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He said unto them, Go ye and tell that fox, behold I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected” (Luke xiii. 2). But He was not merely at war with Herod, but also with the scribes and Pharisees. They were always His bitter enemies, and so they are at the present hour. There are none who fight so desperately against our precious Christ as the scribes and Pharisees, find them where you will. Infidels, drunkards, and thieves do not fight half so vigorously against Him. Not that I commend their conduct, mind; I merely speak of enmity against Christ, as being more powerful and conspicuous amongst those who really are Pharisees. Then they sent their messengers, in order to entrap Him with their words, and employed their agents for the most mischievous purposes against Him. And when all that Herod could do, and all that the Pharisees could do, failed, there was war with the devil. It was predetermined that it should be so: “ I will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between his seed and her seed” (Gen. iii. 15), was the declaration that went forth upon the fall. Consequently, as soon as He entered upon His ministry, the devil gave Him a challenge to a duel, and He is “ led up of the spirit;" that is, the evil spirit, “ into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil;" and there He is forty days, without eating or drinking, and tempted of the devil. All the prominent temptations were employed, that have been known among His people from the beginning of time. What was the result? It was a life of war. He takes the “ sword of the Spirit.” He repels the adversary with “ It is written "-"it is written." And when He had repelled the adversary, and gained the victory, "angels came and ministered unto Him." All through His life He was at war with Satan, and hence the apostle John was commissioned to say, pose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil ” (1 John iii. 8).
Moreover, our precious Christ's life was not merely a life of warfare, and a life of work and toil, but it was a life of necessity and suffering. With this idea I mean to close : only I pray you to keep in view the comparison we ought always to draw between Christ's life and ours. If He who was “pure, holy, harmless, nndefiled, and separate from sinners,” was called forth to combat with the powers of darkness, shall you and I wonder if we have a little skirmishing with them? Shall you and I wonder if the members suffer, when the Head does ? I shall cry, "Wo, wo be to the day when the devil can let my religion alone.' If he cease to war, I shall be sadly afraid that I have held out to him a flag of truce. But so long as the believer is kept honouring Christ, living apart from the world, devoted to His glory, and especially actively employed in spreading the triumphs of the cross, the devil is sure to be very angry with him. Oh! the importance of being ever decided on the Lord's side.
Our precious Lord's life was a life of necessity and suffering, and of necessity for suffering. You will remember that He says himself, concerning it, “ The Son of Man must go up to Jerusalem, and must be delivered into the hands of sinners, and they shall take him and scourge him, and put him to death, and the third day He shall rise again." There was the necessity. Why this necessity in our precious Christ? Pilate could not see it, and said, therefore, "I shall let Him go, for I see no fault in Him." He could not see the necessity at all; but I can.
The necessity was that He should stand in my place, and
6. For this pur
that either He must suffer, or I must. He stood in the place of sinners, of all His Church, of all the elect family His Father had given into His hands, who must all have perished if He had not gone through suffering on their behalf. There was the necessity. As soon as He rose from the dead, meeting with His disciples, and walking with them to Emmaus, rebuking their unbelief, he uses this remarkable phrase, “O fools, and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" (Luke xxiv. 25.). There is the necessity. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" You see that, before He suffered, He says it must be so. After He had risen from the dead, he says it ought to be so.
And who shall call it in question? There is the necessity laid upon Him. Even in the midst of His sufferings His humanity cried out, “ If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” “If it is a necessity laid upon me”-which He knew there was, in His own essential Deity—" then Thy will be done." He drank the very dregs of that cup, and thereby removed all curse and wrath from His Church for evermore. And if you glance for a moment at the extent of His sufferings; if you follow Him in Gethsemane's horrors, and listen to his dolorous cries, and witness the great drops of blood which dropped from His holy pores, by the weight of your guilt and mine pressing down upon Him, and then mark His being dragged miles about from place to place, to a mock tribunal, and at length led away, and nailed to the transverse timber, jerked into the ground
or socket, until every pang of which human nature is capable was suffered and endured by the precious Christ of God; then you will see what was the life of our adorable Redeemer. He begins in poverty and meanness; He is “ laid in a manger;" He goes on with hostility and persecution from wicked Herod and others; He proceeds with laborious efforts and exertions to fulfil the law, to magnify and make it honourable; He advances in warfare till He spoils principalities and powers, obtains a glorious victory, ends in agonizing sufferings, “and bowed down His head, and gave up the ghost.” Precious, precious Christ! let everything in my life be lost sight of and absorbed in the meditation of Thy dying love. Help me to say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loveth me, and gave
Himself for me. May He command a blessing. Amen.
VERSE 1 OF No. 492 OF GROVE CHAPEL HYMNS.
A Discourse, Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, Dec. 31, 1848,
BY THE REV. JOSEPH IRONS.
“ I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the
beginning.”-i John ii. 13. My hearers are aware that it is my custom to address a few words directly to the aged in my congregation, on the last Sabbath of every year, and then a few words to the young, on the first Sabbath of every year. I do not know any cause for deviating from this practice, and the language of my text has been impressed upon my mind, and led me to some meditations, which I hope to be able to lay before you this day. The term “ father” is peculiarly interesting and endearing, but most painfully perverted : a term so interesting, that I would not have it obliterated from my Bible for the world; a term so interesting, that while I can look back upon father Abraham, and father Isaac, and father Jacob, and father David, and father Paul, the names of those fathers will always be dear to me; and so they must be to every real child of God. But, as is usual with the prince of darkness, he takes delight in perverting the best of things; and, consequently, the darkest ages of the world have been selected by him, in order to pick out some of the most ignorant, superstitious, and carnal of those that have professed to call themselves Christians, and set them up as the "authority of the fathers.” But their authority, beloved, is worth just as much only as the authority of the devil himself. For even the few good things which you may sometimes find in their writings, are accompan nied by such rubbish, and such superstition, that half a day is wasted before you can pick up an idea; just like the old women in my country, who go into the fields to gather ears of corn, after the gleaners,
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and have to run over an acre or two of ground ere they find one ear of corn. Now, I would rather go into a field where I can pick up a handful which has been let fall “ of purpose ” for me (Ruth ii. 16). And I insist that a man must determine to lay aside his common sense, his reasoning and intellectual powers, in short, to prostrate all that God has endowed him with, before he can yield to the fooleries which Antichrist calls the “ authority of the fathers.” I have no objection to give all the honour to the “ fathers” that is due to them, provided they be scriptural fathers; they must all be such fathers as God approves, all having one sentiment, all really of the “household of faith, and whose views of God's method of saving sinners are in perfect accordance with His Word.
Let us now glance at the language of my text. But before we attempt to open it, allow me just to repeat, that the Holy Ghost seems to have taught all the inspired writers to be very explicit in describing character; and so with our beloved Lord Himself, who, in all His preaching, was most explicit in describing character; for when He invited sinners to come to Him, He described them as heavy laden”. (Matt. xi. 28). I recollect a divine once bringing that portion of Scripture forward as a warrant for what he termed universal redemption, and universal invitations. He said, “Come unto me all,” and there he stopped, at the word “all.” I said, "Go on, Sir,”—“all ye that Jabour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." “There," said I, “ did you ever know a dead man to labour? If you lay a ton weight upon a dead man, is it possible for him to complain of being heavy laden? Then, it must be a living character that Christ speaks of; and so with all the rest. I name this as a specimen; every invitation, every promise, every direction, as to spiritual things, is always, in the Word of God, accompanied with an accurate descrip tion of the character to which it belongs. The apostle here determined to confine himself to the household of faith ; and, therefore, ranks them under three descriptions of character_little children, young men, and fathers.
We shall speak to “ the fathers" this morning. And, in describing the character of the fathers, I shall insist that they were persons with years of experience passed over them, not newly come to the faith. Then we shall show that they are persons whose orthodoxy is fixed, and not liable to be changed with every wind of doctrine." And then I shall take up the language of the apostle, and prove,
that they are persons whose understandings were matured. mean each of these in a spiritual point of view. “I write unto you, fathers;" and I do not know that I should do violence to my text, if I said, fathers and mothers; for, in the word of God, I find “ mothers in Israel spoken of, as well as “ fathers in Christ." Therefore we will address them both, for with Christ there is neither male nor female, saith the apostle.
Mark, then, that much is expected from those who have had years of spiritual experience. You will recollect, when the Lord commanded Moses so explicitly relative to teaching the great transactions of their wilderness journey to the rising generation, that He speaks of the rising generation as those who had not known all the wars of Israel-the forty years had not passed over their heads. Now, some of you here present to-day, have had more than forty years of spiritual experience in the Divine life. And surely, in that time you must have known some
thing of the wars of Israel. You commenced with war; for the devil considered you as runaways from his camp; he pursued you; you had to buckle on the armour of God, and to "fight the good fight of faith.” During this lapse of time, you have known somewhat of the heat of the battle, and have sometimes acknowledged in your approaches to the throne of grace, “ Lord, the battle has increased against us this day: the conflict is growing severer and severer;" yet you have not struck your colours; you have not turned your backs upon the enemy, but have kept on in your Christian career. That has furnished you with experience. Sometimes you have been thrown down, but you have even then exclaimed, “Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy : though I fall, I shall rise again " (Micah vii. 8). Sometimes you have been drawn into a dark corner, but you have said, “The Lord shall be my light and my salvation : whom shall I fear?” Sometimes you have fallen, and suffered, as it were, broken bones : but, in the midst of it, you have cried out, “Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” You know that God had a hand in the matter, for He has said, "Yea, I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal” (Deut. xxxii. 39).
Probably some of you have been disposed to surname yourselves Gad. “Why so ?” say you. The old patriarch told Gad, that“ a troop should overcome him, but he should overcome at the last.” Now, have we not been in positions, again and again, in which a troop of fears, a troop of doubts, a troop of unbelieving anxieties, a troop of persecutions, a troop of temptations from the devil, have appeared as if they would inevitably overcome us? We have seemed about to make a surrender: all hope has been at an end. Yet, just at that moment, the Lord has come to our relief; new supplies of grace have descended from above; perhaps some special promises have been applied with power, and we have been brought to rejoice in the old patriarch’s prediction, “ A troop shall overcome, but
shall overcome at the last” (Gen. xlix. 19). And then, in the midst of the battle and the conflict, after some have forsaken the field, and while yourselves were menaced and insulted, where has your confidence been ? And what has all this done? Why, taught you very valuable experience, and matured you for your present position as “ fathers” in the Church of the living God. Moreover, whilst this experience has been going on in the
of conflict, it has also been going on in the way of instruction, of support, and of Divine direction, sometimes under chastisements, and sometimes in the rich enjoyment of manifestations from above. In the midst of all this variety of God's dealings and discipline, you have been maturing years of experience. An old divine once said, in relation to this possession of experience by the fathers—the really spiritual fathers, advanced in years, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ—that a young Christian generally imagines he knows everything, or all but everything. He advances for a while, as the Lord leads him, and then finds out that he knows very little indeed; not one-half of what he thought he knew. He goes on to an advanced stage of experience, and is then brought to Paul's confession, “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." He begins his experience with the confidence and courage that no Goliath could be more than a match for him, and he advances in conflict until he discovers that the weakest temptation may overcome him. He is brought