Sermon 1752. Mourners, Inquirers, Covenanters
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 25, 1883,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"In those days and in that time, says the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together,going and weeping: they shall go and seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces toward it, saying,Come, and let usjoin ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten." Jeremiah 50:4.
THE previous part of this chapter declares the overthrow of Israel's cruel oppressor-"Babylon is taken, Bel is ashamed, Merodachis broken in pieces." The Assyrian and Babylonian power had been the great tyrant of the ages and the Lord had employed itfor the chastening of His people, until, at last, Israel and Judah had been carried away captive to the banks of the Euphratesand the land of their fathers knew them no more. This was the mournful song of the exiles, "By the rivers of Babylon, therewe sat down, yes, we wept, when we remembered Zion." What a turn would come! In the day when God would reckon with Babylonand punish the haughty people for their cruelties and oppressions, then should Israel and Judah come to their own again.
"In those days, and in that time," there would be hope for the downtrodden-the Lord would keep His appointments of Grace tothe hour and, at the determined time, Israel would be free. "Surely the least of the flock would draw out the enemy" and escapefrom his power. God devises means for bringing back His banished ones and among those ways we usually see the overthrow oftheir conquerors. When, therefore, the Lord deals with Babylon in a way of vengeance it is that He may deliver His own people.See how the two things are joined together in the 18th and 19th verses- "Therefore thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God ofIsrael; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. And I will bring Israelagain to his habitation and he shall feed on Carmel and Ba-shan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead."
When Pharaoh is drowned, Israel is saved! When Sihon and Og are slain, the Lord's mercy to His people is seen to endure forever!The destruction of Amalek is the salvation of Jacob and the overthrow of Babylon is the restoration of Jerusalem! It was avery amazing thing that a nation so crushed and scattered as the Jews were, should come back from captivity-it was a verymarvelous instance of Divine power and faithfulness, as it is written-"For Israel has not been forsaken, nor Judah of hisGod, of the Lord of Hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel."
I will not talk much with you concerning the Chaldeans and the Jews, but I would speak concerning ourselves. We, too, by natureare in banishment, far off from our God and the abode of His Glory. We are not what we ought to have been, for the Lord didnot make us to be sinners, but to be His happy and obedient creatures. Our present lost estate is not our true state. We arebanished through coming under the power of our great adversary. Sin has carried us into captivity and we are in the far country,away from the great Father's house. It is a great blessing when the times come-and they have come-when there is an opportunityand an invitation to return. Today the power of the adversary is broken and we may flee out of the Babylon of sin. A greaterthan Cyrus has opened the two-leaved gates, broken the bars of iron in sunder and proclaimed liberty to the captives! We maynow return to our God and freely enjoy the holy and happy associations which belong to the City of our God.
At such times, when the Lord is leading men to seek His face, questions arise, anxieties abound and difficulties multiply.The lost tribes could not come back from Babylon by merely thinking of it-the way was long and dangerous, the paths were unknownand difficult-and they who came back to Zion found the journey to be no promenade of pleasure or parade of pomp. It is sowith the Lord's banished when He gives them a heart and a will to return to Him-they are
not, therefore, restored to the Father's house at once-they may have to persevere through months of weary pilgrimage beforethey come to their desired abode. As I have said, returning times are anxious times. Men wander thoughtlessly, but they donot return without grave thought and serious consideration. I earnestly desire to be the means in the hand of God of answeringquestions, removing fears and clearing the way for those who have begun to seek the Lord. They mourn and I wish to comfortthem. They ask the way and I would gladly direct them. They long to join themselves unto the Lord and I would, by His Grace,help them.
Last Lord's-Day morning was given to the fathers of the Church. Let this be given to the beginners in the Divine Life. Maythe Holy Spirit give us thoughts and words which may lead the seeker into the way of peace. Everyone who is really seekingthe Lord desires to be sure that he is seeking aright. He is not willing to take anything for granted, since his soul is oftoo much value to be left in danger. He does not even believe in his own judgment of himself, but when he thinks his faceis towards Zion, he still asks the way. He inquires, "Are my feelings like those of the truly penitent? Am I believing asthose do who are justified by faith? Am I seeking the Lord in a manner which will be pleasing to Him?" They have so long beenas lost sheep, going from mountain to hill, that they have forgotten their resting places and, therefore, in their confusionthey are afraid of going wrong again-and so they inquire with eager anxiety.
Perhaps we may show them from this Scripture how others sought and how others found-and this may be a guide and a comfortto them-for although there are differences of operation and all do not come to Christ with equal terrors, or with equal joys-yetthere is a likeness in all the pilgrims to the Holy City. "As in water, face answers to face, so the heart of man to man."The experience of God's people in its root principles is always the same. All coming sinners endure similar griefs and passthrough similar struggles-the same desires, the same fears, the same hopes and, by-and-by, the same realizations are to befound in all those who seek the Lord their God.
Looking carefully at the text, we perceive that those who came back to Zion by God's gracious leadership were first, mourners;secondly, inquirers and thirdly, covenanters, for they ended by joining themselves unto the Lord in a perpetual covenant.
I. To begin at the beginning, the Lord's restored ones, during the processes of Grace, were first of all MOURNERS-"In thosedays, and in that time, says the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going andweeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God." Oh, my Hearer, after all your sins, I will not believe that you aretruly coming to God if there is not about you a great sorrow for sin and a lamenting after the Lord! Some seekers are madeto drink of this bitter cup very deeply; the wine of astonishment is long kept to their lips; their sense of sin is terrible-evento anguish and agony!
I know that there are others who do not taste this bitterness to the same degree. It is in their cup, but for all that, thesweet love of Christ is revealed to them so soon and so fully that the healthful wormwood of penitence is veiled beneath theexceeding sweetness of gracious pardon. The clear shining in their case so soon follows the rain that they scarcely know thatthere has been a shower of grief! Surely, in their case the bitterness is passed, but is it truly there even though the otheringredient of intense delight in God's mercy swallows up all its sharpness.
Oh, Friends, you cannot imagine the Jews returning from captivity without bewailing the sins which drove them into the placeof their exile! How could they be restored to God if they did not lament their former wicked estrangement? Shall the Lordpress to His bosom an impenitent transgressor? How can there be peace to an offender as long as his offenses are not repentedof? While the heart feels no compunction concerning its wanderings, no mourning over its guilt, no grief at having grievedthe Lord, there can be no acceptance with God! There must be a shower in the day of mercy- not always a long driving raincausing a flood-but the soft drops must fall in every case.
There must be tenderness toward God if we expect reconciliation with God. The heart must cry, "How could I have sinned againstso good a Lord! How could I have stood out against His love! How could I have refused my Savior and His abounding Grace! MyGod, forgive me!" These confessions, if truly made, cannot be spoken without sighs and sorrows. The multitudes of our sinscannot be thought of without a moving of the soul and a measure of heartbreak. Is it not written, "They shall look on Himwhom they have pierced, and shall mourn for Him, and be in bitterness as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn"? A lookat Christ gives life, but it also produces the tokens of that life, among which we find godly sorrow which works true andsincere repentance. Even a sense of pardon does not exclude this holy mourning-on the contrary, it increases it. The morecertain we are that we are forgiven, the more do we loathe the sin which caused the
Savior to bleed and die. The more sure we are of the Divine favor, the more intensely do we regret the fact of our havingbeen enemies to the infinitely gracious God. Of all the ransomed it is written, "They shall come with weeping, and with supplicationswill I lead them."
Observe that this mourning in the case of Israel and Judah was so strong that it mastered other feelings. Between Judah andIsrael there was an old feud. They were brethren and it ought not to have been so, but they had become bitter adversariesof each other. Yet now that they return to the Lord, we read, "The children of Israel shall come, they and the children ofJudah together." O happy union in a common search for God! One of the first results of holy sorrow for sin is to cast outof our heart all forms of enmity and strife with our fellow men. When we are reconciled to God we are reconciled to men! Ihave seen those who had been fired with mutual hatred, loving each other when they have been alike under the power of theSpirit of God and bowed down with contrition! I am sure if you were to go forward as a sincere inquirer to ask the way toHeaven, if you met your worst enemy at the door and he said to you, "I am seeking mercy of God for my transgressions," youwould grasp each other's hands and weep together.
If a man, professing to be a penitent, drew back at the sight of another who also came penitently to Christ, and said, "Ican have nothing to do with him," I should unhesitatingly declare him to be a hypocrite! And even if he were sincere, I shouldhave to tell him that to a certainty the Lord could not and would not accept his repentance or grant him peace. If you willnot forgive your brother, how shall God forgive you? Do you pray, "Forgive us our trespasses," if you cannot forgive yourbrother his trespasses? A penitent sense of our own provocations of God will prevent our being provoked with men. As Aaron'srod swallowed up all other rods, so a sincere sorrow for sin will remove all readiness to take offense against our fellowsinners. In the secret chambers of their souls the truly penitent say, "Everything that I have against any man is gone, now,for I remember nothing but that I have offended against my God. If the Lord will forgive my wrong, everything I have had tobear from others shall be as the small dust of the balance, not worthy to be considered or thought of in the day of InfiniteGrace."
I am trying to preach that I may help you who are seeking the Lord to discover whether you are coming in the right way. Thisshall be one simple test to you-you cannot be coming home to your Father unless there is some degree of mourning for sin,some smiting upon the breast, some bemoaning of yourself because of your iniquities. And again, for certain, you cannot becoming to the Lord aright unless there is a blotting out altogether from your heart of every offense that every man may havecommitted against you in past times. Judah and Israel, when the Lord has mercy on them, forget their enmity and recognizethe brotherhood which they ought never to have forgotten! If I am speaking to any who are seeking the Lord, but seem to makesmall progress to His Light, I entreat them to inquire whether sins of enmity and wrath may not be lying at the door and blockingthe way of Grace. Hasten to forgive freely, fully, heartily-and then pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them thattrespass against us." A family disagreement may seem to be a little thing, but it may be holding many in the deadly bondsof the Evil One. Be reconciled to your brother, or you cannot be reconciled to your God!
Keeping close to the text, we notice, again, that the exiles on their return were mourning while marching. Observe the words-"goingand weeping." We might have thought, perhaps, that when they began to go to their God, so much Light of God would break inupon them that they would cease to weep-but no, it is, "going and weeping." A true heart that is coming to God takes the roadby Weeping-Cross-it feels its sin, its guilt, its unworthiness and it, therefore, mourns. The closet is sought out and prayeris offered, but in the supplication there is a dove's note, a moaning as of one sorrowing for love. When the prayer is over,there is dissatisfaction with the prayer, a smiting on the breast, as much as to say, "I pray but coldly compared with theway in which I ought to pray. I look not to Christ as I ought, but look half askance, I fear, at something else besides theCross."
An honestly believing soul is fearful lest it should be mistaken in its faith. A truly praying heart is jealous of its ownprayer, lest it should ask amiss. Probably no prayer is more sincere than that which is followed by deep regret that it isnot more fervent-in the fact that the pleader is dissatisfied with his cry lies a proof that the Lord is satisfied with it!Our humility is the watermark which proves our prayer to be genuine. If we think well of our prayers and imagine that we havealmost a right to be heard, we shall make a fruitless visit to the Mercy Seat. We may not claim of God as a matter of justicethose gifts which are pure gifts of mercy. The Lord had no respect unto Cain and his sacrifice because there was no referenceto sin, no type of atonement, no confession of guilt in that which he presented. Publicans confessing sin are jus-
tified rather than self-satisfied Pharisees. When a sense of sin leads to prayer, the prayer itself appears to be anothercause for repentance because of the sin which mingles with it.
He who feels a humbling sorrow while he seeks his God is coming aright. Now the seeker opens his Bible and sits down to readthe promise. And as he reads, he thinks what great mercy there is in it, but he adds, "Alas, how evil has been my life, sinceI have grieved the Lord of Love." Then the tears flow like the water which gushed from the smitten Rock, for as the Believersees that pardon is real and that it is meant for him, he is all the more melted down with penitential sorrow. This is hissong-
"Your mercy is more than a match for my heart, Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart. Dissolved by Your goodness,I fall to the ground And weep to the praise of the mercy I've found." Having grasped the promise and having looked to Christand seen himself forgiven, the sincere soul continues to draw nearer and nearer to his God-and yet all the while he is filledwith self-accusations and humility on account of sin. While he cries, "Blessed be the God of my salvation who has deliveredme from my iniquities," he also mourns within himself, exclaiming, "Alas, that I should have so transgressed and grieved HisHoly Spirit! I am ashamed at having rejected such wondrous love!" Thus, "Going and mourning" depict a gracious blending ofactivity and repentance.
Turning the text around, we read not only of "going and weeping," but also of weeping and going. The holy grief here intendeddoes not lead to sitting still, for it is added, "they shall go." That word, "weeping," is sandwiched in between two goings-"goingand weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord." To sit down and say, "I will sorrow for my sin, but never seek a Savior,"is an impenitent pretense of repentance-a barren sorrow which brings forth no cleansing of the life and no diligent searchafter the Lord. Such a sorrow is the first dropping of that dread shower of remorse which will fall upon the soul forever.Remorse is the never-dying worm and the unquenchable fire. No doubt, all that are now lost lament that they have brought themselvesinto such a ruin, but that lamentation is no evidence of reconciliation with God-many have a kind of repentance for havingbrought themselves into a condemned condition-but this is not genuine repentance if it stands alone.
When the prodigal cries, "I will arise and go to my Father," then a work of Grace is certainly begun, but not till then. Itis not enough to say, "I perish with hunger"-but when there follows upon it, "I will arise, and go to my Father, and willsay unto Him, Father, I have sinned," then we have reached the true turning point-salvation has come to our house! True mourningfor sin leads the sinner to the Cross. When you talk about repentance, if your repentance is with your back to the Cross,away with your repentance! If you are trusting to your tears, sorrows and grief-and not trusting to the blood of Jesus Christ-youare trusting in vain! Vanity of vanities! Your tears shall scald you if you trust in them and your groans shall be the echoesof your death sentence if you rely on them! That repentance in which a guilty man dares to fix his confidence shall be sweptaway as a thing that lacks the salt which would make it acceptable with
The way to repent is with your eyes upon the Sacrifice, viewing the flowing of the sin-atoning blood, marking every preciousdrop, gazing into the Redeemer's wounds and believing in the love which, in death, opened up its unsearchable depths. Allthe while we must be saying, "My God, my God, I groan within myself that such a Sacrifice should have been required by myatrocious transgressions against You." This is the holy mixture which is needed-going and weeping- but still going and seekingthe Lord! We must not pass over that last word, "They shall go and seek the Lord their God." This, dear Hearer, shall be aguide to you as to whether your present state of feeling is leading you aright. What is it you are seeking? "I am seeking,"says one, "I am seeking peace." May you soon obtain it and may it be real peace, but I am not sure of you.
"I am seeking," says another, "the pardon of sin." Again, I pray that you may find it, but I am not sure of you, either. Ifanother shall reply, "I am seeking the Lord; for I desire above all things to have Him for a Friend, though to Him I havebeen an enemy"-then I have good hope of him! I rejoice over the heart which is crying, "I want to see my Father's face, andhear Him say, 'I have blotted out your sins.' I want to dwell with God, to serve Him, to obey Him, to grow like He. Therehas been a quarrel between Him and me-and other lords have had dominion over me-but now I desire that He shall be my Lordand King, and myself His loyal humble servant and beloved child. I hunger and thirst
after God!" You see, Brothers and Sisters, we require a great many things in order to be saved, and yet only one thing isnecessary.
I would represent it in this form-Here is a little child, picked up from the gutter, diseased and filthy, unclad, unfed. Andif you ask me to make out a catalog of what the child needs you must give me a large sheet of paper to write it all down!And then I fear I shall leave out many things. I will tell you in one word what that poor infant requires-it needs its mother.If it gets its mother, it has all it needs. So to tell what a poor sinner needs might be a long task, but when you say thathe needs his heavenly Father, you have said it all! This was what the prodigal needed, was it not? He needed his Father-andwhen he went to his Father, all his necessities were supplied.
Oh Souls, you are seeking aright if you are seeking your God! Nothing short of this will suffice. This may greatly aid youto judge whether you are in the right way or not. And so you see, first of all, the returning exiles were mourners.
II. Secondly, these mourners became INQUIRERS. We read in the second verse of our text, "They shall ask the way to Zion withtheir faces toward it." They knew something, that is clear, for they turned their faces in the right direction, but havingbeen born and nurtured in Babylon, the road to Jerusalem had never been trod by them-the route was strange and new. They knewwithin a little the quarter in which Zion lay and they looked that way, but they did not know all about the road-how couldthey? The saving point about them was that they were not ashamed to confess their ignorance. Minds that the Lord has touchedare never boastful of their wisdom. There are many persons in the world who would be converted if they could but consent tobe taught by God's Word and Spirit-but they are such wise peo-ple-they know too much to enter the school of Grace. Jesus tellssuch, "Except you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven."
A sense of ignorance is the doorstep of wisdom! He shall never know, who is not willing to confess that he does not know.These exiles confessed their ignorance. They knew a little, but they felt that they had much more to learn before they couldstand in the temple of God in happy fellowship with Him. It is clear from their asking the way that these inquirers were teachable.They not only yielded to be instructed, but they were eager to be taught and, therefore, they asked for information. It isa hopeful sign when children ask questions. If we can get them to desire knowledge, the desire will be more valuable thanthe knowledge, itself. The way, nowadays, is to cram the memory, but if our youths could be brought to hunger for knowledgeand to ask questions, their minds would be much more effectually benefited.
It is a great mercy for a poor seeking sinner to have a teachable spirit, so as to pray, "Lord Jesus, write Your Gospel onmy heart. Here it is, ready to be written on. Only tell me what You would have me do. I make no reservation-I am willing,by Your help, to do it. Or if there is nothing to be done but to sit at Your feet, tell me that, and I will do it as YourGrace enables me." This teachable spirit is a great benefit to any man-it is, in fact, a precious fruit of the Spirit. "Theyshall ask the way to Zion." They shall, therefore, be conscious of ignorance and they shall be willing to be taught! Theseare good characteristics, such as God accepts.
More than this, they will be anxious although they are right-"They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces toward it"-theyare traveling in the right direction and yet they ask the way! They have looked westward from Babylon, towards Jerusalem.They have taken up the westward position which, in their case, had a hopeful meaning in it. They are setting out for the landof Canaan as their first father did when he left Chaldea. And as they have no map of the road, they ask for the way whichleads from banishment to the city of their God! They are right, for their faces are Zionward and one proof of it is that theyare anxious to keep right, or to be set right. You who are certain that you are right are very liable to be wrong! But thosewho make every inquiry of the Word of God, of the servants of God and of their fellow travelers are, in all probability, pursuingthe right road. He that has never raised a question about his condition before God had better raise it at once.
The fullest assurance of faith we can ever attain will never excuse us from the duty of self-examination. When a man is mostsurely prospering in business, it will be wise for him to keep his accounts with care. If he does not attend to the stateof his affairs, we shall suspect that his prosperity is a pleasing delusion which he dares not disturb. He who is most surethat he is right before God is most willing to look within-and he that will not search his own heart, but takes it for grantedhe is safe, may take my word for it that he is in a perilous condition! It is a strange thing that when men set their facesin the right way, they become careful and serious and deeply concerned, for they feel that their eternal destiny is not athing to trifle with.
At the same time, note concerning those who are coming to the Lord and His people, that they are questioning, but they arestill resolved. They ask their way to Zion, but they have set their faces like flints in that direction! They ask how theycan be right with God, not as a matter of curiosity, but because they mean to be at peace with Him-by God's Grace, nothingshall turn them aside from their God and His temple-and, therefore, their anxiety to be right. They do not raise questionsby way of quibbling that they may have an excuse for sitting still, but they question because they are in downright earnest.True penitents will have Christ or die! Therefore with solemn resolve, lest, perhaps, they should be misled, they ask theirway, determined to walk therein.
Though they ask the way, we may remark, further, that they know where they are going. They ask their way to Zion. They wishto know how they can become fellow citizens with the people of God; how they can behold the great Sacrifice; how they caneat the true Passover; how they can be accepted worshippers of Jehovah and how they can enjoy fellowship with Him. They asktheir way with understanding, for they know what their heart is seeking. They ask their way, not to somewhere or other, butto Zion-not to some imaginary blissful shore that may be or may not be-they seek God's own dwelling place, God's own palace,God's own Sacrifice! They ask boldly too, for they are not ashamed to be found inquiring! And when they are informed, theirfaces are already that way and, therefore, they have nothing to do but to go straight on. May God grant us myriads of suchinquirers!
Observe the right order-first they sought the Lord and then they asked their way to Zion. First God and then God's people!First the Master of the house and then the house of the Master! First that you may become His child, secondly that you maybe put among the children. We pray the Holy Spirit to teach you this order well-first give yourself to the Lord and afterwardsto us by the Word of God.
III. Now we come to the last matter-these inquirers become COVENANTERS, for they said to one another, "Come, and let us joinourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten." Oh, that word, "covenant." I can never pronounceit without joy in my heart! It is to me a mine of comfort, a mint of delight, a mass if joy. Time was when theology was fullof Covenant Truth. Nowadays these grand old doctrines are laid aside by our wise men as too commonplace for their enlightenedminds! I do not believe that some modern preachers can say, "covenant." They could not frame their mouths to pronounce itright. The doctrine of the "Covenant" is a kind of Shibboleth by which we may know the man of God from the false prophet.
Let the people of God take no delight in the man who does not delight in the Covenant of Grace. I rejoice in those old Scotbooks about the Covenant-Covenant Truth was so inwrought into the Scot heart that Scot peasants, as well as divines, perpetuallytalked about it. You remember the good old cottager's blessing over her porridge? I cannot repeat it in pure Doric, but itran like this- "Lord, I thank you for the porridge, I thank you for an appetite for the porridge, but I thank you most ofall that I have a Covenant right to the porridge." Only think of that! A Covenant right to the porridge! Does not the promisesay, "Your bread shall be given you and your waters shall be sure?" God has given to His children a Covenant right to be fedin this life with daily bread-otherwise we might not pray for it!
In the day in which the Lord put us into the Covenant by personal experience, He said, "No good thing will I withhold fromthem that walk uprightly" and, consequently, He promised the porridge and any other provision which He judged to be "foodconvenient for us." If we are in poverty, it sweetens everything if we can feel that our food and raiment must come to us,for the Lord has covenanted to supply all our needs! We pray the Lord, "Give us this day our daily bread." How came it tobe ours? Why, because it was guaranteed us in the Covenant-Covenant provision has made it ours and, therefore, we may askfor it as ours.
Have I any right to ask God for what is not mine in Christ Jesus? As sinners we ask for mercy and grace for the sake of Grace,but when we come to be children, we can also appeal to other attributes-and especially to faithfulness which is a great Covenantsecurity. We can now say, "My Father, since I am Your child I am an heir of God, joint-heir with Jesus Christ-therefore giveme of the fullness which You have treasured up in Him on my behalf." The upper springs are ours and the nether springs shallnot be withheld-
"He who has made my Heaven secure Will here all good provide. Since Christ is rich, can I be poor? What can I need beside?"
Returning to the text, from which I have swerved a little, these inquirers become covenanters, for we read that they seekto be joined unto the Lord-"Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord." The mischief of our fallen state arose from ourtrying to be distinct and independent of our God. The younger son said, "Give me the portion of goods that falls to me." See,he has received his share in ready money and off he goes to the far country. What does he do when he penitently returns? Whyhe joins himself to his father! Nothing in the house is his-he has had his portion of goods long ago-but he lives at homebecause he is one with his father and cannot be shut out from the house. He is in communion with his father and so he is apartaker of all his father's goods. O that word, "joint-heirs"! What security and sweetness dwell in it! It is a grand thingto be an heir of God, but it makes it so much surer to be "joint-heirs with Christ." We have such fellowship with Jesus thatwe share all that Jesus has-our title to all good things lies in Jesus and in our being one with Him. "Come, and let us joinourselves to the Lord."
Now dear Hearts, are you willing to be one with Christ and so to be one with the Father? Is not this the one thing you longfor, that you may be so at peace with God through Jesus Christ that you may be joined with Him? You are a right-hearted seeker!In fact, you have already found the Lord, or else you would not find it in your heart to use such an expression as seekingto be joined unto the Lord! Next, notice for how long a time this Covenant is to be made-"Let us join ourselves to the Lordin a perpetual covenant." In our English army of late they have enlisted "short time" men. A good brother came to join theChurch last week who is in the Reserves and I said to him, "You are not coming to unite with us for two sixes, the first sixwith the colors and the other six as a reserve man-you have come, I hope, to fight under the colors as long as life lasts."
"Yes, Sir," he said, "I give myself up to the Lord forever." No salvation is possible except that which saves the soul forever!It must be an everlasting salvation or no salvation! And yet some professors try to be off and on with God-they are wonderfullygood on the Sabbath-but they slip their regimentals off on Sunday night and there is no accounting for them during the week.I do not know where these double-faced people are to be found on Monday night, but I fear they are up to no good! These chameleonschange their color according to the light they are in. Their religion is a sort of acting-a kind of masquerade. Beware ofa religion which you can put on and off! In the Capitol at Rome I saw one of the Roman Emperors and I remembered well HisMajesty's brutal countenance! Soon after I saw the gentleman looking very different-I would not have recognized His ImperialHighness at all if it had not been for the name-the fact is, they had put another wig on him! Oddly enough, certain of theirstatues are so carved that a series of stone headdresses can be put upon them-and this makes a mighty difference in theirappearance.
I am afraid that to some professors their religion is a wig, which so wonderfully changes them when they put it on or takeit off, that you would not think they were the same people! A real man of God has his religion interwoven into the warp andwoof of his being-he could not be other than he is, whatever his circumstances might be. Said one, "I hate such a man; heshall not come to my house; for I hear he is never ten minutes in a room but he begins to talk about religion." Such a manthe world may hate-but such a man the Lord loves! Oh, that our godliness may be as our eyes, our mouth, our countenance, ourheart, our life-never to be parted with, but forever essential to ourselves! May we now join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetualCovenant! The Covenant of Life requires a lifelong covenant! We do not take Grace upon a terminable lease-it is an entailedinheritance, an immortal, eternal possession!
Note, further, that this joining to God these covenanters intended to carry t out in a most solemn way-"Let us join ourselvesto the Lord in a perpetual"-agreement? Promise? No! "Covenant" is the word! It is a profitable thing for the soul to covenantwith God. Dr. Doddridge gives a form of personal covenant in his, "Rise and Progress," and I have been told that some personshave written it out and even signed it with their blood. I believe that such a formal transaction may lead a soul into bondage-thiscovenanting is not to be performed quite so literally-but I believe that it should really be done.
That a man should give himself to the Lord in set and solemn form at some time in his life I believe to be a great help tohis later perseverance. And if he will renew his covenant every now and then it may greatly help to his keeping it. In theordinance of Baptism we have the best visible setting forth of that Covenant. Circumcision set forth the taking away of thefilth of the flesh, but Baptism sets forth the death and burial of the flesh, itself-we see in it the emblem of our deathand burial with our Lord. The Believer, thereby, says, "Now I am come to an end of my old life, for I am dead and buried."And he becomes from that time on as one who has risen with Christ, to walk in newness of life. By that solemn
act the Believer has covenanted that Christ shall be his life and that his old self, being dead and buried, shall no morerule and reign.
I have known some Believers, and I think they did wisely, take a part of a day for the special objective of giving themselvesanew to the Lord. They have said, "Lord, I do this day, as a poor sinner, solemnly put my trust in Your Word, in Your Sonand in His atoning Sacrifice. And, doing this, I feel that I am not my own, for I am bought with a price. And I now ask forGrace that from this day forward I may be wholly Yours. Not only I, but my wife, my children and my substance-all that I haveI give to You, my Lord, admitting that nothing which I have was ever mine, but always Yours. I pray that You will be my Godforever and ever, and be my Guide even unto death-and that after death You will receive me to Glory." Such a covenant as thiswill bear to be looked back upon and repeated. You can gladly say-
"High Heaven that heard my solemn vow, That vow renewed shall daily hear, Till in life's latest hour I bow, And bless in deatha bond so dear." You are coming to the Lord rightly, my dear Friend, if you are yielding body, soul and spirit unto Him tobe His forever. There is no fear about your safety when you join yourself unto the Lord by a perpetual covenant.
One word more remains to be spoken. Those who came mourning and inquiring, when they became covenanters, felt that they hada nature very apt to forgetfulness of good things and, so, a part of what they desired in their covenanting with God was "aperpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten." God will never forget, yet may you pray, "Lord, remember me when You comeinto Your kingdom." The fear is lest you should forget. What is your view of that possibility? Would it not be terrible? Thinkit over and say, "If I should ever forget the Lord Jesus. If I should ever forget my obligations for His great salvation andfor the good hope of eternal life which He has given me, it would be infamous! God grant I may die sooner than deny my Lord!"
Where could we go for comfort if we had forgotten our God? What would remain for us but everlasting despair? Let us, therefore,pray the Lord that it may be a perpetual covenant that shall never, never, not even for an hour, be forgotten! Ask the Lordto write this covenant upon the fleshy tablets of your heart, that it may be there forever! O Zion, if I forget You, let myright hand forget her cunning! Sooner than I should forget You, O my God, suffer me speedily to die! Let me not live to becomeso false, so wicked as under stress of infirmity or temptation, even for a moment, to turn aside from You!
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, take hold on Christ this morning with a renewed grip and say, "Lord, You know all things; Youknow that I love You! Suffer me not to forsake You. Hold me up and I shall be safe. I would be Yours living. Yours dying andYours forever and ever." Thus desiring and pleading, all will be well with you. May the God of the Everlasting Covenant blessyou. Amen.