by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, December 22nd, 1851
THIRTY-TWO years ago last evening several of us met in a large upper room; and some of those who met are present today, thank God, for the purpose of giving ourselves to the Lord in open vow, and to one another in the name of the Lord in Christian fellowship. I believe that that memorable evening will never be lost sight of or forgotten by those who were present. I am sure it will not by me, and I believe I shall sing of it in heaven. Since then we have passed through a great multitude of vicissitudes. God has been carrying on a great work, and the devil has been very angry; and, lo, you, and you, and you, and you have had your hearts broken under the precious word of God here; and you will be obliged to own it some day, if you will not own it now to my comfort. Believers have been refreshed, liberty of the gospel has been enjoyed, the order of Christianity has been maintained, as well as the truths of the gospel asserted. Well, the reflection of these things dragged me out of my bed just now, determined, if I could, once more to say a word to you about steadfastness of faith in Christ Jesus. And if this should be my last testimony, never forget what I mean to dwell upon a little, the word steadfastness "the steadfastness of your faith in Christ."
I should have liked to have embodied in my text the former clause of the verse, but I was quite assured that it was impossible. "Joying and beholding your order." But I must just say a word in the exordium about our order, for one reason, because the order of our church-discipline is such as all the churches must ultimately come to. Moreover there existed not a church upon earth, I have read church history enough for that, for three hundred years after Christ's ascension to glory, but what was constituted exactly after the order of ours. I will not say there were not little punctilious in which there might be difference, but the prime points of order were these, that everything spiritual was left with the bishop or pastor, and everything temporal to the management of appointed deacons, both of which were the choice of the church; and that no minister on the face of the earth was ever allowed to exercise authority over another. Now I am prepared to meet any Papist or Puseylites in the world, to prove these points, and that from Church history, as well as from the word of God. Only bear this in mind. So much for our order. I do not mean to dwell upon it this morning, because I want to come to the more essential point that I have just read. But still I value our order, and I would rather die in the maintenance of it, than allow an iota of it to be violated. The Christian Church which we recognize the organization of this day, is a voluntary association of believers, mutually agreed in the great things of God, making choice of their own officers, and when chosen entrusting the business of their offices to them. Now that is an epitome in what church-discipline ought to be; and you who do not know these things by long staying with us, I would advise to read the little tract, "The True Church of God;" and likewise, "The History of Grove Chapel;" and they will get such information there as will throw open to their view what we have been conducted through by the good hand of God, during the thirty-three years last past.
Now let us just glance at this standing in the first instance, and then at the open manifestation of it, which the apostle so feelingly recognized and acknowledged. He says for Himself that He joyed in beholding it. Well, I hope I shall do so again.
I. But let us examine the matter. What is faith in Christ? I suppose you are aware that sometimes it is a mere technicality, and a mere formality, a mere creed, a mere repetition of sentences that may be sound, and there it ends. Ah, that will never maintain any steadfastness. I want a faith in Christ that shall be steadfast. Blessed be God, I feel it in my own soul, and I would, were it His will, even I understand by faith in Christ is just an implicit confidence in what He is, in what His official character is, in what He has done, and in what He is doing. Oh, if we come to a fixed confidence we may defy earth and hell.
A fixed, implicit confidence in what He is. What is He? "Over all, God, blessed for evermore." Co-equal, co-eternal with the Father; the everlasting Son of the everlasting Father; yea, the everlasting Father's Prince of Peace. For some of the learned critics tell us, that that passage in Isaiah should be put in the possessive case, not "the Prince of Peace;" appointed to that sacred office by the Father, under eternal responsibility. Now my implicit confidence, and I rejoice that it is without a waver, lies in this, that the precious, glorious Christ, upon whose official character I shall presently show you I place all my dependence is essentially, eternally, self-existent, one with the Father, "God, blessed for evermore." I would as soon drop all Christianity altogether as give up this point. The essential, eternal Deity of Christ is owned by all but Infidels. They may call themselves Arians, or Socinians, or Unitarians, or what pretty names they like, they are all infidels to a man, who do not believe in the essential, eternal Deity of Christ. For if He be not equal with the Father, it were blasphemy in Him to demand the same honour; and yet He Himself declares, that it is the will of the Father that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father; and puts it again in such a contrast as if there were no honour to be given to God at all, without the Son having the same given to Him. "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father that sent Him." (John 5:23) Therefore we insist upon it, that the acknowledgment, and owning, and honouring of the essential, self-existent, eternal Deity of Christ, is essential to Christianity; that there is not an atom of Christianity in the world without it.
Well, then, go on a little further, and let us look at the implicit confidence of the regenerated soul in his official character. Ah! that is of high importance; because, in our day, our precious Christ is spoken of as having become incarnate, and done a great deal, and suffered a great deal, and died, and risen from the dead, and gone to glory to be exalted at the right hand of the Father; but all in such an indefinite manner as if it were at haphazard, as if He did all He could to save all the world, and could not help Himself if He did not succeed. Where is His Omnipotence? It is virtually denied, unless we admit of His official character, as the Head of the Church, the representative of the whole election of grace, having all the concerns of His Church entrusted to Him, and all the glory of the Divine perfections, and the attributes of Deity in His hands. The glory of Jehovah, and the salvation of the Church put into His hands by official appointment in the covenant grace, under irrevocable responsibility, that all may rest with him. The glory of Jehovah, in all the attributes and perfections of Deity, He is sworn to maintain. The salvation of His Church is as dear to His heart as His own existence; and I believe he would rather die over again than allow an elect vessel of mercy to be lost. Glory to his name, that this is the view we take of Him, with an implicit confidence, a fixed, unwavering, settled determination, that our everlasting all shall rest there.
Then, look for a moment at the implicit confidence we place in what He has done. That is of vast importance. He not only engaged for it, but He did it. Has He magnified the law, or has He not? Has He satisfied stern justice, or has He not? Has He bruised the old serpent's head, or has He not? If He has, then we have nothing to fear from any of those quarters. If He has not, then we are all lost. An Arminian gospel is damnation to the whole of mankind. A contingency, an uncertainty, a probability, a peradventure, strikes at the pillars of Jehovah's throne, and vows to overturn the existence of Deity. Give me certainties, or take my Bible and burn it, give me certainties, or never name Christianity in my ears. I bless the Lord that this is where our steadfastness is. Here we can rely. The law urged its demands, Jesus went to the end of the law, met it all, and vowed, while on earth, that not a jot nor tittle should pass away, till all was fulfilled. He did this; and He having accomplished all that the law can claim, the believer in Jesus may look up with confidence and say, "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) Blessed, precious gospel! God almighty make you steadfast in it! Has He bruised the old serpent's head? Did He accomplish what the first promise stated concerning Him, and predicted of His perfect work? Certainly he got a bruise at His heel, and His sufferings and sorrows in Gethsemane and on Calvary were marks and proofs of that: but did He not hear the old serpent howl when the cross, wielded by Omnipotence, bruised his head, vanquished the prince of darkness: and rescued the entire election of grace from his grasp? "I will contend with them that contend with thee, and I will save thy children," (Isa. 49:25) was the promise, and, consequently, "the lawful captive shall be delivered, and the prey shall be taken from the mighty." He has done it. Had He not done it, would He have dared to say on the cross, in His expiring moments, "It is finished?" Did not heaven then rejoice? did not hell tremble? did not the earth heave and throw up her dead? did not the temple vail rend from top to bottom by an unseen hand? Were not all those who were around His cross astounded? Why all the solemn convulsions which darkened the sun at mid-day? Oh! it was through that mighty triumph "It is finished." My hearer, is your confidence there? A finished work, a finished salvation, a finished righteousness. Can you rest there?
Well, then, go on a step further. What is He doing? Have you any implicit confidence in what He is doing? Have you forgotten those memorable words of His, "I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2,3) Is that what He is doing? I have enquired, for days past, "Lord Jesus, is not my place ready yet?" I look forward to it with anticipation, and sometimes my mind is sweetly calmed down with this thought, if I were to go to my place before it is quite prepared, and I not prepared for the enjoyment of it, I should wish myself back again, and therefore I would be content to wait my Father's time, and will; and I do not believe it can be exceeded a single hour. As to the manner how, and all about, I leave with Him, but this I am sweetly confident of (I want to try your confidence this morning), that when He has prepared my place, and prepared me to enjoy it, neither friend nor foe can detain me upon earth another hour; and to me I acknowledge it is not even a matter of choice, whether it shall be today or seven years hence. I leave it with my covenant Head. Only this one thing is to me triumphant, that I have a confidence which none can shake. I verily believe in what Jesus is now doing, as well as in what He has done. He is interceding for me on high, He is my Advocate, within the veil, He is preparing a place for my reception, He is employing His angels to minister to me, He is moving all the revolutions of Providence for my advantage, and making all things work together for my good. What more can I want? There I rest.
Now, what say you, beloved, under this first view of our subject, implicit confidence in Christ? Are you there immovably resting? Well, then, I want this implicit confidence manifested, amidst all the heresies and wickednesses that surround us. Now, do not let us wrap it up in a napkin, do not let us hide it under a bushel, let us bring it outlet us make it manifest. You remember that fine expression which the Holy Ghost taught the prophet Isaiah to pen, "Say to them that sit in darkness, show yourselves;" (Isa. 49:9) go forth, not ostentatiously, but "let your light shine before men," let it be manifest to all around that yours is Christianity that is not to be shaken. As the apostle says, "we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace to serve the Lord acceptably, with godly fear?" (Heb. 12:28) Oh, beloved, I am more than ever disgusted, with the contingencies which make up most people's religion. My wakeful, sleepless, midnight hours have led me, over and over again to ask, "Where am I trusting? where is my steadfastness? where is my confidence?" "An anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, entering into that within the veil;" (Heb. 6:19) that can never give way till the cable breaks. And what is the cable, think you? Why the threefold love of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If ever that breaks, I shall be a shipwrecked mariner at once; but so long as the cable holds fast, and that must be to all eternity ("I have loved you with an everlasting love," Jer. 31:3, says Jehovah concerning it), the anchor shall not give way. "An anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, entering into that within the veil."
Now I want this manifest among my hearers. It has been so to my soul this morning, amidst most distressing exercises for many hours. Oh, to be able, with the last breath, to manifest what a perfect salvation is, what an everlasting gospel is, what a finished righteousness is, what a precious Christ is. I wish this testified not only by my voice, so long as I can lift it up, but by the walk, the profession, the conduct, the conversation, of all my hearers. Let it be seen in every parlour you enter, in every house you approach, in every company with whom you meet, that you are not lovers of the world's fooleries, but that you are anxious to manifest the glories of Christ, your decision for Him, and the steadfastness of your faith in His Person, official character, and perfect work, and present engagement, as we have just been attempting to set it forth. There must be, beloved, a more marked distinction between the Church of God and the world. The great curse of the last quarter century has been the attempts at amalgamation. Separation must be effected, and if it is by Popish fire and faggot I do not ask a word about it, the separation must be effected. The Church and the world must be seen to be two distinct families, however men may determine to make one of them; and my anxiety for you, the little time I may remain with you, is, that you should be foremost, and most conspicuous, in exhibiting the fruits of righteousness, manifesting the mind of Christ, giving the world to see, even though your voice may be silent, that you are on the Lord's side, that you really belong to Christ.
I want it not as evidence to me, but let it be exhibited before the world, let your families see it, let your circles of acquaintance see that you despise and abhor their silly fooleries, and carnal amusements, and that your soul is intent on the glorifying of Christ, the exhibiting of His likeness, the living to His glory, the honouring and exalting Him as long as you tarry in the wilderness. I cannot tell you the preciousness of that text which dropped on my spirit this morning, while lying in great anguish, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Well, I thought, that is a whole Bible, that will do for me, and, God helping me, as long as I stay on earth it shall be my object. I will not cease to sound out the fame of His precious name; and I am quite satisfied, that when I depart it will be to be with Christ, which is far better. Now in this unshaken confidence I want my hearers to press on and prosper; and, if any of you are so timid as to say, "I cannot muster this courage, I cannot assume this presumption," very well, do not. I do not ask you to do it without the Holy Ghost works it in your soul, and then you cannot keep it back. I do not wish any one to make the assertion I have made, or exercise the confidence which I have exercised, before the Holy Ghost has wrought it in their souls; but do not disown what He has done. If He has only broken your heart, if He has only made you hate sin, if He has only shown you the fullness of His salvation in Christ, if He has only made you accept of that salvation in your own experience, do not disown it; and when once acknowledged, your light shall shine before men, and make it manifest that your confidence is in Christ.
Once more. This must be manifestly the work of the Spirit. And I must detain you a few moments upon this thought, because, in the day in which we live, there is so much material religion. I do not like it at all. Candle religion, wax religion, water religion, wafer religion, woman religion, all manner of odd things and materials are put forth in these days as Christianity. Now our Christianity is an immaterial thing; it is not made of materials. It is a Christianity that manifests itself to be the work of the Holy Ghost. I wish our good church folks believed what they said, I will try and repeat the sentence "O, Holy Ghost from whom all holy desires all good councils and all just works do proceed." What! "all holy desires?" Then I have not a holy desire but what proceeds from the Holy Ghost. There is an acknowledgement! What! "all good councils?" Then all the councils and councillors are fools, unless He dictates to them. What! "all good works?" Well then, I never did a just work of any sort or kind but what the Holy Ghost has moved. Really, if I were what people call a Churchman, I am what I call an out-and-out Churchman, but if I were what the world calls a Churchman, I could stick fast to such a sentence as that, and breathe it from my heart. Therefore, I wish all the confidence I have in my soul to be the confidence of faith; and that faith to be the faith of the operation of God. This is expressly the language of Scripture. Then it will differ essentially from that faith which is a mere credence of things, that faith which unregenerate mortals boast of as merely an assent to known or recorded facts. The devil has some acquaintance with that; and we are told by some modern writer, I have seen it in print, that the faith of the devil and the faith of the Christian are the same thing, only acting upon different objects. Well, then, I would just as soon go to the devil for my faith. But it is not so with me. I must have a faith that is of the operation of God, I do not believe the devil has got that faith. The Vicegerent of Jehovah sent into my soul the grace of the Holy Spirit, who refuses to be repelled, refuses to be frustrated, refuses to quit its grasp of what it lays hold of; a faith over which the man has no control, but which has invincible control over the man. You will recollect my speaking to you on the question, whether we should follow a god that we have made, or a God that has made us. Now this statement we put in contrast with that. Am I to claim a faith that I can control, that I can increase, that I can diminish, that I can have absolute control over? Now there is not a faith of an unregenerate man under heaven that I could not conquer in an hour by fair argument. But I defy all the powers of hell to conquer my faith; for it is an invincible faith. It has conquered my heart, and it will live there and reign there. So that, as it is said in the chapter we read at the commencement of this service, "Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1) This is worth contending for.
This brings me to a point of peculiar importance to personal experience. "Therefore, being justified, by faith we have peace with God." You will see that I have taken liberty of altering the punctuation there. It reads according to the punctuation given in our translation, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God." Now I do not believe, and I have some learned men on my side, that the punctuation is properly fixed there, but that the point should be at the word justified "therefore, being justified;" because the preceding sentence, which closes the former chapter, speaks of Christ having been "delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification;" and the opening of this chapter is an inference drawn "Therefore, being justified" by His righteousness. Now, putting it as it stands in our translation, without attending to the punctuation, the idea has gone forth, that there is some justifying power in faith. That I deny. That faith is the eye that sees it, that faith is the hand that grasps it, and puts it on, I grant; but the justifying properties, merits or qualities, are in the preceding verse. "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore, being justified (that is the way it should read), by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Now we come to the point I want for my subject this morning, peace with God to be obtained. Sin introduced a desperate quarrel between God and His creature man, and the quarrel was opened and proclaimed in these words, "Who shall be God?" Jehovah says, "I will." The devil comes in the form of a serpent, and says, "No, you shall be as gods." And He tells all the Arminians so to this hour. "You ought to repent when you like, and believe when you like, and pray when you like, and exercise your own free-will." I maintain, that with regard to Popery and the whole Arminian phalanx the substance of the quarrel is this, "Who shall be God?" The Papist says, "the Pope shall, and he sitteth in the temple of God, showing that he is God," and a God that "opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God." I will never bow down to him. You know very well in limited circles, a priest is made a god of, and he is bowed down to. I would not be in his place for ten thousand worlds. Among free-willers their free-will is God. "Who is Lord over me?" it is asked. Now I come to this point, that while this quarrel lasts there can be no peace with God. There is not an Arminian on the face of the earth that knows what peace with God is, and he never can realize it until he is reconciled to God by Jesus Christ; and when he is reconciled, he is quite willing that God should be sovereign, that God should have his own way. He is quite willing to pray, "thy will be done" he does not want to oppose it any longer. Then comes a holy reconciliation, the powers of the soul, under the influences of the graces of the Holy Spirit, brought to acquiesce in all that God has said, in all that God has done, in all that is doing, in all that He ever will do, and to say with one of old, "Good is the word of the Lord concerning me." This peace being obtained and established, communication goes on, intercourse is kept up, the commerce (if I may so speak) between God and the soul goes on, slavish fear is driven out, the dread of vengeance is gone by, a sweet view, and prospect, and enjoyment of relationship is realized, and there is a holy, filial, close believing intimacy kept up and sustained between God and the soul. Do you know anything of that peace? The steadfastness of such a faith as this is worth a thousand worlds. "The steadfastness of your faith in Christ."
I cannot quit the subject, I never will till I quit the body, without just remarking that vital union with Christ is proved thereby. "He is our peace who hath made both one, and broken down the middle wall of partition between us." (Eph. 2:14) "He is our peace when the Assyrian comes into the land." (Micah 5:5) He is our peace when conscience upbraids, when the world frowns, when false professors infest, when temptation rages, when fiery darts are hurled. Then it comes to this sweet point, I do hope God is fixing your confidence, Jesus and my soul is everlastingly one. Precious, precious fact, Jesus and my soul inseparably united, betrothed in covenant, married in His incarnation, and by bowing to all His will, the marriage is so sweetened, remembered, enjoyed, in every day's intercourse and communion, and a full conviction is wrought (here is steadfastness of faith), that "neither height, nor depth, nor length, nor breadth, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor life, nor death, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38,39) Many or all of these may separate this ransomed soul from this poor and shattered tabernacle; but none can separate me from the love of Christ. Everlastingly in union with Him, and that union not merely settled irrevocably, settled by the appointments of Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit; and the vicarious undertaking of our glorious Christ, the glorious covenant Head of His Church, but vitally enjoyed, life, sap, nourishment, the spirit of prayer, the spirit of praise, the spirit of vigour, for all the graces drawn from Him in daily communications by virtue of Christ's union with His Church.
Can I go one step further? I think there is another step I may take before I step over the threshold. I mean the exaltation of Christ in the soul. Down with the idols. Christ exalted in the experience of the soul. His name, His righteousness, His offices, the appellations by which He is known, the perfection of His work, the endearing communications that He makes, exalted, set up, glorified within in a strain of gratitude, a strain of love, a strain of fervent desire, a strain of close-clinging hold of Him, glorifying and exalting Christ. I must not look upon a privilege to be enjoyed in His house and among His saints, but He is the marrow and fatness of it, I must not look upon a duty, if the term will be allowed by some of my hearers, but He Himself must give the grave to perform it, and accept it when performed, I must not look upon a single exhortation in His word, without looking to Him for the grace to obey it and to regard it; He must be exalted in all things, as it is written, "that in all things He may have the pre-eminence." (Col. 1:18) Oh, how I wish my bodily strength were equal to my voice! for you perceive my voice is not in the least impaired, but want of strength in this poor frame bears me down. The exaltation of Christ in thought, in word, in deed, at home, abroad, whether eating, or drinking, or whatsoever we are doing, having an eye to His glory, to seek the honour of His precious name, to set Him forth, to publish Him as the altogether lovely, and to let it be known even where a word is not uttered, for sometimes it is not prudent to cast pearls before swine, let it be known that the glorifying of Christ is the business of life, and that there is nothing else worth living for.
II. Now I will try to occupy a few minutes with the other head of discourse, the open manifestation of this steadfastness. "The steadfastness of your faith." Before I enter on it, will you bear me witness that I have only been asserting this morning the same things I asserted thirty-two years ago, in the hearing of some of you? I rejoice in this, and I believe I shall have grace enough to hold fast the beginning of my confidence steadfast to the end. Bear with this, and let us glance for a few moments at the apostolic recognition. Even though he was absent from them in the flesh, yet he was with them in spirit, joying and beholding their order. He recognized it, and rejoiced in it. This is what we want. And will you allow me to put in a claim here for myself? I do not claim to be an apostle, but I claim to be a successor of the apostles; and I do not believe there is a being among the Papists and Puseylites who has a better claim to be a successor of the apostles than I have, because I hold fast their creed, and have got the same things in my heart as they had; and that is the best sort of successorship. As such, I want my hearers to pay a moment's attention to a matter of fact, how much the joy of God's ministers depends upon the consistency of their hearers. You know the apostle used this strong language about it, "Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord." Is not that a remarkable expression? What, did all the apostle's life depend upon this? "Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord." And so this apostle lived; for he wrote the epistle to the Colossians so as to joy and behold their order, and to rejoice in the steadfastness of their faith in Christ.
Now, my hearers, give me this joy before I depart. It is the only thing I ask at your hands. I ask not your silver and gold, I ask no man's smile or frown; but I do ask this one favour, that I may live in the enjoyment of the fact, that you stand fast in the Lord, that I have not laboured in vain, neither spent my strength for naught. I cannot help hanging on that text, it is a very remarkable one. "Now we live." The apostle did not mean to say that his eternal life rested upon it, nor his natural life, even, but he meant to say that it was hardly worth counting life, unless it could be spent in the enjoyment and the witnessing of the mighty results of his preaching among those that were called by God's grace. "Now we live." That is, we live happily, satisfactorily, joyously, thankfully, "if ye stand fast in the Lord." This, according to my text, was the first feature of apostolic recognition, "Joying and beholding your order." Beloved, let us see a little more of it in these respects, let us see you as bright shining Christians, that we may "joy in beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ."
I hasten on just to mark, the bringing forth of fruit which is implied in this. We have not much joy in a garden, in a plantation, in a vineyard, if the trees are all barren. I have looked, year after year, and again and again, upon some, and have seen that they promised something at the opening of the spring, but they were covered with vermin, and blasted, and blighted, and mildewed, and they brought forth no fruit. Alas! alas! that there should be any such Christians, that there should be any such plants in God's vineyard. My precious Master, the Lord of the vineyard, says, "I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" (John 15:16)that the locusts should not eat it, that the blight should not spoil it, that the mildew should not rest upon it. Let us see it healthy, and ripened, full of juice, and glorifying God, to prove that the trees of the Lord are full of sap and nourishment. This is what we want for recognition, for open manifestation "the steadfastness of your faith in Christ." There are many who pass for Christians, and it is a charity to hope they are such, that I have known for many years, but I have never been able to pluck an apple or a bunch of grapes from them; I have never been able to witness any fruit that they have brought forth to glorify God. It is high time to awake out of sleep. You may be sure of this, there will be dreadful havoc among the trees of the Lord very shortly. The scene of persecution is about to break out. Oh! that ye may bring forth fruit while ye may, and while ye can, that it may be seen and known while it may be exhibited; that the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God, are brought forth in such abundance, that you shall bow down with their weight in humiliation before God, that the promise may be fulfilled to you and to me (especially you who are in advanced years), "They shall still bring forth fruit in their old age, to prove that the Lord is good."
Beloved, I am very anxious that you who have arrived at this standing of steadfastness in faith, and you also who are pressing after it with earnestness, should be labourers in Christ's vineyard, remembering His sacred command, "Son, go work in my vineyard today." Such amazing love, such rich grace as we have been setting forth, demands a life of devotedness to the divine Author; and the steadfastness of your confidence, the immoveable assurance of your faith, ought to make you very zealous in every good work, or as the apostle states it, "always abounding in the work of the Lord." You are not all called to labour as Christian pastors or ministers, though some modern ignorant enthusiast may think so; but you are all called to active service for Christ, some among the rising generation, some among the sick and dying, some among the babes in Christ, to encourage them with edifying conversation; and some of you whom God has made stewards of more white and yellow earth than you know how to carry, ought to use it largely for the furtherance of the cause of God and truth. See how busy and active the slaves of Satan are in his employ; there is no want of money nor yet of agents in the cause of Infidelity and Popery, from the Popish nobleman to the poor Irish labourer, they are all busy and liberal in supporting superstition, idolatry, and blasphemy. Arouse then ye sluggish, lukewarm, miserly professors of Christianity, and let it be seen and known that the children of light are at least as wise and as liberal in the cause of the best of Masters, as Satan's slaves are in supporting his black majesty's reign. "Go work today" is the command, tomorrow may be too late; death may shut the door of opportunity upon you, or if not, that Popish persecution may break out very shortly, and crush all efforts to promulgate the glorious gospel of the blessed God.
You especially who have been many years feasting upon the precious truths of the gospel in this sacred edifice; and you who have been born of God within these hallowed walls, are under peculiar obligations to glorify God. Work while you may, for I fear that the summer of this year will not run out without the most terrible convulsions in long-favoured dear Old England. The two armies of infidels which are now encompassing our spiritual Jerusalem, the one priestly, and the other profane, under the command of Nicholas Craftyman, appear to be about to take possession of the kingdom, and then who shall dare to speak or act contrary to the orders of Antichrist? Work, therefore, "while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work." It is promised that "the walls of Jerusalem shall be built again even in troublous times;" and it will be an honour to be found among the builders, even though we should be obliged to work as Nehemiah's men did, "Every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon." (Neh. 4:17) This is the way I have been enabled to work for these thirty-two years among you, and my day's work is nearly done. I charge you in the name of the Lord that ye be not loiterers but labourers, and see to it that ye build no mud walls, no creature merit, no superstitions, no free-will slime; but build with precious doctrines, precious promises, and precious privileges, all from the quarry of covenant love, squared and fitted by omnipotent grace, and well cemented together with precious stoning blood. Then the inhabitants of our spiritual Jerusalem shall see it "a quiet habitation," from whence they may defy all the Sanballets, and Geshems, and Craftymen, with the rest of their Arabian heathen confederates, who may conspire against them (see Neh. 6), who shall ultimately perceive to their confusion, "that this work is wrought of our God," to be His rest for ever.
I will close as soon as I can with one or two thoughts more. The liberty of the gospel, as presented in life, should testify "the steadfastness of your faith in Christ." I do not like that long-faced miserable race of Arminians, that are full of ifs, and but, and peradventures, and contingencies, and probabilities, and maybes. I do not find them in my Bible. I want such language adopted by the believer, expressive of his liberty in the gospel, as that of David, "I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge, my hiding-place, my strong-tower, He is my rock, my salvation," and let the world know it, let it be seen. If you have not that liberty, give God no rest till He bestows it on you. "Is the Son makes you free, ye shall be free indeed;" and if the Son makes you free, do not cloak it, do not conceal it, but let your life express what love is due to Him who has made you free.
One word more; and that must be a word most dear to my own soul. Can you guess what it is? Oh! yes, you are beforehand with me. Expectation, that is the word, expectation. If your faith is steadfast, and Christ is all in all to your soul, if you can implicitly confide in what He is, and what He has, and what He has done, and what He is doing, and what He has promised, then what is your expectation? It is summed up in very few words. "I shall be like Him, and see Him as He is;" sit down with Him everlastingly upon His throne, enjoy His smile "without a cloud between." No more distressing pangs for the poor body to feel, no more doubts to harass the mind, no more fiery darts to be hurled in experience, but one eternal sunshine of rest, and glory, and honour, and immortality. Ah! that is the expectation. My soul awaits and longs for it, and believes the hour is not very distant when it shall be abundantly realized.
May the Divine Testifier of Jesus descend and apply these precious truths to your hearts with invincible power, causing that which has been sown in weakness to be raised in power, producing an abundant harvest of praise, and honour, and glory to Israel's covenant God.