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why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him.” Come, poor soul, are you in the valley of Achor ? has all your fruitfulness been burnt up ? has God sent you out here? He opens a door of hope. The Lord the Spirit brings the poor soul to hope in the mercy of Christ, and, feeling this hope as an anchor, sure and stedfast, enters within the vail.
“Come, my people, enter thon into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee." The Lord is pleased to shut them up in love: Christ sheds abroad his love in the heart of a poor sinner; love embraces him; God is felt and enjoyed; the mysteries of redeeming love enter into the soul; the man is feelingly and solemnly hid with Christ in God; and when Christ, who is his life, shall appear, then shall he also appear with him in glory. “ Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself, as it were, for a little moment” in the atoning blood and obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord will rest in his love. If any of you, my friends, feel yourselves to be poor wretched sinners, I would say to such,
“ The poorer the wretch, the welcomer here.” What a blessed salvation it is that our God has appointed for poor, lost, ruined man! May the Lord bless you with a feeling sense of your interest in it. And may he bless these few broken hints to your conscience, and lift you into Christ and his salvation, and enable both you and me to live to bis glory.
[The copy of the preceding sermon was sent to Mr. Gadsby by the friend who took it down in short hand. Mr. G., however, said it was not worth publishing, as he remembered how confused he was while preaching, in addition to great affliction of body. It is now, however, sent forth, and we trust will be made useful.--Eds.]
A SERMON BY RALPH ERSKINE FROM
ISAIAH XXII. 24.
Messrs. Editors,—In a very old book which fell into my hands some little time ago, I found the principal part of a sermon preached in the year 1743, by Mr. Ralph Erskine, the author of the sonnets. As it has often been a refreshing to my soul, both from the power and dew still resting upon it, if you think it worthy of a place in the Standard, I shall be glad to see it inserted. Southwark, London.
“ And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his Father's house, the off. spring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups even to all the vessels of flagons.—182. xxii. 24.
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto bonour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work. -2 Tim. ii. 20, 21.
They are called vessels because the Lord forms them for himself, to show forth his praise; sometimes vessels of honour and glory, because he draws a greater revenue of honour and glory to himself
from them than from all the world beside. In a word, they are called vessels, because the milk, the wine, the honey, and the oil of divine grace is bestowed and laid up in them; and out of the fulness of Christ they are daily receiving grace for grace. the vessels of a house are its ornament, so are fruitful believers the ornament of the church, and of the great Owner thereof, for he calls them his crown and diadem.
2. We are here told that these vessels are of different sizes; some are vessels of cups, and others are vessels of flagons; plainly intimating that, in God's family, there are saints of different stature—there are babes, young men, and fathers; “ For unto every one is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Some are like the smoking ilax, others like a flaming lamp; some are like the bruised reed, others like the tall cedar in Lebanon. And if you ask me why God will have it so, that the vessels of the house shall be of different sizes, I answer, 1. For the manifestation of his own sovereignty. He is the Lord of the house, and he will do all his pleasure; and it is the good will and pleasure of God to give more of his grace to one, and to another less, and who may say unto him, “What doest thou ?” He is no man's debtor, but may do with his own what he pleases. 2. Because this is for the beauty and ornament of the house. It serves not a little to ornament and adorn a house that there are different vessels in it; some more and some less, for different services. The least vessel, like the least member in the natural body, has its proper usefulness in the body, so that the one cannot say to the other, “ I have no need of thee.” 3. God will have it so, that there may be room for the edifying exercises of the fellowship of saints. If every saint had the same degree of faith, love, knowledge, and other graces, the one could not be edified by the other; but it is otherwise ordered, that the strong may be useful to the weak in strengthening, and that those who have more knowledge and experience than others, may communicate of their gifts, to the benefit and edifying of others, until they all come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
I come now to show that all the vessels of different sizes, from vessels of cups to vessels of flagons, do hang upon the great Ma-nager, Jesus Christ, as upon a nail fastened in a sure place. This is what is commonly called the mystical union between Christ and the church, and is in scripture set forth to us by a variety of metaphors, sometimes by the union that is between the branches of a tree and the root of it; for as all the branches hang upon the root, and receive their sap and nourishment, growth and fruit from it, so does every believer, whether of a higher or a lower stature, receive life, grace, and growth from Christ. “I am like a green fir tree; from me is thy fruit found.” (Hos. xiv. 8.) “I am the vine, ye are the branches ; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing." (John xv. 5.) Sometimes this union is represented by the union betwixt the building and the foundation upon which it
stands. As the whole building, and every stone of it, hangs and rests on the foundation, and receive their support and stability from it, so doth the whole house of God, and every spiritual, liv ing stone thereof, hang upon Christ by faith of his Spirit's opera, tion : “ To whom coming as to a living stone; ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house.” (1 Pet. ii. 4, 5.) Sometimes this union is represented to us by the union betwixt the head and the members of the natural body; (See Eph. iv. 15, 16; Col. ii. 19;) from which you will perceive that the whole body, and every particular member, greater or lesser, hangs upon Christ as by joints and bands. But here arises the main question to our present purpose. Question. What are these bands by which all believers, from the least to the greatest, hang upon Christ? Answer. These bands are principally two; 1, the Holy Spirit; 2, faith of the Spirit's operation.
First, I say the Spirit is one, and the principal, band whereby believers do hang upon Christ : “ He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” (1 Cor. vi. 17.) By the Holy Spirit the union is made between Christ and his members : « In whom ye
also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. ii. 22.) Yea, the Spirit himself is the band. « We know that he (Christ) abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1 John iii. 24.) The Spirit of life that is in Christ Jesus, by the means of the word, in a day of regeneration, enters into the soul and quickens it; and in the very quickening by the Spirit, it becomes a member of Christ, and so for ever after hangs upon him as a Nail in a sure place.
Second. Another band by which they all hang upon the Nail is faith by the Spirit's operation,-not a mere historical, temporary, partial, or legal faith, but a living, working, receiving, justifying, and sanctifying faith, which applies and appropriates Christ by the means of the word of grace and promise ; such a faith as eats the flesh and drinks the blood of Christ; and so lives in and upon him ; according as it is written: - I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ that liveth in me; and the life I live is by faith on the Son of God.', (Gal. ii. 20.) In a word, faith hangs all its everlasting concerns upon the Nail fastened in a sure place, and there it stays and rests all its cares and concerns; and in this way the soul is kept in perfect peace, knowing that the Nail, being well fastened, will not yield or give way. And thus it is that all the glory, the whole offspring and issue, and all the vessels of the house, greater and lesser, hang upon our blessed Eliakim.
The next inquiry is, Why is Christ constituted sole manager of his Father's house? Why doth he hang all the vessels upon him, as upon a nail fastened in a sure place ? I answer, the management of the house, and of all its concerns, is committed unto Christ because it was the good pleasure of God that it should be so. But although sovereignty is enough to satisfy us upon this head, yet there are some ways of infinite Wisdom to be observed in this constitution of things in the church, which is the house of the living God; as (1) He only had ability for bearing such a weight: “I have laid help, saith the Lord, upon one that is mighty." (2) Because Christ voluntarily undertook it in the council of peace, say ing, "Lo, I come! I delight to do thy will, O my God!" whereupon Jehovah the Father said and determined, “He shall build the temple'and bear all the glory." (3) Hereby a new revenue of glory is brought in to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, even “ Glory to God in the highest,” higher glory than what comes in by creation and providence. (4) Because hereby his saints are brought to honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. (5) Because this was for the safety and comfort of the saints and children of God. All their everlasting concerns hang upon Him, that they may warble out that song through eternity: « Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, honour, power, and glory be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." (Rev. v. 12, 13.)
Again. See hence why it is that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro, to show himself strong on the behalf of his people in this world ; why he rides in the heavens, for their help; and makes all things work together for their good. There is good reason for it, They are the offspring and issue of his family; they are the gold and silver vessels of his house; and you know, if a man have power and ability, he will not suffer his offspring to be hurt, or his house to be plundered of his valuable furniture, which he has bought at a dear rate. Hence it is that the Lord watches his house day and night, lest any hurt it. All his saints are in the hand of Christ, and he defies hell and earth to pluck them out of his hand.
2. See what trust and credit our glorious Kinsman Redeemer has with his Father. Why, you see how that he puts the whole family under his hand; he hangs the whole glory upon him. “He has made him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body.” “ All power in heaven and earth is given unto me,” says Christ. “ The Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” And seeing he has such trust and credit with his Father, what an indignity is done to the Father, and Son also, when a sinner, through unbelief, declares him to be unworthy of any credit, and says, practically, that the nail that God has fastened is loose, weak, or insufficient, and therefore he will not venture the weight of his salvation or justification upon it, but will choose rather to hang upon some nails of his own fastening, such as the nail of an empty profession, the nail of God's general mercy, the nail of legal duties and obedience, and the like, which are all but rusty, weak, and broken nails, that will give way and ruin all that depend upon them.
3. See hence one great ground and reason of the perseverance of the saints, and why they cannot fall totally or finally away from a state of grace; because they hang upon the Nail fastened in a sure place. Being the great Manager of his Father's house and family he has them in his custody, and is to give an account of every vessel of the house unto his Father; and he will make a good account of every one of them, and say to his Father, that intrusted them with him, “ Of all thou hast given.me, I have lost none. Here am I, and the children which thou hast given me." If a believer can fall totally or finally away, it is either because the nail may break or be loosed, or because the bands by which they hang upon the Nail may be broken or cut. But none of these can fall out. The Nail, as you heard in the doctrinal part of this discourse, is so fixed, that heaven and earth will sooner be dissolved than that it should yield or give way in the least; and as for the bands by which they hang upon the Nail, they are so firm, strong, and well-fastened, that the soul, when it has a view of its security in the light of the Lord, is able to give that challenge of Paul's, “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us ; for I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. viii. 35.)
4. See the great difference between the state of a believer now, under a covenant of grace, and the state of Adam, under a covenant of works. Adam, the first covenant-head and representative, though an innocent, yet was but a fallible creature; and being left to the freedom of his own will, that nail gave way, and he and all his posterity fell into a horrible pit of sin and misery, from which the whole creation could not recover them. But the case of the believer is not so. He hangs on a Nail in a sure place; he stands on the foundation God has laid in Zion, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail. Many a pull and pluck has the devil and the world given at the vessels that hang upon this Nail; and yet by all their power and policy they never were able to carry off a cup, much less a flagon, that did hang upon the Nail fastened in a sure place. To this purpose are those words of Christ: « None shall pluck them out of my hand; none shall pluck them out of my Father's hand.” (John X. 28, 29.)
5. See hence that the saints have no cause of boasting or glorying in themselves, but only in Christ; for he is the Nail in a sure place, upon whom all the glory and all the offspring and issue do hang Where is boasting? It is excluded. By what law ? Of works ? Nay, but by the law of faith. Now, the law of faith is, to lay the whole weight of our salvation and justification upon Christ; to receive him and rest upon him alone for eternal life, and to receive out of his fulness grace for grace.t
(To be continued.)