"Not ashamed of the gospel."

Romans 1:16.

1876 121 The apostle had met with many trials and difficulties; "in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft," etc. He had known privations more than most for the gospel's sake; yet he says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel." There was an energy and a power in his own soul that brought home to his conscience the truth of what he was about, that amidst disagreeables made him bold to persevere, as he says, "I was bold at Philippi to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention." There is nothing more shameful in man's sense than to be beaten and flogged, but he says, "I am not ashamed." The reason is that "it is the power of God."

The message that he carried about is what souls want — to be forgiven their sins and to be delivered from sin. It is a bitter and evil thing to forsake the living and true God; and this is what man has done and is doing. He is hewing out to himself broken cisterns that can hold no water; he seeks happiness, and, if he gets any signs, puts all into a broken pitcher. But sin stings like a viper in the end. This may be found out with sorrow and regret. Power against it is wanting. It is a sorrowful thing to see sin mastering a soul. Man is a slave of his own lusts, as well as of Satan. Sin is degrading, and for all that there is no power. Man is lying under it. A child may have been carefully guarded by a loving parent from the indulgence of its natural propensities; but what sorrow for the parent, when the guard is removed, to see them break out in full energy, the will at work and no power against sin! Unconverted persons know they love the things that are not of God. Whence does it all come? From a heart that is contrary to God — a nature at enmity with God. The heart loves the things that suit its own lusts. We all by nature turn away from God; and all are alike in this, those who have been most restrained by natural checks, and the most vicious; there may be least care about it in the least vicious, because a very vicious man would be glad to be out of the scrape.

When the prodigal left his father's house, he was as wicked as afterwards; he was glad to get away from his father and to do his own will. There may be a desire to please the father from natural affection; but there is the wish to have the opportunity to do one's own will, and that was all the prodigal wished. What can we say of such a heart as that? The prodigal son was as guilty, though not so degraded, when he crossed his father's threshold as when eating husks in the far country.

Then there is another thing brought out in testifying of Christ to the sinner. Present Christ to the heart, is there any inclination for it? No; the mere absence from God makes a man set up for something in himself. When in His presence, man shrinks and would get behind a tree if he could, as Adam did. To get mercy from the grace of a Saviour does not suit him. "I never transgressed." There is the natural self-righteous man, whose pride makes him reject the presence of the father, and so puts him farther off than the vicious man, though both alike would be right glad to have nothing to say to God. And is there never to be any remedy? It is plainly shown now. Now there may be an end put to sin. There is a remedy given in the cross of Christ. The time is hastening when He will come as it were to see, and then execute judgment. When God left man to himself, in a sense, there must come the deluge. So afterwards the land spues out the inhabitants thereof. Do you say the law of God is broken and it is no matter? God's authority is no matter? His power in government is no matter? His wrath must come. Is sin to go on and no wrath on God's part? The law to be broken and no wrath? The Son of man to be smitten and slain and no wrath? Impossible! Wrath must come against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of man. All had been done to try man when Christ died. "Now is the judgment of this world." The very fact of the cross closes up the scene towards man as a sinner. The wrath is revealed from heaven (not as under the law, for He is not now come out of His place to punish: the very speaking of wrath thus beforehand is grace. It is not come, but plainly revealed that it will come. Are you then despising the warning of that wrath which is coming? Do you not know that you are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, not by committing the sin, but by rejecting the testimony of God's Son?

You all know (I speak to the unconverted) whether you have peace with God, whether you are in the state of the prodigal or the elder son, whether you are within or outside. God will not take your thoughts of yourself, but He will judge you by His thoughts of you — by the word Christ has spoken. You may think yourself all right as the elder son did; but God does not unless you have come within and are at peace with Him. See the activity of love to those to whom wrath is revealed. They are children of wrath, natural heirs of it; yet though the wrath is fully proved to be due and the vineyard given up, He sends His Son and shows grace to the sinner; He gives up seeking fruit and provides a marriage supper for His son, furnishing Himself everything that is needed. The prodigal was perishing. It is not only that there was a famine — the man feels and would get what he can; but he is perishing and nothing is to be got. Satan has not life to give in his country, though he may sell things to keep from dying. The world may get pleasures and vanities to feed its lusts, but nothing more.

You who are not converted, you who have not eternal life and are indifferent about it, you are totally away from God. You must be either indifferent or miserable, because you do not know that you have it. Whichever state you may be in, you are talking about something that we have and you have not. Yet the gospel of God is sent for you. The activity of God's own love was shown you when you cared nothing about it. If you struggle to get it, you will find it hard. Conscience cannot master itself. Conscience talks a good deal, and it talks to itself. When conscience is at work it feels that one ought to confess the evil, to judge oneself, not only the sin but the guilt. Conscience will say, I cannot get rid of this; and more, I do not wish to get rid of this. Conscience knows it should be in the presence of God, though the more it gets there the more terrible.

The gospel that is preached is what God has Himself done for you. A person may say, I must get power over my sin; but he cannot. He may seek the power, but he cannot do it himself. What can you do then? You must be brought to this — I can do nothing. The truth brings out what you are, and what you cannot do. In Romans vii., it is not, How shall I get strength against myself — this "wretched man," but, I want a Deliverer; not strength for tomorrow, but pardon for today (though I shall want that). You need mercy; and if you want anything else, you are not yet brought to own what you are. The gospel will give power, but first of all what is wanted is God's righteousness, and it is this which is revealed in it. Are you going to add to His righteousness? Has God only half met your need? He puts the soul as a sinner into His own presence, but reveals His own righteousness in the gospel to him that believes. He has met the poor prodigal all in his rags and He Himself has clothed him in Christ. I have nothing short of the righteousness of God. In learning this I have found God for me.

Thus another precious fact in Christ is come in — God must be and is love to have done this. I am accepted in the Beloved. There is abundant help given for living the life of the Christian; but we are now speaking of standing in the presence of God, with no sin to disturb His eye, and therefore I can stand in perfect rest before Him. His eye rests on Christ, who has perfectly glorified him, and He is perfectly satisfied: His glory can ask nothing more. God is now glorifying Christ, and as a believer I can rest in conscience in His presence. It is all a settled and accepted work; and it is thus revealed on the principle of faith. So from Abel downwards all born of God have believed; and I too believe. Then can I add anything to Christ? No; I bow before Him. I believe in Him, and rest in Him. I cannot believe the gospel if the righteousness of God is not revealed in it. But as the gospel is true, so God's righteousness is perfect, and faith takes it as He gives it in full grace. Therefore the just shall live by faith.

Then God is for me; and what shall separate me from His love? I want spiritual strength; I need temporal mercies; how shall I get them all? Because God is for me. He seals me by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost cannot seal the fruits without having produced them. We are sealed when we have believed. Those are sealed whose souls have bowed to Christ in God's presence, and to whom this righteousness has been revealed. Do you say that you are striving? Your striving will do nothing for you, unless it be to discover your powerlessness to you. You are one foot in and one out all the time, until you find yourself utterly needy and helpless. It is only God can attract the heart to receive that which the activity of His own love has provided.