« PreviousContinue »
ciled unto him. They are his heralds; theirs it is to blow the trumpet in the sinner's ears according to his direction: and sometimes this trumpet arouses the sinner by its blast from his lethargy and his indifference. They are servants; and they come forth saying, "I have a message from God unto thee." They are the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and bidding men repent and believe the Gospel. You have perhaps been accustomed to suppose it a very small trifle to disregard a sermon, and to despise the minister's voice; and truly it were a very small thing if it were only the preacher who spoke to you: but you recollect that the minister, when he stands up to you in the name of Christ, stands not in his own name, but he is, the Apostle says, the voice of Christ to you, and therefore he founds an argument on it in Hebrews, xii. 25: "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven." So that it is Christ who speaketh: if, therefore, you despise his ministers, you despise him.
Beloved, this is one grand means; and when we look at the variety of places of worship which God has honoured for this special purpose, and the public preaching of the Gospel, there is a hallowedness, a sacredness, a beauty, and a glory, about them. I never enter this pulpit without thinking that during the fifty years which this place has been erected how many precious souls, by the preaching of the Gospel, have been awakened from their slumbers, brought out of nature's darkness into the light of the Gospel, been united to the people of God, and now are going on in the way to glory. How dear is this very spot to the minds and memories of numbers before me on this very account! "It was in that pew," they say; "when I sat there; under that minister; when I was just a lad; under such and such circumstances; there I received my first light, heard the first tones of mercy effectually; there I first embraced my Lord.” How sweet is the spot where memorials of this kind are engraven on the heart!
But all are ineffectual without the influences of the Holy Spirit. Ministers knock at the door of men's hearts, but the Spirit keeps the key; and he unlocks the door and enters in. It came to pass while Paul was preaching to the women who resorted by the seaside to a prayer-meeting, on a Sabbath morning, that "the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, so that she attended to the things which were spoken by Paul." She had attended before; she was found waiting on the means before; but she had never attended as she
did now; she now felt an interest in it which she had never felt before. In this case may we not say especially, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." Hence, when the Spirit was poured out, those were plentiful days for conversion; three thousand in one day, five thousand on another occasion, and multitudes added to the church of such as should be saved. In vain we preach to you without this, and in vain you hear without this. This is the heavenly dew distilling on the plants, that makes them bud and bear fruit.
May I not say, What an argument this is for prayer for the outpouring of God's Spirit; and how important it is that before we come to the house of God, we should, at our family prayer, be urgent that the Spirit of God may fill the preacher to-day, and that the voice of the preacher may come with power to our hearts! So would the hearer hear with more delight, and so would the preacher preach with more effect.
Thirdly, we have to look at THE PROPERTIES OF THIS CALLING. The Turkish ambassador wished to see Mahomet the second's scimitar, by which it was said he had accomplished such wonderful exploits: when he showed it to him, he said, “I don't see any thing different in it from others:" and he immediately replied, "The virtue of the weapon depends upon the strength of my arm, and the wisdom and the power with which I have used it." It is precisely so with the Gospel: in this call nothing less than the arm of the Lord will do; and hence Isaiah, after he had preached the most eloquent and soul-melting sermons, used to retire to his closet and say, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" It is that " arm of the Lord with the sword of his Spirit," that does the wonder.
My brethren, there are some expressions in the Bible, expressive of the nature of this call, that sometimes astonish me. A man believes; but why does he believe? Because, the apostle tells us, it was "wrought in him by the exceeding greatness of God's power:" as if he laboured to describe the mighty power which is necessary to subdue the heart to God. And he goes on to shew in the next verse that it was the very same power which was wrought in them that believed, that raised our Lord Christ from the dead: so that the very same power that was necessary to raise the dead from their graves at the last day is necessary to convert the sinner from the error of his way. Think but for a moment, and you will see that it
must be a mighty call indeed. Must not that be mighty which conquers the proud heart of man, which before yielded to nothing; which subdues the stubborn will of man, which before allowed of no control; which enlightens the dark understanding which before was closed and barred to argument, and prejudiced against the admission of the light from heaven? Must not that be mighty that makes the citadel which has stood out against so many assaults of the word, yield sweetly, willingly, cheerfully, and joyfully, and take the Saviour in! "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" On the question, the rebel yielded: "Lord," says he, "what wilt thou have me to do ?" "Go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." And this one call from heaven wrought such an entire change in his views that, though he was blind, he had such inward light, that the voice from heaven again spoke of him, saying, "Behold, he prayeth :" he is not despising my bounty; he prays, he asks for mercy and grace. What a mighty change is wrought by this call, and what a call it must be!
My fellow sinner, it may be that thou mayest have held out very long, and hast been a sturdy rebel against the Gospel of Christ: your mother's tears and prayers appear to be unavailing, and your father's entreaties to be lost, and your minister's efforts all unsuccessful; but in some happy day (O Lord Jesus grant it!) this voice may be heard through the preaching of some sermon ; you may stop your ear, but you must take your fingers out; you may harden your heart, but it will melt like snow before the sun; and you will be brought to submit to Him whom to know is life eternal. O this call is a very powerful call!
Then again it is a heavenly call. So the apostle expressly calls it: "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." And if you look at the exercises to which this calling devotes a man, you see how peculiarly heavenly it is in its nature. The man had nothing to do before but to sin, and now he is called to do angel's work; his business is all about heaven; he has simply to do as the angels do, and that is, to obey God, without murmuring, without repining, cheerfully and willingly. He is now to walk with God as one who is the companion of Deity, as one who is at friendship with heaven, as one who is delighted with spiritual and heavenly intercourse. He is now to be the organ of the Creator's praises, and to celebrate them with a lovely, cheerful, merry heart and voice all his days on the earth. He is now to be crucified to
the world, dead to all its lusts, all its carnal desires, and all its affections, and to have his heart, his affections, and his joys in the heavenly country to which he is hastening. O! this is a heavenly calling indeed; and just in proportion, beloved, as the power of Christ is felt in the soul is this calling secured and these joys produced.
Besides which, the apostle calls it "a high calling" "I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." If we look for a moment at the blessed and high privileges which this calling confers on an individual, is it not a high calling? The man is instantly adopted into the family of heaven; he becomes one of the saved; he takes on him the name of Christ; he is justified; he wears a robe in which Deity himself can see no spot; the law can bring no accusation against him; there is nothing to be laid to his charge; he is an heir of heaven; he is numbered among the citizens of heaven; nay, he becomes a king; he triumphs over his fleshly lusts-he has the victory over them, for "this is the victory which overcometh the world even our faith;" and he is a priest offering up sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ; and he is a prophet, teaching others the way of salvation because he himself has been taught of God. And what shall I say more? He is in conjunction with Deity himself and raised to the elevation of which his nature was capable, and to which his mind might have aspired, but he never thought he had a right to the connexion before. Now he is raised above his former self, raised to sit with Christ in heavenly places, and to have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Is not this a high calling?
Not to be tedious, let me just remark that this is an immutable calling, an unchangeable calling. "The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." There may be many changes in God's providences in the object, but there is none in his calling. He repented that he had made man, but he never repented that he saved man. He repented that he had made Saul King over Israel, but he never repented that he made a sinner a saint, and he never will. He suffers nothing to overturn his great design; and his design from all eternity was, that by this call sinners should come out from the world to heaven. He intended that neither the operations of providence, nor the opposition of the world, should ever defeat the designs he has in view. Calling proceeds from love, and that love changes not in its dispensations, but as to its subject. It first gives them life in this call, and it will sustain that life amidst all the opposition from within, and all the attempts at destruction
from without. I give to my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands." If they backslide he calls them back; there is the shepherd's crook in his hand, and that crook he uses: there is the shepherd's voice, and it calls, and they hear his voice and return. "If my children forsake my law, and keep not my commandments, I will ”—cast them off, and have no more to do with them; banish them from my presence, and sever them from my society and privileges? No; will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." Blessed thought, for the comfort of our lives, and the security of our bliss-" The gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
Let me just say in concluding this discourse, Admire and magnify the exceeding grace of God towards you. Where shall I begin? Are you "called?" Are you "brought out of darkness into marvellous light?" Then I would say, Admire and magnify the sovereignty of this call. It is not a call to the fallen angels: it might not be a call to the next sitter in the same pew who has more virtue, who is more excellent in character than ourselves: they remain as they were, you are called. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." Lady Huntingdon used to say that she thanked God for one letter in the Bible, that is, m; for if the m had beer. left out it would have been, "Not any mighty, not any noble are called." Therefore she thanked God for that letter m―that some were called, and that she had reason to believe that she was one of the many. Whilst many who are less vicious are called, you are brought to God. Elijah and Elisha are walking together, one is called and taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot, and the other is left in the world. Two persons are sitting in the same pew; one is called and made an heir of heaven, and the other is left: and will you not say,
Why did the sermon enter the father's heart, and the child was left? Why was the husband effectually called, and the wife left? Why