell me thatthe leaves were not absolutely necessary to theseed, I will give you another illustration still more clear. You are not to think that when God is about to accomplish apurpose He studies just how much will do it and then spends no more power than a pinching economy finds needful.
We are wanting rain. Our gardens and fields are crying out for showers. Well, our gracious God will send it to us very soon.But will He just allot a shower to that piece of ground which requires it-will He not rather send a wide range of rain? Ihave sometimes wondered at this, that when theshower falls it must be God's intention to bless the field and yet He scatters the liquid blessing upon the salt and brinysea where no plants can be nourished and where it seems to be a waste to pour the cooling drops. You shall find it rain quiteas heavily upon the Atlantic asupon the thirsty earth which is opening its mouth for the moisture.
Why is this? Because it is the rule of God when He is accomplishing a purpose to deal after a general fashion though stillthe object is specific. Here is this air about us. Why is it made up of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen and so on? Is it notthat plants and animals may live upon it? Surely thisis the Creator's drift in making such a compound. But suppose you transfer yourself in imagination to the polar regionswhere life cannot exist, or to spots in the great desert of Sahara where even the vulture with swift wing has never flown.You will find the air composed ofprecisely the same particles!
Why is this? There is no animal to breathe it, no plant to bloom in it. Why then the same? Simply because God is not likefinite man-He has not to stint Himself to such an expenditure as shall just accomplish His own purpose-He acts like a Godand in the infinity of His Nature He givesmore than is absolutely necessary for the accomplishment of His purpose. Think again, now, of nature in another aspect.We are proud enough to think that God made this world for the comfort of man and with an eye to human convenience. Supposewe grant that principle for a moment.
Here is a violet peeping out among the green leaves. Why has it that delicious perfume making glad the spring? Why, you tellme it is to gratify man. Very likely, very likely. But here are millions upon millions of violets which are never smelt byanybody which grow among the nettles at the back ofthe Church, or away in the woods where not even a child has wandered, or at a distance from the abodes of men where theyare never seen or heard of, for-
"Full many a flower is doomed to blush unseen, And waste its fragrance on the desert air." Why is everything so painted bythe sun? Why do crystals sparkle when the sunbeams fall upon them? How is it you see the many lines of a rainbow when thesun is shining on a crystal?
Why it must be to gratify the eye. God would have this world a place of beauty and a joy forever! But crystals sparkle inthe polar regions where there is not even a bear to look upon them! In that inhospitable region where life goes out and wherewe believe no creature having life could possiblyexist, the sun still shines and still the crystal flashes back to Him the colors of the iris. Why is this? Why is this?I cannot tell you, except that I perceive that God gives to the sun a power over all things that He may give pleasure to theeye.
What multitudes of landscapes were never gazed upon by the artist's eye, yet there they are, sleeping in their beauty beneaththe eyes of God. How the birds are singing this morning, how they are pouring forth from their throats sweet melodious strainsand yet they are singing quite as well in thedeep forest glade where no man can ever hear them as in our gardens and walks. Why is this? Do we not think that the birdssing for our joy and that the landscape is spread out for man's mental delight?
It certainly is so, and yet there are landscapes and birds where there are no men to see and ears to hear. So I think I mightcontinue all the morning giving you analogies from Nature in which God, in the accomplishment of a specific purpose adoptsa general mode of action.
II. I will take another view of the question. THIS PRINCIPLE IS SEEN IN PROVIDENCE. All of you believe in a general Providence.You believe that God superintends all the affairs of the universe so that there is not a grain of dust blowing in the streettoday which has not its orbit ordained andfixed as much as the planets in the sky. You believe that
God overrules the motions of the rush that waves by the river as much as he does the policy of kings and emperors. Do notyou believe in a special Providence, too?
I do, and I believe you do. You believe that God is watching specially over His own people and that all things work togetherfor good to them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. And did it ever strike you that there wasany inconsistency in believing in a general and aspecial Providence? I do not suppose it ever did-I know it never did me. I know I feel quite easy in believing the two thingsand I should have been very uneasy in not being able to believe both. I do not see why the Christian may not transfer theidea and believe that thereis a general influence for good flowing from the mediatorial sacrifice of Christ and yet its special design and definiteobject is the giving of eternal life to as many as the Father gave Him.
We will take one or two instances in Providence. There is Jonah going to Tarshish. He has betrayed his Master and has fledfrom Nineveh. The Lord will have him back. He intends to bring him back in a strange conveyance-He has prepared a great fishto swallow him! How is Jonah to be got out ofthe ship? The storm must come and when the storm comes what does it do? Does it shake Jonah? Does it expose Jonah's lifeto danger? It does, but it also shakes the whole ship and all who are in the ship are afraid that they shall suffer shipwreck.And what is more, if there were athousand ships upon the sea that day they felt the storm and yet God's special object was to have Jonah thrown into thesea- though all the ships upon the sea must be tossed with the tempest, still there is the special design.
Take another thing. It is ordained according to prophecy that Christ must be born at Bethlehem. Then Mary His mother, whois great with child, must be brought to Bethlehem. How shall it be done? Why, in order to fetch Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem,every man and woman in Judea must go to the placeof their pedigree and still, though God's express design is to bring Mary there that Jesus may be born, He uses a generalmethod in order to accomplish it and every other Jewish man and woman must go to the place of their pedigree!
Here, again, is a particular object accomplished by general means. I might continue with many, many other instances, but indeed,you have only to open your eyes and see. My Brethren, if you pray tomorrow for God to send a favorable wind to waft the missionary-shipto its haven, the same wind willwaft a merchantman, or a pirate, too, if they are going the same way. It may be that you pray that rain may come to extinguisha fire, and perhaps a shower comes, but you do not expect it to fall just where the fire is, but also for miles around. Ifyou know some poor man living inLancashire and you pray for him, that God would deliver him from poverty-if your prayer is heard, it may very likely beby quickening the trade of the whole country and conferring a blessing on the people of the whole neighborhood!
In fact, you know yourselves if you are praying to God to bless your children, it is not possible that your children shouldbe blessed without the blessing coming down upon others, because God's blessing any one man is the means indirectly of blessingother people. You cannot have a godly familydown a court without the whole court being the better for it. You cannot have one Christian man favored by his God withouthis household having some portion of the favor. God sends the favor only to His servants-that is the special intention-butstill there comes withthat a wider blessing.
While thinking over this matter I could only compare it to the moon when surrounded with a halo. The interior ring was themoon's own self, but round about it was a halo of brightness. Such is God's dealing with His people. There is the centralsubstance of eternal, immutable love-but roundabout it there is a Divine halo-it encompasses all the creatures of God and makes them, in some measure, to participatein the light of the great central love, which belongs peculiarly to His saints.
III. Let us for one moment show that this has been ILLUSTRATED BY MIRACLES. Joshua is fighting with the Ca-naanites. Therehas been a long battle, but he desires to see his enemy exterminated and boldly turning round he cries to the sun, "Standstill upon Gibeon. And you, moon, in the valley ofAjalon." What did the sun and moon stand still for? Why to help Joshua against the Canaanites! But do you not think allthe people everywhere had a longer day as the result? Did not every man who looked up wonder how it was that the sun stoodstill? There was a poor man with a hardtask and he was afraid he should not finish it before the sun went down. How glad was he to find an extra hour added tothe day!
He knew nothing about the special purpose and yet there was a special purpose in it all. Every man and woman on that sideof the hemisphere enjoyed a length of light unusual for that time and yet there was no design of blessing them in Joshua'sprayer. They were blessed incidentally. The realobject was that the children of Israel might fight the battle and complete it. Take another miracle-Sennacherib has comeagainst Jerusalem-he is about to swallow up Hezekiah and all the little kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah takes Rabshakeh's letterand lays it before theLord. As the result of this, the angel of the Lord went through the camp of Sennacherib and slew his mighty men and thepower of Assyria was broken.
What was the effect of it? There was the little straggling kingdom of Babylon, then contending for existence with Assyria.That kingdom was spared and became afterwards the destroyer of Assyria. And you read that Berodachbaladan, the king, sentmessengers to Hezekiah to thank him for what was done.You see Babylon gets good out of the destruction of Sennacherib, but was this the main design? Certainly not. The grandobject of God in destroying Sennacherib was to deliver Hezekiah and His people and yet the whole earth rejoices and has restwhen the great hammer of the Lordfalls on Assyria and its empire is broken and destroyed. It was a blessing to all the East when the power of the despotwas broken that night-but the object of it was for Israel and for Israel, alone.
Come to the days of Christ and observe another miracle-there is a ship tossed within the tempest. Her mast is ready to goover the side. Her timbers crack-she will be swamped and go down. No, she will not-for there sleeps with His head upon thehelm, the Master of the tempest, theLord High Admiral of the sea, King Jesus! And when He has been awakened He stands up and rebukes the winds and waves andinstantly there is a great calm. Why did He make the calm? For the preservation of His disciples and His own ship. But didthe calm end there and give no blessingto others? We are informed that there were with Him many other little ships and so they all enjoyed the calm, too. The directand definite intention was to make His disciples at peace and in safety. But the effect of it did not end with the disciples,but every ship which was outupon the sea of Nazareth that night enjoyed the calm.
One more instance and I will not multiply them, lest I fatigue you. Paul and Silas are in prison-God's object is to terrifythe jailer and to bring out of prison His two servants, Paul and Silas. What does it say?-"The foundations of the prison wereshaken and Paul and Silas had theirbands loosed"? No, Brethren. "And every man's bands were loosed." Was it God's object to bring every man out of prison?No one dreams of such a thing! This was merely a concurrent benefit which went with God's special object in dealing with Hispoor persecuted followers, Paul andSilas.
So I believe that as it was in these miracles, so it is in that grander miracle, the great work of Grace. Jesus Christ comesinto the world as a Propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. And yet it is trueHe loved His Church and gave Himself for it. Helaid down His life for His sheep and for His people did He die and not for the world, in one sense, and yet in that othersense which I have tried to bring out, He was a Propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
IV. Let us now LOOK AT FACTS. How do we really find the Gospel operate? I think I see this island of Great Britain coveredwith forests with men living in them having their naked bodies painted, dwelling in caves, feeding upon herbs and acorns.I think I see a simple-minded man-some think itwas Paul-landing upon the shore and coming forward, trying to teach these savages the way of salvation. Oh, what a prolifichour was that when first the Gospel was preached in Britain! What has been the effect of it?
Brethren, let us answer another question first-What was the immediate design of God in sending the Gospel to Great Britain?My answer is to save as many as He had ordained to eternal life. That was His great object. But what has been the effect ofit? I trace the liberty, the happiness andthe prosperity of our country throughout these many centuries, to the prevalence of the Gospel in it. And though I believeGod's design in sending the Gospel-I mean the central design-was that He might separate unto Himself His own chosen people,yet in connection withthe Gospel, innumerable and incalculable blessings have come to every Englishman.
And there does not live a man who claims the name of Briton who is not under solemn obligation to the preaching of the Gospelfor ten thousand benefits. Christ has, indeed, in England, seemed to have power over all Englishmen, that He might give eternallife to as many as the Father gave Him. Lookat the Reformation. What was God's object in raising up Luther and Calvin and Zwingle to work the Reformation? Why, forthis grand purpose-that Christ might see of the travail of His soul and that His chosen might believe in Him. That was thepurpose of the Reformation! Butwhat did the Reformation accomplish?
Not only this, but a thousand things besides, for it was to the Reformation that arts and sciences owed their progress. Thehuman mind was liberated and expanded. And millions of people who never obtained eternal life through Jesus Christ, nevertheless,through the glorious Reformation obtainedtheir liberty and ten thousand other mercies beyond all price. This is a matter of fact. And if you take the Gospel to theSouth Seas, if you preach it to the benighted people there, you will find that it will subdue all flesh to its Divine power.But still the object is kept inview-that as many as God gave to Christ might have eternal life.
Let us observe one self-evident truth. It is a remarkable fact that where the Gospel is not preached in its general aspect,God does not seem to work out His special object to any large extent. I mean to say that if you will go into any Chapel inLondon and you find a minister there who preachesnothing whatever of the Word of God, except that one part of it which is most blessedly and sweetly true-God's electinglove-if you will listen to that man and hear him preach from the first of January to the end of December upon that one topic-thespecialty andpeculiarity of Divine Grace-you need not go into the vestry to ask the deacons if they have many conversions.
I am certain you will find there are few, indeed, and those mostly among persons who were convicted of sin and aroused elsewhere,and who obtain liberty under the gracious doctrine. But the absolute conversion of many is not a thing to be expected, andcertainly not a thing found where the preacheris so restrained by his sense of electing love as to be unable to boldly preach the rest of the Gospel and say, "Believein the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." You have only to try it, dear Friends-put your feet into the Chinese shoesand prevent their growing tothe proper size, in order to keep them in ecclesiastical comeliness-and you will soon find your walk of usefulness verymuch restricted.
Hold on to the point of being consistent! Make that the main thing-banish those texts which speak about anything general-neveropen your mouth with a universal invitation! Make it out that the Bible has not a word in it directed to men as men, but onlyto the chosen and I will undertakethat unless there is an unprecedented act of God's Sovereignty, you shall preach from one end of the year to the other andyou shall not be troubled at the number of the elect people. There will be very few who will ever come forward.
But I know also, (and he who will look candidly will see it), that the most effective ministry is that one which is not ashamedof the Doctrines of Grace! The ministry which does not stutter or stammer in talking about election! Does not trim or cutthe Divine Sovereignty of God, but which isequally clear upon the other point that God has declared His own solemn oath, "I will not the death of a sinner, but hadrather that he should turn unto Me and live." A ministry which holds Sovereignty but holds man's responsibility, too, whichdares to talk about God's specialobject with bold voice and yet insists upon it that He has proclaimed to every creature under Heaven this gracious proclamation,"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."
Well, now, these are facts and facts which are not to be disputed, either. We hear people sometimes sneer and say, "Ah, thereare many conversions, but are they genuine?" Sir, they are genuine! For we will boast this much that if there are not genuineconversions found in this Church, for instance,there are no conversions genuine under Heaven. For when I see harlots made chaste and remaining honorable women year afteryear. When I know drunkards who forswear the cup and who labor with their might for the reclaiming of others. When I lookupon those who were once singing thesong of the lascivious on the ale-bench who now for years-mark you, not months-for years persevere in holiness, I make thismy glory!
If any can find better conversions under Heaven let them find them! I am satisfied that they are such converts as Apostolictimes added to the Church-such as honor God in their lives and glorify Christ daily by their walk and conversation. I believeyou shall find most conversions whereneither Truth of God is held back, but where, as in the text, the two are taught. "You have given Him power over all flesh,that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him."
V. OUR PRINCIPLE EXPLAINS MANY SCRIPTURES and this goes very much in its favor. I like to read my Bible so as never to haveto blink when I approach a text. I like to have a theology which enables me to read it right through from beginning to endand to say, "I am as pleased with that text as I amwith the other." You know, Brothers and Sisters, you must be conscious of it, that there are many texts of Scripture whichlook wonderfully like universal redemption. Wonderfully like it and if they do not intend some sort of generality, they certainlyspeak in a very singularmanner.
Such a text as this, "He is the Propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." "Whogave Himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time." I might mention more of these-but if you get with an Arminianbrother he will have them all at hisfingertips, so you will spare me the trouble. These people are always dwell- ing upon these, and think they have quite upsetthe doctrine of particular redemption though that is as plain in Scripture as the nose upon a man's face! We know Scripturesays, "He has laid down His lifefor the sheep." He has redeemed us from among men. "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it." And you know thatpassage-"Husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it."
How did He love the Church? He loved the Church with a special love, far above that which He gives to others, or else accordingto that metaphor a husband ought to love his wife, and love every other woman just as much! That is the natural inferenceof that text. But you clearly see there must havebeen a special love intended in the husband towards the wife and so there must be a special love in Christ. He loved theChurch and gave Himself for it.
Now do you not think, Brethren, as there are two sets of texts in the Bible, the one of which very clearly speaks about theinfinite value of the Atonement and another which very evidently speaks about the intention of that Atonement being for thechosen and for the chosen only, that the best wayis to believe them both and to say, "Yes, I see it-as the result of Christ's death all men are put under the system of mediatorialGrace, so that Christ has power over them. But the object of His doing this is not that He may save all of them, but thatHe may save out of theseall which He now has in His own hands-those whom the Father has given Him"?
The shepherd trusts me with all his sheep in order that I may sever from them twenty which he has marked. A father tells meto go into the midst of his family, his whole family, in order that I may take out of it one of his sons to be educated. SoGod gives to Christ all flesh, says the text, butstill always with this definite and distinct purpose-that He may give eternal life to those whom He has given to Him.
VI. Let us go on in the sixth place to say briefly that this seems quite CONSISTENT WITH THE NATURE OF
GOD. We too often measure God after a human standard and therefore make mistakes. Remember that God has such an abundanceof mercy and Grace and power, that He never has to calculate how much will be necessary for the accomplishment of His purpose.He does largely and literally like one who cannotbut act in an infinitely gracious manner. If you have some chickens and you wish to feed them, you will only throw downas much barley as the fowls will want, but you do not think of feeding all the sparrows of the neighborhood!
It would be a very good thing if you could for they all need food. But you throw down as much as will accomplish your purpose.Now our God never has to stint Himself in this way, but with large handfuls He feeds the special objects of His care and theravens and kites besides. God, again, exhibitsa kingly character in His great methods of general love. At the coronation of the old kings, the fountains in Cheapsideran with red wine. Now you will say, "What a waste!" The gutters ran down on both sides with wine. It was not necessary, wasit? The king's object was that hissubjects might have wine.
Well, if that were his only object that might have been accomplished by opening the bottles one by one and stopping when therewas just enough to satisfy their thirst. Why did it run down the streets? Was it a waste? Not at all, it exhibited the royalglory. The king was glad to give the peoplewine to drink, but he wanted also to show himself a king and as nobody but a king could make gutters run with wine, thereforehe did it to illustrate his own magnificence. And our God, when He is about to exhibit mercy, does not say, "So much willjust accomplish My purpose and saveMy elect"- that is His main object. But behold, He makes the rivers run with wine and the floods with milk, so there isenough and to spare and yet no waste, because His grander object is His own Glory, and He is glorified even by that love whichdoes not effectually save.
When Napoleon was at war, his favorite tactics were, we are told, always to bring crushing battalions to bear upon some onepoint to carry everything before him. That, my dear Friends, is the mode of procedure in which you and I have to act. If wehave to accomplish a purpose, we must concentratethe whole of our might upon that one point. But suppose one greater than Napoleon, or a Napoleon with ten times ten thousandtimes more troops than he had? He would not need to concentrate his battalions upon one point, but simply cry to all his hosts,"Advance!" and they would gocrushing down his foes at every point of the line.
So our God cares for the salvation of His elect. But that is not the only thing He cares about-His own Glory is higher thanthis. His Glory is the whole of the line and our God, while He effectually saves those whom He has chosen, has no need tobring all His power upon one point. He hasabundance to spare after He has done all that we know of. He can, while He is blessing His people, also bless the entireuniverse according to His own will. And I doubt not that so He does and that Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of HisGlory, because Heaven and earth,though they may not alike participate in the fullness of Divine complacency, are full of the beams of His love.
VII. I have to conclude by saying that this principle is a MODEL FOR OUR CONDUCT. I was talking the other day with a Brother.He said he did not think the conversion of the world was the legitimate object of missionary enterprise, because all thatChrist intended by the Gospel was the gathering outof a people. Well now, it seems to me that my dear friend was quite right and quite wrong. As to God's purpose in the sendingof the Gospel to the world he was quite right, it is the gathering out of a people.
But as to my work he was quite wrong, for the work of God's minister is not the gathering out of a people. Christ surely knowswhat His own disciple is to do. Just hear. "Go you and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and ofthe Son and of the Holy Spirit." That is our work.He did not say, "Go you and sever out of all nations a people to be taught and to be baptized." No! Christ's marching ordersto His people are in these words, "Preach the Gospel to every creature." What will be the result of this universal proclamation?
The chosen will be saved. Then, Lord, why not send me to Your chosen? Why send me to all nations? "What business have youto question your Master's will? Is not this the very way in which I have chosen, that My elect shall be brought, by the preachingof the Gospel to all nations?" I look as theresult of missionary enterprise, not for the world's conversion-I do not expect it-I believe that God will gather out ofall people His chosen, and that Christ will come and when He comes, then shall He reign from the river even to the ends ofthe earth. But all themissionary societies put together will never convert the world, nor do I believe they will do very much towards it unlessthey very soon alter their tactics.
We shall have to try something very different from all the societies which have ever been in operation before we see any greatresults. I am waiting for a good time to come. Till then we must use old vessels till we get better ones, but better oneswill be found. My own impression is that the worldwill never be converted by missionary agencies, but that is not your business-I am not to make God's decrees the rule ofmy walk. I am to make God's revealed will my rule of action. Christ tells me to, "Preach the Gospel to every creature," andif I were absolutely certainthere was not one elect man upon earth, I would obey and preach the Gospel for all that-because if there were not a singlesoul saved by it, we are unto God a sweet-smelling savor.
So then, I say to you individually, talk about Christ everywhere-preach Jesus Christ to every creature. Say to every man andwoman you meet, "There is life in a look at the Crucified One." Tell men that, "Whoever comes unto Him, He will in no wisecast out," and let this be always yourcomfort, that all that the Father gives to Him shall come to Him! That Jesus shall see His seed. That of all that the Fatherhas given Him He will lose none, but will present them all at His right hand at last. Fly back to God's electing love andthe decrees of God as the pillow ofyour rest.
But take the general command and the universal power of Christ over all flesh as the sword with which you fight and the staffupon which you lean. It is for this end that I ask you, dear Friends, to contribute as you shall see fit, to the spreadingof the Gospel in foreign lands by the MissionarySociety. I do not believe it is a perfect organization-I believe it is full of faults. I believe, however, it is the onlyway in which we can send the Gospel to the heathen just now.
We will have a better plan by-and-by, I hope, but meanwhile-as this is the only one-let us use it with vigor, for, after all,it is not the instrumentality, but God. And if I have to look upon this as an ox-goad-an unfit tool to strike the Philistines,yet as I have not a better Iwill use it till a better shall be found! Meanwhile let us pray the Lord to speed His own cause and gather out His chosenby His Grace. Amen.