Saviour Jesus Christ

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O, That All Men Would Humble Themselves in the Presence of Our God.

A good Lord’s Day pastime, the following sermon by John Knox is one of the few committed to writing by him. His text is Isaiah 26:13-21. The historical setting of the sermon is explained in this preface:

knoxJohn04“Henry Darnley (king of Scotland by his marriage with queen Mary,) went sometimes to mass with the queen, and sometimes attended the protestant sermons. To silence the rumours then circulated of his having forsaken the reformed religion, he, on the 19th of August, 1565, attended service at St. Giles’s church, sitting on a throne which had been prepared for him. Knox preached that day on Isaiah xxvi.13, 14, and happened to prolong the service beyond the usual time. In one part of the sermon, he quoted these words of scripture, ‘I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them: children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.’ In another part he referred to God’s displeasure against Ahab, because he did not correct his idolatrous wife Jezebel. No particular application of these passages was made by Knox, but the king considered them as reflecting upon the queen and himself, and returned to the palace in great wrath. He refused to dine, and went out to hawking.

That same afternoon Knox was summoned from his bed to appear before the council. He went accompanied by several respectable inhabitants of the city. The secretary informed him of the king’s displeasure at his sermon, and desired that he would abstain from preaching for fifteen or twenty days. Knox answered, that he had spoken nothing but according to his text, and if the church would command him either to preach or abstain, he would obey so far as the word of God would permit him. The king and queen left Edinburgh during the week following, and it does not appear that Knox was actually suspended from preaching.”

The following are Knox’s reasons for the publication of this Sermon, extracted from his preface to the first edition.

“If any will ask, To what purpose this sermon is set forth? I answer, To let such as satan has not altogether blinded, see upon how small occasions great offence is now conceived. This sermon is it, for which, from my bed, I was called before the council; and after long reasoning, I was by some forbidden to preach in Edinburgh, so long as the king and queen were in town. This sermon is it, that so offends such as would please the court, and will not appear to be enemies to the truth; yet they dare affirm, that I exceeded the bounds of God’s messenger. I have therefore faithfully committed unto writing whatsoever I could remember might have been offensive in that sermon; to the end, that the enemies of God’s truth, as well as the professors of the same, may either note unto me wherein I have offended, or at the least cease to condemn me before they have convinced me by God’s manifest word.”

A SERMON ON ISAIAH XXVI.

Isaiah 26:13-16, etc. — O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise; therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish. Thou hast increased the nation, O Lord, thou hast increased the nation, thou art glorified; thou hast removed it far unto the ends of the earth. Lord, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them, &c.

As the skilful mariner (being master,) having his ship tossed with a vehement tempest, and contrary winds, is compelled oft to traverse, lest that, either by too much resisting to the violence of the waves, his vessel might be overwhelmed; or by too much liberty granted, might be carried whither the fury of the tempest would, so that his ship should be driven upon the shore, and make shipwreck; even so doth our prophet Isaiah in this text, which now you have heard read. For he, foreseeing the great desolation that was decreed in the council of the Eternal, against Jerusalem and Judah, namely, that the whole people, that bare the name of God, should be dispersed; that the holy city should be destroyed; the temple wherein was the ark of the covenant, and where God had promised to give his own presence, should be burnt with fire; and the king taken, his sons in his own presence murdered, his own eyes immediately after be put out; the nobility, some cruelly murdered, some shamefully led away captives; and finally, the whole seed of Abraham rased, as it were, from the fate of the earth. The prophet, I say, fearing these horrible calamities, doth, as it were, sometimes suffer himself, and the people committed to his charge, to be carried away with the violence of the tempest, without further resistance than by pouring forth his and their dolorous complaints before the majesty of God, as in the 13th, 17th, and 18th verses of this present text we may read. At other times he valiantly resists the desperate tempest, and pronounces the fearful destruction of all such as trouble the church of God; which he pronounces that God will multiply, even when it appears utterly to be exterminated. But because there is no final rest to the whole body till the Head return to judgment, he exhorts the afflicted to patience, and promises a visitation whereby the wickedness of the wicked shall be disclosed, and finally recompensed in their own bosoms.

These are the chief points of which, by the grace of God, we intend more largely at this present to speak;

First, The prophet saith, “O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have ruled us.”

This, no doubt, is the beginning of the dolorous complaint, in which he complains of the unjust tyranny that the poor afflicted Israelites sustained during the time of their captivity. True it is, that the prophet was gathered to his fathers in peace, before this came upon the people: for a hundred years after his decease the people were not led away captive; yet he, foreseeing the assurance of the calamity, did before-hand indite and dictate unto them the complaint, which afterward they should make. But at the first sight it appears, that the complaint has but small weight; for what new thing was it, that other lords than God in his own person ruled them, seeing that such had been their government from the beginning? For who knows not, that Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, the judges, Samuel, David, and other godly rulers, were men, and not God; and so other lords than God ruled them in their greatest prosperity.

For the better understanding of this complaint, and of the mind of the prophet, we must, first, observe from whence all authority flows; and, secondly, to what end powers are appointed by God: which two points being discussed, we shall better understand, what lords and what authority rule beside God, and who they are in whom God and his merciful presence rules.

The first is resolved to us by the words of the apostle, saying, “There is no power but of God.” David brings in the eternal God speaking to judges and rulers, saying, “I have said, ye are gods, and sons of the Most High.” (Psal. lxxxii.) And Solomon, in the person of God, affirmeth the same, saying, “By me kings reign, and princes discern the things that are just.” From which place it is evident, that it is neither birth, influence of stars, election of people, force of arms, nor finally, whatsoever can be comprehended under the power of nature, that makes the distinction betwixt the superior power and the inferior, or that establishes the royal throne of kings; but it is the only and perfect ordinance of God, who willeth his terror, power, and majesty, partly to shine in the thrones of kings, and in the faces of judges, and that for the profit and comfort of man. So that whosoever would study to deface the order of government that God has established, and allowed by his holy word, and bring in such a confusion, that no difference should be betwixt the upper powers and the subjects, does nothing but avert and turn upside down the very throne of God, which he wills to be fixed here upon earth; as in the end and cause of this ordinance more plainly shall appear: which is the second point we have to observe, for the better understanding of the prophet’s words and mind.

The end and cause then, why God imprints in the weak and feeble flesh of man this image of his own power and majesty, is not to puff up flesh in opinion of itself; neither yet that the heart of him, that is exalted above others, should be lifted up by presumption and pride, and so despise others; but that he should consider he is appointed lieutenant to One, whose eyes continually watch upon him, to see and examine how he behaves himself in his office. St. Paul, in few words, declares the end wherefore the sword is committed to the powers, saying, “It is to the punishment of the wicked doers, and unto the praise of such as do well.” Rom. xiii.

Of which words it is evident, that the sword of God is not committed to the hand of man, to use as it pleases him, but only to punish vice and maintain virtue, that men may live in such society as is acceptable before God. And this is the true and only cause why God has appointed powers in this earth.

For such is the furious rage of man’s corrupt nature, that, unless severe punishment were appointed and put in execution upon malefactors, better it were that man should live among brutes and wild beasts than among men. But at this present I dare not enter into the description of this common-place; for so should I not satisfy the text, which by God’s grace I purpose to explain. This only by the way — I would that such as are placed in authority should consider, whether they reign and rule by God, so that God rules them; or if they rule without, besides, and against God, of whom our prophet hero complains.

If any desire to take trial of this point, it is not hard; for Moses, in the election of judges, and of a king, describes not only what persons shall be chosen to that honour, but also gives to him that is elected and chosen, the rule by which he shall try himself, whether God reign in him or not, saying, “When he shall sit upon the throne of his kingdom, he shall write to himself an exemplar of this law, in a book by the priests and Levites; it shall be with him, and he shall lead therein, all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, and to keep all the words of his law, and these statutes, that he may do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left.” Deut. xvii.

The same is repeated to Joshua, in his inauguration to the government of the people, by God himself, saying, “Let not the book of this law depart from thy mouth, but meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest keep it, and do according to all that which is written in it. For then shall thy way be prosperous, and thou shall do prudently.” Josh. i.

The first thing then that God requires of him, who is called to the honour of a king, is, The knowledge of his will revealed in his word.

The second is, An upright and willing mind, to put in execution such things as God commands in his law, without declining to the right, or to the left hand.

Kings then have not an absolute power, to do in their government what pleases them, but their power is limited by God’s word; so that if they strike where God has not commanded, they are but murderers; and if they spare where God has commanded to strike, they and their throne are criminal and guilty of the wickedness which abounds upon the face of the earth, for lack of punishment.

O that kings and princes would consider what account shall be craved of them, as well of their ignorance and misknowledge of God’s will, as for the neglecting of their office! But now, to return to the words of the prophet. In the person of the whole people he complains unto God, that the Babylonians (whom he calls, “other lords besides God,” both because of their ignorance of God, and by reason of their cruelty and inhumanity,) had long ruled over them in great rigour, without pity or compassion upon the ancient men, and famous matrons: for they, being mortal enemies to the people of God, sought by all means to aggravate their yoke, yea, utterly to exterminate the memory of them, and of their religion, from the face of the earth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Not a sermon for this Lord’s Day, but rather a testimony, this is one of Dr. Machen’s lesser known works. This brief testimony, titled “My Idea of God,” appeared in a book of the same name, a gathering of statements largely philosophical, which only served to make Machen’s testimony stand out all the more.

Editor’s preface:—

machen02JOHN GRESHAM MACHEN was born in Baltimore in 1881. After graduating from Johns Hopkins and Princeton Universities and the Princeton Theological Seminary, he studied in Marburg and Gottingen Universities, and was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1914. Since 1914 he has been associate professor of New Testament literature in Princeton Seminary, doing work betimes with the French Army and the A.E.F., in France and Belgium, during the World War.

Besides textbooks of Greek and many articles in reviews, Dr. Machen has written two books of unusual quality for general readers, Christianity and Liberalism (in which he holds that liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all, but a confection of modern theories exactly opposed to the Christian faith, with which there can be neither compromise nor unity) and What Is Faith? which inspired an extraordinary symposium in The British Weekly.

In the recent discussion which has agitated the Churches – now happily subsiding – Dr. Machen was the outstanding exponent of the conservative attitude, adding to a vital mind a lucid logic and a cogent style which left no shadow upon his meaning. His essay has value equally for its directness and its sincerity.


MY IDEA OF GOD

by J. GRESHAM MACHEN, D.D. PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

IF my idea of God were really mine, if it were one which I had evolved out of my own inner consciousness, I should attribute very little importance to it myself, and should certainly expect even less importance to be attributed to it by others. If God is merely a fact of human experience, if theology is merely a branch of psychology, then I for my part shall cease to be interested in the subject at all. The only God about whom I can feel concerned is one who has objective existence, an existence independent of man.

But if there be such a really and independently existent Being, it seems extremely unlikely that there can be any knowledge of Him unless He chooses to reveal Himself: a divine Being that could be discovered apart from revelation would be either a mere name for an aspect of man’s nature – the feeling of reverence or loyalty or the like – or else, if possessing objective existence, a mere passive thing that would submit to human investigation like the substances that are analyzed in the laboratory. And in either case it would seem absurd to apply to such a Being the name of “God.”

A really existent God, then, if He be more than merely passive, if He be a living God, can be known only through

His revelation of Himself. And it is extremely unlikely that such revelation should have come to me alone. I reject, therefore, the whole subjectivizing tendency in religion that is so popular at the present time – the whole notion that faith is merely an “adventure” of the individual man. On the contrary, I am on the search for some revelation of God that has come to other men as well as to me, and that has come into human life, not through a mere analysis of human states of consciousness but distinctly from the outside. Such revelation I find in the Christian religion.

The idea of God, therefore, which I shall here endeavor to summarize is simply the Christian idea. I have indeed been enabled to make it my own; I love it with all my heart; but I should not love it if I thought that it had been discovered merely in the depths of my own soul. On the contrary, the very thing that I love about it is that it comes to me with an external authority which I hold to be the authority of God Himself.

At this point, however, there will no doubt be an objection. We have spoken about the knowledge of God; but in reality the knowledge of God, it is often said, is unnecessary to our contact with Him, or at least it occupies merely a secondary place, as the symbolic and necessarily changing expression of an experience which in itself is ineffable. Such depre-. ciation of knowledge in the sphere of religion has been widely prevalent in the modern world, and at no time has it been more prevalent than now. It underlies the mysticism of Schleiermacher and his many successors; it underlies the Ritschlian rejection of “metaphysics”; it underlies the popular exaltation of “abiding experiences” at the expense of the mental categories in which they are supposed to be expressed; and in general it is at the roots of the entire separation between religion and theology, experience and doctrine, faith and knowledge, which is so marked a characteristic of the religious teaching of the present day.

In opposition to this entire tendency, I for my part must still insist upon the primacy of the intellect. It may seem strange that the intellect should have to be defended by one who has so slight an experimental acquaintance with it as I; but reason in our days has been deposed from her queenly throne by pragmatism the usurper, and, wandering in exile as she does, cannot be too critical of any humble persons who rally to her defense. And, as a matter of fact, the passionate anti-intellectualism of the present age is having its natural fruit in a lamentable intellectual as well as moral decline. Such decadence can be checked – I, for my part, believe – only by a reemphasis upon truth as distinguished from practice, and in particular only by a return from all anti-intellectual mysticism or positivism to the knowledge of God.

Certainly, unless our contact with God is based upon knowledge of Him it ceases to possess any moral quality at all. Pure feeling is non-moral; what makes my affection for a human friend, for example, such an ennobling thing is the knowledge which I possess of the character of my friend. So it is also with our relation to God: religion is moral and personal only if it is based upon truth.

If then, in order that there may be a moral and personal relation to God, there must be knowledge of Him, how may that knowledge be attained? I have no new ways to suggest: the only ways of knowing God which I can detect are found in nature, in conscience, and in the Bible.

God is revealed, I hold, in the first place through the things that He has made. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” This revelation of God through nature is commonly called – or used to be commonly called – “natural religion.” And natural religion is by no means altogether dead. Modern men of science, if they be thoughtful, admit that there is a mystery in the presence of which the wisdom of the wisest men is dumb; the true man of science stands at length before a curtain that is never lifted, a mystery that rebukes all pride. But this revelation through nature is far richer than many men of science suppose; in reality it presents to us not merely a blank mystery, but the mighty God. The revelation comes to different men in different ways. For example, when I viewed the spectacle of the total eclipse of the sun at New Haven on the twenty-fourth of January I925, I was confirmed in my theism. Such phenomena make us conscious of the wonderful mechanism of the universe, as we ought to be conscious of it every day; at such moments anything like materialism seems to be but a very pitiful and very unreasonable thing. I am no astronomer, but of one thing I was certain: when the strange, slow-moving shadow was gone, and the world was bathed again in the wholesome light of day, I knew that the sun, despite its vastness, was made for us personal beings and not we for the sun, and that it was made for us personal beings by the living God.

In the second place, God is revealed by His voice within us. I am perfectly well aware that that voice is not always heard. Conscience has fallen on evil days: it is drowned by a jargon of psychological terms; it is supposed to be rendered unnecessary by an all-embracing network of legislative enactments.

The categories of guilt and retribution are in many quarters thought to be out of date, and scientific sociology is substituted for the distinction between right and wrong. But I for my part am not favorably impressed with the change; self-interest seems to me to be but a feeble substitute for the moral law, and its feebleness, despite bureaucratic regulation of the details of human life and despite scientific study both of individual human behavior and of the phenomena of human society, seems to be becoming evident in an alarming moral decline. The raging sea of passion cannot, I think, be kept back permanently by the flimsy mud embankments of utilitarianism; but recourse may again have to be had to the solid masonry of the law of God.

In the third place, God is revealed in the Bible. He is revealed in the Bible in a way which is entirely distinct from those ways that have just been mentioned. The Bible tells us things about God of which no slightest hint is found either in nature or in conscience. Of those things we shall speak in a moment.

But first it should be observed that, in addition to that fresh information, the Bible also confirms the revelation which has already been given. The confirmation is certainly necessary; for the revelation of God both in nature and in conscience has been sadly obscured. In comparing the fortieth chapter of Isaiah or the first verse of Genesis or the teaching of Jesus with the feeble and hesitant theism which is the highest that philosophy has to offer, and in comparing the unaided voice of conscience with the fifty-first Psalm or the searching law presented in the Sermon on the Mount, one feels that in the Bible a veil has been removed from the eyes of men. The facts were already there, and also the gift of human reason for the apprehension of them; but the light of reason somehow was obscured until in the Bible men were enabled to see what they ought to have seen before.

Thus, in these three ways there is attained, I hold, a genuine and objective knowledge of God. Certainly that knowledge does not remove the feeling of wonder which is dear to the mystic’s heart. Indeed, it ought to accentuate that feeling a thousandfold. There is nothing in the knowledge of God which should stifle, but everything which should awaken, the “numinous” quality in religion of which Otto speaks. God has gently pulled aside the curtain which veils His Being from the gaze of men, but the look thus granted beyond only reveals anew the vastness of the unknown. If a man’s knowledge of God removes his sense of wonder in the presence of the Eternal, then he has not yet known as he ought to know.

Yet partial knowledge is not necessarily false, and there are certain things which are known about God.

At the very centre of those things stands that which is most often denied to-day; the very centre and core of Christian belief is found in the awful transcendence of God, the awful separateness between God and the world. That is denied by modern men in the interests of what is called, by a perversion of a great truth, the “immanence” of God. We will have nothing to do – men say – with the far-off God of historic theology; instead we will worship a God who exists only in and with the world, a God whose life is found only in that life which pulsates through the life of every one of us. Pantheism, in other words, is substituted for theism, on the ground that it brings God nearer to man.

But has it really the desired effect? I, for my part, think not. Far from bringing God nearer to man, the pantheism of our day really pushes Him very far off; it brings Him physically near, but at the same time makes Him spiritually remote; it conceives of Him as a sort of blind vital force, but ceases to regard Him as a Person whom a man can love. Destroy the free personality of God and the possibility of fellowship with Him is gone; we cannot love a God of whom we are parts.

Thus, I for my part cling with all my heart to what are called the metaphysical attributes of God – His infinity and omnipotence and creatorhood. The finite God of Mr. H.G. Wells seems to me to be but a curious product of a modern mythology; He is to my mind not God, but a god; and in the presence of all such imaginings I am obliged to turn, very humbly but very resolutely, toward the dread, stupendous mystery of the Infinite, and say with Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”

This devotion to the so-called metaphysical attributes of God is unpopular at the present day. There are many who tell us that we ought to cease to be interested in the question how the world was made, or what will be our fate when we pass through the dark portals of death. Instead, we are told, we ought to worship a God who is not powerful but merely good. Such is the “ethical theism” of Dr. McGiffert and many others; Jesus, it seems, was quite wrong in the stress that He undoubtedly laid upon the doctrine of heaven and hell and the sovereignty of God. We moderns, it seems, can find a higher, disinterested worship – far higher than that of Jesus – in reverence for goodness divested of the vulgar trappings of power.

It sounds noble at first. But consider it for a moment, and its glory turns to ashes and leaves us in despair. What is meant by a goodness that has not physical power? Is not “goodness” in itself the merest abstraction? Is it not altogether without meaning except as belonging to a person? And does not the very notion of a person involve the power to act? Goodness divorced from power is therefore no goodness at all. The truth is that overmuch abstraction has here destroyed even that which is intended to be conserved. Make God good and not powerful, and both God and goodness have been destroyed.

In the presence of all such abstractions, the heart of man turns with new longing to the Living and Holy God, to the God who is revealed in nature, in the dread voice of conscience, and in the Bible. But as one turns to such a God, there is no comfort but only despair; the whole human race is separated from God by an awful abyss. Strange indeed, to us Christians, seems the complacency of the world; the very root of our religion is found in the consciousness of sin.

But at that point, on the basis of such presuppositions, there comes the really distinctive revelation that the Bible contains. It is not a revelation of things that already were true, but the explanation of an act. The Christian religion is based not merely upon permanent truths of religion, but upon things that happened in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago; it is based not merely upon knowledge of what God is, but also on a record of what God did. Into our sinful world – the Christian holds – there came in God’s good time a Divine Redeemer.

His coming, marked by a stupendous miracle, was a voluntary act of condescension and love. During the days of His flesh, He proclaimed by His word and example the law of God. He proclaimed it in a new and terrible way that of itself could only deepen our despair. But with His proclamation of’ the law there went His proclamation of the gospel; with His pronouncement of the Divine judgment upon sin there went His offer of Himself as Saviour. When that offer was received in faith, there was not only cure of bodily ills, but also forgiveness in the presence of God.

At first faith was implicit; men trusted themselves to Jesus without fully knowing how it was that He could save. But even while He was on earth He pointed forward with ever increasing clearness to the redeeming work which He had come into the world to do. And at last, on the cross, that work was done. The Divine Saviour and Lord, for the love wherewith He loved us, bore all the guilt of our sins, made white and clean the dark page of our account, and reconciled us to God. There is the centre of our religion. But how pitiful are my words! I may perhaps make men understand what we think, yet I can never quite make them sympathize with what we feel. The holy and righteous God, the dreadful guilt and uncleanness of sin, the wonder of God’s grace in the gift of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the entrance through Christ into the very house of God, the new birth by the power of God’s Spirit, the communion with the risen and ascended Lord through His Holy Spirit present in the Christian’s heart – these are the convictions upon which rest our very lives.

If these convictions are false, they must be given up. But so long as we think them true we must act in accord with them, and it is morally wrong to ask us to do otherwise. At this point appears the profoundly unethical character of most of the proposals for Church union that are being made at the present day. The right way to combat us who call ourselves evangelical Christians is to combat honestly and openly our central convictions as to God and sin and redemption, not to ask us to hold those convictions and then act contrary to them. So long as we think as we do, we cannot, if we love our fellow men, allow them, so far as our testimony is concerned, to remain satisfied with the coldness of what we regard as a baseless and fatal optimism. We must endeavor, by the preaching of the law of God and of the gospel of His love, to bring them into the warmth and joy of the household of faith.

[This work by Dr. J. Gresham Machen was first issued as a chapter in the book, My Idea of God, published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1927, and appeared on pages 39 – 50 of that volume.] To view or download a PDF of this work, click here.

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Another entry from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway:

Sabbath, January 12, 1806.
This day I was assisted, I trust, in preaching on the words, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” [Luke 18:13].  I pray it may do good. But I had not that sense of Divine presence, and sweet relish of Divine truth which I wish, whenever I ascend the sacred desk. I lamented my coldness in prayer, and besought Divine assistance.

Taking that lead provided by Rev. Janeway, and lacking a sermon for this date by any Presbyterian, we turn instead for our Lord’s Day sermon to a good friend from among the Baptists, the Rev. C.H. Spurgeon:—

A Sermon for the Worst Man on Earth : A sermon delivered on the Lord’s Day morning, 20 February 1886.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” Luke 18:13.

It was the fault of the Pharisee that though he went up into the Temple to pray, he did not pray. There is no prayer in all that he said. It is one excellence of the publican that he went up to the Temple to pray and he did pray—there is nothing but prayer in all that he said. “God be merciful to me a sinner” is a pure, unadulterated prayer throughout! It was the fault of the Pharisee that when he went up to the Temple to pray, he forgot an essential part of prayer which is confession of sinhe spoke as if he had no sins to confess, but many virtues to parade. It was a chief excellence in the devotion of the publican that he did confess his sin, yes, that his utterance was full of confession of sin! From beginning to end it was an acknowledgment of his guilt and an appeal for Grace to the merciful God. The prayer of the publican is admirable for its fullness of meaning. An expositor calls it a holy telegram—and certainly it is so compact and so condensed, so free from superfluous words—that it is worthy to be called by that name. I do not see how he could have expressed his meaning more fully or more briefly. In the original Greek the words are even fewer than in the English. Oh, that men would learn to pray with less of language and more of meaning! What great things are packed away in this short petition! God, mercy, sin, the propitiation and forgiveness!

He speaks of great matters—trifles are not thought of! He has nothing to do with fasting twice in the week, or the paying of tithes and such second-rate things. The matters he treats of are of a higher order. His trembling heart moves among sublimities which overcome him and he speaks in tones consistent therewith. He deals with the greatest things that ever can be—he pleads for his life, his soul! Where could he find themes more weighty, more vital to his eternal in- terests? He is not playing at prayer, but pleading in awful earnest. His supplication speeded well with God and he speedily won his suit with Heaven. Mercy granted to him full justification! The prayer so pleased the Lord Jesus Christ, who heard it, that He condescended to become a portrait painter and took a sketch of the petitioner. I say the prayer in itself was so pleasing to the gracious Savior that He tells us how it was offered—“Standing afar off, he would not lift up so much as his eyes unto Heaven, but smote upon his breast.” Luke, who, according to tradition, was somewhat of an artist as well as a physician, takes great care to place this picture in the national portrait gallery of men saved by Sovereign Grace. Here we have the portrait of a man who called himself a sinner who may still be held up as a pattern to saints! I am glad to have the Divine sketch of this man, that I may see the bodily form of his devotion. I am more glad, still, to have his prayer, that we may look into the very soul of his pleading.

My heart’s desire this morning is that many here may seek mercy of the Lord as this publican did—and go down to their houses justified! I ask no man to use the same words. Let no man attach a superstitious value to them. Alas, this prayer has been used flippantly, foolishly and almost looked upon as a sort of charm! Some have said—“We may live as we like, for we have only to say, ‘God be merciful to me,’ when we are dying, and all will be well.” This is a wicked mis- use of Gospel Truth! Yes, it turns it into a lie! If you choose thus to pervert the Grace of the Gospel to your own destruc- tion, your blood must be on your own heads! You may not have space given you in which to breathe out even this brief sentence, or, if you have, the words may not come from your heart and so you may die in your sins. I pray you, do not thus presume upon the forbearance of God! But, if with the publican’s heart, we can take the publican’s attitude. If with the publican’s spirit we can use the publican’s words, then there will follow a gracious acceptance and we shall go home justified. If such is the case, there will be grand times today, for angels will rejoice over sinners reconciled to God and made to know in their own souls the boundless mercy of the Lord!

In preaching upon the text, I shall endeavor to bring out its innermost spirit. May we be taught of the Spirit so that we may learn four lessons from it!

I.  The first is this—the fact of sinnership is no reason for despair. You need, none of you, say, “I am guilty and, therefore, I may not approach God. I am so greatly guilty that it would be too daring a thing for me to ask for mercy.” Dismiss such thoughts at once! My text and a thousand other arguments forbid despair.

For, first, this man who was a sinner yet dared to approach the Lord. According to our version, he said, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” but a more accurate rendering is that which the Revised Version puts in the margin—the sinner.” He meant to say that he was emphatically the sinner. The Pharisee yonder was the saint of his age, but this publican who stood afar off from the holy place was the sinner. If there was not another sinner in the world, he was one—and in a world of sinners he was a prominent offender—the sinner of sinners! Emphatically he applies to himself the guilty name. He takes the chief place in condemnation and yet he cries, “God be merciful to me the sinner.”

Now if you know yourself to be a sinner, you may plead with God, but if you mourn that you are not only a sinner, but the sinner with the definite article—the sinner above all others—you may still hope in the mercy of the Lord. The worst, the most profane, the most horrible of sinners may venture, as this man did, to approach the God of mercy! I know that it looks like a daring action and, therefore, you must do it by faith. On any other footing but that of faith in the mercy of God, you who are a sinner may not dare to approach the Lord lest you be found guilty of presumption. But with your eyes on mercy, you may be bravely trustful. Believe in the great mercy of God and though your sins are abun- dant, you will find that the Lord will abundantly pardon! Though they blot your character, the Lord will blot them out! Though they are red like crimson, yet the precious blood of Jesus will make you whiter than snow!

This story of the Pharisee and the publican is intended as an encouraging example to you. If this man who was the sinner found forgiveness, so shall you, also, if you seek it in the same way. One sinner has speeded so well—why should not you? Come and try for yourself and see if the Lord does not prove in your case that His mercy endures forever.

Next, remember that you may not only find encouragement in looking at the sinner who sought his God, but in the God whom he sought. Sinner, there is great mercy in the heart of God. How often did that verse ring out as a chorus in the temple song—

For His mercy shall endure
Ever faithful, ever sure!”

Mercy is a specially glorious attribute of Jehovah, the living God. He is “the Lord God, merciful and gracious.” He is “slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.” Do you not see how this should cheer you? Sinners are necessary if mercy is to be indulged! How can the Lord display His mercy except to the guilty? Goodness is for creatures, but mercy is for sinners! Towards unfallen creatures there may be love, but there cannot be mercy. Angels are not fit recipients of mercy. They do not require it, for they have not transgressed. Mercy comes into exercise after Law has been broken, not till then. Among the attributes, it is the last which found scope for itself. So to speak, it is the Benjamin and the darling attribute of God—“He delights in mercy.” Only to a sinner can God be merciful. Do you hear this, you sinner? Be sure that you catch at it! If there is boundless mercy in the heart of God and it can only exercise itself towards the guilty, then you are the man to have it, for you are a guilty one! Come, then, and let His mercy wrap you about like a garment this day and cover all your shame. Does not God’s delight in mercy prove that sinnership is no reason for despair?

Moreover, the conception of salvation implies hope for sinners. That salvation which we preach to you every day is glad tidings for the guilty. Salvation by Grace implies that men are guilty. Salvation means not the reward of the right- eous, but the cleansing of the unrighteous. Salvation is meant for the lost, the ruined, the undone! And the blessings which it brings of pardoning mercy and cleansing Grace must be intended for the guilty and polluted. “The whole need not a physician.” The physician has his eyes upon the sick. Alms are for the poor, bread is for the hungry, pardon is for the guilty. O you that are guilty, you are the men that Mercy seeks after! You were in God’s eyes when He sent His Son into the world to save sinners! From the very first inception of redemption to the completion of it, the eyes of the great God were set on the guilty—not on the deserving! The very name of Jesus tells us that He shall save His people from their sins.

Let me further say that inasmuch as that salvation of God is a great one, it must have been intended to meet great sins. O Sirs, would Christ have shed the blood of His heart for some trifling, venial sins which your tears could wash away? Do you think God would have given His dear Son to die as a mere superfluity? If sin had been a small matter, a little sacrifice would have sufficed. Do you think that the Divine Atonement was made only for small offenses? Did Jesus die for little sins and leave the great ones unatoned for? No, the Lord God measured the greatness of our sin and found it high as Heaven, deep as Hell and broad as the infinite and, therefore, He gave so great a Savior. He gave His only-begotten Son, an infinite Sacrifice, an immeasurable Atonement. With such throes and pangs of death as never can be fully described, the Lord Jesus poured out His soul in unknown sufferings that He might provide a great salvation for the greatest of sinners. See Jesus on the Cross and learn that all manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men! The fact of salvation and of a great salvation, ought to drive away the very notion of despair from every heart that hears of it! Salvation, that is for me, for I am lost! A great salvation, that is for me, for I am the greatest of sinners! Oh, hear my word this day! It is God’s Word of love and it rings out like a silver bell! O my beloved Hearers, I weep over you and yet I feel like singing all the time, for I am sent to proclaim salvation from the Lord for the very worst of you!

The Gospel is especially, definitely and distinctly addressed to sinners. Listen to it—“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The Gospel is like a letter directed in a clear and legible hand—and if you will read its direction, you will find that it runs thus—“To the Sinner.” O Sinners, the word of this salvation is sent to you! If you are a sinner, you are the very man for whom the Gospel is intended and I do not mean, by this, a merely complimentary nominal sinner, but an out-and-out rebel, a transgressor against God and man! O Sinner, seize upon the Gospel with joyful eagerness and cry unto God for mercy at once!—

“’Twas for sinners that He suffered Agonies unspeakable! Can you doubt you are a sinner? If you can—then hope, farewell. But, believing what is written— ‘All are guilty’—‘dead in sin’ Looking to the Crucified One, Hope shall rise your soul within.”

If you will think of it again, there must be hope for sinners, for the great commands of the Gospel are most suitable to sinners. Hear, for instance, this Word of God—“Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Who can repent but the guilty? Who can be converted but those who are on the wrong track and, therefore, need to be turned? The following text is evidently addressed to those who are good for nothing—“Let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” The very word, “repent,” indicates that it is addressed to those who have sinned—let it beckon you to mercy!

Then you are bid to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, salvation by faith must be for guilty men, for the way of life for the innocent is by perseverance in good works. The Law says, “This do, and live.” The Gospel talks of salvation by believing because it is the only way possible for those who have broken the Law and are condemned by it. Salvation is of faith that it might be by Grace. Believe and live! Believe and live! Believe and live! This is the jubilee note of the trumpet of Free Grace. Oh, that you would know the joyful sound and thus be blessed! Oh, that you that are sinful would hear the call as addressed to you in particular! You are up to your necks in the mire of sin, but a mighty hand is stretched out to deliver you. “Repent and believe the Gospel!”

If you need any other argument—and I hope you do not—I would put it thus—great sinners have been saved. All sorts of sinners are being saved today. What wonders some of us have seen! What wonders have been worked in this Tabernacle! A man was heard at a Prayer Meeting pleading in louder tones than usual. He was a sailor and his voice was pitched to the tune of the roaring billows. A lady whispered to her friend, “Is that Captain F_______?” “Yes” said the other, “why do you ask?” “Because,” said she, “the last time I heard that voice, its swearing made my blood run cold! The man’s oaths were terrible beyond measure. Can it be the same man?” Someone observed, “Go and ask him.” The lady timidly said, “Are you the same Captain F_______ that I heard swearing in the street, outside my house?” “Well,” he said, “I am the same person, and yet, thank God, I am not the same!” O Brothers and Sisters, such were some of us, but we are washed, we are sanctified! Wonders of Divine Grace belong to God!

I was reading the other day a story of an old shepherd who had never attended a place of worship, but when he had grown gray and was near to die, he was drawn by curiosity into the Methodist chapel, and all was new to him. Hard-hearted old fellow as he was, he was noticed to shed tears during the sermon. He had obtained a glimpse of hope. He saw that there was mercy even for him! He laid hold on eternal life at once! The surprise was great when he was seen at the chapel and greater still when, on the Monday night, he was seen at the Prayer Meeting—yes, and heard at the Prayer Meeting, for he fell down on his knees and praised God that he had found mercy! Do you wonder that the Methodists shouted, “Bless the Lord”? Wherever Christ is preached, the most wicked of men and women are made to sit at the Savior’s feet, “clothed, and in their right minds.” My Hearer, why should it not be so with you? At any rate, we have full proof of the fact that sinnership is no reason for despair.

II.  I must now advance to my second observation—a sense of sinnership confers no right to mercy. You will wonder why I mention this self-evident truth, but I must mention it because of a common error which does great mischief. This man was very sensible of his sin insomuch that he called himself, the sinner, but he did not urge his sense of sin as any reason why he should find mercy. There is an ingenuity in the heart of man, nothing less than devilish, by which he will, if he can, turn the Gospel, itself, into a yoke of bondage. If we preach to sinners that they may come to Christ in all their anguish and misery, one cries—“I do not feel myself to be a sinner as I ought to feel it! I have not felt those convictions of which you speak and, therefore, I cannot come to Jesus!” This is a horrible twist of our meaning! We never meant to insinuate that convictions and doubts and despondencies conferred upon men a claim to mercy, or were necessary preparations for Grace. I want you, therefore, to learn that a sense of sin gives no man a right to Divine Grace.

If a deep sense of sin entitled men to mercy, it would be a turning of this parable upside down. Do you dream that this publican was, after all, a Pharisee differently dressed? Do you imagine that he really meant to plead, “God be merciful to me because I am humble and lowly”? Did he say in his heart, “Lord, have mercy upon me because I am not a Pharisee and am deeply despondent on account of my evil ways”? This would prove that he was, in his heart of hearts, a Pharisee! If you make a righteousness out of your feelings, you are just as much out of the true way as if you made a righteousness out of your works. Whether it is work or feeling, anything which is relied upon as a claim for Grace is an antichrist! You are no more to be saved because of your conscious miseries than because of your conscious merits! There is no virtue either in the one or in the other. If you make a Savior of convictions, you will be lost as surely as if you made a Savior out of ceremonies! The publican trusted in Divine Mercy and not in his own convictions. And you must do the same.

To imagine that an awful sense of sin constituted a claim upon mercy would be like giving a premium to great sin. Certain seekers think, “I have never been a drunk, or a swearer, or unchaste, but I almost wish I had been, that I might feel myself to be the chief of sinners and so might come to Jesus.” Do not wish anything so atrocious! There is no good in sin in any shape or fashion! Thank God if you have been kept from the grosser forms of vice. Do not imagine that repentance is easier when sin is grosser—the reverse is true. Do believe that there is no advantage in having been a horrible offender. You have sins enough—to be worse would not be better. If good works do not help you, certainly bad works do not! You that have been moral and excellent should cry for mercy and not be so silly as to dream that greater sins would help you to readier repentance! Come as you are and if your heart is hard, confess it as one of your greatest sins. A deeper sense of sin would not entitle you to the mercy of God—you can have no title to mercy but that which mercy gives you. Could your tears flow forever—could your grief know no respite—you would have no claim upon the Sovereign Grace of God, who will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

Then, dear Friends, remember, if we begin to preach to sinners that they must have a certain sense of sin and a cer- tain measure of conviction, such teaching would turn the sinner away from God in Christ to himself. The man begins at once to say, “Have I a broken heart? Do I feel the burden of sin?” This is only another form of looking to self. Man must not look to himself to find reasons for God’s Grace. The remedy does not lie in the seat of the disease—it lies in the Physician’s hands. A sense of sin is not a claim, but a gift of that blessed Savior who is exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins. Beware of any teaching which makes you look to yourself for help! You must, rather, cling to that doctrine which makes you look only to Christ! Whether you know it or not, you are a lost, ruined sinner, only fit to be cast into the flames of Hell forever. Confess this, but do not ask to be driven mad by a sense of it. Come to Jesus just as you are and do not wait for a preparation made out of your own miseries. Look to Jesus and to Him alone.

If we fall into the notion that a certain sense of sin has a claim upon God, we shall be putting salvation upon other grounds than that of faith—and that would be false ground. Now, the ground of salvation is—“God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” A simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the way of salvation! But to say, “I shall be saved because I am horribly convicted of sin and driven to desperation,” is not to speak like the Gospel, but to rave out of the pride of an unbelieving heart. The Gospel is that you believe in Christ Jesus; that you get right out of yourself and depend alone on Him! Do you say, “I feel so guilty”? You are certainly guilty, whether you feel it or not! And you are far more guilty than you have any idea of. Come to Christ because you are guilty, not because you have been prepared to come by looking at your guilt! Trust nothing of your own, not even your sense of need. A man may have a sense of disease a long time before he will get healing out of it. The looking-glass of conviction reveals the spots on our face, but it cannot wash them away. You cannot fill your hands by putting them into your empty pocket and feeling how empty it is! It would be far wiser to hold them out and receive the gold which your friend so freely gives you. “God be merciful to me a sinner” is the right way to put it, but not, “God be merciful to me because I sufficiently feel my sinnership, and most fittingly bewail it.”

III.  My third observation is this—the knowledge of their sinnership guides men to right action. When a man has learned of the Holy Spirit that he is a sinner, then by a kind of instinct of the new life, he does the right thing in the right way. This publican had not often been to the Temple and had not learned the orthodox way of behaving. It is easy to learn how we all do it nowadays in our temples—take off your hat, hold it in front of your face and read the maker’s name and address! Then sit down and, at the proper moment, bend forward and cover your eyes and, furthermore, stand up when the rest of the congregation does. People get to do this just as if they were wound up by machinery—yet they do not pray when they are supposed to be praying, nor bow before the Lord when worship is being offered.

This publican is out of rank! He does not follow the rubric. He has gestures of his own. First, instead of coming for- ward, he stands afar off. He does not dare to come where that most respectable person, the Pharisee, is displaying himself, for he does not feel worthy. He leaves space between himself and God, an opening for a Mediator, room for an Advocate, place for an Intercessor to interpose between himself and the Throne of the Most High! Wise man, thus, to stand afar off! For by this means he could safely draw near in the Person of Jesus. Furthermore, he would not lift so much as his eyes to Heaven. It seems natural to lift up your hands in prayer, but he would not even lift his eyes. The uplifting of the eyes is very proper, is it not? But it was still more proper for “the sinner” not to lift his eyes. His downcast eyes meant much.

Our Lord does not say that he could not lift up his eyes, but he would not. He could look up, for he did in spirit look up as he cried, “God be merciful to me.” But he would not because it seemed indecorous for eyes like his to peer into the Heaven where dwells the holy God. Meanwhile, the penitent publican kept smiting upon his breast. The original does not say that he smote upon his breast once, but he smote and smote again! It was a continuous act. He seemed to say—“Oh, this wicked heart!” He would smite it. Again and again he expressed his intense grief by this Oriental gesture, for he did not know how else to set forth his sorrow. His heart had sinned and he smote it! His eyes had led him astray and he made them look down to the earth. And as he, himself, had sinned by living far off from God, he banished himself far from the manifest Presence.

Every gesture and posture is significant and yet all came spontaneously. He had no book of directions how to behave himself in the House of God, but his sincerity guided him. If you want to know how to behave yourselves as penitents, be penitents. The best rubrics of worship are those which are written on broken hearts. I have heard of a minister who was said to cry in the wrong place in his sermons—and it was found afterwards that he had written in the margin of his manuscript, “Weep here.” His audience could not see the reason for his artificial moisture. It must have had a ludicrous effect. In religion everything artificial is ridiculous, or worse! But Grace in the heart is the best “master of the ceremo- nies.” He who prays aright with his heart will not much err with foot, hand, or head. If you would know how to approach God, confess yourself a sinner and so take your true place before the God of Truth—throw yourself on Divine Mercy and thus place God in His true position as your Judge and Lord.

Observe that this man, even under the weight of conscious sin, was led aright, for he went straight away to God. A sense of sin without faith drives us from God, but a sense of sin with faith draws us immediately to God. He came to God alone. He felt that it would be of no avail to confess his fault to a mortal, or to look for absolution from a man. He did not resort to the priest of the Temple, but to the God of the Temple! He did not ask to speak to the good and learned man, the Pharisee, who stood on the same floor with him. His Enquiry Room was the secret of his own soul and he en- quired of the Lord. He ran straight away to God, who alone was able to help. And when he opened his mouth, it was, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” That is what you have to do, my dear Hearer, if you would be saved—you must go distinctly and immediately to God in Christ Jesus. Forget all things else and say, with the returning prodigal, “I will arise and go to my Father.” None but God can help us out of our low estate! No mercy but the mercy of God can serve our turn and none can give us that mercy but the God of Mercy! Let every broken-down sinner come to his God, against whom he has offended.

The publican did not look round on his fellow worshippers—he was too much absorbed in his own grief of heart. Especially is it noteworthy that he had no remarks to make upon the Pharisee. He did not denounce the pride, or the hypocrisy, or the hard-heartedness of the professor who so offensively looked down upon him. He did not return contempt for contempt, as we are all too apt to do. No, he dealt with the Lord alone in the deep sincerity of his own heart—and it was well. My Hearer, when will you do the same? When will you cease to censure others and reserve your severity for yourself, your critical observations for your own conduct?

When he came to God, it was with a full confession of sin—God be merciful to me a sinner.” His very eyes and hands joined with his lips in acknowledging his iniquities. His prayer was wet with the dews of repentance. He poured out his heart before God in the most free and artless manner—his prayer came from the same fountain as that of the prodigal when he said, “Father, I have sinned,” and that of David when he cried, “Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” That is the best praying which comes from the lowliest heart.

Then he appealed to mercy only. This was wise. See how rightly he was guided. What had he to do with justice, since it could only condemn and destroy him? Like a naked sword, it threatens to sheathe itself in my heart—how can I appeal to justice? Neither power nor wisdom, nor any other quality of the great God could be resorted to—only Mercy stretched out her wing. The prayer, “God be merciful,” is the only prayer that you who have been greatly guilty can pray. If all your lives you have spurned your Savior, all you can now do is to cast yourselves upon the mercy of God.

The original Greek permits us to see that this man had an eye to the Propitiation. I do not say that he fully under- stood the doctrine of Atonement, but still, his prayer was, “God be propitiated to me, the sinner.” He had seen the morning and the evening lamb and he had heard of the sin-offering. And though he might not have known all about atonement, expiation and substitution, yet as far as he did know, his eyes were turned that way. “O God, be propitiated, accept a sacrifice and pardon me!” If you know your sin, you will be wise to plead the Propitiation which God has set forth for human sin. May the Spirit of God constrain you to trust in Jesus now! The new year is already gliding away— its second month is slipping from under us—how many months are to go before you, a guilty sinner, will come and ask mercy of God, the infinitely-gracious One? Great God, let this day be the day of Your power!

IV.  I now close with my last head, which is this—the believing confession of sinnership is the way of peace. “God be merciful to me a sinner,” was the prayer, but what was the answer? Listen to this—“This man went down to his house justified rather than the other”!

In a few sentences let me sketch this man’s progress. He came to God only as a sinner, nakedly as a sinner. Observe, he did not say, “God be merciful to me a penitent sinner.” He was a penitent sinner but he did not plead his penitence. And if you are ever so penitent and convicted of sin, do not mention it as an argument lest you be accused of self-righteousness. Come as you are, as a sinner and as nothing else! Exhibit your wounds. Bring your spiritual poverty before God and not your supposed wealth. If you have a single penny of your own, get rid of it. Perfect poverty, alone, will discharge you from your bankruptcy. If you have a moldy crust in the cupboard of self-righteousness, no bread from Heaven will be yours. You must be nothing and nobody if God is to be your All in All! This man does not cry, “God be merciful to me the penitent,” but, “be merciful to me the sinner.” He does not even say, “God be merciful to me the reformed sinner.” I have no doubt he did reform and give up his evil ways, but he does not plead that reformation.

Reformation will not take away your sinnership, therefore do not speak as if it could do so. What you are to be will make no atonement for what you have been! Come, therefore, simply as a sinner, not as a changed and improved sinner. Do not come because you are washed, but to be washed! The publican does not say, “God be merciful to me a praying sinner.” He was praying, but he does not mention it as a plea, for he thought very little of his own prayers. Do not plead your prayers—you might as well plead your sins! God knows that your prayers have sin in them. Why, Man, your very tears of repentance need washing! When your supplications are most sincere, what are they but the wailings of a condemned creature who cannot give a single reason why he should not be executed? Feel and acknowledge that you deserve condemnation—and come to God as a sinner. Off with your paltry finery, I mean your “filthy rags!” Do not trick yourself out in the weeds of your own repentance, much less in the fig leaves of your own resolutions—but come to God in Christ Jesus in all the nakedness of your sin—and everlasting mercy will cover both you and your sins.

Next, notice that this man did nothing but appeal to mercy. He said, “God be merciful to me.” He did not attempt to excuse himself and say, “Lord, I could not help it. Lord, I was not worse than other publicans. Lord, I was a public servant and only did what every other tax collector did.” No, no! He is too honest to forge excuses. He is a sinner and he admits it. If the Lord should condemn him out of his own mouth and send him to Hell, he cannot help it—his sin is too evident to be denied. He lays his head on the block and humbly pleads, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Neither does this publican offer any promises of future amendment as a setoff. He does not say, “Lord, be merciful for the past, and I will be better in the future.” Nothing of the sort! “Be merciful to me the sinner” is his one and only request.

So would I have you cry, “O God, be merciful to me! Although I am even now condemned and deserved to be hope- lessly damned by Your justice, yet have mercy upon me, have mercy on me now.” That is the way to pray and if you pray in that way God will hear you. He does not offer to pay anything. He does not propose any form of self-paid ransom. He does not present to God his tears, his abstinence, his self-denial, his generosity to the Church, his liberality to the poor, or anything else—he simply begs the Lord to be propitiated and to be merciful to him because of the great Sacrifice. Oh, that all of you would at once pray in this fashion!

Now, I want to cheer your hearts by noticing that this man, through this prayer and through this confession of sin, experienced a remarkable degree of acceptance. He had come up to the Temple condemned—“he went down to his house justified.” A complete change, a sudden change, a happy change was worked upon him! Heavy heart and downcast eyes were exchanged for glad heart and hopeful outlook. He came trembling into that Temple—he left it rejoicing! I am sure his wife noticed the difference. What had come over him? The children began to observe it, also. Poor father used to sit alone and heave many a sigh, but all of a sudden he is so happy! He even sings Psalms of David out of the latter end of the book! The change was very marked. Before dinner he says, “Children, we must give God thanks before we eat this meal.” They gather round and wonder at dear father’s happy face as he blesses the God of Israel!

He says to his friends, “Brethren, I am comforted. God has had mercy upon me. I went to the Temple guilty, but I have returned justified. My sins are all forgiven me. God has accepted a Propitiation on my behalf!” What good would come of such a happy testimony! This was a very sudden change, was it not? It was worked in a moment. The process of spiritual quickening is not a matter of hours, but of a single second of time. The processes which lead up to it and spring out of it are long, but the actual reception of life must be instantaneous. Not in every case would you be able to put your finger upon that second of time, but the passage from death unto life must be instantaneous. There must be a moment in which the man is dead and another moment in which he is alive. I grant you, life would be very feeble at first—still, there must be a time in which it was not there at all! And again, there must have been an instant in which it begins. There can be no middle condition between dead and alive. Yet a man may not know when the change took place.

If you were going to the Cape you might cross the equator at dead of night and know nothing about it, but still you would cross it. Some poor landsmen have thought that they would see a blue line right across the waves. But it is not perceptible, although it is truly there—the equator is quite as real as if we could see a golden belt around the globe. Dear Friends, I want you to cross the line this morning! Oh, that you might go out of this house saying, “Glory, glory, hallelujah! God has had mercy upon me!” Though you feel this morning that you would not give two-pence for your life, yet if you come to God through Jesus Christ, you shall go away blessing God not only that you are alive, but that you shall live forever, happy in His love!

Once more, this man went away with a witness such as I pray we all may have. “He was justified.” “But,” you add, “how do I know he was justified?” Listen to these words. Our blessed Lord says, “I tell you that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.” I tell you.” Jesus, our Lord, can tell! Into our ear He tells it. He tells it to God and the holy angels and He tells it to the man, himself! The man who has cried from his heart, “God be merciful to me a sinner” is a justified man! When he stood and confessed his sin and cast himself wholly upon the Divine Mercy, that man was unburdened so that he went down to his house justified! We are all going down to our houses. Oh, that we might go down justified! You are going home. I want you to go home to God, who is the true home of the soul. “He went down to his house justified,” and why should not you do the same?

Perhaps, my Hearer, you have never been to the Tabernacle before. Possibly, my Friend, you are one of those gen- tlemen who spend Sunday mornings in their shirtsleeves at home reading the weekly paper. You have come here this morning quite by accident. Blessed be God! I hope you will go home “justified!” The Lord grant it! Perhaps you always come here and have occupied a seat ever since the Tabernacle was built—and yet you have never found mercy. Oh, that you might find mercy this morning! Let us seek this blessing. Come with me to Jesus. I will lead the way! I pray you say with me this morning—“God be merciful to me the sinner.” Rest on the great Propitiation—trust in Jesus Christ’s atoning blood! Cast yourself upon the Savior’s love and you shall go down to your house justified!

Is it a poor cottage? Is it less than that—a back room up three flights of stairs? Are you very, very poor and have you been out of work for a long time? Never mind. God knows all. Seek His face. It will be a happy Sunday for you, if you, this day, begin a new life by faith in Jesus! You shall have joy, peace and happiness if you seek and find mercy from the great Father. I think I see you trudging home, having left your load behind you, but compassed about with songs of praise unto our God. So be it! Amen and Amen!

 

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