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A Biscourse, Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, June 11, 1848
BY THE REV. JOSEPH IRONS.
" Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom
teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth ; comparing spiritual
things with spiritual.”—1 Corinthians, ii. 13. When an ambassador is commissioned from some mighty monarch to communicate information or designs from his throne to a people at a distance, it is of vast importance that that ambassador should know his errand well, and be found faithful to it. If he know it not, he may fabricate one of his own on the journey. If he know it, and is not found faithful to it, he may betray his country and his sovereign, and prove himself the vilest of wretches. I fear—I solemnly fear—that there are not a few in the day in which we live who go forth as ambassadors for Christ, who know not their message, and who never received one from Him. I fear there are others who partially know it, and are afraid to deliver it, and so far pervert, distort
, and misrepresent it, that nothing is understood of the Monarch's mind and will. My God, keep me from both these evils.
To avoid them, the Holy Ghost, by the apostle, in our text, sets forth a most delightful standard, criterion, and example in the apostle's preaching. When, after having spoken of the things which are freely given to us of God in the preceding verse, which we shall have to refer to as our antecedent, he adds, in the language of my text, " which things also we speak”— he was not at liberty to speak any other, to add anything to them, to introduce proposals which they did not contain" Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth,”—he had got a simple errand from God: he was made a
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minister by the dispensation of the grace of God: he heard the voice from on high; and he said to the Galatians, in addressing them, “ 1 certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after men; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” So that he had his credentials as well as his subjects clearly before him. And then the power, the wisdom, and the manner in which he set forth the great subject committed to him, are said to be by the word " which the Holy Ghost teacheth ;' and not shrinking from his subject, he dared to bring it to the test, and would have all that he propounded in public brought to this test, “ comparing spiritual things with spiritual. We hope for grace from on high to pursue his plan, and power from the throne of God to enable a poor worm to set forth the very things which the apostle did, and in the very same style, and from the same vocabulary, and propose to you the test which he proposed, of “comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” I have thus presented to you, in the exordium, the threefold division of our subject :
The first is the subject of apostolic preaching.
I. First, let us dwell a little upon the subject of apostolical preaching; because, in the day in which we live we hear a great deal of apostolical pretensions, apostolical succession, and the like. Now, if men will assert their interest in the line of succession from the apostles, let them bring things to the test, and show us that they speak the very same things that the apostles did; and then we will give them some credit for their pretensions, but not else. I beseech you to mark what is held forth in the antecedent to which our text refers uit “which things." It may be asked by a stranger, if we make no reference to the foregoing verse, “What things?"-"Which things” were the things he had just been stating. And, without enlarging upon them, I will just refer you to the very last clause of the preceding verse, “ the things that are freely given to us of God." They are things "_" the things that are freely given to us of God." Here at once we take our stand upon an opposite mount to the general style of modern preachers; for they speak of the things they presume to offer and propound; to propose and hold forth upon conditions, and invite persons to take part in, as if they had the power. They seem to me to have lost sight of the grand principles of the everlasting gospel, and the manner in which the apostle set them forth, and to have studied a system of man's invention, in order to neutralize the gospel of the grace of God.
Now we mean to keep to the old-fashioned ground, and to take our stand upon and speak of “the things that are freely given to us of God.” And what things are they? I shall here refer to them under four classes; for it will be impossible to give a catalogue of them, they are so numerous; and the first gifts I shall mention as a class of gifts, are the work and the person of Christ: for this same apostle tells us that this is the “ unspeakable gift,"_" which things we speak." I dwell a little upon the work first, because that is generally set forth in our day, in some senses almost to the exclusion of the person. I want itto be distinctly understood that His person is emphatically the gift of God, as well as His work. What is His work? The work which the
Father gave Him to do. The work covenanted for before the world began; the work that shall crown Him with glory and honour for ever and ever. The work of fulfilling, of magnifying, and of honouring the holy law of God. The work of satisfying it, and of sheathing the sword of inflexible justice in His own heart. The work of vanquishing the powers of darkness, bruising the old serpent's head, spoiling principalities and powers, taking away the sting of death, and removing the curse for ever from all the election of grace. That is the work of God; that is the work of Christ, and it is freely given to us. It is not a work in which we are to take part, it is not a work in which something is left contingent or dependent upon our efforts and energies. Oh, how my soul loathes the doctrine of contingencies! Because, make the best you can of contingencies, and set them in the most plausible colours, at last both God and man may be disappointed. If anything hangs upon contingencies, with regard to the salvation of the Church, it is at least a possible case—nay, a highly probable case and I am sure an infallibly certain case that God and man will eventually be disappointed: He can never fulfil His promises; the sinner can never be saved. I am astonished at the temerity of men who want to rob God of His perfections, and ruin the whole human race by putting on them terms of salvation that they can by no possibility meet. Apart from this, we insist on all being free gifts. Tħe obedience of Christ, given as man, the sufferings of Christ, the power of Christ, the fulfilling of the law by Christ; His bruising the old serpent's head, and taking away the curse; all are works that are freely given, and accomplished on purpose for His entire family, never withheld from one of the election of grace, freely given by God the Father, and gloriously made known by God the Holy Ghost.
But do not let uz pass by the free gift of the person of Christ. “God so loved the world,”--that is, both Jews and Gentiles—“ God 50 loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,---[what a gift!]-that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I wonder not that the apostle should call it, as we have before stated, the “unspeakable gift." Who shall describe its value; who shall set forth its importance; who shall tell of its vast treasures; who shall unfold its infinite fulness, amazing depths, topless heights, and vast eternity in duration? “ Unspeakable gift.” All the perfections of Deity being His own; all the sinless imperfections of man being assumed; all that pertained to His brethren is His; to be made like unto them in all things, yet without sin; united with descending Deity to make the grand, the glorious mystery of godliness—" God manifest in the flesh." And this God manifest in the flesh, the Father's gift to His elect family, is their portion and inheritance for ever. I cannot, dare not offer Christ, propose Christ, recommend Christ, as a bargain, to be obtained by your repenting, believing, seeking, bearing good fruits, or the like. This would be to insult Him; this would be to tell Him to His face that we won't accept His gift, that we are wiser and richer than He, and mean to purchase for ourselves. But I can tell you, as a ruined, impoverished, helpless sinner, with nothing to present to God, no merit or righteousness, or holiness of my own, that our glorious Maker, as a present only, hath bestowed this free gift. And this gift, too, is the Head of His Church, the Husband of His Church, the Brother of His Church; and as the inheritance and portion of His Church, with all His righteousness, with all His merits, with all His fulness of grace, with all He has done, and with all He is doing; with all His perfections and attributes, and offices, and names; with all His condescending kindness and love, a whole Christ, the full Christ, the gift of God the Father to ruined sinners: these are the things we speak. “Which things we speak."
But there is another gift that is equally important. What! say you, equally important? Yes; the gift of the indwelling witness. “ If you know,” said Jesus, "how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give (not offer, not propose) give His Holy Spirit unto them that ask it ?" And who are they that ask? They, upon whom the spirit of prayer is bestowed. The very persons of whom He speaks as calling upon the name of the Lord, which brings down the inward witnessing and the divine operations of the Holy Ghost to the view of the weakest, lowest, most helpless sinner whom God has taught to call upon Him, and to ask for it. Now here you will mark the great value of this gift. The Holy Spirit of Jehovah, the third person of the glorious Trinity, bestowed upon vile worms, that were “ dead in trespasses and in sins!” And this too, is to be an abiding, indwelling guest; for, saith the Son of God concerning Him, “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall not only teach you all things, but abide with you for ever.' Hence the apostle says concerning Him,“ Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in you?" I beseech you, then, beloved, to ponder over these things as gifts, not as offers, not as proposals. We speak “ the things that are freely given to us of God," and insist upon it that the gift of His Son was free, that it was the act of His own sove
overeign love; and that the gift of the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, consequent upon Christ's perfect work, is as free, unmerited, and undeserved as all the other gifts of the covenant of grace.
May I ask the question with which we opened our song at the commencement of this service :-“ Have we received the Holy Ghost?" Because, when we speak of gifts, you know the very phrase implies the reception. I should not speak of anything as a gift from a friend, that I had not received. I might speak of it as intended or purposed for a gift. I might so far turn Arminian as that. But, when received, I could hold it in my hand, and say, It is a gift; simply because I had received it. But, how would my friend be offended if I represented that I had partly bought it,—that I had done something to earn it? Common gratitude would call forth the frank acknowledgment that my friend gave it to me freely. Oh! how is my God insulted when terms, conditions, contingencies, overtures, proposals, and uncertainties are interspersed with some good things that are said about this precious Christ of God, and this Holy Spirit and His work. We shall never glorify God aright, never do justice to His truth, and never meet the case of the ruined sinner, until we speak the things that are freely given; and the Holy Ghost from on high, as the indwelling witness in His people, is the free gift of God to His people. There are also testamentary bequests. What, say you, do you mean by “testamentary?" I mean gifts that are contained in a will, in which the phrase is frequently found—" I give and bequeath" so and so. Now, if I look into my father's will, I find some testamentary gifts that are very free, and peculiarly sweet and precious. One is the gift of pardon. I begin with that-the gift of pardon. Oh! how did our precious Christ reveal this Himself when He was on earth, and frequently bestowed it. Being both God and man, He could put His hand on the will in heaven, and the treasure to which He referred, whilst He unfolded a leaf of it on earth, and read it to those who listened to His ministry; and therefore He often said, “Son, thy sins are forgiven thee." If absolution from sin is the gift of God, and if none but God (as the Jews said), can bestow it, it is the foulest blasphemy for any human being to pretend to impart it. I should run from the presence of a man who dared pretend to give me absolution, as I would flee from the presence of the devil. It is the high prerogative of God alone to make this free gift of pardoning love to a ruined sinner; and He not only appointed it in covenant, treasured it in Christ, and coupled it with redemption ; in consequence of which the apostle said, * in whom we have redemption by His blood;" but He has also applied it to the hearts and consciences of millions, written it in the precious blood of atonement, and given them faith enough to appropriate it, exulting that He has cast all their sins behind His back. It is also the gift of peace. In the same phraseology our precious Jesus says,
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you.' So that this too is a bequest of Christ unto His Church. And what an invaluable gift! I know there are persons silly enough to talk of making their peace with God. Now, instead of making peace, my plan is to accept that which Christ has made; for He is our peace; and when God gave Him to be the peace of His people, He asked no reward, no price, no terms respecting it. Moreover, the gift of God is a secure and certain one, and the world cannot take it away. Creatures who attempt to manufacture a peace, fail in their efforts, and become more and more distressed, wretched, dismayed, and cast down, the greater the efforts they make. And when the Holy Spirit by His teaching hath fully convinced them that they are labouring in rain, “spending their strength for nought," and accomplishing nothing, but making matters worse and worse, then it is that in helpless despondency, stripped of everything that pertains to the creature, they are glad enough to cry out, “ Lord, give me the peace Thou hast made.” It comes as a free gift, and we speak of it as such.
We remark next, that among the testamentary gifts which we receive from God, is secure personal salvation. “ This is the will," saith our precious Christ, in making known some of its provisions,—« This is the will of Him that sent Me.". Oh! heirs of glory, read your Father's will; and if you have not faith enough to read it, hear what your elder brother says about it :-“ This is the will of Him which sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” I do not know where we should find a Chancery Court to put the will into if it were violated ; but we shall have no need for that, for sure I am that the Father is faithful to the will ; nor would our Advocate, His Son, have read that clause from it if it were not worthy of God, and infallible as His throne. Consequently the souls to whom Christ's salvation and pardon and peace are given and applied by the power of the Holy Ghost, are sure of everlasting life and eternal glory, because “ it is the will of Him that sent me, saith Jesus.
One thing more to sum up these testamentary gifts.-" The Lord God is a sun and a shield: the Lord will give-(not offer)-grace and glory;, and no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." Now, in this summing up of the testamentary