Sinners Brought to Christ's Banqueting House
by J. J. WEST - Preached on Wednesday evening, August 3rd, 1859
I have been much exercised, tossed to and fro, as to which passage of God's word I should preach upon the one in the text, or another in the gospel of John "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) In these words we have a statement of doctrine, and in the other, in Solomon's Song, we have a setting forth of the practical experimentality of the spot where grace brings every child of God. The doctrine of election, hateful to all carnal men, is one, as our article expresses it, "full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons."
Had it not been for God's election, for His choice of His people in Christ, "chosen" before all worlds, and that, irrespective of any merit or goodness in them, no man could ever have been saved! But Jehovah established, decreed, and arranged His everlasting covenant before all worlds, and in those words "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out "we have a positive statement showing and proving that the salvation of any man is wholly of free unmerited grace. In the passage in the text, the first point that I would preach on "He brought me to the banqueting house" is the free grace which it declares. "He brought me." Now, our Lord distinctly says, in John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." And, mark me, just the same as that no man can in the first instance come to God, so also, as a sound Church of England man, I am bound to preach and to hold, in opposition to the popular heresy of freewill, that as a man (any man) has, in the first instance, no power, no will, no desire to come to, or to seek after, God so, also, after grace has quickened and effected a work in any man's soul after he has been "born from above" of the Holy Ghost, and raised from a death, in trespasses and sins, he has, then, no power either to please God or to come to God, by grace, works in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure. A man may be a professor or anything else, but as Mr. Berridge well said, "a man must be shut up in the stripping room to know anything of God." My text has a free grace statement, and cuts up all freewillers and Arminianism. "He brought me." Here is the power! Here is the act of God! What he does for all "His own elect! And this according to covenant, ordering, and settlement, and just at the appointed time, according to that word in Psalm 110:3"Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."
Jehovah has a set time in His own purpose, and He arranges and orders all for and in His people accordingly. How blessed if we can receive and know experimentally that word of Augustus Toplady,
"It is God that worketh in you," is Paul's statement to the church of God "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13) Now comes the solemn fact and the solemn point for me to put to you assembled here. Have you been brought to the spot that I am about to preach on? Have you been brought to the banqueting house? "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Our Lord explains that, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." (John 3:3-7) But now the point is, has He brought every one of you? That is a question for your own consciences; that is a question, my hearers, of solemn import, and it is between God and your own souls; and, mark me, if you have been brought to the banqueting house (that I shall speak on afterwards), if you have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit's power, and if grace has begun a work in you (and if it has not, you will have no power to help yourselves) you will be sensible of your helplessness. Arminians may boast and talk about what they do, "But without me (says Christ) ye can do nothing," and by the side of that passage that shows to man his helplessness "Without me ye can do nothing." Take another statement of God's Holy Word, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4:13) We can endure all sufferings (as the hymn says), if our Lord be there. If He only grants His presence to us, if He only manifests Himself.
But perhaps there is some poor sinner here who says, "But I can't say, My Lord." Nor could Thomas in the 20th of John. He did not believe, he could not believe, but when (as Dr. Hawker says), "God's commandings are enablings;" when the command came "Be not faithless, but believing," Thomas immediately cried out, appropriating God as his own God, to himself "My Lord and my God." But, my hearers, I can't imagine a sweeter test of the discipleship of the cross I can't imagine a sweeter evidence, that you are one for whom Christ did die, than having a desire to say and to know that Christ died for you. As the Psalmist says, "Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation." (Ps. 35:3) What says, Hart, and he was a deeply taught man:
And what is the evidence of that? That you are a child of God? Surely it is tested by our having an humble, earnest desire after it. In Isaiah it is said, "The desire of our soul is to thy name and to the remembrance of thee." (Isa. 26:8)
"Desire" is a token, a longing after it in an exercised mind. My hearers, it is needful to insist on these thingswe are living in a day of much preaching, and of many heresies; but unless it be the gospel, the truth in all its unfettered fullness that is declared, it is all useless. Arminianism must be exposed before the people as a thing as bad as Popery. No man detests Popery more than I do, but Arminianism is quite as subtle, quite as bad, and hence I warn you of both; and in doing so I would state simply and faithfully before you, as an honest minister in the Church of England, that man has no freewill, no power, no desire of himself to come to God, or for the things of God. I tell the carnal man (professor though he be), that he cannot turn to God, that he is dead and powerless, the eye is shut, the ear is closed, the heart is hardened; such a man cannot see, such a man cannot hear, such a heart cannot understand. How was it with Pharaoh? But what says the apostle Paul; "For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." (Rom. 9:15,16) Here is God's absolute sovereignty set forth. Salvation is all of grace, from first to last all of God. Is there an Arminian here? Is there one sitting here, hating the truth which I declare this is always so with the gospel. "The carnal mind is enmity against God," (Rom. 8:7) and God's truth. The worldling, and the carnal professor, will not, cannot receive it. But my charge and my care is over the "poor of the flock;" and "the poor of the flock" know well that in themselves they have no power, no ability, no desire even but there has been given to such, a something secret, an inward working, a feeling sense, a melting of heart, a power supernatural, put into them by that God who takes care of all His own people, and to whom He says, "Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28) Mark that qualification! "All that labour," "all that are heavy laden." It is in this way God works in and on His people; makes them feel the burden, guilt, and filth of sin, and so brings them to Himself as the only Rest. "He brought me;" and so in another scripture, "I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her." (Hos. 2:14)
Now the second point in the text before me, is the place where and to which Christ brings His people "to the banqueting house." What do we understand by this? What is "the banqueting house?" It may admit of more interpretations than one; but one interpretation of it is sufficient for me to speak on here. "The banqueting house" is Christ Himself. It is the Saviour. "I am the Bread of life;" that is, the poor man's food, the pasture of the poor of the flock. It is on this they feed; and all such have a rich promise in the Psalms, "I will satisfy her poor with bread." (Ps. 132:15)
"Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:54) Some may interpret that to mean the ordinance of the Lord's Supper; and it may have reference to that in a secondary sense; but in its highest and largest meaning, the feeding on the body, and the drinking His blood, is the being brought into this "banqueting house," and feeling life in Him in our own souls. Oh! To feel, really to feel it! The evil, the depravity, the corruptions, the sinfulness of self, and so humbled under it, to be dissatisfied with all else, and satisfied only with and in a precious Christ; and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to be experimentally feeding and living on Him; this is to know something of being "brought to the banqueting house." To be hungry, to be thirsty for Him is something, but to feed on Him is more; it is an evidence of a union with Him, for "he that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him." (John 6:56) It is said by Christ in John 4., "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." (John 4:32) And so the believer, the man wearied out with sin, allured into the wilderness, and spoken comfortably to there, and now "brought to the banqueting house," has meat to eat, a gospel to rejoice in, a Christ to flee unto, of all which the professor knows nothing whatever. We are living in a day of heresies. But what says the apostle? "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (1 Cor. 11:19)
There must be "heresies!" There must be parties; this party, and the other party. Why? That there may be manifestations, bringings out, that the approved ones may be known, who they are, and what they are. And what is this approbation? Why, the same as is said of Apelles, in Romans 16., "approved in Christ;" and whether a man is a churchman, or anything else, this approbation must be, yea, shall be manifested and declared not only in himself, and to himself, but "manifested among you." O yes! There must be manifestation, and this in a variety of ways; one manifestation will be the hatred and contempt of the world against him for the truth that is in him. "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 3:12)
I know a brother rector in the county of Sussex (one who is preaching the gospel faithfully); and he and I have union and communion together on these words, "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you." (Luke 6:26) But now mark the contrast, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (Matt. 5:11) My hearers, all approbation of you or of me is in Christ; it is not in ourselves, but all in Him; and in this is evidence that we are of the one true Church.
"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph. 4:4-6) Here is unity; unity of calling, unity of love, unity of creed, unity of sentiment a unity (my hearers I may appeal to some of you) a unity because we have been brought by the same power to the same spot "He brought me to the banqueting house." We have felt the same hunger, the same thirst, we have been made to feel and to cry out under the same burden and seeking the same one only rest, we want that bread and that pure water that sustains to life eternal. "The banqueting house" is Christ; and who is Christ? Behold Him as the co-equal, co-eternal Son! "Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to His Father as touching His manhood."
Oh! View Him in the garden of Gethsemane; see Him hanging on the cross; hear Him exclaim those dying words it is finished, and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost."
Oh! "The banqueting house." Again, banquet on Him as Paul describes Him "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" and as Jeremiah also speaks of Christ " And this is His name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness." (Jer. 23:6) In the 45th of Isaiah, "In the Lord have I Righteousness and strength." Now my hearers, to go on step by step let me ask you, have you been taught that you have no righteousness of your own? Have you been taught that you have no strength of your own? Have you been taught that you have no power in or of yourself? And have you learnt that wondrous lesson spoken to the church at Philippi? "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake, have the same conflict which ye saw in me and now hear in me." (Phil. 1:29,30) It is the "same conflict which all His people suffer. The only test at times that I have to my own soul that I am a Christian man is this, that I know what conflict is, and this conflict drives me to Christ as the Saviour and supporter of my soul. It is all very fine to profess an orthodox creed and to call yourself a Christian; but
Are you really convinced of sin? Do you rely simply and only on Christ's finished work for salvation? Nothing short of that will do. I want to search you deeply. I wish to be a useful preacher to you. I do not want to undergo a mere barren dry pulpit form. I would be a blessing to you, so that when tempted in the world, or when tried in your own souls sitting in darkness and deadness or when "bound in affliction and iron," the unction of the truth of the gospel may remain (as it were) in your heart, as "the power of God unto salvation."
Oh! What temptations in London! And we have them also many and heavy amidst the quietness of the country. It must be so while in the flesh. But the point is, are we, you and I, "brought to the banqueting house?" If so, we shall know something of having been brought out of the world. Now, how is this with you? With the man in a profession? With the commercial man? With the tradesman? What is your evidence in your own case? Can you realize Paul's statement for yourselves "They that use this world as not abusing it?" Or, my hearers, is your heart engrossed with the perishing things of this world? Not if you have been brought, really "brought to the banqueting house" then you will have another object in view. Listen to me!
If you have been "brought to the banqueting house" there will be a weaning from the things and creatures of time and sense. Call me not a bigot. See whether I am faithful to the Book on the cushion before me (the only Book worth attending to), the Bible. "Is not my word like as a fire? Saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jer. 23:29) My hearers, if I never preach to you again, if this be the last sermon I ever preach to you, I leave it on record, that no man can honestly profess to have been brought really to this banqueting house unless he can testify that he has been also brought away from the world, and taught to groan under the exercises, conflicts, and temptations of the flesh and the devil. Do you ask me what I mean by being brought away from these? And you will say that you feel the pressure and burden of these more than ever. Then that's an evidence for good. You say
"But sin hangs heavy on my soul"
Can you add?
Do you know what it is to feast upon Christ; and if you cannot come up to that standard, do you know what it is to have a desire to do so? That is an evidence, that is a criterion. "Yet the desire is something good," says Newton. My hearers, do not forget the test I am laying down of our having been "brought to the banqueting house;" the same grace that brought you to Jesus weans you from the world. It is true, it makes you feel the burden of the flesh and sin it makes you realize that mighty fact that I hinted at before, that the gift of God to His church is not merely faith, but that "it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake."
If your Christianity does not cost you something, and if it does not occasion a frown where sometimes you have received a smile, you may depend upon it there is something wrong. "I came not to send peace on earth but a sword;" (Matt. 10:34) "a man's foes are they of his own household." Take that scripture as applicable also to the conflict which every child of God has to endure when he knows the plague and corruptions of his own wicked heart "the foes of his own house?" Within his own heart!
Well now there is a test for us that we have been brought to Christ if we have been brought away from everything else, or, I must not put so high a standard, as there may be several here who cannot come up to that standard; but I would simply say the having a desire, an earnest desire to give up all, if needs be, for Him; to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil. It would be absurd to call on people to turn hermits; a silly woman may, under Popish influence, become a nun, in order to have seclusion and get out of the world. But oh, she carries within herself a world into that convent. But what I mean is this; there must be a weaning, a separating, a deadness to these things.
"He brought me to the banqueting house." And why is any man brought there? "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3)
It is from everlasting love, not for or from anything foreseen in His people. That is Arminianism. Paul, in Eph. 1:4, says, "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him." Not as the heretic says, "because God foresaw anything in us." Oh, no. Take the striking case of the dying thief; he was an atrocious sinner, one or the Barabbas gang, associating with thieves and murderers. Did God foresee any merit in him? Or again, in the case of the notorious Magdalene? Oh no. He chose them both because it was His will to do so. He chose them, gave them to Christ, and Christ to them before all worlds; and having loved them as His own, He watched over them, preserved them, guarded them, "sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ and called "and at the appointed time called them by divine power and grace, revealed Himself to them both, and made them both know Him whom they hated before. Oh, listen to his dying cry; hear the poor thief, "Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." He was overcome then; he was sorry for sin then; he was longing for "the banqueting house" then. Consider that ghastly eye, that throbbing heart, that death-pale countenance; he was just sinking in death, dying by the Saviour's side; but not to be allowed to die till he had been brought to that banqueting house that I am preaching of, and till he had seen unfurled above his head that glorious banner which the text describes, "He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was Love."
But, my hearers, another point I must insist on the personality of the text. "He brought me the banner over me." Now this brings us to ourselves. How is it with you? With me? Can you say, "He brought me?" Christianity is a personal thing. My hearers, I may say to you as I say to my own flock at home, the best subject in the pulpit is Christ, Christ is the sum and substance of everything; but the subject to make men think is the subject of death and the judgment to come. Some may say, "Oh, don't disturb me about dying." My hearers, you know that you must die. Was there not a fearful crash the other day on your Fenchurch Street railway? Were there any persons killed? I have not seen the account. Had they any idea when at the station they entered the carriages, that they were so near death, and you may die before you get to your own house tonight. Now, this is useful preaching. I ask you as a minister of the gospel, I ask you as one who is determined to "know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified "I ask you, my brother and sister, in the love of the truth, for a dying bed and a dying hour, have you been brought to Christ as the banqueting house of your soul? Have you fears? Have you exercised about it? Toplady says that God's people generally are cowards when they come to die;" and what does the Psalmist say of the world? "There are no bands in their death." Now, my hearers, are you prepared for death? This may not be a very popular style of preaching faithful preaching will never be popular; experimental preaching will never crowd a church. It is too searching, it is too sifting. I ask you, have you solemnly contemplated the fact that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment?" (Heb. 9:27) Oh, what a tremendous thing it is to die. I had a blessed time in my own church a few Sundays ago on those words, "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours from henceforth." This is the way to die. "Even so, saith the Spirit (listen to me), or they rest from their labours," labours of life, the labours of the way, the labours of (if I may so speak) the "labouring population." You would understand that in the country, the people who go all day hard to work are called "labourers," so the people of God go labouring under the heavy burden of sin, until they get that burden taken off. The Christian must carry his burden until he gets to the foot of the cross "Even so, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours." Oh, the blessedness of heaven, if it is only to rest from our sins, and our corruptions. Blessed are the dead who thus die! And what saith the word of God about the death of a saint? That remarkable verse in the Psalms, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." (Ps. 116:15) It is precious in His sight. Now what does conscience say? Does grace touch any one that I preach to here? Then I would briefly add:
Mark the words, my hearers,
Do you feel that? "But I am poor and needy," says the Psalmist, "Jehovah thinketh upon me: thou my help and my deliverer, make no tarrying O my God." O may you "be brought to this banqueting house," and made to know Christ, before you are brought to the bed of death. Do you think that if you die tonight it will be said of you, "gather the wheat," that ear of corn, gather that "into my barn." My hearers, I am speaking affectionately and earnestly to you. There will only be two sentences in eternity "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," (Matt. 25:41) and "Come ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matt. 25:34) Both the places are prepared; "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." If there is any truth hater here before me, listen: "Come ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared" (the same word), "for you from the beginning of the World." But are you brought to the banqueting house? My hearers, I earnestly put it to you. If you have no desire after Jesus now, if you know nothing of tasting how gracious the Lord is, suppose you did get to heaven, if His service is now not to you perfect freedom, and if you are now still of the world, the flesh, and the devil, heaven would not be heaven to you. "He brought me to the banqueting house." This is the Spirit's work, and He does this in the case of every one of God's elect children. "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." (Isa. 42:16)
And again, "I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name." (Isa. 65:1) God manifests Himself to and in His people, He puts a desire into their hearts after Jesus, works in them so that they are satisfied with nothing short of Himself even "Christ in you, the hope of glory." But, now, the other point in the text is the banner "His banner over me was love." The love of God in Christ Jesus "For God so loved the world" that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "For God so loved the world," or, as in Solomon's proverbs, "Love covereth all sins." (Prov. 10:12) The banner is the emblem of victory the banner unfurled over the head of the church, declaring that great, and finished, and accomplished victory that has been won by the Son of God. As Paul says, "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:57)
But I must stop, my hearers, I must stop and simply put before you the great fact that man has no power that man has no freewill that man has no desire to come to God of himself; but the promise of God in Christ Jesus to every one of His own people is, that at the set time of favour He will bring them by His own Spirit bring them, and make them each cry out of a broken heart, "God be merciful to me a sinner." I can't conceive a sweeter test or a surer evidence that you have been so brought, than having the desire in your heart to ascertain the mighty fact that you are really trusting simply and only to Him who died, "the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." (1 Pet. 3:18) As we leave this house of prayer tonight may we be enabled by grace to hope for ourselves, notwithstanding all our corruptions, depravity, and sins, that we have been "brought to the banqueting house," and to see over us the banner of His everlasting love
Oh, that love of God in Christ Jesus! And hence, once in grace never in hell. No perfection in the flesh, no progressive sanctification, no improvement of the old Adam. I am charged with quoting the "doggerel divinity" of Augustus Toplady. I wish all divines were as "doggerel" as he. I wish that every rector and every vicar in the Church of England was as sound a divine as he was. I love such divinity as that, and I value the truths which he preached and declared. He was faithful to the articles of our church; he was faithful to the truths which the book of God contains: and all this because in his own soul he had been "brought to the banqueting house;" and having been made to feast on Christ as his own Saviour, he was constrained, yea, forced to declare the secrets of that house to his fellow-men. No man can do that who has not been admitted into the family; he must know it (if I may so speak) in all its domestic arrangements, be acquainted with all the ins and outs; and having been "brought to the banqueting house," having tasted and feasted there, and having experienced the unfurling of the banner of Jehovah's love, then such a man can go up into the pulpit, and under the banner of our great Captain, proclaim that everlasting love which enabled Paul so triumphantly to declare, "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
My hearers, I have no idea what the hour is; the clock before me has stopped at half-past one. I am sorry rather to finish, for my heart is full of the subject I am speaking on. But I would leave God's own word amongst you; and if there be one here tonight, carnal and dead in sin, and who has come to hear what "this babbler will say," may the gospel now touch your hard heart; and may my feeble instrumentality be the means, in Jehovah's own time, of bringing you into that banqueting house, that I know something about in my own soul. You may now, in the blindness and carnality of your heart, call it heresy if you will but I say to you, as Paul said of old, "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets." (Acts 24:14) And here is comfort for "the poor and needy." Here is a reality that will endure for ever. Everything else is perishing and dying, all fading away all earthly ties will be snapped asunder, and all mere creature comforts die but "the banqueting house" and the feast there will be for ever, and satisfy the church eternally. "He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." (Ps. 107:9) Listen to me! May God accomplish this in you. May you remember this tomorrow and at other times wherever you may be. "He brought me to the banqueting house." That is what God does for each and all His children! It is His act, His work! "He brought me to the banqueting house," and you know where he brought you from. "He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye." (Deut. 32:10) Oh! "He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love," so that no sin, no charge, shall ever be brought against the church of God."
"For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace," (Rom. 6:14) and "they are without fault before the throne of God." (Rev. 14:5)
Look up, my hearers, look up, and when you cannot feed in the banqueting house, when you feel dead, and barren, and dark, look up, and at the banner. Emblazoned on that banner is "love" all-conquering love. It waved its trophies over the one dying thief, but not over the other. It was unfurled over Magdalene, and Manasseh saw it as a flag of victory over his head; and I have looked up in trial and exercise when hope has been all but gone, and I have seen that banner over my head, and I have trusted Him when I could not trace Him, and so felt fresh courage in my soul "He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love."May God bless the gospel for Christ's sake. Amen.