A Gospel Address

Exodus 14; Luke 15.

The grace of God as brought to us in the gospel may be divided into two parts: first, what we are brought out from, and secondly, what we are brought into. Many converted souls know something about what they are brought out of, but very few have the least idea of what God has brought them to, and no soul is entirely off the old ground until he knows what it is to be on the new. Moses' commission was to bring the people out of Egypt and into the good land. As soon as a soul knows he is on the new ground, he is out of the old. The gospel is that God has brought you out of the land of darkness and shadow of death into the land of light and glory. The defect in many souls is that they do not know the nature of the distance between God and the sinner. Only one Man ever knew that, and that was the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone, even a pagan, knows that there is a distance between the Creator and the creature, but how few comparatively speaking, understand the nature of the distance. Cain did not know it; he, like a bad physician, tried to cure the disease not knowing what it was, not understanding the nature of it, and there are a great many people who do likewise. The gospel from God's side shows us how God has removed the distance! Abel had faith in God, and knew that nothing could remove the distance but a victim not personally chargeable with the sins for which he suffered, and he offered of the firstlings of the flock and the fat thereof, but there was no resurrection in that type. The victim dies, and the sins are gone.

Here nine-tenths of those who preach the gospel stop. The gospel usually preached is forgiveness of sins, but not resurrection. There is no resurrection in the sacrifices of the Old Testament. No victim that was offered was ever raised again. And if resurrection is not preached there can be no real sense in the soul of the distance being removed. Death alone could remove the distance, the victim must be one not chargeable with the offence at the time of death, that is, there must be personal excellency in the victim; but it is in apprehending the resurrection that the soul gets the sense that that which caused the distance is removed. The thought of some is that the sinner can do good works, so as to please God, and that Christ's righteousness comes in as a set-off for his unrighteousness. But there is no victim there; you must come to own that you cannot remove the distance yourself, and when you take that ground you find that God has removed the distance, and from His own side too: "His own arm hath brought salvation." To illustrate this, suppose a child broke a clock and was told to go to his room until he mended it. Could he mend it? How long would he try to do so? Why, the more he tried the more he would injure it. Then his father comes in and says, "I will mend it myself." Now, this brings out two things: first, the love of the father, who does not like the distance to continue; and secondly, that as the father has mended it himself, he must be satisfied as to the way in which it is done. Thus the grace of God has come in, and God has removed the distance from His own side. He has done it. Every sinner is under the righteous judgment of God, because he has the nature of a sinner. You see it in a baby, the nature shows itself. When God addressed Adam, what did He say? Not "What hast thou done?" but "Where art thou?" Adam hid himself because of what he was; he said, "I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself." God said to the woman, "What is this that thou hast done?" She had believed the lie of the devil when he told her, "Thou shalt not surely die." To man's eye they did not die, but in God's sight from that moment man was morally dead. How slow all our hearts are to accept the place of death!

We will now read Luke 15:24: "This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." You see, it was not only that he was lost, but he was dead too. "The wages of sin is death." The man that is lost and dead must go from before God's sight. Let me ask, Are you going to keep that man, are you going to dress him up and make him important? Never. Christ gave up His life that He might blot out that man from before the eye of God. That man is morally dead, and in the cross of Christ he has come to an end judicially before God.

When the children of Israel walked through the Red Sea they were out of the place of judgment. The first part was done, they were brought out, but not yet in. A person who is not out knows that Christ has died for him, but he is occupied with the difficulties of the way, though he knows that as to the past all is settled for him. But when he is out he is occupied with God, he is able to take up the_ song in Exodus 15, which is all about God, and it could not be otherwise: "Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou hast redeemed."

To return to Luke 15. We have there a parable in three parts, and each one is all about the joy of the finder. The shepherd goes out and seeks his sheep up and down upon the mountains until he finds it; and when he hath found it he bears it in triumph on his shoulders and carries it to the house (not home) rejoicing. The point is not so much the safety of the sheep, but his own joy in finding it: "He calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost." Then you get the woman sweeping the house, and seeking diligently for the lost piece of silver. This is the Spirit of God in the evangelist seeking for everything that belongs to Christ in the world. She too rejoices, and we read, "Likewise I say unto you, there is joy" (not of the angels) but "in the presence of the angels." Now we come to the third. A father has two sons. One of them gathers up all that belongs to him and goes into a far country, and you know the rest.

We find this continually in the history of man, his soul starves, and he tries to satisfy himself with husks. Every man who is saved has been converted against his will. In chapter 14 you find God sending out His servant to compel them to come in, that His house may be filled. Suppose a sovereign saying, "I throw open my gates to the needy," and not only so but he sends out his soldiers to compel them to come in, you would say that is very fine; but the gospel surpasses all this because the spring of all is Love. What makes a man turn to God? The fact that death stares him in the face. No man ever got saved till he knew he was lost. The thief found this out, he turned to the Lord and went to paradise; his body did not go there, the old thing was left on the cross. Of course we get redemption of the body through the work of Christ, but that had not come out yet. When Adam sinned he felt the difference in himself and hid himself among the trees of the garden; he knew what taking the fruit of the tree of good and evil involved. Death came in. What then? God says you must put the blood on, and "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." This we get in Exodus 12. It is a great thing to get hold of the fact as to how God looks at the blood - not how you look at it, but how God looks at it. It is a wonderful thing when a soul learns that God has His eye on the blood of Christ. That gives you shelter, but you are still in the doomed place; you are safe, you can say, "I know I shall not be lost," but you are not happy, you are still in the place of death, and what occupies you is the power of evil. You are not out of Egypt. Now, in chapter 14 you will find that the children of Israel had to walk through the Red Sea before they enjoyed assurance. I do not say acceptance, but the assurance of salvation. You must get assurance before you get acceptance. A man might preach the word of God for years, and study what is called divinity, and yet he may never have learned acceptance. He may have assurance without having acceptance. You will not find acceptance in any book of divinity. You say, Where then can I find it? Where God finds it - in Christ. There is a great difference between assurance and acceptance. God says to Moses, Open the way through the Red Sea, let the waters become a wall on the one side and on the other! It was a wonderful way, but they walked right through, and they could look back upon it as a journey they had taken. I do not believe that anyone can understand what acceptance is unless he possesses it. God Himself has made the way through; I must travel that road. I had death on me, therefore Christ died for me. The fear of death is a right feeling. Look at Hezekiah, how he feared it; he was afraid to lose his body. We all shrink from death. What is to be done? The Lord comes. One born of a woman removes the sin. He bruises the serpent's head. Through death He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil: and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15.) The Lord died. What followed? He "hath abolished death and brought life and incorruptibility [not immortality] to light through the gospel." (2 Tim. 1:10.)

Do not think you can slip easily unto these things. I never knew a bright light shining for God yet without there being previously what I would call a severe conversion. God always begins with the bass note, and He never asks you to sing till you learn that note. Then you get higher. The real practical difficulty with souls is to find out that they have not only got shelter and enjoy a measure of relief, but that God has something infinitely more for them. The ten lepers (Luke 17) were all cured - converted, if you will - but only one of them got to the Curer. The other nine were satisfied with the blessing, and they never reached the Blesser. Immediately the prodigal turns his eyes towards the father's house the father sees him. Now, what I want to know is, not how I feel, but how the Father feels. When the prodigal said, "I will arise and go to my father," he was not far away, he had only to turn the corner. The prodigal felt it a great way off it was the far country to him - but the father quickly ran over the distance. "He ran, and fell on his neck, and covered him with kisses." Now this is a pattern of the grace of God.

"Returning sons He kisses,
And with His robe invests;
His perfect love dismisses
All terror from our breasts."

We have to learn what is in the heart of God for us. In Matthew 27:50-51, we read that the veil was rent the very moment Christ died. God rent it. God's heart was relieved, so to speak, and could come out to man in all the riches of His grace. If you have not got hold of that you can never be really happy. You must see that God can now be just and the Justifier of those who believe in Jesus. What did the prodigal learn when the father ran, and fell on his neck, and covered him with kisses? That his father was on the very best terms with him. And I can tell you here tonight that everything which stood against us has been so removed from God's side that the Father can come out and embrace His son in all his rags. In Matthew 27 God rends the veil and comes out. In Luke 23 the thief goes in. People speak of the thief as if he had something like a death-bed repentance. It was not that at all: he went straight from the cross into paradise. "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise." What I desire to press is that God's heart is set upon blessing us, and how the Father can receive the sheep on the ground of what the One who brought it back has done. And Christ's work on the cross has so removed everything from the eye of God that caused the distance, that He can receive the prodigal, fall upon his neck, and cover him with kisses. That is really what is stated in the original. The translators have given it "kissed him." The elder brother knew nothing of grace, either as to salvation or restoration. I never saw a man yet who was truly restored after a fall who did not get a step higher. No one ever understood fully the heart of God but the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore He meets the poor woman at the well, gives her the living water, and says, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." Not her work, but His. God grant that we may all take a deeper interest in the gospel, that we may know more of His grace, which is bringing many sons to glory, and that each one here may see the nature of acceptance. You may say that you do not enjoy it - that is another thing. Well, if you do not enjoy it, you are entitled to it, and you cannot deny that there are many who do. God has removed everything to His own satisfaction, and you learn in the first eleven verses of Romans 5 the terms He is on with you. It is a great delight to the heart of a sinner saved by grace to know that he is received on the ground of another Man who perfectly glorified God. We are accepted in Him, the Beloved. In Romans 5, from verse 12, it is no longer Adam, but Christ.

The gospel is that God has sent His own Son, and He came and bore the judgment in such a way that man in the flesh is terminated. One man has gone out, and another Man has come in. May God give each heart here to understand the greatness of His grace for His name's sake. J. B. Stoney.

Nothing but what is of Christ can go into heaven, but He is the measure as to everything down here in this world; we are to be like Christ in heaven, and the judgment-seat can approve nothing less down here. J. H. R.