Six Addresses on Some of the principal scenes in the life of David.
by Christopher Knapp.
The addresses contained in this little volume have been delivered at various times and in different places. They are published in the hope that in a permanent form they may prove helpful to many.
While essentially fundamental in their character, the Addresses cover a wide range of simple truth, and they are intended for the instruction of believers as well as for the awakening of the unconverted.
May the great "Lord of the Harvest" set His approving seal upon them, and bless their publication to the help and joy of many souls.
C. Knapp, 44 Central Avenue, January, 1899. Albany, N. Y.
1. David and Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:1-29
2. David and Jonathan. 1 Samuel 17:38 — 18:4; 19:1-7; 20:41 42.
3. David and His Four Hundred Men. 1 Samuel 22.
4. David and the Young Man of Egypt. 2 Samuel 30:1-25.
5. David and Mephibosheth. 2 Samuel 9.
6. David, Ziba, and Mephibosheth. 2 Samuel 16:2-4; 19:24-30.
1. David and Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:1-28.
As I go about I meet with many professing Christians who scarcely ever look into the Old Testament. They call it "the Old Bible," and seem to look upon it as they look upon a thing of the past. This is a great mistake. There is but one Bible, made up of two Testaments, the Old and the New. And we must not set up one against the other. The Old Testament is inspired as fully as the New. It is "Scripture" equally with the New Testament. And the apostle Paul writes that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine," etc. (2 Tim. 3:16). The Old Testament Scriptures were written for our profit, and Christians suffer loss if they neglect them.
The Old Testament is like a great picture-book. And in the New Testament we have the living realities of all those pictures. It is a book of types and shadows. The New Testament contains the antitypes and substance of these types and shadows. Thus what is enfolded in the Old Testament is unfolded in the New.
Now the life of David abounds with typical incidents, and may God, by His Spirit, open them up to our souls as we glance at them one by cam. This seventeenth chapter of 1st Samuel contains a series of animated scenes.
First of all, we have two companies or classes of people. "And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them (ver. 3). The Israelites were the people of God; the Philistines were not His people. And so it is to-day. There are, before God, but two classes: the saved and the lost. One class have been converted; the other class still tread the downward road. One class have become "the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus"; the other class are still, as by nature, "the children of wrath" (Gal. 3:26; Eph. 2:3).
There is no middle class. Scripture makes that plain. Listen: "He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already." And again: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:18, 36). You are a believer or an unbeliever; you are free from condemnation or condemned already; you have everlasting life or the wrath of God abides upon you. Which is it? Some say, "I'm on the fence." That cannot be, because there is no fence. A valley lay between the Israelites and the uncircumcised. And a distance that no line can measure God has put between His people and the world.
In this hand I hold a counterfeit dollar. In the other is a genuine one. I have no third hand, and I do not need one, for there is no coin between the two. True, some counterfeits may have more silver in them than some others, but if they lack the stamp of the government mint they are no true coins. And you are saved or lost to-night. Don't begin to tell me of your goodness, your character, etc. New birth puts the stamp of heaven upon God's saints. And if this is lacking in your case, you are lost as much as any thief or murderer. In a certain sense your character and goodness have some value. I do not mean a saving value. Every bit of silver is of some worth in the counterfeit. But the "one thing lacking" is not a certain amount of silver in the make-up of the coin, but the stamp of the government of the United States. And so it is with you, if unconverted. You are no real child of God at all. It is not a question of your goodness or your badness. Whether you are of the very cream of society or help make up the scum of civilization, "ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
Quaint John Berridge had this legend chiseled on his tombstone:
"Reader, art thou born again?
Remember, no salvation without a new birth."
We notice next that each of these companies had a leader. King Saul was leader of the Israelites; Goliath of Gath seems to have been captain of the Philistines. And as there are two companies only in this world, so each of these two companies has its leader. The Lord Jesus is the Leader of His own redeemed. He is called "the Captain of their salvation" (Heb. 2:10). And the devil is the "god" and "prince of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4; John 14:30). "No man can serve two masters." There are but two, Christ and Satan. If you are unsaved, Satan is your master. If converted, you give Christ that place. The human race has been divided in two companies. These companies each stand ranged beneath the leadership of either the Son of God or the devil. One party stands beneath the black flag of hell; over the other floats the golden "banner of love." And you, my friend, are standing under one of these two banners. Don't deny it.
We remark again that there was war between the Israelites and the Philistines. There can be no honorable alliance between the Christian and the unbeliever. There is not exactly enmity between them, but there must be no fellowship or concord. In the very beginning we have a hint of this. "God divided the light from the darkness" (Gen. 1:4). And the apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesians, says: "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8). The Lord God said to the serpent in the garden; "I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed" (Gen. 3:5). The Church and the world are not to walk together. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" asks the herdsman-prophet of Tekoa. "No," answers the apostle of the Gentiles; "for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" [or unbeliever] (2 Cor. 6:14, 15.) The world agrees to reject the Son of God. Can the Church agree to this? The Church has agreed to own the lordship of Christ. The world refuses to do this. How, then, can there be fellowship or agreement? There can be none. As daylight and dark, as heat and cold, as fire and water, so are "the children of God" and "the children of this world." This important subject will come up again before us as we go along, and so I leave it here.
Next we notice the champion, the terrified and the conqueror. Goliath is the champion, the Israelites are the terrified, and David the shepherd-boy, becomes the conqueror.
First we have the champion. He was a mighty giant, more than nine feet tall. He wore "an helmet of brass upon his head," and was armored with "a coat of mail," like a monster turtle. He was thoroughly prepared to fight, and "the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam." His legs and shoulders were thoroughly protected, and the weight of his armor and his spear's head were something enormous. In all his pride and power he stands and cries defiantly for a man to fight with him. None dare accept his challenge. "When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine they were dismayed and greatly afraid" (ver. 11).
I take Goliath here to be a sort of representative of Satan wielding "the power of death." A massive sword is in his hands, with which he terrifies the Israelites. Though terrified, they were Jehovah's people as a nation, and they stood in outward nearness and relationship to Him. Now, in Heb. 2:14, 15, we are told that Satan, before the cross, had "the power of death," and that God's saints, "through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." That passage throws a flood of light upon this chapter. Unconverted men and even unestablished Christians fear to die. Now, why is this? One verse from the New Testament supplies the answer. "The sting of death is sin" (1 Cor. 15:56). Conscience accuses. Men fear to die because they know that they are sinners, and that God must punish sin. Their conscience tells them this, however indistinctly, and the Bible tells them plainly when they read it, because of which, therefore, they seldom do read it. Newspapers and novels are crowding out the word of God. But Scripture says, "The wages of sin is death," and "after death the judgment."
But it is saints that we have pictured by the terrified here — children of God who do not know redemption. Unconverted men may tremble at the thought of death, but this is not the devil's work. He wants to keep them unconcerned. He hates to see them get alarmed about the "King of terrors." He blinds their minds and tells them not to be afraid. He would fain persuade them that they are "all right," or that there is no God, no judgment and no hell. And if you are unconverted and have no fear of death, it is just because you are deceived and kept asleep by Satan. May God arouse your conscience ere it be too late!
Before Christ died and sins were put away, God's people were afraid of death, even the best of them. See good king Hezekiah. The prophet Isaiah announced his death, and he turned his face to the wall and "wept sore" (Isa. 38). All of them feared death more or less. They longed to reach a good old age, and wished to ward off death as long as possible. Jacob complained to Pharaoh of the shortness of his life. None of them had that confidence that we may have since Christ has come and vanquished death and Satan. In the presence of death they were like "Saul and all Israel" before Goliath "dismayed and greatly afraid."
Now the conqueror comes upon the scene. It is David, and he slays the giant. Throughout this section of the word of God he is a striking type of Christ.
We now consider, first, the retirement that David enjoyed; second, the refreshment that he brought; third, the reproach that he suffered; then the reward that he was promised.
First, we have the retirement that David enjoyed. Where was David all the time that the champion of the Philistines was frightening Israel? At his father's house in Bethlehem (ver. 5). Afar from the scene of strife and battle he was enjoying the calm and quiet of his father's house. And tell me, where was Jesus all the time before He came to earth to be the "Man of sorrows"? In His "Father's house" on high, above the sun. Let me quote a verse or two from the first chapter of John's gospel. It begins, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made" (vers. 1-3). There you have the answer. He was "with God." There He had the homage of all heaven. Archangel and angels, cherubim and seraphim, all bowed low in adoration at the feet of God, the Son! Do you know the blackest blasphemer God lets live? It is the man who denies deliberately the eternal deity of Jesus. I say, and say with joy and triumph in the language of the Holy Ghost, "the Word was GOD." Isaiah "saw His glory," and he "spake of Him." He says: "I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple." And the seraphim cover their faces and their feet, and cry, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts." This is their Creator, even the eternal Son of God (Isa. 6).
There is a magnificent passage in the eighth chapter of the book of Proverbs. I will read it. It is wisdom personified that speaks, and Christ is "the wisdom of God." "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth. While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor, the highest part of the dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth: when He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep: when He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by Him as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him: rejoicing in the habitable part of the earth; and my delights were with the sons of men" (Prov. 8:22-31). Christ was in His Father's bosom as the shepherd-boy was in his father's house.
But David leaves this place. His father sends him to his brethren. And Jesus left His place of bliss on high and came to earth. He was the sent One of the Father. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Again: "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." The world was lost and ruined, yet God loved the guilty sons of men. And He evidenced His love by giving Jesus. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us," John writes, "because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9, 10). And notice, too, that though David's father sends him to his brethren, he went willingly. "David rose up early in the morning" (ver. 20). He did not hesitate or start with lagging footsteps. He was not driven, but went gladly. And Jesus, though sent of God, came willingly. He says Himself, "the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Paul writes, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). It was His mighty love that brought Him down. It was His love that, like a mighty magnet, drew Him to the cross. Love made Him willing.
What is that love to you, my hearers? How many here have opened their hearts to that love? How many have believed and been wooed and won by such well-proved love? "The love of Christ which passeth knowledge:" It passes knowing fully, and it passes rightly telling, too. The tongue fails and lips prove all too feeble to tell out such love. Perhaps some of you have never known Christ's love. Let me tell you how a man once learned that love. The late lamented Spurgeon was once preaching to a vast audience in Exeter Hall, I think. When the audience had left the building a solitary man of advanced years was found weeping in a seat in the rear of the hall. The floor at his feet was wet with his tears. Some one asked him what part of the sermon it was that had so affected him. "Ah," he sobbed, "I am partially deaf, and did not hear the sermon. But when they sang that hymn, 'Jesus, lover of my soul,' it was too much. I said, 'If He so loves me, why should I live any longer at enmity with Him?' It's such love that makes me weep." Oh, sinner, may that love touch you! Live no longer as an enemy of Jesus. He has never been your enemy. He loved thee, even unto death. May thy poor cold heart be opened to that love, —
"As the rose to the golden sunshine"
Christ came from heaven to win rebel hearts. No man ever loved like Him.
"Son of God, Thy Father's bosom
Ever was Thy dwelling-places
His delight, in Him rejoicing,
One with Him in pow'r and grace.
Oh, what wondrous love and mercy!
Thou didst lay Thy glory by,
And for us didst come from heaven,
As the Lamb of God to die."
Notice, too, the time that David left the retirement of his father's house. Verse 1 6 says that the Philistine "presented himself forty days." Immediately, in the following verse, David's father sends him. Now, the number forty in the word of God denotes the time of trial or testing — man's testing. I will give a few examples. Moses was forty years in the court of Pharaoh; forty years in Midian, and forty years the leader of God's people, Israel. He was forty days and forty nights in the "mount of God." The Israelites were tested forty years in the wilderness. And the Lord Jesus, the second Man, was tested and tried for forty days in the wilderness. And all the time before Christ's advent man was on his trial. This lasted forty centuries — four thousand years. He was first tried in Paradise, and failed. He believed the devil's lie in preference to the truth of God, and was driven from the garden. Outside of Eden he was under conscience, left to himself without God or the Scriptures. The flood, the confusion of tongues and the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah all witness man's utter failure under conscience. This lasted more than twenty centuries. Then for fifteen hundred years God had a people under law. He took them, a nation of slaves in Egypt, and brought them unto Himself. He established them in the garden-spot of all the world. There they had a temple, priests, a ritual, and, best of all, the Holy Scriptures. But they utterly failed to keep the law, and when Jesus, their Messiah, came into their midst, their hearts were full of murder and hypocrisy. The trial of the human race ended with the presence of Jesus in the world. He only came when man had failed and done his worst.
The apostle Paul refers to this. He says: "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman," etc. (Gal. 4:4). The "fulness of the time" was the end of man's probation. Now he is no longer on his trial. His trial is over. Heb. 9:26 refers to this same time: "But now, once in the end of the ages hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." It is not the end of the world, but the end of the age or ages, i.e., of man's trial and testing. Then Jesus came.
And how did Jesus come into this world? Just as David came unto his brethren — loaded down with blessings.
Next we have therefore the refreshment David brought. His father did not send him empty-handed. "And Jesse said unto David, his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren. And carry these ten cheeses," etc. (ver. 17). Now, the good things David carried to the camp are like the temporal blessings Jesus brought to Israel. He raised the dead; He made the blind to see and the deaf to hear; He made the tongue of the dumb to sing and the lame man leap as an hart; He satisfied the poor with bread. He came freighted with grace and blessing, and right and left with lavish hand He freely gave these good things to the poor and needy.
And why do you think it speaks of "ten loaves" and "ten cheeses"? I will tell you what I think. Israel had ten commandments. If they kept them they were promised earthly blessings. If they broke them they were cursed. And they always broke them every one, and only earned a curse. But Jesus came to them in grace and brought, as it were, a double blessing, of which they were utterly unworthy, while so deserving of the curse of the insulted and broken law. How precious are these pictures! Oh, for more appreciation of the One of whom they so loudly and so sweetly speak!
But did men care for Jesus when He came? No! He was reproached and refused.
This is pictured in the reproach David suffered. When he came into the camp he met with reproach. "And Eliab his eldest brother, heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why comest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know the pride and the naughtiness of thine heart, for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle" (ver. 28). He is suspected and misunderstood. He was not wanted there. They were glad to get his loaves and cheeses. I am sure of that. They cared for them, but not for David. And when Jesus came men took His temporal blessings. They were glad to get the "loaves and fishes." They were willing to have their sick and dead raised up. But they did not want Himself "He came unto His own and His own received Him not." "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." He was rejected from the very first. When He was born "there was no room for Him in the inn." "All Jerusalem" was "troubled" at the tidings of His birth. Herod "sought the young child's life." In the very beginning of His ministry, at "Nazareth, where He had been brought up," He was refused. They "were filled with wrath" "and thrust Him out of the city," and would have cast Him headlong over the precipice. He was refused everywhere and at every turn.
"He came, the heavenly stranger,
A Man of humble birth;
Born in a lowly manger,
Few cared to know His worth."
How it must have grieved and wounded David to be reproached as he was. Eliab's cruel taunt must have stung his sensitive heart to the very quick. And it was His rejection and reproach that made the blessed Son of God "a Man of sorrows" here. Israel would not have Him. He knew He was not wanted. We have all been, at some time or other in our lives, in places where we knew we were not wanted. And it is one of the keenest of all sorrows. The Lord Jesus felt this sorrow everywhere. Some places people did not even care to take Him in. "The foxes have holes," He said on one occasion, "and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." Isaiah had foretold "His lonely life of sorrow here below." "He hath no form nor comeliness;" he says in behalf of the remnant who refused Him, "and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isa. 53:2-4). "He went about doing good," and never spoke an unkind word. "Never man spake like this Man," the officers said who had been sent to take Him.
But He said, "They hated Me without a cause." They were His "enemies wrongfully." He said again, "I am become a stranger unto My brethren." "They that sit in the gate speak against Me; and I was the song of the drunkards." "Thou hast known My reproach and My shame, and My dishonor." And last and saddest of all, "Reproach hath broken My heart" (Ps. 69).
David's reproach is a faint foreshadow of all this. Twice Eliab speaks of David's coming "down." He did not know that David came to seek his welfare. And so with Jesus. Men did not know what brought Him down from glory. They did not know He came for their eternal welfare. They did not know He came to die. David came to slay the giant and deliver Israel. And Jesus came to vanquish Satan and deliver men from his power and from the "lake of fire."
Ah, friend, don't refuse this Saviour I He came, and, blessed be His name, He bled and died for your eternal welfare. Receive Him now. Just say, "If He so loved me, a sinner, and suffered so for me, I will put my trust in Him. I will no longer shut my heart against Him. Lord Jesus, be my Saviour now!"
"Lamb of God, when we behold Thee
Lowly in the manger laid;
Wand'ring as a homeless stranger
In, the world Thy hands had made;
When we see Thee bruised at Calvary,
In Thine agony and blood;
At Thy grace we are confounded,
Holy, spotless Lamb of God!"
But now we come to the reward that David was promised.
"And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? Surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel. And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him" (vers. 25-27). The reward promised to the man who killed the Philistine was a threefold one — great riches, freedom for his father's house, and a bride. And David slew the giant, so he was entitled to this great reward. And Jesus at Calvary triumphed over sin and death and Satan, and must be rewarded for His victory.
The first thing is "great riches." Paul speaks of the "unsearchable riches of Christ." These He won by the conquest of the cross. He was ever rich, as God, of course. Nothing can be added to His riches or His glory in this view of Him. But as Man, He has been here on earth and won high honors — laurels that shall rest upon His blessed brow throughout eternity.
This illustration has been given. There is a mighty prince who, by his birth, has come into possession of vast treasures and estates. These he has by natural inheritance. They are his because of who he is. But he goes forth as a warrior, and, conquering everywhere, wins additional wealth and glory such as he would never have possessed had he remained at home. What he has done secures him these. Now he has a two-fold glory — one essential and the other acquired. And thus it is with Jesus. As the eternal Son of the Father, He has a glory all His own. It is His essential Godhead glory in which no creature can have part. But as Man in this world He has won honors, glories and riches such as He can and does share with His own redeemed and loved ones. Such are the riches He has won. And with these "great riches" He enriches all who trust Him as their Saviour. "All things are yours," the apostle says. Again he says, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). "He was rich," it says, yet for our sakes "He became poor." Now, how, it may be asked, did Jesus become poor? He became poor in several ways. He was poor in this world's goods. His parents were poor. At His circumcision they took advantage of the special provision made "in the law of the Lord" for the poor. Too poor to afford a lamb, they offered in its stead "a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24; Lev. 12:8). He was a carpenter's son, without an education (John 7:15). And on one occasion He did not possess a penny, even. He had to say, "Show Me a penny" (Luke 20:24). As He went about fulfilling His ministry, "certain women" "ministered to Him of their substance" (Luke 8:2, 3). And His poverty continued to the very end. His coat, for which the soldiers gambled, was such as only the poorest wore. "It was without seam, woven from the top throughout" (John 19:23). So literally He was poor. And He became poor in another sense, too. He was the rightful heir to the throne of Israel, yet (for a time) He gave it up, that we poor Gentiles, through His poverty, might be made forever rich. The wealthiest of men are wretchedly poor without Christ. And the saint, possessing Christ (and with Him everything), is immensely rich, even though compelled to toil for daily bread.
I remember a friend telling me once of a wealthy nobleman. He possessed extensive estates which nearly all lay in a vale. His own residence was also there. In this vale there lived a poor, though happy and consistent old Christian. He supported himself by breaking stones on this nobleman's estates. A serious sickness one day seized upon the nobleman, and he was soon sinking rapidly. One night he was very low. The physicians shook their heads and held out little hope. That night the nobleman dreamed an angel came to him and told him that the richest man in all the vale would die that night. This terrified him. "My time is come," thought he, "for I am by far the richest man in all the vale." His conscience was aroused, and he passed a terrible night of mental agony. Every moment he expected the summons that would usher him into eternity. But the night passed and morning came. He was still alive and the fever had taken a turn for the better. All day long he lay wondering at his dream. Could it be, after all, but the product of a fevered and disordered brain, and not a message from God at all? He began to think so when word was brought to him that the old Christian stone-breaker had died the previous night. "Ah," said he at once, "now I understand it. My dream was true. The richest man in all the vale did die last night. But it was not I, with all my worldly wealth, but that godly stone-breaker, 'rich in faith,' and 'rich toward God'" (James 2:5; Luke 12:21). Hast thou these riches, friend? If thou hast Christ, then thou possessest untold treasure.
"In Christ" the believer has everything. His apprehension of it is another thing. Suppose I am a poor beggar, and, by a relative heretofore unknown to me, I am left a fortune. I receive it thankfully. It is mine the moment I receive it, though I am utterly ignorant of its value. But it is all mine, I know, so I proceed to a quiet corner and there open the papers and, step by step, learn what is mine. I count and add, and as I do so I am amazed at the wealth my benefactor has left me. Now, the moment a sinner receives Christ by faith, He has everything. "All things are yours" is as true of him then as it was of the apostle Paul, when He wrote at the gate of heaven, "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." And searching the Scriptures and learning the blessedness of all who believe is like the beggar counting out the riches of his inheritance. Christians who do this enjoy their heavenly riches.
So never mind how poor you are in this world's goods, dear fellow-believer. The apostle says: "As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Cor. 6:10). And the Lord Jesus says to His suffering saints in Smyrna, "I know thy poverty, but thou art rich" (Rev. 2:9). He, as we sing, "shares all He possesses with His loved co-heirs." Believers are said to be "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). May some poor sinner be made rich to-night.
Next there was freedom for the conqueror's father's house. Henceforth it was to be a house under special honors. They may represent the elect of God. All who come to Christ are given Him of the Father. They have been "predestinated unto the adoption of children." They were by nature and by practice slaves of Satan and of sin, but have been set at liberty. Christ died that they might be free. By His glorious victory over death He obtained freedom for every member of His "Father's house."
The unconverted are slaves of Satan. The Lord Jesus says to Paul, when He commissions him for his work, that the Gentiles were to be turned "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18). The Colossians were delivered "from the power of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of God's dear. Son" (Col. 1:13). Satan rules outside the Kingdom mentioned here. All outside this Kingdom are beneath the power of Satan. Baptism will not put you in this Kingdom; the human rite of confirmation does not do it; taking the sacrament cannot effect it. To "enter into" or even "see" this Kingdom, "ye must be born again" (John 3). If unconverted, you are Satan's servant. He holds you in the iron bonds of lust and sin. And he pays his subjects bitter wages. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
Hear an oft-told parable. There was once a certain tyrant. Among his wretched subjects was a blacksmith. One day this poor blacksmith was ordered into the tyrant's presence. "Go to your forge," said the tyrant, "and make a chain link. Make it strong, and bring it to me. I will give you wages for your work." So the blacksmith went to his forge and made the link. He brought it to the tyrant, who ordered him to make another like it and to fasten them together. He returned to his forge and did as he was bidden. He was ordered by his master to continue making links until a chain was made. Every day he hoped to get his wages. At last the chain was finished. "Now," said the cruel tyrant, "you shall have your wages." He ordered his guards to bind the miserable blacksmith with the chain his hands had fashioned, and had him cast into a dungeon. The parable is this: That tyrant is the devil. The blacksmith is yourself, if unconverted. Every sin you commit in the service of Satan is like a link to the chain that is to be fastened about your soul as you are cast into the darkness of hell forever. "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness," knells the sinner's final doom. May God save any present from a fate so awful I Christ alone can set the sinner free.
"He breaks the power of reigning sin,
And sets the sinner free."
"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
I read some time ago a newspaper account of a skeleton found in a cave in the Indian Territory. On the bleached wristbones of the skeleton were a pair of rusty handcuffs. They told a tale: the man had died in bondage. And I thought of men dying with the devil's manacles of sin upon their souls. Oh, poor soul, there is deliverance for you. Jesus by His death acquired the right and power to set the captives of the devil free. "Only believe." Paul once groaned out in agony, "O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Then he looked to Christ, the great Deliverer, and exclaimed: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 7:24, 25). "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" Acts 16:31).
Last of all, the man who killed the Philistine was to have a princess for a bride. Saul's daughter was to be given in marriage to the happy man. And Christ, by His victorious death, has obtained for Himself a bride — the Church. The apostle says, speaking of the Church under the figure of a wife: "Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it" (Eph. 5:25). Christ's bride is "the Church of God, which He hath purchased with the blood of His Own" (Acts 20:28, N.T.). This is the Church I believe in, and of this blood-bought Church I am a member. People sometimes say, "What Church are you a member of?" I say, "The only Church there is." "That sounds like bigotry," you say. I reply that it is not bigotry; it is the Bible. "What is the name of this Church?" perhaps you ask." I answer, "It has four names." "Four names?" you say. "Indeed! What are they, pray?" It is called in the first epistle to Timothy, third chapter and fifteenth verse, "the house of God." It is called in the first epistle to the Corinthians, third chapter and seventeenth verse, "the temple of God." It is called, in the same epistle, twelfth chapter and twenty-seventh verse, "the body of Christ." And in the Revelation, twenty-first chapter and ninth verse, it is called "the bride, the Lamb's wife." It is richly endowed, and firmly established; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This is the only Church of which we read in Scripture.
I am done. To-morrow evening we will see how David meets and slays the Philistine, if God permit.
2. David and Jonathan.
1 Samuel 17:38 — 18:4; 1 Samuel 19:1-7; 1 Samuel 20:41, 42.
David is one of the most interesting characters in all the Old Testament. We can view him in a twofold way — personally and typically. Now I wish you to view him with me only in a typical way to-night. Viewed personally, he is an instructive example of holy courage and confidence in God. But I think it best to look at him only in a typical way throughout these addresses. Viewing him personally, we admire the man; looking at him as a type, we adore the One he typifies, or represents.
I remember speaking once in Canada on David, in this section of the Scriptures, as a type of Christ. At the close an aged Scotch lady said as she grasped my hand, "Aye, wee David were a bonny brave lad when he killet the Philistine." I was disappointed. She had missed the whole drift of my discourse, thinking only of David personally, and ignoring him in his typical character entirely. Too many read the Old Testament only in this way, to their serious loss.
In the closing section of the seventeenth chapter which I have read, David meets and slays the mighty champion of the Philistines. For forty days, morning and evening, he had been presenting himself, frightening Israel and defying "the armies of the living God." None dared accept his challenge; all feared to meet him. Then David appears in the nick of time and saves Jehovah's cause.
Now, as we saw last night, David slaying the Philistine in the valley of Elah is a type of Jesus triumphing over all the powers of sin and death and Satan by the cross.
Let us notice how he conquers. He does not meet the adversary as a warrior but in the simple character of a shepherd, which he really was. He puts Saul's armor off and lays aside his sword. He takes his "staff" and his "five smooth stones" in "a shepherd's bag." Then with a stone from his sling, he smites the Philistine with death. And as a shepherd Jesus met our mighty foe at Calvary. I am the good Shepherd," He says, "The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep" (John 10:11). As feeble sheep we had no power against our wolfish adversary. Our blessed Saviour meets him and by death defeats him. And the sheep go free. Thank God for everyone in this room to-night who can say, "The Lord is my Shepherd." Oh, that you, my unsaved friend, might say it ere you leave your seat. Jesus would receive thee as a frightened sheep. He would rejoice and say, "I have found My sheep which was lost."
David takes five smooth stones from the brook and with one of these he slays Goliath. There have been many speculations as to the meaning of these "five smooth stones." I will give you what I learn from them. Notice where he gets them, — in the brook. Now water in Scripture often symbolizes death. For instance, the Red Sea is a type of Christ's death. Jordan also symbolizes death. The waters of baptism strikingly signify death. Believers are baptized unto Christ's death. They are viewed as dead with Christ and confess it by baptism.
"We are buried! with Him, by baptism unto death" (Rom. 6:4). The water there is death. The Lord Jesus went down into death as David went down into the brook. And there He received five wounds as David got five stones. His hands, His feet, and side were pierced. All this, of course, is only a suggestion. I do not ask you if you understand it so. I have a more important question. Can you say, "He was wounded for my transgressions"?
When all is ready, David, with his simple weapon, advances towards the Philistine. But Goliath of Gath disdains him. "And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh to the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field" (vers. 42-44). But he never boasts again. A well directed stone from David's sling sinks into his forehead and his huge form lies stretched in death upon the ground.
And notice, David did not hesitate. Verse 48 says, "And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine." He "hasted" and "ran." This is like the blessed Lord. "He set His face like a flint to go toward Jerusalem." He knew the awful conflict He would pass through there. But nothing could turn Him back. God's glory and the safety of the sheep necessitate His death and He will go.
"Oh, sing of the Shepherd that died,
That died for the sake of the flock;
His love to the utmost was tried,
But firmly endured as a rock.
When blood from a victim must flow,
This Shepherd by pity was led
To stand between us and the foe,
And willingly died in our stead."
Now, let us look at Jonathan as one who reaps real benefit from David's victory. He aptly represents the Christian who has reaped eternal benefit from Christ's victory over death.
Jonathan must have passed through at least three different states of mind on this occasion. He was at first terrified, then satisfied, and lastly, captivated. Let us take them one by one, because they illustrate three different states of soul in Christians.
He was terrified. We are sure of this. It says, "And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid" (ver. 24). "All the men of Israel," took in Jonathan. He was terrified like all the rest. Now death has frightened every one who has been born again. The best of men fear death, without the knowledge of redemption. Conscience of sins makes men afraid to die. Few care to think of death. Some years ago a Chicago undertaker placed a coffin on the sidewalk before his shop. He meant is as an advertisement and it was, but not as he expected, or desired. Those who were compelled to pass his place were angry and requested him to take the coffin in and out of sight. This he refused to do. Then the residents of the street petitioned the mayor, who compelled the unthinking undertaker to remove the casket. That tells a story. The coffin made the people think of death. The covetous merchant, hurrying to his place of business, and hoping to become a millionaire, perhaps, and reaching a ripe old age, was shocked to see that grim reminder of "the wages of sin." The gay young men and women, passing down the street towards the theatre or the ball-room did not like to see it. Drunkards and libertines, with any conscience left, were troubled at the sight. And so the unconscious preacher must be silenced by being hastened out of sight. I remember once, when a mere lad I spent a large part of one day in a cemetery. That night I slept but little. My conscience was aroused. Awake, or in my troubled dreams, I thought I saw those ghost-like tombstones. I thought of the time when I must die, and I knew at the time I was not fit to dwell with God.
Sinner, death is on your track. Die you must! And after death comes judgment. Death is man's great enemy. He is after you, my unconverted friend. May you get terrified before it is too late. If you die in your sins, your soul, the moment it leaves the body, will descend, like a flash of light, to hell. Be awakened now. Don't be like the silly ostrich, which, when pursued, they say, sticks its head in the sand, and thinks itself safe because it cannot see its enemy. What folly to shut your eyes and go dreaming, in carnal security, on your way to perdition.
Death is a fearful thing. It is the judgment of God upon man, because of sin. Death came in by sin. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men," etc. (Rom. 5:12). There was no such thing in all the world till Adam sinned. Now we see the stamp of death on everything. Every child born into the world is born under the sentence of death. Men live all their lives beneath its sentence. I know they try to think of death as a sort of accident. Often the innocent physician gets the blame. It is a troublesome intruder, of course, but they must make the best of it. So they summon the florist to their aid. They strew flowers on the coffin and the tomb is decked with roses. And the preacher must not breathe one word about death being the wages of sin." And I notice, too, that now, instead of solid black, they mingle violet with the crape. Ah, if only some wonderful man of science could devise means to do away with death entirely, but they cannot. They boast of progress, but I notice men are dying just as fast as ever, and if not a little faster. Wonderful strides have been made in surgery and medicine, but men and women die younger, on an average, than they did one hundred years ago, when they were not so smart. Oh, that men, instead of painting death in colors, false and gay, would submit to the truth and prepare for what awaits them!
At the breaking out of the late Cuban war a great many Spanish soldiers were attacked with yellow fever. Scores were dying on every hand, and, being Roman Catholics, who believe that the priest is a mediator between God and them, they sent for the priests. In one regiment was a great, strapping infidel. At first, he enjoyed perfect health, and made sport of his comrades' fear of death. But at last he himself was seized with the dread disease, and in a very short time was on his death-bed. Then all his bravado was gone. Just before his soul departed from his body he raised himself in his bed with his little remaining strength, and shrieked in the agony of despair: "O my God, I cannot die! I cannot die!" So he died, like multitudes of others who in health appear to scorn all fear of death. Your time is coming, sinner. Oh, prepare prepare!
After being terrified, Jonathan was satisfied. Everything seems dark till David comes upon the scene. How his eyes follow every movement of the shepherd-boy of Bethlehem as he sees him prepare for the conflict. His weapon seems inadequate — a simple sling. David himself seems like a mere sapling by some mighty oak, in the presence of Goliath. But the giant falls, and with his own massive sword David severs his head from his body. Then he holds it up triumphantly to view, and Jonathan's terror is gone forever — he is satisfied. The giant is dead, and his headless body lies mingled with the clods of the valley. Jonathan is sure, and satisfied.
And the believer by faith looks back to the cross, and sees the Saviour robbing death of all its terrors. "He death by dying slew." The death of Jesus satisfies the troubled conscience. There is no other remedy. Men have manufactured opiates. These are mostly various forms of religious observances' and morals. They may deceive, but they cannot effectually relieve. God's perfect answer to the demands of a troubled conscience is the cross. All who by simple faith rest in what Christ accomplished there have what the apostle calls "no more conscience of sins" (Heb. 10:2). And they are not afraid of death. I do not mean a physical fear of death. Many who enjoy peace with God about their sins have a kind of dread of the hour of dissolution, when the soul departs the body. But this is purely physical. An Mir believer may be entirely free from all such fear, yet tremble at the thought of meeting God. I read some time ago of a child in New York city that was bitten by its father's valuable dog. He spared the dog, but put a muzzle on him. He could still bark, but he could not bite. But the child was still afraid of him. "You need not fear him," said the nurse one day. "He is muzzled, so he cannot bite you." "Yes," replied the child, "but the bark is in him yet." And the bark of the muzzled dog is like the physical fear of death among believers. It may annoy, but it cannot harm. But I speak of freedom from all moral fear of death. If you fear death as that which will usher you into the presence of God, there is something wrong. You are either unconverted, or a Christian lacking settled peace. There are many just such Christians. They believe in Christ, but know little of His finished work. They are not satisfied. Jonathan was satisfied when he beheld the finished work of David with the giant. And it is only when you see by faith what Christ has done for you at Calvary that you ever can have settled peace.
There is a passage in the second of Hebrews that ought always to be read in connection with this subject. It says: "Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy [annul] him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (vers. 14, 15). There you have the work of Christ, and Satan's utter overthrow. He "destroyed" the devil, or annulled him, as it is in Greek. His power is gone, as far as Christians are concerned. And now, by this accomplished work, they are entitled to deliverance from all fear of death. It was all accomplished for us at the cross. With joy we sing:
"His be 'the Victor's name,'
Who fought the fight alone;
Triumphant saints no honor claim,
His conquest was their own."
If you have faith in Christ, you ought to have this satisfaction. "But," you say, "I am such a stumbling professor. I lose my temper easily. I tell stories if I am not careful, and sometimes forget myself and say harsh words when tempted." I am sorry that all this is so; but I am also glad that you are not satisfied with yourself; you would be deceived if you were. "But," you say again, "my experience has not been very clear. I have never felt very pungent convictions, and when I closed with Christ I did not feel much joy." This may all be true. I would not have you satisfied with your experience any more than with yourself. I have never been fully satisfied with myself. I have never been at all satisfied with my experience. It has never seemed to me a very clear one. But I will tell you who and what I am satisfied with. I am satisfied with Jesus and His atoning death at Calvary for my sins. God would have you satisfied with His beloved Son. And Christ desires to have you satisfied with Himself and His finished work for sinners such as you. I have read somewhere of a young man who really believed in Christ, but had no settled peace. One night he dreamed he saw large crowds of people hurrying excitedly towards a hill. He followed from curiosity, and, to his surprise, he saw upon the hill a cross. And on the cross he thought he saw the Saviour. "Why," said he, "I thought you did die once upon the cross. Why are you dying again?" And he thought he heard the Saviour say reproachfully: "I did die eighteen hundred years ago, but you are not satisfied, so I am dying for you again." He saw his unbelief. He awoke and confessed it; and he never doubted his salvation after that. He saw it hung entirely on the death of Christ.
Jonathan would have been the laughing-stock of the camp had he remained in dread of the headless giant. And had he sought to excuse his fears by saying, "I am not satisfied with my appreciation of what David has accomplished," or "I fear, because my view of David, as he slew the Philistine, was rather indistinct," they would have laughed still louder. It was David's work, and not Jonathan's appreciation or distinct views that slew the Philistine and saved the army. And it is Christ's work alone that saves.
Christians who pass all their days in doubt and dread of death are like the man who wished to cross the Mississippi river on the ice. Supposing it to be dangerously thin, he crawled across on his hands and knees, with his heart in his throat, as they say. Just as he reached the opposite bank, a man overtook him with a team of horses and a load of iron. The ice was strong enough to bear an army, and his fears were groundless. The man's security depended on the thickness of the ice. And your security, fellow-believer, depends entirely on the work of Christ. Can that break down? Will it give way? Thank God, NEVER! Then doubt no more. Go on your way rejoicing, and live for the One who died for you.
"There was no sword in the hand of David" when he won the victory. A sling and stone are not the weapons of a mighty warrior. David himself appeared weak in the eyes of men; "he was but a youth." And the apostle Paul says of the Lord Jesus: "He was crucified through weakness" (2 Cor. 13:4). "Christ crucified" was unto the religious Jew "a stumbling-block," and unto the learned Greek "foolishness." Through death, by apparent weakness and defeat Christ conquered Satan.
"By weakness and defeat
He won the meed and crown,
Trod all our foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down."
We next see Jonathan captivated. "And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (ver. 1). David's work satisfies him, and David's worth captivates him. It is a blessed thing to know Christ's work; for it prepares our hearts to learn His worth. By His work our souls are saved; by His worth our hearts are won. Every Christian loves Christ in some measure. Scripture says, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema," etc.; i.e., accursed (1 Cor. 16:22), We cannot but love Him if we know His dying love to us. A child once helped to deepen that truth in my soul. It was in Chicago. I asked her if she loved Jesus. "Oh, yes," she answered quickly. "Why do you love Him?" I asked. "Oh," she replied, with sweet childish transparency, "because He died for me." But Jonathan's love to David was no common love. He loved him as his own soul. David himself speaks of that love in his touching lament for Jonathan. "Thy love to me was wonderful," he says, "passing the love of women" (2 Sam. 1:26). David, in Jonathan's eyes, eclipsed all others. To him there was not another like him in all the earth. And his love to David leads to action. "And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle" (ver. 4). He strips himself of everything. He lays all at David's feet. Everything that might distinguish him as a warrior or as a man among men, he gives to David, as if he alone were worthy of such arms and garments. This action becomes more lovely in our eyes as we remember that Jonathan was a distinguished prince. He had also proved himself a mighty warrior. In the fourteenth chapter of this book he and his armor-bearer display uncommon bravery. As a result, the Philistines are routed, and Saul's armies are victorious. He seems to have been a special favorite with the people, too. In defiance of the headstrong king, they rescued him from death. "And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought so great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan that he died not" (1 Sam. 14:45). But, though so great a man, he seems to say of David, as John the Baptist said of Christ, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
Paul strips himself in Philippians 3. He, too, was a great man in his place. He advanced beyond many of his contemporaries in the Jews' religion, he tells us (Gal. 1:14). Here in Philippians 3 he tells us in detail something of what he was. He says: "Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee. Concerning zeal, persecuting the Church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" vers. 4-6). He was a distinguished man in the religious world, as his ancestor, Jonathan, was a distinguished man in the military and the social world. But ah! observe him strip himself. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ: yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God, by faith; that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death" (vers. 7–10). Oh, it is a blessed sight, too seldom seen. Everything must go; the circumcised, the Israelite, the Benjamite, the Pharisee, the zealot, the blameless, everything he reckons dross and dung, that Christ may be his only gain. "All for Christ," he seems to say. Christ is his only gain; all other things are loss.
Everything goes when Christ captivates the heart. We begin to strip as we learn His worth. Suppose, for instance, I am a man of wealth and position in the world. God saves me, and I learn Christ's love. Now "Christ is all." I no longer glory in my wealth, and step down from my exalted place to seek the fellowship of the poor and lowly followers of Jesus. I "rejoice," as James says, to be "made low." Or suppose I am a very religious man, as people say. I am a popular preacher, or I occupy a high seat in the so-called church. Everybody speaks well of me. But my eyes are opened, and I see it is not popular religion and religious work, but Christ. I come out and esteem reproach for Him and His praise above the praise of men." Or I may be a young man who excels in athletic sports, or something of that kind. Christ becomes my Saviour and my all. I begin to say: —
"My old companions, all, farewell;
I will not go with you to hell."
Baseball, football, boxing, all are given up. "Everything," I say, "for Christ." Or I may be an accomplished young lady, a graceful dancer, a splendid musician, a charming conversationalist, and all that. I become converted, and begin to taste "the love of Christ which passeth knowledge." Now I say, "To me to live is Christ! The world has admired me long enough; I am weary of its smiles. I will begin to admire Christ and seek His smile." So I give up my place in the merry social world, and say "Farewell."
"Farewell to this world's fleeting joys,
My home is not below;
There was no room' for Jesus here,
And 'tis to Him I go.
"The accursed tree was the reward
Which this sad world did give
To Him who gave His precious life
That I through Him might live.
"And has this world a charm for me,
Where Jesus suffered thus?
No; I have died to all its charms
Through Jesus' wondrous cross."
All this is something like Jonathan stripping before David. It is the sure result of affection for Christ and occupation with Him". May God give every Christian here to be like Jonathan in this.
Jonathan's love to David was "wonderful, passing the love of women." Strength is the distinguishing characteristic of the man. Affection is that of the woman. Husbands, in the epistles, are often admonished to love their wives, but the chief admonition to wives is not that, for love is more natural to the woman. She generally exceeds in love. Jonathan's love for David exceeded even that. Oh, for more ardent devotion to our David!
Paul says, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." The heart is the seat of the affections. Christ died to win these rebel hearts to Himself.
"Himself He gave, our poor hearts to win;
Was ever love, Lord, like Thine!"
He went down into death to secure a place in the heart of His ruined creature, man. Paul's heart was won. He adoringly exclaims, "The Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!" These lines were once found written on the fly-leaf of a departed nun's prayer-book: "I am nothing; I can do nothing; Jesus, I adore Thee." Precious confession! May it be written in our hearts, and become the language of our lives.
The earnest missionary, Judson, refers in his journal to the devoted life and final martyrdom of a wealthy Burman who was converted to Christ through some Portuguese Roman Catholic missionaries. Judson gleaned the particulars bit by bit, as they were related to him by the natives. Though he only knew Christ veiled and half-hidden by the drapery of superstitious forms and ceremonies, his heart was captivated. He confessed and preached the Lord Jesus boldly, and his goods were at once confiscated, and, like the apostles of old, he was commanded "not to speak at all, or teach in the name of Jesus." But he could not be silenced, and was banished from his native place. He continued preaching from place to place, and was at last imprisoned. He was there put under an instrument of torture called the "iron maul," and ordered to recant, He refused, and every time the cruel hammer descended on his bruised and bleeding body his lips uttered that glorious name that moves all heaven, "Christ." Soon his spirit left its shattered prison to be forever with that Saviour he had confessed and loved so well. May every Christian here to-night be stirred by such devotion. Our light and privileges are great compared with this rich Burman's. Light is good, but it is not heat. John the Baptist was "a burning and a shining light," not "'a bright and shining light," as people often quote it. He did shine, but not like an electric light. There was heat, as well as light. I know our warmest love is scarcely worth speaking of. But the feeblest spark of real affection has its value in the eyes of Christ. Our love to Him, compared to His own measureless love to us, may be like the sputtering candle in the presence of the mighty, glorious sun at midday, but the sunlight does not quench the candle flame. Let this question of the Son of God, our Saviour, search your heart: "Lovest thou Me?"
Before I speak of the verses read from chapters 19 and 20, I want to say a little on Saul's taking David to himself. It says, in verse 2: "And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house." David accomplished a wonderful work, and Saul, in his admiration, took him into his house. He did with David just what Christendom has done with Christ. They have taken him under their patronage, so to speak. They have made of Him a kind of religious hero, just as the Turks have done with Mohammed and the Asiatic pagans with. Confucius and Bramah. And they propose disgraceful "parliaments of religions" with these Turks and pagans, to compare the various merits of these heroes of their national adoption. And these so-called Christians profess a sort of love and admiration for Jesus, just as Saul professed love and admiration for David. But he had no real love for David. When David's glory eclipsed his own he hated him and hurled javelins at his head. He was his enemy, and sought his life on more than one occasion. And many of those who profess the name of Christ to-day show their hatred of Him when His real claims are pressed. Under their religious face the deadliest hatred towards the Son of God is rankling in their hearts. Under their robes of religion are hidden deadly javelins. He is receiving "wounds," as in days of old, in the house of His professed "friends." Some who profess His name deny His eternal deity, others His spotless humanity, and others still deny the authority of His words.
In chapter 19, verse 1, Saul speaks to Jonathan, his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David. And in the next verse we read that "Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted much in David." How precious! Saul hates him, but Jonathan delights much in him. And he seeks to save his life. In verse 4 we read that "Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul, his father," etc. He vainly seeks to turn the heart of Saul towards David. It is useless. Saul's hatred increases, and David becomes an outcast and a fugitive. And here is just where Jonathan, with all his love and delight in David, fails. He does not follow David, but remains in the house of Saul, where "David's place was empty." David becomes a wanderer among the mountains of Israel, and Jonathan remains in Jerusalem to enjoy his own position and his father's palace. After the touching meeting of Jonathan and David recorded in chapter 20. David "arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city" (ver. 42). He went right back among the enemies of the one he loved so well. And what was the end? Jonathan lost his life on the mountains of Gilboa. He was slain with the enemies of David, and his body, with theirs, was nailed in dishonor to the walls of Bethshan. He refused to share the rejection of David, and suffered loss in consequence.
All this has its lessons. Christ is the rejected One. Christians are called to share His rejection. To you, beloved fellow-believer, the house of Saul may be a circle of worldly friends, or it may be one of the various fraternal orders or societies. It may be a religious organization where Christ's name is professed, but His authority denied. You need to withdraw yourself from these unscriptural associations, as Jonathan needed to leave the house of Saul to be in David's company. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." "Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him, without the camp, bearing His reproach" (2 Cor. 6:14; Heb. 13:13). Jonathan ought to have gone forth unto David. In doing so he would have suffered loss and reproach from Saul, but he would have had the company of David, then high honor in David's kingdom. He did well in delighting much in David. He was right in speaking of David to his father Saul. But he lacked one thing. He shrunk from the path of separation with David. He was not with David in the mountains and the woods of his rejection. Perhaps he thought he could "do more good," as people say, by remaining in the house of Saul. He might put in a good word for David now and then and use his influence in behalf of the rejected one at Jerusalem. Christians often argue in this way when seeking to excuse themselves from the path to which truth points. But God's Word is plain: "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (2 Cor. 6:17).
Christians must not remain in fellowship with those who refuse and reject the Lord Jesus. The social world rejects Him. Go to its balls and parties and attempt to "speak good" of our David, and see if they want Him. They do not even wish to hear of Him. The political world refuses Him. He was God's candidate over eighteen hundred years ago, and they cast their vote against Him. Instead of the throne they gave Him a cross, and wrote in derision over His head, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS." And the religious world does not want Him. They want "earthly things" and the things which gratify the senses — they want to be entertained. They shut out the men who would preach only Christ, and prefer such as suit their "itching ears." O Christians, come forth! "Come out of her, my people" (Rev. 18:4).
Where Christ is not wanted the Christian may not remain.
There is just one thought more I wish to notice ere we close. In verses 41 and 42 of chapter 20, David and Jonathan weep one with another and kiss one another, until "David exceeded." Jonathan's love "was wonderful," but in affection, as in all things else, "David exceeded." It is written of Christ that "in all things He must have the pre-eminence" (Col. 1:18). However great our love to Him, His love exceeds our own as an age exceeds an hour. In love, as in everything, "He must have the pre-eminence." All that love of His rests upon I. us, beloved brethren. As for you, dear friends who may yet be unsaved, it is all spread out before you, that your hearts also may be won to Him. Early in the seventh century the good king Oswald of Northumbria requested the Scots to send a missionary to his people. The brethren of Iona sent them an austere, though well-meaning man named Cormac. He soon returned dispirited, saying the people were too obstinate to be converted. "Ah," said Aidan, standing by, "had Thy love been offered to this people, O my Saviour, many hearts would surely have been touched. I will go and make Thee known — Thee, who breakest not the bruised reed!" He went and told the Anglo-Saxons of the Saviour's love. Wondering multitudes listened, wept and were won. May that unfathomable love win you to-night. God grant it for Christ's sake. Amen.
3. David and His Four Hundred Men
1 Samuel 22.
David in the cave Adullam is a striking type of Christ in His present rejection. Christ has been here and has been refused. He came in perfect love and grace, testing men as to where they stood toward God. But they hated and crucified Him. Adullam, in Hebrew, means "the justice of the people." The multitude in David's day were following Saul, the people's choice. David, the man after God's heart, was forced to become a wanderer and an outcast. Such was "the justice of the people." Saul reigned in a palace, while David suffered in a cave. It is a well-known saying, that "the voice of the people is the voice of God." Facts do not bear this out. What was the voice of the people eighteen hundred years ago? It was "Crucify Him! crucify Him!" Jews and Gentiles mingled their voices as they clamored for His death. "For of a truth against Thy Holy Child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together" (Acts 4:27). Was that the voice of God? Nay, it was the voice of Satan, venting his heart's hatred, through his willing subjects, against the Son of God. "'The whole world lieth in the wicked one," John writes. That same world still continues in that state. It is still joined hand in hand against the One God sent to be its Saviour. What is commonly called "the Christian world," is only such in name. Even the Church has become corrupted by mingling with the world. One need but read the Scriptures to see that "Christendom" has little left in it of true Christianity save the name. The people of Israel who persecuted and killed the prophets sent them, afterward built fine sepulchres to their honor. So the world has cast out Christ, and now would pay Him a sort of honor by calling itself by His name.
David is not alone in the cave Adullam. He has companions. "David therefore departed thence and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it they went down thither to him" (ver. 1). His following was partially made up of his kindred "after the flesh." "His brethren and all his father's house" are like the Jewish believers of the early Christian Church. They were Christ's kindred after the flesh, as the apostle says, "Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came." They were the true "Israel of God." They were the first to come to Christ and hang their hopes and everything on the rejected One. David's kindred are the first referred to. But there were others — refugees from Saul's dominions. "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men" (ver. 2). They represent the Gentiles who are being saved to-day.
Let us look a little at their character. Three things especially mark them, notice: They were "in distress," "in debt," and "discontented." They seemed a sorry lot, but they picture just the kind of people Christ receives and welcomes. "This man receiveth sinners."
"Every one that was in distress" came to David, and he received them, and relieved them, too. So for the last eighteen centuries distressed souls have been coming to Christ. And, blessed be His Name, He has received them, every one. Not one has ever been turned away. His word to such is this: "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out." And He relieves them, too. "Come unto Me," He says, "all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." He can righteously invite them to come, and He loves to have them enjoy the rest He gives. He has died for their sins. He was made sin for them at the cross, and has put away their guilt forever.
Have you ever been "in distress," my friend? I do not mean in trouble merely. All have trouble of some sort. The natural heritage of the human race is trouble since the fall of Adam. "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). But I mean distress of soul. Everywhere I go I meet with people in distress. Some are distressed about their health. Others are in distress about their wealth. Some are distressed about this, and some about that; but few, alas, are distressed about their souls. The mass of men are sleeping in their sins. They will never awake till they find themselves in the dreadful realization of eternal woe. They will then be distressed too late. The rich man of the sixteenth of Luke got distressed too late. He dressed "in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day." He lived and died (like thousands all around us) in forgetfulness of God, "and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments." At last his eyes were opened, but it was too late.
You may think I am trying to excite and frighten you. No, my friends, I speak the words of truth and soberness. And your wisdom is to hear and heed. Several years ago I discovered a farmhouse on fire in eastern Michigan. The family were all away at the time, so I cried at the top of my voice, "Fire! fire!" The neighbors heard me half a mile or more away, and came rushing to the fire. No one told me I had called too long or loudly. No one accused me of trying to excite people and making unnecessary noise. Yet it was only a farmhouse.
There is little or nothing to awaken sinners in the popular preaching of to-day. Sentimentalism and sensationalism is the order instead of repentance and the awful judgment drawing near. Men were pricked in their hearts at the preaching of Peter, and they gnashed on Stephen with their teeth. Felix trembled as Paul "reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come." Those who succeed in amusing or entertaining their audiences, to-day are applauded. "They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world and the world heareth them" (1 John 4:5). Paul and Barnabas "so spake" at Iconium that "a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed." It does not say they applauded, but believed.
Those "in debt" came to David. They had often tried to pay their debts, no doubt, and always failed. They could not extricate themselves, so in despair they fled to David in the cave.
It is only such who ever care to come to Jesus. All have debts enough, no doubt, but only such as feel the burden of them flee to Him who only can release them. The psalmist was no worse than others. And he confessed that his iniquities were "more in number than the hairs of his head." Those competent to speak say that a healthy head contains about one hundred thousand hairs. But if one sin would shut us out of heaven forever, what can we do with such an awful load of debt? Where are we to flee? Who can release us from the awful burden? "Therefore my heart faileth me," adds the psalmist at the end of his confession.
Thank God, there is forgiveness and justification through the atoning work of Christ. "Be it known unto you, therefore . . . that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:38, 39). It is Christ who "was wounded for our transgressions" — who thus paid our mighty dues, and is able to release us. We cannot help ourselves. A lifetime of prayer and good works could never expiate one sin. "Without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22). Thank God, the blood of Christ cleanses from all' sin. All has been done. We trust the Saviour, and our sins are pardoned. "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). All was atoned for on the cross. "Grace reigns through righteousness" (Rom. 5:21). The Lord Jesus Christ, by His sufferings and death, made infinite satisfaction to God for His people's sins. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). And now, because of that accomplished work of redemption, God can be "just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).
"Christ knew how guilty man had been;
He knew that God must punish sin;
So out of pity Jesus said,
'I'll bear the punishment instead.'"
Then "every one that was discontented gathered themselves unto David." And this world is filled with discontented people. Go where you will, you will find dissatisfaction. The rich and the poor are alike dissatisfied. The young sigh with unsatisfied ambition, and the old complain of disappointed hopes. Princes and paupers, millionaires and mendicants, philosophers and fools, the whole world echoes and re-echoes with sounds of discontent. Some seem happy and contented with their lot. These, if unconverted, live in a sort of "fools' paradise." And sooner or later their sorrows come.
The poor imagine if they were only wealthy they would be contented. But riches only change their discontent. Some years ago a very wealthy man committed suicide. He seemed to have everything the human heart could wish. And he left a note in which he said: "I take my life because I am tired of living to eat and drink and sleep." He was an envied man, no doubt, but a stranger to contentment. Scripture says, "The heart knoweth his own bitterness." I met a wealthy merchant once in South Bend, Ind., who said, "If I could be sure the Bible was true and that there was salvation for me, I would gladly dump all my goods into the St. Jo river." His riches failed to bring him satisfaction. There is no real contentment out of Christ. I read of a Christian Quaker once who often spoke to his neighbors about their souls. But they all thought they were well enough off away from God, and imagined they were quite contented. One day this Quaker had the following sign set up in a fine ten-acre lot along the road: "I will give this field to any one who is really contented." Soon one of his most prosperous neighbors came along. "Hello! what's this?" he said, as he stopped and read the sign. "I'll claim that field," he continued. "If there is a contented man in all the country, I'm that man. I have one of the finest farms in all the county. It has been paid for years ago, and I have a fine nest-egg in the bank. My children are all in excellent circumstances and doing well. I enjoy the best of health. I am surely a contented man." So he went to the Quaker's door and demanded the field. "Ah, friend," said the Quaker, "if thee is contented, what does thee want of my field?" The man saw his mistake and acknowledged that, after all, he was not really contented. He had to relinquish all claim to the field.
Only (I do not even say all) Christians know what real contentment is. They can truthfully say, —
"Jesus, Thou art enough
The mind and heart to fill."
Solomon says, "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full" (Ecc. 1:7). The sea is the human heart. If you could direct into those discontented hearts every river of earthly pleasure, they would still remain unfilled, unsatisfied. Men hunt for satisfaction where it never can be found. An iceberg yields no heat, salt no sweetness, and wine cannot be pressed from turnips. Man's heart was made for God, and only God, in Christ, can fill and satisfy it. Riches, fame, pleasure, all fail to bring contentment to the heart.
Religion, even, cannot satisfy the heart. The gloomiest people in the world are religious people. I do not mean converted people. They do not know Christ as their Saviour, so they lack the very soul of what the apostle James calls "true religion." They eat the bitter orange-peel, but have never tasted of the rich, delicious meat within. No wonder, then, that people in their minds associate gloom and sadness with religion. Christ brings joy to every heart that is opened to receive Him. Open to Him, discontented soul, and let Him satisfy your aching heart. He longs to satisfy you with Himself. He knows your bitterness of soul. Come to Him, then, as the discontented came to David. Come now, and ever after sing:
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting-place,
And He has made me glad."
In Him, for distress you will find comfort; for debt you will get clearance, and for the discontented there is contentment. The comfort is by the word of Christ. He says to every distressed sinner that comes to Him, as He did to the poor distressed woman, "Be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace" (Luke 8:48). The clearance is by the work of Christ "Who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). And the contentment is in the worth of Christ. All His redeemed can contentedly say of Him, "He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend" (Cant. 5:16).
So much for the character of those who came to David's standard in the cave. They were anything but the cream of the kingdom. And Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, says: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Such is the character of those the Father designs to draw to Christ. Few, if any, of the wise, the mighty, or the noble, were with David. Saul monopolized the great ones of the country. All such preferred Jerusalem to the cave Adullam. The lodestone will not draw the precious metals; it has little or no attraction over gold or silver. But the common metals are attracted by it, such as iron and steel. Comparatively few of the great ones of earth ever cared for Christ. "The common people heard Him gladly." And high ecclesiastics asked significantly, "Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed on Him?"
David's companions, surrounding him in the cave Adullam, are like the companions given to Christ in this present time of His rejection. He says: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24). He Himself was the corn of wheat that died. He would not abide alone. And the blessed result of His death is much fruit — all the company of the redeemed. Isaiah says, "He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied." This company are called to share His rejection now and will reign with Him in the Kingdom and glory by and by, just as David's companions shared his rejection and were not forgotten when he sat on Israel's throne.
David is the leader of this little band. "He became a captain over them." Christ is Lord to every Christian. He is "the Captain of their salvation." They know no other lord; no other captain may command them. May we be true to our great Captain. May grace be given us to conduct ourselves as "good soldiers of Jesus Christ." We belong to Him, and though we may be the weakest among His own and have little influence, we can stand beneath His banner and say in the face of a hostile world, "My Beloved is mine and I am His." Napoleon's soldiers were once marching through the streets of Paris when their general's cause hung in the balance. A working-woman named Jeanette seized a broom as they were passing, and, putting it to her shoulder, she fell in line with the troops. The bystanders laughed and asked her if she expected to fight with a broom. "No," said Jeanette, "but I can show which side I'm on." She was loyal, and gave evidence of her loyalty. Oh, let us be loyal, at all times and in all circumstances — not offensively, as if we thought ourselves above our fellows, but as from hearts which cannot be untrue to such a Lord as ours.
In verses 3 to 5 of this chapter, David leaves the cave Adullam and comes to the "forests of Hareth." From verse 6 down we have an account of Saul's cruel slaughter of Jehovah's priests. One named Abiathar escapes and flees to David. David says to him, in verse 23, "Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life; but with me thou shalt be in safeguard."
Three things may be said of this Abiathar. He was safe, secure, and separated. Let us view him as a picture of the sinner who has fled to Christ for refuge.
The first thing is salvation. In danger of his life, Abiathar fled to David. There he found salvation from the sword of Saul. And sinner you must flee to Christ. Your sins expose you to the eternal wrath of God. Being holy, God must punish sin. Some day He will lift the sword of justice. Then alas for you, if still away from Christ. Oh, flee to Him now! No one and nothing else can save you. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
"None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good."
We never read in the Gospels of needy sinners coming to the mother of our Lord, or Peter. They came right to Christ Himself, and none were ever turned away. "Come unto Me," He said. "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." Peter never invited sinners to himself or to Mary, but always to Christ, and only to Christ, for in Him alone is there salvation. Peter could not die an atoning death for sinners, nor could the mother of our Lord. Christ only could do and has done that, and Christ only can save the sinner.
Abiathar fled to David, and you must flee to David's Lord.
Next Abiathar was secure with David. David therefore says to him: "Fear not; for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard." So Christ says of all that believe on Him: "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one" (John 10:28-30). He calls His own redeemed ones sheep, and He likens Himself to a shepherd. And surely the responsibility of the security of a flock of sheep rests wholly with their shepherd. If a sheep is lost the shepherd is blamed. Suppose a sheep-rancher entrusts one hundred sheep to a shepherd. This shepherd takes them forth to the green pastures and by the still waters. At noon he eats his dinner beneath the shade of a tree, and after dinner goes to sleep. While he is asleep a sheep strays off and a hungry wolf devours it. The shepherd discovers it only when too late. At evening time he returns with the sheep, and the owner counts the flock. "Shepherd," he says, "what's this? There is a sheep missing." "Oh, don't blame me," the shepherd says. "The sheep strayed away and a wolf killed it. It had no business to leave the flock and wander off. It was its own fault. I am not to blame." "Indeed you are," the owner says. "You are responsible for every sheep committed to your care, and I shall retain the price of the sheep from your wages." You see it is the shepherd, not the sheep, that is responsible. And Christ, the believers' shepherd, speaks of His sheep as having been given Him of His Father. "My Father which gave them Me." "All that the Father giveth Me." They have been entrusted to His care, and none shall ever perish.
O sheep of Christ, rejoice! Your faithful Shepherd's word is pledged that you shall never perish, and that without an "if" or "but." Opposers of this precious truth may add, "if they continue." Scripture warns all such, "Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Prov. 30:6). Warnings and conditions there are, but not in this connection. Without the slightest qualification Christ has said, "And they shall never perish." I place my Saviour's words above John Wesley's, or the words of any other man, or all the men of all the world combined.
In the fifteenth chapter of Luke's Gospel the shepherd has the once lost sheep upon his shoulders. It is his "shoulders," mark, not his shoulder only. Christ is that shepherd, and the Christian is the sheep. The future government of the world is going to rest upon "His shoulder." "His shoulders" are beneath the helpless sheep (Isa. 9:6; Luke 15:5). The shoulder is the symbol of strength. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth," Christ says. "His shoulder" is like His power "in earth"; "His shoulders" is His two-fold power, "in heaven and in earth." And all that mighty power secures the feeblest child of God against the powers of earth and darkness. Hallelujah
Of course there must be "holding on." But the Shepherd must be the One who does the "holding on." I have often talked with those characters they call backsliders. You know they are the very people who talk the most about "holding on." And you will generally find them as ignorant as heathen about the grace of God. Salvation with them is a certain amount of happy feeling. And unable to hold on to that, they have lost their sham salvation.
Hear the persuasion of Paul. It is a blessed persuasion. Oh, that I could assemble the whole army of opposers of this precious truth and read it in their ears! It is in the eighth of Romans. He says: "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" (vers. 38, 39). Paul knows no sheep of Christ's can ever fall away and perish.
"But," some one asks, "what about St. Peter's teaching on the dog and sow?" Well, let us look at what he says. "For if after they [not we, mark,] have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled, therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb: The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:20-22). He does not say these persons were converted, notice. They had the knowledge of the Saviour, but the Saviour Himself and salvation they never possessed. I may know a certain train will take me to New York, yet never step aboard.
They escaped the "pollutions of the world," but not the world itself. Christ gave Himself for the sins of true believers that He might deliver them "from this present evil world" (Gal. 1:4). A man may escape the pollutions of the world by reformation. New birth alone avails to turn us from the world itself. Conversion turns us into sheep. The nature of a sheep is clean. That of a sow is unclean. A farmer told me once that sheep will rarely venture in a swamp; they love the pasture that is high and dry. But a sow delights in mud and filth. You may wash its skin, but its nature will remained unchanged. So you may reform and religionize the sinner by an external application of the word of God. But if he is not "born again," he will return, in nearly every instance, to his former habits, like the sow to its "wallowing in the mire." His last state is worse than the first, because sham converts often plunge in open infidelity in the end, and sink lower in the mire of the world's corruption than they ever were before.
Christ says of His sheep, "They follow Me." This is characteristic of them. Some, like Peter, follow "afar off," and they come to grief. See how Peter sinned. But he did not cease to be a sheep of Christ. He proved he was a true sheep by his sorrow and repentance. The Lord had said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:31, 32). He remained a believer, despite his grievous sin. His faith remained, through his Saviour's intercession, and he was restored in soul. He was like a poor sheep that stumbles in a ditch and scrambles out. A sow, no matter how well washed before, would remain in the ditch quite satisfied, like many, alas, of the unconverted converts of the present day. David's words to Abiathar are the spirit of Christ's words to all who flee to Him for refuge. "Fear not; for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard." That is security. Can you say, "The Lord is my Shepherd "? Then He says to you, "Fear not."
For nine years Security Square has been my happy home. The apostle says, "But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30). Think of it. Christ made to us of God "wisdom," "righteousness," "sanctification," "redemption." What four mighty walls!
What a place of security
"Safe in Christ! safe in Christ!
He's their glory ever;
None can pluck them from His hand.
They shall perish never."
Lastly, we have separation. And this security which bound Abiathar to David, equally parted him from Saul. So in the measure in which Christians realize their security in Christ, their hearts are bound to Christ and separated from the world. Abiathar could have nothing in common now with Saul. Saul was David's enemy; Abiathar was his friend. To have had fellowship now with the one who sought the life of David would be treason and disloyalty to God's anointed, though yet rejected, king. Remember, Christian, that the world has put our Lord to death. The language of the world, in fact, if not in words, is, "We will not have this man to reign over us." Can you mix lightly with it, then, and be true to Christ?
I remember a young Christian woman asking a servant of Christ if he thought there was "any harm" in believers going to parties and mixing with the unconverted in their amusements. Said he, "I will answer your question by asking you one. Suppose you are engaged to a noble, upright man. He is everything to you, and is in every way worthy of your love and confidence. One night he is murdered in cold blood by a cruel assassin. Though for the time being he escapes justice, you know well he is the murderer, and the awful secret lies locked within your breast. Time goes on, and one day this very assassin drives up to your door in a fine equipage. Having gained entrance, to your horror and indignation he coolly invites you to attend a ball with him that evening. Now, in such a case, what would you do?" "What would I do?" said she. "I would bid him begone and never again make such advances towards me." "Very well," said the servant of Christ. "That assassin is the world. Its hands are stained red with the blood of the Bridegroom of the Church. How can you then ask if there is any harm in mingling with its pleasures? "It was enough. Her eyes were opened. She had answered her own question.
Understand me. I do not mean that we must not be kind and friendly, even, to the "unjust" and the "evil." I mean we must not fellowship with them, or be under any kind of yoke with them. We should love men — all men — but not the world. we should seek the good of all, but keep aloof from everything that savors of the world. We may work, eat, and live with the unconverted, but it is quite another thing to join with them in their pleasures and amusements. Christ constantly mixed with publicans and sinners, not to "enjoy Himself," as people say, but to tell them of God's love and reach their consciences. And we will find no harm among the unconverted, with that end in view, or to fulfil whatever may be our appointed task in the duties of life. If to seek enjoyment, Christians mix with the unconverted, they will surely contract defilement. And they never do the unbeliever any good. In my pocket is a gold coin and a piece of lead. They have been together — in each other's company, if you will. Now see them. The gold, alas, is tarnished. In the language of Scripture, "How is the fine gold become dim?" There is lead upon it that has dimmed its lustre. But the lead has not changed by being in contact with the gold. The golden coin alone has been affected, and that for evil.
Reviewing, then, this little journey into Scripture, we see that our salvation is by Christ, our security in Christ, and our separation with Christ.
In closing, let me read a verse in Acts. It is the thirty-sixth verse of chapter 5. They are the words of Gamaliel in the council. He says: "For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody: to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves; who was slain: and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered and brought to naught." Contrast Theudas' end with David's. Theudas was slain; David lived to reign, though he did once say in his heart, when faith was low, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul." Theudas' followers were "scattered and brought to naught"; David's men were honored for their faithfulness.
Our Leader is "alive forevermore." He is become "the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him." And they shall reign with Him. Amen.
4. David and the Young Man of Egypt.
1 Samuel 30:1-25.
Some of these incidents in the life of David are like the "puzzle pictures" most of us have seen. When you first glance at them you only see a tree or an animal or something of the kind. But as you examine it more closely, you begin to see a great variety of pictures in it. You see men and birds and beasts and fishes and trees and many other things. And the more you look the more distinctly they appear. And you wonder that you did not see them all at first. A casual glance would not detect them.
Now, that is something like these verses I have read. A careless reader would see nothing in them but an interesting historical incident. But there is more. There is a wealth of gospel illustration in them, and I think no very lively imagination is required to see it, either. Just keep the eyes of your heart open, and your ears, too. As Peter preached in the house of Cornelius "the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word." Some present may have been gazing about the room at Cornelius' splendid furniture and the magnificent pictures on the wall, or studying the fashion of some lady's latest bonnet, or absorbed in thought about their business or their pleasures. Only those who heard the Word were blessed. May you hear in your hearts to-night the "Gospel of Christ" foreshadowed in this narrative. "Hear and your soul shall live."
David and his men had been away from Ziklag for a time. When they return, to their surprise and dismay they find their city burned, their property stolen, and, worst of all, their wives and children carried off. After recovering somewhat from the shock, they start in pursuit of the Amalekite invaders. Some of the band become exhausted on the road and are left in charge of the stuff by the brook Besor, while David and four hundred of his men continue the pursuit. They find a half-starved abandoned slave — an Egyptian — in the field, who, after being fed and somewhat revived, promises to guide them to the marauders' camp. But he first exacts an oath from David that he will neither take his life nor deliver him up to his old master. They set forward again and surprise their enemies in the midst of their festivities. Most of them are slain, and David recovers all — the wives, the little ones, and all the stolen property.
This young Egyptian represents the sinner. They find him in the field, just where Jesus finds poor sinners. "The field is the world." By nature we belong to Satan's world. Christ must seek and find us, as the shepherd sought and found the poor lost sheep.
Notice three things in connection with this "young man of Egypt." They are his citizenship, his condition, and his captivity.
First, his citizenship. In verse 13 David says to him: "Whence art thou?" He replies at once, "I am a young man of Egypt." He frankly acknowledges his citizenship; Egypt was his native land. Now, Egypt is a striking and instructive type of the world. I do not mean this physical world or earth on which we exist, but this moral scene in which men live and seek for satisfaction. It is that moral order of things which had its beginning in Cain's day, when he "went out from the presence of the Lord," and he and his descendants builded cities, sought out witty inventions of brass and iron, manufactured musical instruments, and went in for a good time generally, in forgetfulness of God. And that continues to the present day. The land of Egypt figures this. There Pharaoh, type of Satan, ruled and tyrannized. There, too, the elect nation of Jehovah were groaning in bondage beneath the cruel lash of their taskmasters. It was a place where the true God was unknown, and the inhabitants worshiped and served the creature instead of the Creator.
Then, too, they were, in a way, independent of God. They had their river Nile with which to irrigate the country, and were not at all dependent on the dews and rains of heaven. Twice a year the river overflowed its banks. They built dykes along the riverside, and here and there canals were cut in them. When the river was high they opened these canals. This overflowed the fields and meadows all along the Nile for miles and miles. Then when the river commenced to fall they closed the canals, which prevented the water escaping from the inland. After a while the sun evaporated what water the soil did not absorb, and they reaped abundant harvests of grain and hay without a drop of rain or dew. This is like the world. They have no need of God. Their springs are all down here. Christians can say, "All my springs are in Thee." God is the source of all their joys. All their hopes are centered in Christ above. They look to heaven for everything. "The ungodly are not so." Their resource is some "river." It is gold and stocks and houses and lands with some. Give others the ballroom, the theatre, the cards and the novels, and they are satisfied. What care they for Christ? Egypt had its river, and the world, which spiritually is called Egypt, has its river, too.
Christians are not of the world. The Lord Jesus says so. "They are not of the world even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14). Paul says, "Our conversation (or citizenship) is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). They are "citizens of no mean city," even "Jerusalem which is above," where gold is trodden under foot and where are "pleasures forevermore." "The Lamb is the light thereof," who, the apostle says, "gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world" (Gal. 1:4). If you are unconverted, you belong down here where Satan is "god" and "prince." As "god" men worship him (unwittingly); as "prince" they serve him. Christians, Thomas-like, say of Jesus, "My Lord and my God."
Where is your citizenship, my friend? "Whence art thou?" Must you answer, "I am a young man of Egypt"? Would you, in truthfulness, be compelled to say, "I am a young lady of this moral Egypt; I am a woman of the world "? Come, be honest, now. You belong to one place or the other. I was born in the state of New York. This, I suppose, in a legal sense, makes me a citizen of the United States. Now, I cannot retain my citizenship here in the United States and obtain a Canadian citizenship, too. It is utterly impossible to be a legal citizen of two different countries at one and the same time. And it is morally impossible to belong to earth and heaven, too. Some professing Christians do not seem to know this. They say, "We're going to make the best of both worlds." They remind one of the fable of the bats. The birds and the beasts were at war, and the bats determined to remain neutral. To the birds they declared themselves to be birds, and to the beasts they confessed themselves beasts. Once they were birds of the air, and once again they were beasts of the field. God will not have such shifting and neutrality. The Red Sea rolled between the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan. Canaan represents the heavenlies, where the saints of God belong. There they had no Nile to overflow its banks. They were entirely dependent on "the early and the latter rains." These have ceased for centuries, and the land of Palestine is not much better than a desert.
The Red Sea typifies the death of Christ. It is Christ's death that separates Christians from the world. The cross divides the human race. It was by the cross of Christ the world was crucified to Paul and he unto the world (Gal. 6:14). It stands like a mighty barrier between the justified and the condemned. It is like a wall of fire between the servants of Christ and the subjects of Satan. Remember this, beloved fellow-Christian. Act upon it. Be like the colored man. God saved him, and he came clean out. His break with the world was complete. When enticed to return to the world and his old companions, he used to say: "No; when I left de rebel ranks I burned de bridge behind me." He had in his mind the old generals who, to make sure of success, used to burn the bridges behind them, so as to cut off all opportunity for retreat. This is the practical side. The doctrinal side is that God is taking "out of the world a people for His name" (Acts 15:14). The man or woman who dies a citizen of this world must go to hell. Let this question search your heart to-night: "Whence art thou?"
The next is his condition. This was deplorable. Three things may be said of him: he was sick, starving, and abandoned.
First, he was sick. He says, "Three days agone I fell sick" (ver. 13). He was just like you, my unsaved friend. You are sick with an awful disease. It is sin. And it ends in eternal death. "The wages of sin is death." The poison of sin is in your soul and doing its deadly work. You are like the people in the desert, dying of the serpent-bite. You commit sin. "And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15). This is more than the death of the body. It is eternal death in the lake of fire.
But, thank God, there is a remedy for sin. It is the Gospel. The apostle says, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). You may be cured of your disease to-night, my friend. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Do you want salvation? If so, get healing for your soul to-night. There are three ways of treating God's remedy for sin. You may reject it, neglect it, or accept it. Let me illustrate it. Suppose a fearful plague is raging in this city. Thousands die on every hand. No physician's art can help the stricken ones. It produces fatal results in every instance. Remedies seem of no avail. I myself am smitten with the plague. A stranger calls just as I am at the point of death, and leaves me three bottles of medicine, saying it will cure me if I take it immediately. I take a bottle and am cured completely. I am overjoyed. I have two bottles left and think of others dying without hope. There are Mr. Black and Mr. Brown. I will hurry off to tell them of my remedy, and give them each a bottle. So I hasten down to Mr. Black, who is almost gone. I go to his bedside, and say: "I have good news for you." "What is it?" he faintly asks. I tell him of the remedy and of my own remarkable recovery. To my surprise, he rises in his bed and cries angrily: "Begone with your quack remedies. It is all a humbug. You are a medical fanatic. Talk no more nonsense to me. I will not have it." He rejects it deliberately, and I sadly turn away. In a few hours he is in the throes of death. He is like the infidel, who would take Christ's servants by the shoulder and thrust them out of his house, and the Bible after them. He rejects the Gospel, and insures his soul's damnation.
But all are not infidels. There is another class. Brown represents them. I hasten to his house. Time is precious, and he may soon be gone. I say to him, "Brown, rejoice! You need not die. I was once as low as you. I have a remedy. It cured me. Here it is. Take it immediately, as you value your life." He politely thanks me, and tells me I may leave a bottle on the stand. I do not wait to see him take the medicine. I have one bottle left, and hurry off to a Mr. White, whom I know to be perishing. Brown intends to take the remedy, but it is nearly teatime, so he puts it off till after tea. After tea he takes a quiet smoke. Then he glances over the evening paper, dozes, falls asleep, and never awakes. He has died with a remedy within easy reach, but neglects it. Scripture says, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Some one has said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Men and women intend to have the question of their souls' salvation settled some day. And it will be, but with most, alas, too late. It will be settled contrary to their expectations, with heaven closed against them, and hell, with all its horrors, open to them as neglecters of God's great salvation. "The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing" (Prov. 13:4). Desiring the salvation of your soul is not enough; you must lay hold of it at once. "Behold now is the accepted time." Do you think lost souls in hell expected ever to be there? Few of them. Could we descend to those woeful regions of remorse, and question those who heard the Gospel as you hear it now, the most of them would say they never thought they would be lost. Nearly all expected to be saved before they died. But death suddenly overtook them, or their hearts grew hard and callous as the years slipped by, and ere they knew it, almost, they were past all hope. "I am lost, lost, lost; yet I always meant to be saved!" a young girl cried, as she lay in the agonies of death. O man, woman, child, delay not! Now is the golden moment.
Well, I leave the neglecter, and turn towards the house of Mr. White. I enter his room and say: "Thank God, you need not die, my man! Here is a remedy. It has cured me, and it will cure you." "Thank you," he gasps, as he takes a long, deep draught and is saved. He accepts the remedy.
Sin-sick soul, accept God's remedy to-night. It is within your reach. "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven (that is, to bring Christ down from above)? Or, Who shall descend into the deep (that is, to bring Christ up again from the dead)? But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even 'in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom. 10:6-9).
Paul at Athens had three kinds of hearers. "Some mocked." They were the rejectors. "And others said, We will hear thee again of this matter." They were neglecters. "Howbeit, certain men clave unto him and believed." They accepted and were saved (Acts 17).
Which class are you like, my friend? Oh, be wise in time. "Why will ye die?"
The young man of Egypt was starving. For "three days and three nights" he had eaten nothing. How like the prodigal of the fifteenth of Luke this is. "I perish with hunger." Hunger makes a man dependent. He is thus made willing to be ministered unto. For a season souls in this state are likely to seek to satisfy the cravings of their hearts with "husks." And the devil helps them. He wants to keep them somewhat satisfied, if possible, short of the Bread of God. He fears to have them turn towards God for satisfaction, for he knows they will find it there. So he entertains them to the best of his ability with everything the world affords. And he has plenty of ministers to do this kind of work. They can do it beneath the cloak of Christianity, too. Such are "transformed as the ministers of righteousness" (2 Cor. 11:15). They appear as ministers of Christ, but they preach not Christ. The world seeks entertainment So these men apply themselves to the art of entertaining, so that even starving souls are caught for a time. They are like Nero, who, when Rome was starving, sent to Egypt for shiploads of sand for the arena, instead of corn for the famishing inhabitants. He would amuse a starving people. What the poor world needs is Christ — the Gospel. Would to God there were faithful men in every corner of Christendom who would preach only Christ as the bread of life to perishing souls. There are actors, lecturers and clowns enough in the world to tickle the ears of perishing men and women, without the professed servants of Christ attempting to do the same.
Turn from the chaff and the straw of a mock Christianity, with its ceaseless round of entertainment. Christ alone can meet the deep and desperate need of your perishing soul. He not only saves, but, glory to His name, "He satisfieth the longing soul."
Then, the young man of Egypt was abandoned. He says, "My master left me, because three days agone I fell sick" (ver. 13). His heartless master left him in the field to perish when he could not use him any longer. And that's the way the devil treats his servants. He uses them as his tools as long as he can. Then, when he cannot use them any more, he leaves them to their fate. Thus he treated Judas and hosts of others before and since.
But it is not so with Christ, He never turns away from any. He saved a Mary Magdalene. He revealed Himself as a Saviour to the Samaritan woman. He assured a dying robber of a home in paradise with Him. He saved a mad inquisitor called Saul — the very "chief of sinners." His call to the very worst of Adam's race is this: "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." George Whitefield used often to cry out in his preaching: "Christ will even receive the devil's castaways." A poor wreck of a woman was once passing the door of the tabernacle just as the great soul-winner uttered this startling declaration. They struck her; hope revived in her breast, and the next day she called on the earnest evangelist to ask him if it was really so that Christ would receive such castaways as she. He assured her from Scripture that He would, and she became "a brand plucked out of the fire." Thank God, I say, for such a Saviour to proclaim and such a Master to obey and serve. Is He Saviour and Lord to you, my friend, or are you yet lost and Satan's slave? You belong to Christ or Satan, as we shall see directly.
The last is his captivity. The young man of Egypt confessed himself to be a servant to an Amalekite. "And David said unto him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? And he said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite" (ver. 13). He was a bond slave. He belonged to this Amalekite. Now, Amalek is a type of the flesh that is in us, and by which Satan enslaves the sons of men. By "the flesh" I mean man's evil nature — that which in us produces the various lusts and passions. Amalek was Israel's most bitter and implacable enemy, and the Lord had sworn that He would have war with Amalek forever (Ex. 17:8-16). So also now "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other (Gal. 5:17). Now Christ came not only to deliver us from the terrors of death, as we have already seen, but also from the enslaving power of sin — from serving that indwelling sin, that we may live unto God.
When David's men discovered this young man of Egypt they brought him to David. Thus true servants of the Lord ever aim to bring both sinners and saints to the Lord Himself, knowing well that none but He is able to meet their various needs. Andrew found his brother Simon. "And he brought him to Jesus" (John 1:42). To make the Church a sort of Noah's ark for safety is a huge delusion. Christ is the ark and the sinner's only refuge. You must be brought to Christ, my friends, or perish. You must ever be in contact with Christ, my brethren, or starve and grow worldly.
The Egyptian brought to David is assured by him of his safety. Then he enters David's service. He begins to serve him. "And David said to him, Canst thou bring me down to this company? And he said, Swear unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company" (ver. 13).
Now note the order. Assurance of salvation first, and service afterwards. It is not first service, and then security. The young man will not make a move in David's service till he has the assurance of his own security. He was wise in this. Are you as wise, my friend? Have you the assurance of your own salvation? If not, you have no business doing so-called "Christian work." Security is not gained by service, though hosts of men have that idea. "By grace are ye saved, through faith. . . . Not of works lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9). If man were saved by works, heaven would be a wretched place. I'll tell you why. Heaven would be filled with boasters. One hears boasting and bragging enough down here, until it almost makes him sick. How blessed to be in a place some day where there is no boasting! Why, if sinners were saved as some men preach and as the majority of people suppose, we might hear conversations like this in heaven:
"Who are you?"
"Oh, I lived in the days when Noah built his ark."
"And how did you succeed in getting here?"
"Well, I'll tell you. I had a good deal of sympathy with Noah, and took an interest in his work. I worked a number of weeks for nothing on the ark, and I donated several thousand feet of lumber and a good many kegs of spikes and nails. That's how I got here."
Such boasting would be heard on every hand; every man praising himself and outdoing his neighbor. Thank God, there will be no boasting there. "Where is boasting, then? It is excluded. By what law (or principle)? Of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:27, 28). We are saved by the grace of God on the justifying principle of that faith which clings to Jesus and the blood of His cross, and not of works or anything of us, lest any man should boast.
Christ has done the work that saves. Behold Him on the cross between two mocking thieves, though His rightful place is on the throne of God, the centre of adoring hosts of angels. Though "King of kings," He wears a crown of thorns. The Creator of heaven and earth, He hangs in shame between the two, as if unfit for either place. He cries, "I thirst," though He made the gushing springs and cooling brooks and all the mighty rivers. The cup of the wrath of God is pressed to His stainless lips, and He drains it. The sword of divine justice is uplifted, and He bares His spotless bosom to receive the stroke. The storm of God's anger against sin is bursting upon Him, and He bows His blessed, sinless head beneath the blast. Hear that cry that comes from the very depths of His suffering spirit: "My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?" God makes Him sin for us — He who knew no sin. He is made a curse for us, that He may become the eternal source and fountain of all blessing. The heavens become black and the earth is quaking. The very rocks are rent as Jesus, the Saviour, makes atonement. Three awful hours have passed, and in triumph He exclaims: "It is finished!" Then He bows His head, yields up the spirit, and the mighty work is done. All praise be His! The anthem of the redeemed is this: "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, . . . to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever" (Rev. 1:5-6). To the Son of God belongs all glory and all blessing. And to the sons of men is offered free salvation.
Works follow faith. The Egyptian serves when he is assured of his security. We believe and are saved apart from works. Then we begin to serve. A little verse expresses it:
"I need not work my soul to save,
For that my Lord, hath done;
But I would work like any slave,
From love to God's dear Son."
Scripture says, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). But many there are who try to serve the Lord before they have salvation. There must be the tree before you can look for fruits. Who ever saw a crop of apples growing on a telegraph-pole? Unconverted souls are just as dead as any telegraph-pole. Scripture describes them as being "dead in trespass and sins."
"No works, no penance can suffice,
'Tis life dead sinners need."
The young man of Egypt enjoyed assurance of his safety. David's oath assured him. He trusted David.
Have you assurance, friend? Do you know for certain you are saved? You say, "I hope so," or "I think so." Indeed! And are you satisfied with uncertainty on a subject such as this? Were you starting on a long journey and one asked you, "Have you your ticket?" Would you answer, "I hope so"? Could you rest short of being sure?
God's word alone can make us sure, as David's word assured the young Egyptian. It says to them that believe, "By grace ye are saved" (Eph. 2:5). And again, "Who hath saved us, . . . not according to our works, but according to. His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim. 1:9). And again, "Not by words of righteousness which we have done, but according to His own mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5). I am not left to my feelings. I know it from the Scriptures. If I am in a dark cellar, I must feel my way. A man in the dark must be guided by feeling. But if I have a light to go by I do not have to trust to feelings. God's word is the lamp that gives us light and makes us certain. I dare not trust my feelings. Isaac trusted his feelings and was deceived. "And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice but the hands are the hands of Esau" (Gen. 27:21, 22). He made a disastrous mistake. He went by feelings, instead of being guided by the voice. The voice of God alone can give us certainty. And the Scriptures are the voice of God. Listen. "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36).
The Egyptian felt much different after eating the "bread," and the "piece of a cake of figs," and the "two clusters of raisins," and drinking the "water." No doubt of that. But I am sure he did not say, "I know my life is going to be spared, and that I am not going to be given up to my old master, because I feel so refreshed and strong." No, he had the word of David, aye, David's oath, to make him certain. God's word is as good as His oath. And that Word assures all true believers that their souls are saved, and that forever. "But," says some one, "I have seen converts go back and fall again beneath the power of Satan." And I have seen skyrockets in the sky at night that looked like falling stars. But they were not. God's almighty power suspends the stars in empty space. They never fall. Sky-rockets are not stars. They are from beneath — earth-born. They are man-made. Stars are heavenly and the work of God's creative hand. Man-made Christians will go back. They may look like Christians, and, like rockets, they may even make a brilliant show. But sky-rocket converts never hold out. God's converts always do. They are said to be "kept by the power of God through faith." Peter's light grew dim. He stumbled, but his faith continued. There was a work of God in his soul, and he did not fall away and perish. Thank God, we are saved with an "eternal salvation" (Heb. 5:9).
I notice briefly two words, and then I've done. They are the Amalekites' enjoyment and their judgment. They were making merry in fancied security when David swooped down upon them like an eagle on its prey. "Behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth; eating and drinking and dancing. . . . And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, who rode upon camels and fled" (vers. 16, 17).
They were having a "merry time," as people say, when the vengeance of David was threatening to destroy them. Those Amalekites are like this God-hating, Christ-rejecting, Spirit-resisting, grace-abusing world. The awful judgment of God is threatening them, but they eat and drink and dance and sing as if it were not so. The apostle says, "When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape" (2 Thess. 5:3). He describes this impending judgment. "The Lord Jesus," he says, "shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1:7-9). Jude says, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 14, 15).
Christ is coming, sinner. Are you prepared to meet Him? If not, what madness to be making merry Many years ago a servant of Christ named Samuel Whiting was itinerating about the states of New England. One night he stopped at a tavern where a company of young men and women were spending a merry evening. As Mr. Whiting passed them on his way to his room, he said to them, with deep solemnity: "Friends, if you are sure that your sins are forgiven, you may be wisely merry." His words dropped like a thunderbolt in their midst. They soon dispersed to their homes to think about the danger of their unsaved souls. Are your sins forgiven? If not, beware. You are not "wisely merry." Think, I beseech you, of the awful danger to which you are exposed. No man knows when Christ may come. I solemnly believe the hour of the world's impending judgment is about to strike. "The end of all things is at hand," the apostle Peter writes. "The time is short," Paul says. Soon, ah, soon, will the long-delayed and threatened stroke descend. Woe to you then, poor sinner.
The indifference of men is appalling. Thirty-five or forty years ago this country was shaken from Maine to California, and from the Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Now all seems still as death. Is it the calm before the storm? the hush anterior to the tempest? In the days of Noah and Lot they were living in easy unconcern, as they are to-day. But the flood came and the fire descended. "Sudden destruction" came upon them in the midst of their festivities. "Flee," my unconverted hearers, "from the wrath to come." The Amalekites perished without warning. But God has warned the world. And it stands without excuse.
The young man of Egypt was with David when he came upon the Amalekites. He once belonged to their company and was one of them. Had he not been separated from them he would have surely shared their fate. If unconverted, you are of that world of sinners "whose judgment now for a long time lingereth not, and whose damnation slumbereth not." Turn from it now, ere the vengeance of God destroys you with it. God has borne with it long. The sins of Christendom reach up to Heaven and cry for vengeance. Christ is your only refuge. Come to Him now, and, like Noah in the ark and Lot in the mountain, you will be safe from the sweeping storm. Like the young man of Egypt, you will be taken out of the world and away from this scene before the stroke descends. You will appear with Christ, along with those ten thousand holy ones who accompany Him when He comes to earth to war and judge.
"Kiss the Son; lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" (Ps. 2:1 2).
One question ere I close. It is the first clause of the thirty-eighth verse, of the twenty-first chapter of Acts: "Art not thou that Egyptian?"
5. David and Mephibosheth.
2 Samuel 9.
David here is on the throne. He began with the staff of a shepherd, and ends with the sceptre of a sovereign. Saul and all his enemies are destroyed or overthrown. His wandering in the woods and among the mountains are ended. God has turned the tables, and the one who was once pursued "as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains" is enthroned in power. And he represents, here in this chapter, not so much Christ in His future millennial reign as now crowned in heaven and showing grace to a guilty world.
"And David said, Is there yet any left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" (ver. 1.) David's conduct on the throne of Israel is a marked foreshadowing of God's actions since the death of Christ. His throne became then, and has been ever since, a "throne of grace." David, with power to cast into prison or to put to death, inquires for the descendants of his inveterate enemy, Saul. Saul had never shown him anything but hatred. In return, he desires to show kindness to any of his house who may be yet alive. He shows grace; and this is just how God is acting now. He is sending the precious gospel of His grace the wide world round, and in that gospel He inquires among the guilty sons of men for any who have conscious need of His great kindness.
The love and grace of God's heart is told out in the gospel. Since the fall, six thousand years ago, the world has been at enmity with God. And nearly nineteen hundred years ago they crucified His well-beloved Son. They mocked Him, and with wicked hands they nailed Him to a tree, between two thieves. But by that very death, in which man's awful enmity to God was manifested to the full, God now would reconcile men to Himself. "When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son." Christ did not die, as men suppose, and many teach, to reconcile an angry God to sinners. God never was man's enemy. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." It was man who needed to be reconciled to God. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." God loves man, but He hates his sin. Reconciliation must be wrought in man. Christ came to do this by His death. In it He proves to than God's love, and destroys enmity in those who believe. Now, on the basis of that atoning death of Jesus, God can righteously offer salvation to a world of guilty sinners. It was "for Jonathan's sake" that David offered to show kindness to the house of Saul. He had in his mind a covenant he had made with Jonathan long ago, and of Jonathan's love and friendship to him. This moved him to inquire about the house of Saul. Jonathan was a son of Saul.
It is for Christ's sake God forgives our sins. "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake" (1 John 2:12). "God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32). It is only because of the work of Christ that God proposes to show mercy to the sinner. He does not show us kindness because of anything He sees in us. In us there dwelleth "no good thing." We are not saved because of our pious endeavors, our earnest prayers or our sincere repentance. "We are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). God's salvation is for sinners through the finished work of Christ. God looks to the cross where His beloved Son atoned for sin, and is satisfied. Then He turns to a perishing world, whose sins deserved eternal wrath, and preaches peace. "Preaching peace by Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:36).
David did not inquire for any who were worthy of his kindness. Their character was nothing. It was for Jonathan's sake alone that he was showing kindness. There is a story I have heard of a wealthy merchant's only son who enlisted in the Civil War. He was wounded in an engagement, and was taken to the hospital. Here he met and became attached to a somewhat dissipated young soldier. This soldier was discharged with only a few cents in his pockets. His home was in Chicago. Before he left, the merchant's son gave him a note to his father, through whose city he would pass on his tramp towards home. One day the merchant was very busy at his books, when a ragged soldier stepped up to his desk and presented a soiled and crumpled bit of paper. Begging soldiers on the tramp were very common in those days, and the merchant at first refused to receive or look into the paper thrust into his face. Said he, "I cannot bother with you. I am very busy, and I'm tired of all this begging." "The note is from Charley," said the soldier. A change came over the merchant in an instant. He took the note, opened it, and read something like this: "Dear Father — This man is without means, and wishes to reach his home and friends in Chicago. He was kind to me in the hospital. Help him, for Charley's sake." He rose, trembling, from his seat, and shook the soldier warmly by the hand He had plenty of time now. He took him to his mansion and seated him at a well-spread table. He gave him one of the best beds in the house that night, and the next morning fitted him out in a new suit of clothes. Then he bought him a ticket to Chicago and slipped a few dollars into his hand as he bade him good-by. Now, why did he do all this? It was for Charley's sake. The soldier had no claim upon his kindness. And he was not thinking of the soldier's merits, but of Charley. The soldier may have been unworthy of his kindness, but it was Charley he was thinking of; he had Charley in his mind. And this is why God saves the sinner. It is for Jesus' sake. We are not accepted for any goodness in ourselves, but God hath made us "accepted in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:6-7).
All illustrations fail. Some one has said, "No parable has four legs." The point of the story is the merchant's esteem for his son and his kindness to the soldier just for Charley's sake. You could not say the merchant loved the soldier. But God loves men, even though they be sinners. But His righteousness would compel Him to condemn those very men for their sins if it were not for the atoning death of Christ.
"God is light" (1 John 1:5). This is His character, which made the death of His Son a necessity. "God is love" (1 John 4:8). This is His nature, which led Him to give His Son that His death might become an accomplished fact. Grace reigns "through righteousness." God is showing grace, and the death of Christ at Calvary proclaims Him "a just God and a Saviour."
Unconverted friend, God is "not willing that any should perish." He would have "all men to be saved." May He make thee willing to be saved to-night. May "the goodness of God" lead thee to repentance.
God is for men — not against them, and we have an illustration of this precious truth in David's showing grace and proffering kindness to the unworthy members of the house of Saul.
And let me warn you here. God will not show grace forever. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2).
Every "day" must close at last, and every "time" must end. The "accepted time" has lasted almost twenty centuries; the "day of salvation" has been lengthened out to more than eighteen hundred years. But another "day" is coming. The sun of salvation's day will suddenly set at the coming of the Lord, and with His advent will be ushered in the awful "day of vengeance of our God" (Isa. 61:2).
Solomon's reign, — a type of Christ's, succeeded that of David. David's reign is characterized by grace, Solomon's by judgment. Turn with me to 1 Kings, second chapter. David is dying here. Solomon, his son, is to succeed him on the throne. Notice his charge to Israel's future sovereign in verses 5 and 6: "Moreover, thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon the girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet. Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace." Also verses 8 and 9: "And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim; but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood." All through David's reign these men were tolerated. Grace was shown them. But Solomon is charged to slay them. No mercy must be shown them after David's reign of grace is over. This is solemn, sinner. David's throne, like God's at present, is a "throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). His enemies were allowed to live. Judgment was executed on these enemies at the inauguration of Solomon's glorious reign, which typifies the millennial reign of Christ. If you refuse God's grace and remain unreconciled, you must have judgment. In grace God lets you live, as David his enemies. But remember, you will certainly be damned if you continue unconverted till the time for showing grace is passed. The Lord will suddenly come, and then farewell all hope to those who spurned the grace of God. Grace refused now insures damnation then. Then that bitter, hopeless wail will issue from your lips, "The harvest is passed, the summer is ended, and I am not saved." You will be forever past all mercy then.
In verses 2 and 3 of our chapter, Ziba, a servant of Saul, is summoned to appear before the king. David repeats his inquiry concerning the descendants of Saul to him. Only here he says "the kindness of God." In Ephesians, second chapter and seventh verse, we read of "the exceeding riches of God's grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." That is a wonderful verse to me. The amazing magnitude of God's kindness is unspeakable. It is higher than the heights, deeper than the depths, and broader than all breadths. It is measureless, fathomless, infinite! There is nothing so powerfully overwhelming as God's kindness. It should bow all unconverted hearts in real repentance. It should bow yours. God would have that heart, so hard, so cold, and so deformed by sin, affected by His truth — reformed. The condemning law of God cannot accomplish this. "The law worketh wrath." Neither can the "terrors of the Lord" alone. Felix "trembled" at them, but his heart remained untouched. Thy heart must needs be fused and melted in the furnace of God's pardoning love and kindness. Every truth of Scripture has its use and value, but it is only the love of God displayed in redemption and perceived by faith that can melt and soften hearts estranged from God. May God's love touch some heart to-night. May His kindness, sinner, touch your heart and turn it towards Himself.
Now Mephibosheth comes before us. "And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son which is lame on his feet. And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar. Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar" (vers. 3-5). Mephibosheth represents the sinner here. Three things may be said of him: He was a cripple, he was in a "place of no pasture," and he was hiding from the presence of the king.
These three things, in a spiritual sense, are true of every one of you, my unconverted hearers. Give heed as I enlarge upon them, then. I have a friend who has only one sound ear; the other is entirely deaf. When people wish to tell him something which he does not care to hear, he turns his deaf ear towards them. Now turn your soul's deaf ear, if you have one, to the devil's lies to-night. Keep your sound ear open to the truth of God. If you want to hear the Scriptures with your left ear and the devil's comments on those Scriptures with your right ear, may the "sword of the Spirit" cut that right ear off as the sword of Peter cut off Malchus'. "If any man hath an ear, let him hear."
First, then, Mephibosheth was a cripple; he was "lame on both his feet" (ver. 13). He seems to have been a perfectly helpless cripple. A man with one lame leg is badly off. He cannot walk straight, and must make a crooked path. But a man with two lame legs is worse off still; he cannot walk at all. Mephibosheth was "lame on both his feet," and so are you, if unconverted, You are a moral cripple — spiritually lame, and unable to walk the straight and narrow way that leads to life and God. You are "without strength," as Scripture says, to tread the "paths of righteousness" (Rom. 5:6). You are morally deformed and unable to help yourself. May God show you this. I am sure you do not like to hear me say these things about you. Some years ago I was preaching in Canada, and a very self-righteous Sunday-school superintendent came in one night to hear what the stranger had to say. It happened that he had a good deal to say that night about the utter ruin of man. I suppose this religious man had had his ears tickled many a time before by sermons on the moral dignity and superiority of man, but that night they were not tickled. He went away in a rage. "I'll never go to hear that man again," said he. "He makes nobodies of us." Nobodies Indeed, far worse than that. Men, before God, are guilty criminals and slaves of sin. Their natural heart is a sink of sin. Isaiah says, "We are all as an unclean thing." I want to be plain about this, and I beg of you to be honest with yourself. Just say, "Preacher, tell me what God says; show me up by Scripture. I want to see myself as God describes me in His word."
The mass of preachers to-day are like the photographers who make all their homely patrons handsome. They make beauties of the plainest of them. They have a way of "touching up" their pictures that makes every man and woman handsome. And the more skilful they are at this, the larger their business, just as the most popular preachers are those who can lay the whitewash of flattery thickest on their unconverted audiences. I was once shown a photograph of an elderly lady who must have been an honest soul. The lines and wrinkles and "crow's feet" were all retained in the picture just as they were on her living, features. Her nieces, who showed me the picture, said the artist had wished to take them out of the negative, but the dear old aunty would not have it. She said she wished to appear in her picture just as she really was. Imitate her honesty, my friends, in this great question of your true condition as a sinner. "Let God be true, but every man a liar." Accept His own description of you. It is given life-size in the third of Romans. There you are described from head to foot. "Throat," "tongue," "lips," "feet" and all are pictured. The servant of Christ's business is to show you to yourself by Scripture as you truly are. All "touching up" is Satan's work.
Much of the preaching of the day is like the wonderful man of the circus bills. He dexterously throws knives about a man who stands with his fingers and arms outstretched against a wall some distance off. The skilful performer sends the knives whizzing past his ears and between his fingers and over the top of his head and past his throat. The wall is bristling with knives all around him. Some of them may graze his skin, but the art, you see, is not to hit him. I have said enough. I think you understand. Villains and cutthroats and sneak-thieves may be publicly exposed as transgressors in danger of damnation, annihilation, purgatory, or perhaps some lighter punishment, but the whitewashed hypocrite and the unconverted novel-readers and ballroom butterflies — ah, be careful, or you will drive them from the Church.
I knew a preacher in the West like this. When some one reproached him for not proclaiming the truth, he exclaimed indignantly: "I do! I give the Sunday baseball players fits, and lift up my voice against the sin of drunkenness." He knew the miserable drunkard and the Sunday baseball player were well out of range in the beer-saloon and on the diamond. Fearless preaching, that!
But "they be blind leaders of the blind; let them alone." Man is a moral wreck and ruin, though "the preaching of the cross," which proves it, "is to them that perish foolishness." If we deny man's utter ruin by preaching circumcision, reformation or anything else for man's improvement, "then is the offense of the cross ceased," and we cease to "suffer persecution" (Gal. 5:11). The truth of the incurable moral lameness of man offends, and always did, and always will. Mephibosheth was lame and could not walk. And unconverted sinners cannot follow Christ. I know religious people think the way to be saved is by trying to follow Christ. But how can a man with both legs lame follow anybody? No: salvation comes by trusting in Christ's death, and not by attempting to imitate His life.
Let us see now how Mephibosheth became a cripple. Turn back to the fourth chapter and fourth verse: "And Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son that was lame on his feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel. And his nurse took him up, and fled: and it came to pass as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth." He had a fall, and by his fall he became a cripple. Six thousand years ago man had a fall. He fell in Eden's garden. He sinned, and by his sin became a fallen creature. And all of us are born of fallen parents. "Like begets like." The psalmist says, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5). Let me illustrate this truth. Suppose a man and wife — a noble couple living in Russia — are banished for some offense, as they often are, to the wilds of Siberia. Children are born to them there, and, though innocent of the crime with which their parents were charged, they are compelled to share their parent's dreary exile. They suffer the rigors of that awful climate and lead lives of misery and sorrow in that land of desolation and distress through their parents' crime. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were exiled from Eden because of their sin. All their children were born outside the garden. All of us were born in exile and of exiled parents. All are born away from God. And sinner, if God does not interpose in grace and save you, you must be forever exiled from His blissful presence and banished to the outer darkness and distance of an eternal hell. You are a fallen creature, born of fallen parents. You must be "born again" and brought to God. May this take place to-night.
The next point is, Mephibosheth was living in Lo-debar. He was in a "place of no pasture." All Hebrew proper names have some significance. Lo-debar signifies "a place of no pasture." And this is like the world where sinners live away from God. It contains no pasture. It has "husks" — food only fit for swine — but no real pasture. The prodigal was starving in the "distant land of famine." "I perish with hunger," was his bitter cry. It is the cry of multitudes. I do not say they hunger after Christ. Alas, they turn away from Him, the bread of God sent down from heaven. But men and women seek and sigh for satisfaction where it can never be found — in the world, away from God. Many seek it at the playhouse and the ballroom. "Lo-debar" is written over the entrances of these haunts of mirth and folly. Others seek it in secular literature, good, bad, and indifferent. But "Lo-debar" could be stamped upon the covers of it all, from the learned classics to the five-cent novel. There is no satisfying pasture there. Others, with a show of wisdom, hope to find it in religious forms and ceremonies. But over every arching temple door where Christ is not held up, faith's eyes, anointed with heavenly eye-salve, can see written in letters black as night, "Lo-debar" — no pasture.
The persecutors of the martyrs sometimes fed their victims sawdust bread to mock them. And that's the kind of food the world is feeding on. I have a friend who told me of a dog that used to chase the thunder. How like the sinner seeking satisfaction where it has never yet been found.
I know the world has pleasures. Scripture speaks of "the pleasures of sin for a season." But pleasure is not satisfaction. King Solomon enjoyed the world, but he found no satisfaction. Hear what he says: "I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the Wits of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion of all my labor. Then I looked on all the works my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun" (Ecc. 2:1-11). He tried everything, and turned away in disappointment. And he asks immediately after, "What can the man do that cometh after the king?" If he, with every advantage in his favor, could not find the satisfaction he was seeking for, how can poor and common people like ourselves expect to find it? Ah, "Lo-debar" is written everywhere. Solomon is the very man who said in a proverb, "Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth" (Prov. 17:24). The eyes of a fool, like yours, my unsaved friend, are looking here and there and everywhere the wide world over for some satisfaction. But the eyes of those of understanding are set on wisdom. Christians are the understanding ones, and Christ is the "wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). Their eyes are fixed on Him. He makes Himself their satisfying object.
The missionary, William Carey, tells of a native convert who was asked if he had happiness. "Yes," he answered, "I am thrice happy." He was asked for an explanation. Said he, laying his hand upon his heart, "I have Christ here" (Eph. 3:17). Then he said, laying his hand on his Bengalee Bible, "I have Christ here" (Luke 24:27). "And," he said, pointing towards heaven, "I have Christ up there" (Col. 3:1). Happy man! He had Christ in his heart, and Christ in his Bible, and Christ in heaven. How could he be unhappy? Christians who make everything of Christ are always happy. The psalmist says, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." The sheep of Christ are in a place of pasture which is always green and fresh. They can there find perfect satisfaction. Sheep, they say, lie down when they are satisfied. So David said, "He maketh me to lie down." Where are you, my friend? In Lo-debar, or satisfied amid the ever fresh and fragrant pastures of communion with the Lord?
The third thing is, he was hiding from the presence of the king. He thought, I suppose, that David was against him. He very likely thought if David found him he would hang him to the nearest tree, or slay him with the sword, or have him cast into prison. Was not Saul, his grandfather, the almost life-long enemy of David? Had he not for years wronged David of the throne of Israel? So he hid himself away in Machir's house, in Lo-debar.
And sinners try to hide away from God. Adam hid among the trees of Paradise. He had sinned against his good Creator, and he feared to meet Him. But the Lord God sought His erring creature. "Adam, where art thou?" showed His interest in the welfare of the fallen man. Adam says, "I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." And sinner, God is for thee. He gave His Son that He might never be compelled to damn thee for thy sins. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). You need not hide away in fear, if you have any real concern about your soul. Men seek to hide away from God because they do not know His love. Mephibosheth did not know that David's mind was set upon his welfare. He did not know the grace of David's heart towards such as he. And so he hid himself. Why hide from God, poor soul? His blessed heart is full of love for sinners such as you. His love was manifested to the full by giving Jesus up to die a death of shame, "that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9). He forsook His Son upon the cross that we might bask forever in the blissful sunshine of His favor, though in ourselves unworthy. Oh, God's love is well-proved love! You could not ask for better proof. Why, then, believe the lie of Satan, who would have you think God's heart is filled with wrath against you? "There is wrath." But it is against sin. Christ has atoned for sin. He has made Himself a Mediator, so a holy God can spare the guilty sinner. Why, oh, why, poor sinner, hide and flee from God? I once sought to hide from God. I'll tell you why. God had been misrepresented to me. And it was the work of Satan. He pictured God in this way to me: There crouched the sinner, trembling from head to foot. Over him stood the Almighty, with the glittering sword of divine wrath raised above his head, ready to strike him down without a moment's notice. He represented "the God of all grace" as anxious to rid Himself of a wretch so vile by hurling him down to hell without the least compassionate regret. But it is false, my unconverted hearers. God is not against you. His very warnings evidence His love. Why warn if He is careless or indifferent to your fate? Do not, I beg of you, take the caricature of Satan as a representation of the God who emptied heaven of its chiefest treasure, that a world of rebel sinners might be saved.
At the time when Luther was first giving the Bible to the German nation in their native language, a scrap of the third of John and the sixteenth verse was blown or thrown into the street from the shop where the precious Bible was being printed. It was picked up by a little child and carried home. Eight words only were on the bit of paper: "God so loved the world that He gave . . ." The rest of the verse was torn away. The family read it, and they wondered what God "gave." They had never seen a Bible. And they never knew God loved them. The priests had always told them God was angry with them, and must be appeased by penance, alms and masses. They had been taught to believe that God was demanding something from them. But here they saw that God had given something. They soon procured a Bible, and behold, in glad surprise they saw what God had given in His love, even "His only begotten Son." They believed the glad tidings and were saved. They had learned God's love, and "there is no fear in love." Their dread of God was gone forever, even as the mists of the morning disappear before the noonday sunshine. Believe that love to-night, my unsaved hearer. May it draw thee from thy hiding place. For remember, if you die away from God, the trump of the last great day will call you from your distance and darkness to stand in the full-blazed light of the judgment-throne. There you will stand in the searching brightness of the Judge's awful presence. There thou shalt hear those soul-crushing words, — the most awful mortal ears have ever heard, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." May God bring thee to the light by His Spirit now. "Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee."
Notice now, king David sent and fetched Mephibosheth from his hiding place. "Then king David sent and fetched him from the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar" (v. 5). And God, in His absolute sovereignty, brings the sinner to Himself. "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Rom. 9:16). God, by His Spirit, does for or in us, what we never would, or could do, for, or of ourselves. The work from first to last is God's. If left to ourselves we never would be saved. None are saved but by the free and sovereign grace of God. It is God who makes us willing to be saved. We have an illustration of this in Luke 14. There the feast is spread, the invitations are sent out, and all refuse to come. "They all with one consent began to make excuse." But the servant is sent out and charged to "compel them to come in." And again, "Bring in hither." Every guest at that feast was either compelled to come in or brought in. If left to themselves, not a single one of all those invited would have been there. What Christian would or could refuse to sing, —
"'Twas the same hand that spread the feast
That gently forced me in;
Else I lied still refused to taste,
And perished in my sin."
A man said to me once, "Do you mean to say that God takes men by the coat collar and forces them to come against their wills?" "No," I replied," He compels them to come by persuasion. He makes them hungry by His Spirit. It is an easy thing to make a hungry man sit down before a well-spread table." May He make some sinner hungry here to-night, is my prayer.
One thing David did; two things he did not do.
"David sent and fetched him." He did not send him a bottle of medicine to try on his crippled feet. A mass of professing Christians seem to think that God has provided religion to act as a sort of medicine on our souls, and which, if taken in liberal doses, will prepare us to be saved when we come to die. But religion cannot save. The Hottentots, and the Mohammedans, and the Brahmans are all religious people. You may be saturated to your very soul's centre with religion and sink into hell at last. How many sing, —
"'Tis religion that can give
Satisfaction while we live;
'Tis religion can supply
Peace and comfort when we die."
Cain was a religious man; he brought an offering to the Lord. The persecutors of the prophets were religious. An intensely religious nation crucified the "Lord of glory." Fanatical religionists tortured and burned the martyrs. Christening, confirmation, sacrament taking, prayer reading, psalm singing, mass hearing, penance, all are vain and cannot save, or even he to save the sinner. It is God, by His Spirit, working in our souls and producing repentance towards Himself and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. This He does apart altogether from the above named forms and ceremonies of religion. The only necessary instrumentality is the written word of God, — the holy Scriptures. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
"None but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good."
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The woman with the issue of blood in the 8th. of Luke, spent all her living upon physicians. They experimented, but they could not heal her. She only grew worse on their hands. Were it not for Christ she would have died in spite of all her doctors. Distrust and turn from all who preach not Christ. Only the interposing grace of God can save a helpless sinner.
Nor did David send a pair of crutches to Mephibosheth, telling him to try and do the best he could, hobbling his way towards Jerusalem. But there is a class of people who imagine the ten commandments were sent from heaven to help the sinner back to God. Two great commandments, — love to God and love to man, — are the essence of the ten.
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself" (Luke 10:27). They look upon these two commandments as a pair of crutches. You try to keep them, "do the best you can," and hope for heaven at last. Love God, that is one crutch; love your neighbor, that's the other. Make a start, keep up courage, and work out your soul's salvation.
But no one keeps these two commandments. And it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. 3:10). Trying to keep them is not enough. It says, "This do and thou shalt live." It does not say, "This try to do and thou shalt live." So the holy law of God can only curse the sinner, for he fails to keep, it. "Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). Do you love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength, and all your mind? None but the most hardened hypocrites dare say they do. And do you love your neighbor as yourself I know some people think they do. I met a lady out in Indiana who thought or said she did. I thought I'd test her, so I said, "Look here, Mrs. —, suppose your own house was on fire and your neighbor's house was on fire, and someone came rushing into this hall crying, 'Mrs. —, your house is on fire and your neighbor's, too!' You rush out, and there, alas, is your house just commencing to burn, and your neighbor's right next door, the same. Now, whose house would you run to first?" "Why, I'd run to my own, of course," she said. "Then," said I, "you do not love your neighbor as yourself, because if you did it would not matter to you which house was saved and which was burned." Well, she looked, I tell you, and I hope she saw how short she came of doing what she claimed she did. Law cannot help the sinner, for the sinner has no strength to keep it.
No, David did not send Mephibosheth crutches or medicine; he "sent and fetched him." I can almost imagine Mephibosheth's feelings as he was being brought to David. The officers come to the door of Machir's house and knock. Machir sees them through the window and turns deadly pale. They both expect arrest or execution. To Mephibosheth's surprise they lift him tenderly as a child and carry him to the waiting chariot. Then they start off towards Jerusalem. Mephibosheth sits and trembles like an aspen. They enter the city, and he fully expects to be driven towards the prison quarters. But they drive right to the royal palace. Mephibosheth is bewildered. He sees a man with a golden crown upon his head, and a purple robe upon his shoulders, hurrying down the marble steps. It is the king. He hastens to the chariot and asks so tenderly, "Art thou Mephibosheth?" "Behold thy servant," Mephibosheth falters. In an instant the arms of the king encircle the crippled son of Jonathan, and he weeps upon his neck. Still Mephibosheth trembles. David tenderly kisses him on the cheek, and says assuringly, "Fear not; for I will surely show thee kindness for Jonathan, thy father's sake, and I will restore thee all the land of Saul, thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually" (v. 7). Such kindness overcomes Mephibosheth. "And he bowed himself and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldst look upon such a dead dog as I am?" (v. 8). They carry him into the palace, and he is given a place and portion "as one of the king's sons." "Fear not," David said to Mephibosheth. "Fear not," God says to every trembling sinner trusting in the death of Christ. He wants them at rest in His presence. They have nothing to fear, for Christ has suffered for their sins. He "made peace through the blood of His cross." All the claims of justice have been met. Their Substitute has died and lives forever now upon the throne of God. There He sits in heaven, their righteousness and representative. Fear not, then, fellow-believer.
If an unbeliever, you have good cause to fear, "He that believeth not shall be damned." Well may you tremble on your seat as you think of your awful condition as a sinner in arms against the almighty God. Felix trembled, and the demons tremble too. God does not say to you, "Fear not." His word to such as you is this, "Behold ye despisers, and wonder, and perish."
Mephibosheth calls himself a "dead dog" in David's presence. It is in the presence of God that we learn ourselves. There Job learned himself. "Behold I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth," he says. And again, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 40:4; Job 42:5, 6). This is repentance. A repentant man has no good thing to say about himself. A living dog is bad enough, but Mephibosheth calls himself a dead one. God, in His grace, grant some one repentance to-night. May He, by the action of His Spirit, through the living and powerful Word, bring sinners into the light of His presence, that there they may abhor themselves as vile and only fit and ready fuel for the flames of hell. Sinners, once there, receive with joy the grand and glorious message of the Gospel of God's grace, — "Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6).
I notice one thing more ere closing. Mephibosheth gets two things, — a portion and a place. "Then the king called to Ziba, Saul's servant, and said unto. him, I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house" (v. 9). That is his portion. But there was more. He was brought into the royal palace "as one of the king's sons." "As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king's sons" (5:11). There you have his place.
Christians have a portion. They have forgiveness of sins, justification from all things, and spiritual blessings innumerable. But they also have a place. And oh, what a place it is! It is a place in the Father's house as sons. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1). The place is even better than the portion, blessed as the Christian's portion is. All believers stand accepted as sons in God's everlasting favor. "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26). Too many rest with being saved, and but feebly, if ever, enter into the enjoyment of their place as "sons of God." They know their portion, but scarcely apprehend their place. When the Danish missionaries at Malabar wished to get out a catechism for the natives, they set a bright young convert to the work. When he came to the part where believers in Christ are said to be "sons of God," he stopped. "It is too much," he exclaimed, "let me rather render it, They shall be permitted to kiss His feet.'" Fellow-Christians, it is not too much. If we look only at our poor, unworthy selves it is far, far too much, but if we look at God it is just what suits His heart.
Oh, what joy to sing, —
"How blest a place! The Father's house;
There love divine doth rest;
What else could satisfy the hearts
Of those in Jesus blest?
His home made ours — His Father's love
Our heart's full portion given,
The portion of the First-born Son,
The full delight of heaven."
One word more in closing.
Sinner, will you have this place and portion? Or will you choose to have a place and portion with the devil and his angels in the lake of fire? Oh, choose life! Yield to the strivings of God's Spirit. Resist Him not. May God in His grace constrain you to turn to Him now.
Through Christ, and Christ alone you can be brought to God. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
God bless His word to many souls. Amen.
6. David, Ziba and Mephibosheth.
2 Samuel 16:1-4; 2 Samuel 19:24-30.
I am going to speak specially to Christians to-night. Preaching the gospel to sinners is important work. God forbid that I, or any servant of the Lord, should ever slight such work. The responsibility of making the gospel known to a perishing world rests upon. all the saints of God. Every Christian is a debtor to those within his reach in this respect. The apostle Paul says, "I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise" (Rom. 1:14). But the methods of certain popular evangelists going about the country are to be deplored. They remain but a few weeks in a place, and then are off, perhaps a thousand miles away. The converts, when real, are left to starve, and seldom advance much beyond the knowledge of the fundamentals of the gospel, if they are even clear on these.
Now Paul was a model evangelist, and he never left the converts of his preaching like freshly hatched partridges, half out of their shells, or new born babes unable to feed themselves. He stayed by them and taught them, and sought to build them up. We are apt to forget, in reading the inspired account of his labors, that it is the merest outline, — a bare synopsis of a life of devotedness, covering a period of thirty years or more. He appears to be flitting about from place to place and always on the go, but he was not. He seems to have spent three years in Arabia (Gal. 1:17, 18), one year in Antioch (Acts 11:26), a long time in Iconium (Acts 14:3), a year and six months, at least, at Corinth (Acts 18:11), two years, about, in Ephesus (Acts 19:10), besides a good many years in prison. At some places his stays were short because of persecution. But his travels were not as extensive by any means as most suppose. Many a much lesser preacher to-day travels more in a year than the apostle did during the whole course of his eventful life.
And what should we learn from this? Just this, that the greatest evangelist that ever lived always endeavored to establish converts in the faith before he left them.
In view of this, I have decided to speak a little to believers to-night, though I shall not by any means forget that some of my audience are unconverted. The trend of every address should be like the roads about Rome that used to converge and meet at the golden milestone in the Forum, as the spokes of a wheel all come together at the hub. Christ is the golden centre, — the focus of all truth. And though saints are specially addressed tonight, may God bless the very mention of the Saviour's precious name to sinners' hearts.
There is a verse I often think of in the epistle to the Romans. It is the 4th verse of the 15th chapter. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." There we Christians have what is called our charter for reading the Old Testament in the expectation of receiving something for our souls' instruction. I call it the Magna Charta. It covers so much, you know. Let us look then at the flight of David and his return, recorded in the verses read, as among the "whatsoever things" that have been "written for our learning."
In the preceding chapters the inspired historian gives us an account of the commencement of Absalom's rebellion. I cannot dwell upon it, as our time is limited. He first stole the people's hearts, and then has himself set up as king. David is forced to flee, and "Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth," pretends to show him kindness. He meets him when he "was a little past the top of the hill" with "a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and one hundred bunches of raisins, and one hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine." He makes a fine display of zeal and sympathy for the rejected king, but it is only show. He wickedly slanders his master Mephibosheth to David and obtains Mephibosheth's estate. "And the king said, And where is thy master's son? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he abideth at Jerusalem: for he said, To-day shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father. Then said the king to Ziba, Behold, thine are all that pertained unto Mephibosheth. And Ziba said, I humbly beseech thee that I may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king" (16:3, 4).
But by and by the king returns, as we see in the 19th chapter, and everything comes out. Ziba's hypocrisy is exposed and the devotion of Mephibosheth is manifested. He goes to meet the king on his return, and during the whole time of David's absence he "had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes." David says, "Wherefore wentest thou not with me, Mephibosheth?" And Mephibosheth tells him all. Ziba had deceived him. He wished to follow the king, but could not, as his feet were lame. It seems that Ziba had purposely taken away the ass Mephibosheth had expected to saddle and ride upon among the weeping followers of the outraged king. He recounts David's kindness towards him in the past and owns the nothingness of all his father's house before his lord, the king. "And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land. And Mephibosheth said unto the king, Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house" (19:29, 30). What cares he for lands? He is content to see his lord, the king, upon his rightful throne, and in his proper place in peace.
Now all this story is deeply instructive. David, Ziba and Mephibosheth here are representative characters. David, I need scarcely say, is a type of Christ in the present hour of His rejection. Ziba represents a self-righteous child of nature and Mephibosheth a helpless child of grace. You remember on a former occasion we saw how Mephibosheth, a hiding, helpless cripple, was brought into a place of blessing "as, one of the king's sons." Ziba never became anything more than a "servant." He is repeatedly called a servant. Mephibosheth is like real Christians, who are "sons of God." Ziba represents the mass of whitewashed professors who expect, by serving God, to get to heaven at last. And these always slander genuine Christians who ascribe all their salvation to the grace of God. They make loud professions and display great zeal. It has sometimes been a burning zeal. Many times has Ziba burned Mephibosheth at the stake. And they boast great things of what they are doing for the Lord. They point with swelling pride to their magnificent temples with steeples shooting to the skies. They bid us behold the hospitals, asylums, and homes of shelter they are erecting every year. They remind us of the scores and scores of schools and seminaries they maintain. They tell with intense satisfaction of their hundreds of foreign mission stations, and the thousands of converts they make to their religion every year. They proudly unfold their list of chief ecclesiastics who are reckoned among the great ones of the earth. They make what the apostle calls "a fair show in the flesh" (Gal. 6:12).
And they will not hesitate to slander the unpretentious Mephibosheths. "What do they do for the Lord?" they ask disdainfully. Well, if they do as Mephibosheth did they shall do well. He acted the part of a loyal subject to the king. He felt the absence of his lord and showed his feelings by his ways and his appearance. He "neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes," until the king returned. He did not act as if everything was right while a rebel sat on Israel's throne. Remember, fellow-Christian, that —
"Our Lord is now rejected,
And by the world disowned."
We live in Satan's world. He is its "prince" and "god" (John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:5). Christ is the rejected King. He was "born King of the Jews" (Matt. 2:2). He is also "King of nations" (Rev. 15:3, marg.). People sing, —
"Let earth receive her King."
But earth has long ago refused Him and continues its refusal. The Jews refused Him. When Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" they cried, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). The Gentiles would not have Him. They are first in the list of His rejectors. "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together" (Acts 4:26, 27).
Now, how ought you and I to act in the midst of a world where our Lord and Master is rejected and disowned? Ought we to mingle in politics? No, God's only candidate has been refused. The name of the Man of our choice has been stricken from their lists. The political world has cast its vote against Him. Our party is out of power down here. What about society? Is Jesus wanted there? No. If you doubt it, go to the very next progressive euchre party, or evening social, and ask the gay assemblage what they think of Christ. You will very soon discover that they are against Him. They cannot even bear to hear His precious name outside of church. His name, to the real believer, "is as ointment poured forth," in "church," or anywhere else. Well, what about the popular religion of this enlightened nineteenth century? Do not its adherents "crown Him Lord of all?" Few of them seem to have any Christ to crown, the way they deny or question His eternal deity and make Him a liar in reference to eternal punishment, and the Mosaic authorship and inspiration of the Pentateuch (Matt. 25:46; John 5:46, 47). If they keep on modernizing Christianity they will, by and by, have none to modernize. If they continue to keep clipping at the holy Scriptures with the shears of Higher Criticism they will soon have nothing left to criticize. Ah, I fear Christ is not wanted there. He is being basely wounded in the house of His professed friends. The "form of godliness" alone is there, without the "power." "From such turn away" (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
Christ is rejected everywhere down here. May we act as those who feel His absence and rejection. I know a young woman whose intended husband went to the Western States three years before their marriage. When he returned it was to take her back to the West as his bride. Her heart was true to him all those years of his absence. She showed it by remaining modestly and becomingly at home, and went out very little in what is called "society." Her fidelity and devotion to her absent lover was remarked by all. Hers was the love of a loyal heart. Oh, may our hearts beat loyal and true to our absent Lord. Soon He will come, and then His rejection will be ended forever. With a shout He will descend from heaven to catch away His beloved and blood-bought bride, the church. Her waiting and her watching will be over then (See 1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
Everything is going to be manifested then. All Zibas will be exposed and shown up, and every true Mephibosheth will be rewarded. The Lord says in Revelation 22:12, "Behold I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be." In the parables of the pounds and talents it is when the lord of the servants and stewards returns that they are commended or condemned. There is a verse I often think of in connection with this story of Mephibosheth and Ziba. It is in 1st Corinthians, 4th chapter and 5th verse. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." Now this, to me, is very solemn. The Lord is coming to put things right among His servants ere He draws His "whet" and "glittering sword" against His enemies. He appears as a judge in the midst of His own before He manifests Himself as a mighty warrior against the world. Peter speaks of this. He says, "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17).
And right here I want to say a little about the judgments. I say judgments because a "general" judgment is only found among the human traditions of the professing church, not in Scripture. Believers in Christ will never be judged for their sins. The One to whom all judgment has been committed by the Father has declared this blessed fact. He says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come unto condemnation [judgment]; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). The word rendered "condemnation" here is judgment. In the original Greek it is exactly the same word as that properly rendered "judgment" in verse 22 of the chapter and that wrongly rendered "damnation" in the 29th verse. It, is rendered "judgment" in the German Bibles, and in the Douay Bibles too. The Revised Version also gives it "judgment." Just look it up when you get home, — "Look and see." The translators of our Authorized King James' Version rendered the word differently in three different verses when they knew perfectly well it was not a different word in Greek. "Why did they do this?" some one asks. Well, I'll tell you. They aimed more at literary polish and smartness than literal exactness. They wanted to make the Bible a literary gem and thought the frequent repetition of a word would mar its beauty. But the Holy Ghost knows best, and our wisdom is to leave the word of God as He has given it. Who ever dreamed of varnishing a diamond!
But to return to our subject. There is a difference, you will notice, between condemnation and judgment. A man may come into judgment in a law court, yet not be condemned. For instance, suppose I am charged with some crime and my case is tried. I come into judgment; I am judged. But the witnesses are all examined; their testimony is taken. At last the evidence is all in and the jury acquits me. I have come into judgment, you see, though not into condemnation. I have not been condemned, though judged. But the Christian will not even come into judgment. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has said so. And I believe His words in preference to all the creeds, catechisms, and confessions of faith that were ever written. I take my stand upon His word, though councils, fathers, popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, and all the doctors of the so-called church teach otherwise.
Now, why won't believers come into judgment? Come, turn aside with me and gaze by faith at Calvary's hill and there, behold, not hear, the answer. Who hangs upon that central cross? Jesus! And who is Jesus? The Son of God eternal. And was He a sinner? Hush, nay Do not breathe so awful a suggestion. Scripture says, He "knew no sin," "He did no sin," and "in Him is no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). But why hangs He on that cursed tree, since He is sinless? Why does He utter that cry of anguish, "My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Ah, He is being "made sin" by God. He is bearing the sins of others, — your sins and my sins, beloved fellow-believer, and His holy soul is overwhelmed in the surging waters of divine judgment against sin. Hear Him cry, "All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me!" It is not the nails and spikes that pierce His hands and feet that hold Him to the cross. It is love. Yes, love, "stronger than death" binds and holds Him to that tree as with a chain of everlasting strength. His intense devotion to His God and His matchless love to you and me has made Him willing to be "made a curse for us." Many waters cannot quench such love and He exhausts the judgment that was due to us. Then He cries in triumph, "It is finished!" and bows His blessed head and dies. Now the atoning work is done and by faith we see Him on the throne of God, the subsisting righteousness of "all that believe." And God can say of them, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 8:12). And we can say, —
"Payment God will not twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then, at mine again."
So there is now no judgment for the sinner who believes. Christ has borne the judgment.
But while all this is blessedly and divinely true, we must not forget the fact that there is a judgment at which all believers must appear. For we must all appear [be manifested] before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). This is when He comes. It is "the time" referred to by the apostle in a verse already quoted. It is a manifestation. "We must all be manifested." The examining judge "both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." It is for Christians only. No sinner will be there. And persons are not judged, but works. Christ will sit in His judgment-seat, but not as a judge in a criminal court. It will be more like a judge at a fair, or in a contest, or over a school examination where prizes and rewards are given. The eternal destiny of those whose works are being examined is not determined by or at this judgment, but their worthiness or unworthiness to receive crowns of "righteousness," "glory," or "life," is decided.
Let me give an illustration I have often used. Suppose a widowed mother living in the country goes to town to do some shopping. She leaves her four loved children behind, and tells them if they behave themselves during her absence she will bring them each some present, or reward, when she returns. She distinctly tells them what to do and what they must not do. In the evening she returns with the presents and gathers her children about her for the examination. Mary, the eldest, is first questioned, and, as usual, she has been obedient. She gets a handsome present. Next comes Charley. He has been naughty nearly all day long, as he himself confesses and the others testify. He loses his reward and only gets an orange. The others have behaved only moderately well and get rewards accordingly. And this is like "the judgment-seat of Christ." He has gone away to heaven and left us here to shine for Him in this dark scene of His sorrow and rejection. "Occupy till I come," were His parting words of admonition. When He comes again He will gather His own redeemed around His judgment-seat and reward them for their faithfulness. Nothing will be forgotten and nothing covered over. He will say, "Well done," of any little act of service done from love to Him and for His glory. Nothing will lose its reward, not even "a cup of cold water" given in His name. Hidden things will be uncovered. Naughty Christians sometimes cover over things, but the judgment-seat of Christ is going to "bring to light the hidden things of darkness." How this should solemnize and make us careful in our walk as Christians.
But this has its bright side too, or perhaps to put it better, its encouraging as well as its warning side. How many little acts of service Christians sometimes do for Christ of which their fellow-Christians and the world know nothing. They are like little secrets kept between their Saviour and themselves until the time of manifestation at His coming. Nothing, however small, will go unrewarded or is going to be overlooked. The closet prayers for straying saints, and unconverted relatives, and friends; the trifle given in secret to the poor, or in practical fellowship to some needy servant of the Lord; the tracts quietly distributed, — all is coming out for public commendation.
May this encourage us. How many seeming trifles are referred to in the Epistles. Epaphras' prayers for the saints at Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis, for instance; or Onesiphorus' diligence in seeking out the apostle Paul in his Roman prison (Col. 4:12, 13; 2 Tim. 1:16, 18). God would have us learn from this that He "is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love" (Heb. 6:10). Not that crowns of reward are to be our object. Christ should be our only object. But the Lord would encourage our hearts to true devotion to Himself, as a wise teacher or fond parent might endeavor to encourage diligence in a child by a prize or present as a reward for industry or good behavior. Moses "had respect unto the recompense of the reward," and the Spirit of God commends him for it (Heb. 11:26).
And there is something else. Motives are going to count. The Lord is going to "make manifest the counsels of the hearts." Many have real desire but little opportunity for service to the Lord. He knows our hearts and is going to manifest their "counsels." He knows each longing of devoted hearts, however little their possessors may accomplish. And we fail and sometimes stumble too. But if the "counsels" of our hearts are for His glory He will not condemn us as unworthy or unfit to serve Him. David was deceived by Ziba and he even misunderstood Mephibosheth, but our Lord knows all. There is no deceiving Him and He perfectly understands us. The Psalmist says, "Thou knowest my thoughts afar off." Paul said, "He that judgeth me is the Lord." I have read of a colony of honey-bees working in full view under a hive of glass. That is like the workings of our hearts. Our Lord knows all, sees all, understands all, remembers all, and is going to manifest all. And I am glad it is so. What saint would have it otherwise?
"He is coming — oh, how solemn,
When the Judge's voice is heard,
And in His own light He shows us
Every thought, and act. and word!
Deeds of merit as we thought them,
He will show us were but sin,
Little acts we had forgotten
He will tell us were for Him."
Now turn for a little to 1 Cor. 3. Read from verse 11: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." Here we have a reference to "the time" the apostle speaks of in the following chapter (v. 5). Christ is the firm foundation on which every believers' feet are planted. They can sing with joyful confidence, —
"On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand."
But the building is our works from the time of our conversion. Faithfulness to Christ is like the gold, silver and precious stones. Trifling with the world and carelessness of walk is building wood, hay, and stubble. The fire is going to try what we have builded. The light manifests, as we have been seeing; here the fire tests. It is all according to the faithful judgment of the Lord.
The works of some abide and they receive a reward direct from the hand of the Lord once pierced for their sins at Calvary. Others are going to have their works burned up. They "suffer loss," which means they lose the promised crown. They themselves are saved so as by fire. They just get into heaven and that is all. They have no abundant entrance (2 Peter 1:11). It was the rock beneath their feet that saved them. Thank God for that place of eternal security! None once on that rock shall ever fall away and perish.
Sinner, where are your feet to-night? If they are not resting on the rock Christ Jesus there is nothing between your soul and hell but empty space! You may think yourself secure upon the devil's sand foundation of morality and religiousness, but sooner or later it will give way and land you where no hope can ever come. Be warned! The sure foundation has been laid at Calvary. Step upon it. Just rest your soul on Christ once crucified, and you are saved forever. God give you to do it now.
Christians everywhere confound what are in Scripture two entirely different things, — salvation and reward. Now, salvation is God's gift. "The gift of God is eternal life" (Rom. 6:23). The reward held out to Christians must be won, and earned by faithful service. "So run that ye may obtain" (1 Cor. 9:24). But you cannot earn a gift. Here I have my watch. I did not pay a penny for that watch. It was a gift to me. I had no watch and needed one, A Christian friend said to me one day, "Here, brother Knapp, is a watch. Please accept it as a gift." And like a sensible man I took the watch from his hand and thanked him for it. It cost me nothing. It cost him something, but he gave it to me freely. Now that is like God's free salvation. Nine years ago I felt my need. I knew that I was lost and "ready to perish." God in His gospel offered me eternal life. By faith I embraced His offer and received His gift. It cost Him something. "He spared not His own Son." That was the mighty cost. But it cost me nothing. I did not say a prayer to get it. I did not make one promise or turn over one new leaf to get it. I just received it as God's gift and thanked Him for it. But if I ever get a crown I must endure and do for it. For salvation everything has been forever done.
I will illustrate, if I can, the difference between salvation as God's gift possessed by faith in Christ, and the crowns of "righteousness," "life", and "glory" promised to those who, by works of faith, are reckoned worthy of them. Suppose a father has a son named Jamie. It is Jamie's birthday and his father gives him a ten dollar bill as a birthday present. Jamie thanks him, pockets the money, and is going away. "Stop a moment," says his father, "there is something more," and he holds up a silver dollar. Jamie comes back to get this too, but his father says, "No, you must earn this, I gave you the ten dollar bill as a birthday gift; you did not work for it; you were not even worthy of it, for your mother says you have been rather naughty of late. But I love you and wish to see you happy so I have given you the ten dollar bill. But you must work for and deserve this silver dollar if you ever get it. I am going to lay it by until next Thanksgiving Day. If between now and then you are obedient to your parents, and get your lessons well at school, and keep out of evil company, I will give you this silver dollar. I do this to encourage you. The bill is yours already. Be careful now and get the dollar by your industry and faithfulness. Run off to school now." Now the ten dollar bill is like eternal life. It is a gift. "I give unto them eternal life" (John 10:28). It is a birthday gift. There are two things for which I shall forever bless God. One is that I was ever born; the other is that I was ever born again. And I received eternal life on the day of my second birth. If you have been "born again" you have eternal life. They always go together. To put it in the words of a dear departed servant of Christ, "you cannot separate eternal life and new birth." Every believer has eternal life. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36). It is not promised but possessed. When the apostle John says, "This is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life," he refers to what was promised previous to this present Christian dispensation. It was a promise then; now it is a real possession. "God hath given to us eternal life" (1 John 2:25; 5:11). But reward for service is entirely different. We must earn that, just as Jamie earns the dollar. And the decision of his father on the appointed day is like the day when the Lord shall come and "then shall every man have praise of God." God give us to always walk and work in view of that coming day.
Two other judgments follow the judgment of believers' works. One is the judgment of the "quick," or living; the other is the judgment of the "dead,". The judgment of the living is pre-millenial; the judgment of the dead is post-millenial. The first occurs on earth, in time. The second takes place in eternity, after the earth and the heaven have fled away. At the one in time the Lord is seated as King on the "throne of His glory;" at the one in eternity He sits as Judge upon the "great white throne" (See Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-15). Lack of time forbids my adding more. May what has been said help saints, and stir the consciences of sinners hurrying on towards judgment.
There are three classes I want a parting word with, Christians, pretenders like Ziba, and non-professors.
Our Lord is coming back, beloved fellow-believer. As "King of kings, and Lord of lords," He shall descend from heaven to take His rightful throne and place down here. We shall see Him reign with many crowns upon His blessed brow. "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness." That king is Jesus. "His enemies shall lick the dust." Every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue confess that He is Lord to God the Father's glory. That will be more to us than all the white-robed angels, and the street of gold, and the pearly gates. It was enough for Mephibosheth that David was enthroned in power once more. "Let him take all," he says of Ziba and the lands. He saw David on his throne and that was enough for him. And we will see David's Lord enthroned in power, when He comes to earth again and that will make our hearts rejoice.
Is there a Ziba here to-night? If so, I want to tell him that all such as he are going to be exposed. The Lord is coming soon to manifest all sham professors. Christendom is something like the masquerade balls I used to attend before God saved my soul. Men and women were masquerading in all sorts of costumes. Some were dressed as kings and princes: Others were strutting about as plumed knights or noble ladies. But by and by the disrobing time came and all appeared just as they really were. Remember, religious masquerader, the disrobing time is coming. Your "cloak of hypocrisy" will be taken away some day, and the mask will be torn from your face. Ziba was exposed when the king returned, as you are going to be at Christ's return. God make you real before that day. Scripture says, "The hypocrites' hope shall perish."
Now I turn to you, my non-professing hearer. It is high time you stirred yourself to action. "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5:8). When once He comes there will be no longer hope for such as you. "The bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut" (Matt. 25:10). Every living Christian will be changed like a flash and caught away. You and every other unconverted sinner who has heard the gospel will be left behind. The door of mercy will be forever closed against you. You will be left absolutely without hope. At South Bend, Ind., are the largest wagon works in the world. A very large force of men are employed, and the manufacturers are compelled to be strict about getting the workmen promptly in their places at the appointed hour. A warning whistle is blown before the outer gates are closed. The moment the whistle ceases to blow the gates are closed. All outside then are forced to return home until a later hour, and thus lose time and pay. I remember passing these works one morning at their hour of commencing work. The warning whistle was being blown and many were passing in. I noticed a few some distance away from the gate who were leisurely walking along as if they had plenty of time. One man was a little behind the rest, enjoying his pipe, as if he wanted to get a few more whiffs before he would have to lay it aside at the entrance of the works. Suddenly the whistle ceased to blow, the straggler made a leap for the gate, but he was too late. The gates were closed in his very face and he was shut out.
That straggler, sinner, is thyself; you have no time to lose. I sound God's warning in your ear to-night. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Haste thee! Mercy's door stands open wide. Thousands are passing in. Why not you? Perhaps you have some darling sin that makes you linger, like the man his pipe. Don't miss an entrance into heaven for a straw. "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
Soon, ah soon, the door will close and then farewell all hope to you.
"O sinner, ere it be too late,
Flee thou to mercy's open gate
And join Christ's waiting band."
May God hasten your footsteps, is my prayer.