Doing the Will of God, and the Need for Patience.
Preached at Attleborough, Warwickshire, on Wednesday, June 15th, 1842.
“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Hebrews 10:36
As the Lord shall direct me, I shall endeavor,
To make a remark or two on the promise. There is one great object set before us—“the promise.”
Endeavor to enter a little into the solemn business of “doing the will of God.”
Notice that we “have need of patience, that, after we have done the will of God, we might receive the promise.”
I. The promise. What is this promise? It appears to my view to be couched in this text: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began,” (Titus 1:2). This, then, is the promise, “eternal life;” and every promise in Christ Jesus is Yea and Amen, and tends to the accomplishment of this one; yea, the whole are subservient to this one, to bring about, in God’s time and way, this great special promise, “eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” And herein the Lord secures, and will fully maintain and make manifest his own declarative glory.
When we speak of eternal life, we do not mean eternal existence only, because devils and damned spirits who are confined in the prison of hell have eternal existence. There must be something more couched in eternal life, agreeably to what the blessed Redeemer said, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands,” (John 10:28). “None shall pluck them out!” say you? “But they may pluck themselves out.” My friends, if it were possible that Lucifer could feel shame, he would be ashamed of such a lie; because the Lord of life and glory says, “I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” Those men who assert the contrary, though they do not say in plain terms that the Lord Jesus has not spoken truth, yet they say it in reality. But notwithstanding all the exertions of men to deprive the Lord Jesus of one of his own dear children, his gracious Majesty has solemnly declared, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” (John 6:37). “No,” say you; “not if they prove obedient.” That is not the text. The promise intimates nothing of the kind respecting obedience as the cause or reason why he will not cast them out. If they were all obedient at all times there would be no sense in the expression, “in no wise;” because the very words presuppose that they may be disobedient; yet for all that he will not cast them out.
I have sometimes thought that some children in youth were better hearers than many professors. I was once preaching in my own chapel, and made use of the following expression: “That disobedience did not alter the relationship; it merited the rod, and the Lord would be sure to visit with it; for he says, ‘If my children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my lovingkindness will I not take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail,’” (Ps. 89:30-33). To illustrate this I said something of this sort:
Suppose you should send your boy to school, and tell him to be punctual in his attendance and to mind his books; but, instead of doing this, he plays truant and never goes near the school, what would you say? Why, you would get the rod and correct him. And suppose a neighbor were to come in and say, “Why are you correcting that boy?” you would say, “He has disobeyed me.” If the person said, “Well; but in consequence of his disobedience, he is not your son; he was your son when he was obedient, but not now,” would you not say, or be ready to think, the man was not sane,— that he had lost his senses? “Yea,” you would reply; “he is my lad, and I will let him know it, and I will teach him to play truant;” so you would give him another stroke, as a proof that he was your son, being determined to maintain your authority as a father, which is for his own good; yet your affection and kindness were still the same towards him, notwithstanding all that he had done. So it is with our God. Now one of my grandsons, only six or seven years of age, had been hearing me; and when the service was over and he was at home, he burst into tears, and said, “My grandfather had no occasion to expose me before all the people. If I did play truant, I don’t mean to do it again.” Thus, you see, he was in that sense a feeling hearer, which is more than many are who profess to know the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. But to return to our subject.
“Eternal life.” This life we have in his Son: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory,” (Col. 3:3- 4). Matchless, unparalleled grace, that vile sinners like us should be raised to dwell with the Lord Jesus in glory; yea, and be made like him, and dwell with him forever! For the blessed Redeemer has said, “Because I live, ye shall live also;” “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” This eternal life is secured in the life of Christ, in the Person of the dear Redeemer. This is what God promised. All the promises that are in Christ Jesus tend to the accomplishment of this one. Some persons say that all the promises in the Bible are Yea and Amen in Christ. Not so. There are many promises in the Bible which are conditional, and were given to the Jews as a nation. If they obeyed the Lord, and walked according to his commands, they were to have divers blessings; if, on the contrary, they disobeyed his commands, the curses pronounced against them for their disobedience were to come upon them. These are not the promises that are “Yea and Amen;” neither are the law promises, “Do this, and live.” This is a conditional promise. “Leave undone, and die.” “But,” say you, “does not the text say all the promises are Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus?” It does not say so. “Then,” say you, “what does it say?” It says, “For all the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” That is, those promises which God has made in Christ, as Head of his church; all that are in him as Head of the church are in him Yea, and in him Amen; there is God’s solemn Amen to them; they will be honored with the divine manifestations of Jehovah, when the world is in a blaze.
When the promise was made to Christ, as Head, it was also made to the members of his mystical body, that they may stand firm when time shall be no more. “My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven,” (Ps. 89:28-29). And again: “Yet it pleased the Lord to braise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand,” (Isa. 53:10). In order to make manifest the blessedness of the promise, God condescends to seal it with an oath: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us,” (Heb. 6:17-18). The immutable promise and immutable oath, taken on his own Nature, that we might have strong consolation! What a condescending God is ours! He blessed us in Christ before the world was. As it is written: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love,” (Eph. 1:3-4). Yet, such fools are we, that, at times, we cannot believe God’s word. Our unbelief makes us stagger at the promise of God, and we are ready to conclude that it is not possible that such vile sinners as we should be interested in blessings so great; therefore, the Lord condescends to give us his oath; yet, such poor wretches are we, that there are times of darkness, when unbelief and carnal reason appear to prevail so much that we cannot believe, for ourselves, either the promise or the oath of the Lord. Who beside the Lord would hear with such wretches? But such is his matchless grace that, though we believe not, yet God abideth faithful; he will not deny himself, but accomplish his word, his promise, and oath, and bring his children to enjoy immortal blessedness in eternal life.
Let us look at some few things couched in ‘‘eternal life.” Eternal life is ineffable holiness, not a life of sin, but a life of immortal holiness. Here God has promised his people life in the world to come, to be holy as Christ is holy. That is a sweet text, and it has, at times, refreshed and comforted my poor conscience when laboring in bondage, distress, and death: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” It is against reason to believe that such poor, weak, helpless, sinful, polluted, despicable creatures shall be like the Son of God; yet the Lord says it shall be so, and that when he appears we shall be like him, and see him as he is. This is couched in eternal life; this is what is promised; even this mortal body is to be changed, and fashioned like unto his glorious body.
If you want to have a glimpse of the glorious body of Christ, you will not see it in his walk upon earth, when he went about doing good, when in the Garden sweating blood, or on the cross on Calvary’s mount. O, no. It did not appear there; it was eclipsed by the awful sins of the church; therefore he appeared stricken, smitten, and afflicted; as a root out of a dry ground, there appeared no form or comeliness in him; and well there might not, when all the sins of the church were laid upon him: “The Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” If you have a feeling sense of only your own sins, they will make you stagger and tremble. Then look at the millions of sins of those whom the Lord saves, all being placed to the account of and laid on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will never wonder at his appearing stricken and smitten; you will never be astonished at it. Therefore, when bearing this weight, we do not see him in his glory. But if we want to see his glorious body, we must have a spiritual view of him upon the mount with Moses and Elias. As it is written: “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light,” (Matt. 17:1-2). Well, beloved, ye that are brought from necessity to trust in the Lord, remember that the church of the living God are to have a body like unto his glorious body, shining as the sun, and appearing as glorious as Christ appeared on the mount of transfiguration. This is the blessed promise that God has made to us before the world was.
When our immortal spirits are quickened and made alive, God forms his image in our souls. This is done while here below. As it is written: “Seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” (Col. 3:9-10). And again: “For 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). And when the Lord is pleased to shine upon his own glorious work, we, in vital faith and feeling, can trace a measure of the beauty of the Lord upon and in us. As it is written: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2 Cor. 4:6). And again: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee,” (Isa. 60:1). But at the glorious resurrection, our body shall be made like unto the body of the Lord Jesus: “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself,” (Phil. 3:21). Then soul and body will be perfect in Christ. In a word, the church, every believer, will be entirely swallowed up in God’s Christ, and will have a view in glory of the rich displays of God’s Christ; all shall be like him, and be entirely swallowed up in the bliss and blessedness of their Lord and Redeemer.
I observe, further, another branch of the promise is uninterrupted intercourse with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. How it will be I cannot tell; but I believe in my soul that I shall see and converse with the Trinity in the Godhead, in the Person of the Redeemer, who is the mighty God. Say you, “So you believe?” I do. “But,” say you, “have you anything in Scripture to confirm and prove this?” Yes. Let us glance at one or two passages. When poor Stephen was stoned to death for the truth of the gospel of the blessed God, whilst they were stoning him, he, being full of the Holy Ghost, saw the heavens opened, and beheld the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God,” (Acts 7:55-56). When he was thus filled with the Holy Ghost, he saw distinctly the Father and the Son, and he appears to have had a solemn feeling and glorious view of a Three-One covenant God. Suppose, also, we look at what John saw. He says he saw one sitting on a throne, with a book in his hand, “written within, and on the backside, sealed with seven seals;” and the proclamation went forth, “Who is worthy to open the book, and loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven nor on earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.” No man—now mind; if there he anyone here who denies the Godhead of Christ—no man under heaven or in heaven was found worthy to open the book. John wept when he saw this was the case; and “one of the elders said unto him, Weep not; behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And he beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne,” (Rev. 5:1 & 10). Jesus took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne. Stephen was full of the Holy Ghost, and saw the Father and the Son, and John saw the Father and the Lamb, which is the Son, the great Redeemer of the church, and he saw him with all the fullness of the glorious Spirit (Rev. 6); and at the baptism of Christ, when the Son, in our nature, was baptized, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and lighted upon Christ; and the Father was heard to say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom lam well pleased,” (Matt. 3:16-17). And again: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” (1 John 1:8). These and such like portions of God’s Word confirm in my mind the blessed truth that the church of Christ will have a sight of the rich displays that God will make of himself through Christ the Redeemer; and that I, being interested in this promise of eternal life, shall have personal intercourse with the Three-One Jehovah; that I shall hold uninterrupted converse with the Father, Son, and blessed Spirit forever and ever. This is the promise of bliss and blessedness which the Lord has given to the church.
This eternal life will be free from all the power of sin and Satan. Poor child of God, you will feel no more pride, no more wretchedness, no more carnal reason, no unbelief nor tempting devil, no grumbling through want; there will be an end to that, and to all your murmuring, fretting, and repining; all will be divine holiness, bliss, and blessedness, and God will be all in all. This is the life God secured in his Son—eternal life promised to us, promised before the world began. It was not a conditional promise, but an absolute, unconditional promise. Paul, when speaking of this state, says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” “No,” say some; “we admit it is not for our works, but according to our works.” If it be as you declare, the Lord would (I speak it with reverence) tell an untruth; which is a thing impossible. “Why,” say you, “this is bold language.” It is, and I like to speak boldly, because, if I mince the matter, there, perhaps, will be no more attention paid to it; but if I bring it honestly and roughly forth, you will, perhaps, begin to think about it. “Then,” say you, “how do you prove it?” By the following text: “Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works.” This is God’s own word. “Not according to our works,” say you? “What is it then?” “But according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” (2 Tim. 1:9). This is the life given us in Christ Jesus. Christ is the glory of this life. This is the promise, “eternal life,” and this promise was made to us before the world began. “For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”
A few more storms, poor child of God, a few more temptations, a few more suggestions of Satan, a few more upsettings, inside and outside, a few more crosses and tosses respecting outward and inward circumstances, a few more unbelieving fits, a few more heartrending groans and soul-tormenting pangs, and the storm will be over. But while in this dismal world, the child of God, at times, has such unbelieving fits, and such tremendous struggles under them, that all the men in the world cannot restrain them so as to make them still and quiet. But a few more of these, and eternal life will open in majesty and glory to our view, and we shall be blessedly baptized into the glory of Christ, and enter into that bliss and blessedness where all is light, life, love, and glory, and God is all and in all, and never, never more go out. This is the promise God has given to us in Christ, and it is secured to all the family of God by Christ, and by all that is dear to a Three-One God and safe to us.
II. I shall now endeavor to enter a little into the solemn business of doing the will of God.
1. What it is to do the will of God solemnly and secretly betwixt God and the conscience.
2. What it is to do the will of God practically, as becometh the saints of the Most High.
3. What it is to do the will of God sufferingly, by enduring what God is pleased to permit to come upon us.
1. What it is to do the will of God secretly betwixt God and the conscience. All vital religion begins here. Vital godliness has not its beginning in external parade, in great pomp, bustle, or show. No. Vital godliness springs from the secret manifestation of God to the conscience and of the conscience to God, brought about by the invincible energy of the Holy Spirit between God and conscience. Only those who have been there know anything about it. You may have a deal of external rounds, go on very zealously for weeks, months, and years, and be lost at last, if you have not vital godliness—that godliness which stands in the life which God reveals in the soul. This is doing the will of God betwixt God and conscience. God says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).
One of the first things God does manifestively is to quicken our souls, and then reveal to the soul the purity of his law, and by it the evil nature of sin. Not as some say, “Let us see; we are but sinners.” It is a common thing for people to say, “You are but a sinner, and Jesus came to save sinners.” But when God brings a man feelingly and experimentally, between God and his conscience, to know what he is, he cannot find a place in his conscience for the term “but a sinner.” He finds himself so wretched, such a guilty creature before a heart-searching God, that he is obliged to confess, “We are all as an unclean thing;” and “We all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away,” (Isa. 64:6). Yea, here he is, groaning, sighing, and moaning before God, confessing his vileness, pollution, and emptiness of all good, and he is ready to think the Lord will condemn him from his own mouth. When he tells God what a vile abominable wretch he is, sometimes the enemy tells him he is condemned, and by his own confession he proves it, and says, “You know you are obliged to confess that you are vile, polluted, and wretched, and God’s holy law is against you in all its bearings; and you have sinned both against holiness, justice, goodness, and mercy. You are one of the vilest sinners living, and there is no hope for you.” This staggers and confounds him; but he feels that it is true, and is obliged to confess it before the Lord. This confessing of sin, under a feeling sense of his vileness, is one branch of doing the will of God. Though the poor child of God is ready to conclude that there is no hope, no mercy for him, yet he feels the need of the mercy of God, but fears that it will never be bestowed upon him. Why, poor sinner, this is the very character God has mercy for; the very character to who God will manifest himself and bring to know that mercy is fit for him, and he fit for mercy. Nothing under heaven suits so well; nothing fits so well as God’s Christ and a guilty sinner. When the blessed Spirit brings Christ to the conscience of a guilty sinner, heaven cannot make a better match; he is just what the sinner wants; he just suits the sinner’s condition. Herein God is glorified, and the sinner justly and blessedly saved; and all the honors of God are herein secured in the poor sinner’s salvation, bliss, and blessedness. And thus to be brought by the power of God the Spirit to a feeling, spiritual acknowledgment of this blessed truth, is one branch of doing the will of God.
But another branch of doing the will of God, in connection with confessing our sin, is to feel and confess that we cannot help ourselves; that we feel so completely ruined that we are without might or power; so that if we perish we must perish, for there is no help in us. Perhaps someone will say, “That will never do; for I think any man may help himself, if he will but set about it.” Have you, under a deep feeling of your guilty condition, ever in reality tried? If you have not, you are not a competent judge. The Lord says, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God,” (Rom. 8:8). And again: “Without me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:5). And when the Lord quickens his people to feel their lost condition, they will feelingly know a measure of what Paul says, “For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death; for sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me,” (Rom. 7:9-11). And when a sinner is slaughtered by the law, all his fleshly props give way, and he feels the force of that solemn truth, “Thou hast destroyed thyself;” nor dare he at present say, “My help is in the Lord.” Indeed, if he could obtain all the holiness there is now or ever was in the world since Adam’s fall, separate from Christ, it would not save him. “What!” say you; “not if he could get all sin out of his heart, and get holiness in, will not that save him?” No; if he has not a better religion than that, he must perish, with all his supposed holiness; for, separate from Christ, there is not holiness enough in the world to save one sinner. “Why,” say you, “that is quite outrageous; you are rather worse than I expected. I thought that half the holiness in the world would have been enough to save me.” Have you not sinned already? What is to become of your old sins? There is the old score against you, and “he that offends in one point is guilty of all.” And again: “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). If you think you could get holiness to do away with the old score, you had better set off to Italy. You would be a fit subject for that quarter, where they sell and purchase holiness. But if you go on that ground you will find yourself mistaken.
Then, doing the will of God is to acknowledge that what God says is true, that there is no health nor help in us, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to do anything of ourselves, but that our sufficiency is of God. It is doing the will of God to know we are not sufficient to pray as we ought; as says the Word of God: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” “The Spirit of God maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.” How does he do this? Even sometimes “with groanings that cannot be uttered.” In those very groanings that cannot be uttered the Spirit helps the child of God, according to the will of God. Therefore, poor soul, thou who art spiritually groaning and sighing, thou art doing the will of God. Between God and thy own conscience, the Spirit of the living God helpeth thy infirmities with those groanings that cannot be uttered. The poor child of God is so straitened, at times, that he cannot pray straight forward in prayer, as he has heard some. He has heard them pray at a wonderful rate; but he is such a poor, tried, cast-down creature, he thinks he cannot pray at all, and his attempts to make a prayer often manifest his foolishness and put him to shame, though sometimes a tempting devil and the evil of his heart will prompt him to try. When I lived in this village, many years ago, I used on the Lord’s Day to go to Coventry, to the meeting. I used to go to the prayer-meeting at seven o’clock in the morning. They very frequently asked me to pray. I felt myself so wretched, such a poor shut-up creature that I dared not to venture. One morning I set off pretty early to Coventry, and as soon as I left the village I began to make a prayer. O the cursed pride of my fleshly mind! I thought what a pretty prayer I had made; that if they called upon me I should be ready; and when I got there they did call upon’ me. I attempted; but, alas! All my prayer was gone; all went to ruin. I can compare myself to nothing else than a man attempting to rob an orchard,—jump, jump; but the boughs were too high for him. All went to ruin, and there was I left alone; the Lord would not allow me to come in this way [Mr. Gadsby had 7 miles to walk, and used to say his prayer was 7 miles long]. Here was I, then, sighing and groaning for mercy; crying to the Lord to be made humble before him. I was entreating his gracious Majesty to appear, and he did in his own time; but not in my way. The only acceptable prayer to God is what the Spirit pours into the soul, with which he prompts the soul; so that the soul, under his blessed influence, pours it out to God. Such prayers are acceptable to God. They are presented in brokenness of spirit and deep humility. This is doing the will of God.
Do you know anything what it is to groan for mercy, to sigh under a sense of your sinfulness, your inability to help your own soul, and feel a spiritual thirsting for God? If you do, you know what it is to do the will of God. If you do not know this, the Lord has not yet taught you to see and feel your own ruin; and whatever external “piety” you imagine you have, it is but self-deception, if you in any measure trust in it.
Another branch of doing the will of God is to have a hope—a hope that goes out as an anchor into Christ. You find yourself so helpless that you cannot manage your own affairs. You cannot bring yourself to the Lord. You can do nothing to help yourself. But at last God is pleased to say to you, “Hope thou in God;” and then you feel a secret going out of your soul, and a hanging on Christ. You are afraid the Lord will not hear your cry, and yet you cannot help leaning on him, and hoping in his mercy. This is hope going out as an anchor. Though you do not know whether it will grasp the rock or not, still hope goes out and brings a little tenderness in feeling and a little melting down in conscience before a heart-searching God. This, poor soul, is doing the will of God. “Why,” says some poor sinner, “I think I can go with you here, though I am afraid I never have been doing the will of God in all my life.” Come, poor soul, if you can feelingly say this, if God the Spirit has brought you here, depend upon it you will never perish.
Another branch of doing the will of God is, internally believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. On the subject of faith I differ very [much] materially from some men. I believe a child of God may have the full assurance of faith in some branches of divine truth, and yet, at the same time, believe he has not one grain of faith. Say you, “Please to explain yourself, for that appears to be a knotty point?” The Word of God shall give the explanation. It says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We will take the last clause, “the evidence of things not seen,” things which reason and common sense, with all their boasted powers, can neither see nor comprehend. Faith is God’s evidence in the heart of the reality of them. How is it with a poor sinner when the Word of God is brought home to his conscience? It declares what a vile wretch he is; he feels it, and that there is not such another wretch in [the whole] world. There is not a man in the [whole] world, with all the powers of common sense, who can ever enter into the heinous evils, the dreadful plague of sin in his heart. He may go a little outside; but he cannot come to the core; he may believe God’s law is holy, just, and good, and try to keep it; but there is not a man in the world [that] can come into the real purity of God’s holy law in its own intrinsic holiness, with all the powers of reason, with all the faculties of his carnal mind. When God gives faith in our own impurity, impiety, guilt, filth, and pollution, and the holiness of his law, we have evidence in our hearts of these things, and all the men in the world cannot put it out. We have then the testimony that God is just, and righteous, and holy, and good; and were any man to say that we were not so vile, he could not make us believe it. You feel that God is holy, and that you are “carnal, sold under sin;” that “the law is spiritual;” that “the commandment is exceeding broad.” The sinner has the full assurance of faith in these things; but it is not that branch of truth which brings peace to the conscience. As far as you go, you believe and feel assured of these things; and thus you may be in real possession of the full assurance of faith in some branches of divine truth, yet not have faith enough to believe that you have a grain of faith.
By and by the Lord brings you to have faith in Christ; and this is another branch of the work. Faith is God’s gift and favor. You may believe in the Lord Jesus as a Saviour, a holy Saviour, a complete Saviour, and as a Saviour suited to your need; this may be sweet to you and bring a little hope in your conscience that, perhaps, he may save you. Many a child of God acknowledges that Christ Jesus is a perfect Saviour, and they look on some of God’s people and say, “He is your Saviour;” “He is their Saviour;” but still they are behind as to one word; that is, “my Saviour.” They cannot get at that; and there the poor creature is; he cannot get to say, “He is my Saviour.” This is what he wants to feel. But he is doing the will of God, by vital faith, when he is honoring the Saviour according to God’s Word, being led to see that “he is able to save to the uttermost,” that he is a complete Saviour, and that there is neither salvation nor redemption in any other. This is what the poor sinner believes; but he cannot say, “He is my Saviour.” He splutters, and stammers, and longs to say, “My Lord and my God,” but cannot, [he] dare not. But, perhaps, some of you will ask, “Why can he not do so?” He is like a child that longs to speak plainly, but cannot. He needs the blessed power of the Spirit to reveal salvation to his own conscience, give him faith in it for himself, and bless him with the enjoyment of the following portions of God’s Word: “And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly,” (Isa. 32:3-4). And again: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert,” (Isa. 35:3-6). It is as much the power of God to bring a soul to have an appropriating faith, to say, “The Lord is my God,” as to create a world. As the apostle says, when speaking of faith, “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.”
But by and by the Lord will bring the poor soul to experience the reality of this truth: “I will bring the third part through the fire.” Here you see the Lord divides the world into three parts: Two parts he cuts off—the merely professing part and the profane part, and the third part God means to save. But by what road does he take them? He brings them through the fire; and however they may shrink back, through the fire they must go. The highroad to heaven is through the fire. God has determined to try every man’s work by fire. Hear what he says. Faith is to be tried by fire. Their wood, hay, and stubble shall be burned, yet the man himself shall be saved as by fire: “I will bring the third part through the fire; and the Lord will say, It is my people, and they shall say, The Lord is my God.”
What a solemn thing is doing the will of God, when the Lord brings faith into spiritual exercise, so that the soul can appropriate the Lord to himself. If you are brought here, poor soul, to have God enjoyed in your conscience, whether in a dungeon, at the stake, or shut up in a room, be where you may or be doing whatever you may, your soul will burst forth in sweet breathings after him, saying, “My Jesus, thy love surpasses knowledge; it is beyond all comprehension. He loved me; redeemed me; he saved me. O that he ever should have brought such blessings of salvation to me, to worthless me! That he should have redeemed me! That he should glorify me! O call on all the powers of my soul to bless and praise his name! O that I could adore him for the sweet wonders of his salvation, which he has so blessedly and powerfully wrought in my soul!” This is doing the will of God. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me; and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God.” Blessed is the soul that is in such a state.
Do you know anything of doing the will of God? Perhaps someone may answer, “I am as dutiful as most people.” I am not saying that you are not; but this I tell you, vital religion begins betwixt God and conscience. “The kingdom of God is within” his called people. This kingdom is set up by God himself, by whose power Satan is dethroned in your conscience. When the Lord sets up his kingdom in your heart, he maintains it. If this has not been done to you, your religion is worth nothing; it will never stand the test when the Lord winds up the business. When God the Spirit, in the riches of his grace, takes a sinner in hand, he brings him spiritually to know what it is to have the kingdom of heaven set up in the soul. This is a secret work betwixt God and conscience. “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God ye might receive the promise.”
2. There is a doing the will of God practically, as becomes the saints of the Most High. Some men tell us the doctrines of the gospel lead to licentiousness. We do know some professing the doctrines of the gospel who lead licentious lives; but how many do you know who oppose the doctrines of the gospel who lead licentious lives? Search the world through, and you will find fifty to one. I recollect, some time ago, when on this subject, a minister accused me of preaching licentious doctrines, because a man in London had acted a very licentious part. I did not know the man, though he professed the same doctrines as I did. “That shows,” said the person who accused me, “what sort of doctrines yours are.” I replied, “Sir, do you know Doctor —? He, you are aware, has a D.D., and he is exactly a man of your kidney [type, or disposition]. Now, the very crime you have been charging on the other, of which he was only suspected, your man was guilty of. What led him into the commission of it? You know the doctor was obliged to leave the country.” He replied that it was not his doctrine which led him to such things. This, my friends, is the blindness of their understanding, and shows the enmity of their hearts against God’s discriminating truth. In reality, it wants no doctrine to lead a man to licentiousness; we are so by nature. So far from the truths of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ leading to licentiousness, whenever God, by his Divine power, convinces a man of his sinful state by nature, of the secret doing the will of God betwixt God and his own soul, it will bring forth the practical doing of the will of God.
There is no real proof of vital godliness where there is not, in some good measure, a life and conversation becoming the gospel! I have been a witness of a few hints from the pulpit, when carried by the Lord to the conscience, producing practical effects, even where the preacher had not the most distant thought of the matter; one of which I will state. When my children were small, and my income not quite so much as it is now, we were likely to have to pay £20 ($95.90 in 1842 at the time of this Sermon] for one of the boys’ schooling, and my wife said to me, “What are we to do for the money? Where is it to come from?” I said the Lord would appear, no doubt. “There it is,” said she. “You have all the faith, while I have all the work.’’ The next Tuesday night I preached from these words: “Lead us not into temptation.” I was led to make the following remark: “Perhaps there may he some of you who have been tempted to do things for your own private emolument, or that which appears to be connected with it, thinking that by doing such things you would save so much money, and nobody would know. It was of such a secret nature that no mortal living knew anything of the transaction; so that there could be no discovery, nor could it bring any scandal upon the cause of God and truth, because no one could know. But, said I, the Lord knows, and he can bring the rod upon you.” Part of my congregation fell under it, and confessed their sin before God, and that brought forth a practical doing the will of God. One of them came to me the next morning, and said, “Sir, when my wife’s father was dying, he wished my wife’s mother to give £5 [approx. $24] to the poor; and that is not all, he also desired her to give you £20.” I felt surprised; and he continued, “Sir, do you remember preaching last night from the words, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ and what you said respecting what might be done in secret when there was profit connected with it?” I said, Yes. “Well,” he said, “that has brought the £20.” When God brings us to fall before his word, and to do the will of God in secret between God and conscience, that brings also the practical doing of it. That gave these persons the will to part with the £20. “Ah!” say you, “that pleased you.” Yes, it did, my friends, because I greatly needed it at the time.
I have found the word of the ever-blessed Lord the Spirit graciously blessed to my soul; and have had a feeling sense of his mercy, kindness, love, and grace wrought in my heart. When this has been the case, not only with me but every child of God, it makes us practice holiness, and fear the Lord: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us” (and the Lord knows we all need it) “that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world,” (Titus 2:11-12). Wherever the grace of God comes with divine power, there the poor soul is brought feelingly to do the will of God; and this will lead him to do it practically. Where there is a vital union to Christ, and Christ dwells in the heart the hope of glory, there will be a bringing forth of fruit. As it is written, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing,” (John 15:5). The spiritual mind is led feelingly to say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” A real living child of God, in his right mind, does not want to shun practical obedience; no, nor to shun the cross. He wishes to live and act as a debtor to sovereign grace and show forth the praises of the Lord: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
We will just notice a few things which the grace of God will lead a man to do. According to the station he fills in life, he will be concerned to act as becomes that station. Is he a husband? He will love his wife and be concerned to nourish and cherish her. Can a man who professes religion hate his wife, forsake and condemn his wife, or abandon his wife? That is not the religion of Jesus Christ, but of the devil. The religion of Christ teaches a man to love his wife: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” He goes on to say, “No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” This is doing the will of God. Also to the wife: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord;” not gadding about, going up and down your neighborhood, so that when the husband comes from his labor he finds nothing prepared for his meal. The wife who does the will of God will be concerned to make her husband comfortable, as far as lies in her power. Those gossiping women, who gad about the country, canting about religion instead of minding their domestic concerns, give no proof of vital godliness. I would hurl their religion to Tophet [a term for hell]; I would have nothing to do with it; it is not the religion of the Son of God. Wherever that religion comes with power to the heart, it regulates the conscience first, and the conduct afterwards. Whether they are wives or husbands, they will, in some measure, act in conformity to the will of God. Thus they do the will of God practically. If a parent, he will be concerned for his children’s welfare. If a child, he will honor his parents. If a master, he will act with kindness towards his servant, giving unto him that which is just and right. If a servant, he will serve his master faithfully, in the fear of God.
If a minister, he will not set himself up in pride, and make himself a little pope, causing the people to bow at his feet; but he will let it be seen and known, by his conduct, that he is concerned for the welfare of the people and the honor of God. He will feed the flock of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. If he be faithful, let him speak the word faithfully. If really a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, he will be concerned to deal out God’s truth, though he may offend some rich folks. If a minister says, “I know it won’t do to preach such truths as those, or I shall offend that ‘pious’ lady, or such a ‘pious’ gentleman, and they give a large sum to the cause.” If this is the case, such a minister acts a base part, and gives proof that he would rather offend God than these “pious” people, as he calls them. But what says the Lord? “I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned onto fables,” (2 Tim. 4:1-4). This is a solemn charge, and it becomes God’s ministers to attend to it in the fear of the Lord, looking to him for wisdom, and grace, and strength to enable them to act according to it. And again it is written: “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord,” (Jer. 23:28). Such as know the fear of God will be concerned to do the will of God. As faithful ministers of the Lord Jesus, they will preach the Word, both in season and out of season. The hearers, if they are really doing the will of God secretly and feelingly before God, they will, when the minister stands forth, at times and seasons, lay their hearts open to the rebuke of the minister, and thank God for the rebuke.
Others there are who fill different offices. Whether deacons or private members they ought not to set themselves up in pride, but to act in their station that they shall be concerned to practice in the fear of the Lord what he hath enjoined upon them. “Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it,” (Luke 11:28). Yes, the adorable Redeemer says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15). And again: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you,” (John 15:14). It is a poor look out when those who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ endeavor to excuse themselves from obeying the Lord, because this or the other command is not essential to salvation. It is the spirit of presumptuous freewill and Antinomianism with a witness: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments,” (1 John 5:3).
3. There is a doing the will of God sufferingly. God’s people have to endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, (2 Tim. 2:8). They must not expect a life of ease here; for they are strangers and pilgrims; but they must expect the dogs to bark at them, and sometimes to worry them; but they cannot devour them. It be that they will, for conscience towards God, have to endure grief, suffering wrongfully (1 Pet. 2:19); and it becomes them patiently to endure; for “that is acceptable with God,” (v. 20). Therefore, to be patient in tribulation is doing the will of God. It is through much tribulation we are to enter into the kingdom of God; and whatever our fleshly feelings may say, Infinite Wisdom sees there is, at times, a needs-be that we should be in heaviness through manifold temptations, (1 Pet. 1:6). Temptations, trials, and distresses of various sorts, from various quarters, must be the lot of the people of God; but the manifold wisdom of God will overrule them all for his own glory and their good, (Eph. 3:10-16; Rom. 8:28). We may and do, at times, stagger at our trials, and think it strange that we should have to bear such things, forgetting that unto us it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake, (Phil. 1:29). But the Lord, by Peter, says, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified,” (1 Pet. 4:12, 14). So that trials of various sorts we must expect. And sometimes our trials will evidently appear to come from the Lord himself; for the Lord tries the righteous, to withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. His gracious Majesty knows well what we need, and when and which way will be the best to lay his rod upon us. But his chastenings are all in mercy, and we are doing the will of God when, under the teachings of the blessed Spirit, we patiently endure them. And in the end they will prove blessings: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” (Heb. 12:6-11). Many of the precious promises of the gospel suppose troubles and conflicts. As it is written: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shalt the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee,” (Isa. 432-3). We must have both watery trials and fiery trials, and both go into and through them, in order to enjoy the presence of the Lord therein, and to enter feelingly and spiritually into the blessedness of this promise. And thus we shall find many of the exceeding great and precious promises of God connected with great troubles, and sometimes exceedingly great troubles; but when, like Moses, we are enabled to choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, we are doing the will of God; for this is one branch of the work of faith, (Heb. 11:24-26).
In connection with our text the apostle speaks of the believing Hebrews enduring a great fight of afflictions. Paul experienced fightings without and fears within, (2 Cor. 7:5); and David was no stranger to them. As it is written: “Be merciful unto me, O God! for man would swallow me up. He, fighting daily, oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up; for they be many that fight against me, O thou Most High! What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his Word; in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. Every day they wrest my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil,” (Ps. 56:1-6). Both Paul and David found the Lord to be their comfort in their affliction.
But we now proceed,
III. To notice, that, in doing the will of God, we have need or patience; and if, under the teachings of the blessed Spirit, we are enabled to act faithfully, there will be abundance of trying circumstances which will call for patience. We shall have trials from the world, from Satan, from our own hearts, and from the direct hand of the Lord himself; yet it becomes the people of God to be daily concerned to do the will of God. Some of the people of God have been called upon by the Lord himself to do things very trying to nature and staggering to reason. The Lord promised Abraham a son by Sarah his wife; but before the promised son was born, reason seemed entirely out of patience, and freewill began to work very powerfully both in Sarah and Abraham. This led them to act very wrong, and they both smarted for it. Their freewill and impatience led them to try to hasten God’s promise; and a pretty job they made of it. They brought misery and confusion into the family. Sarah must give Abraham her servant Hagar, and she brought forth a son, which caused much confusion. This was not doing the will of God, but doing their own will; they had not patience to wait the Lord’s will. But, notwithstanding their impatience and folly, the Lord was graciously pleased to renew his promise, and bring forth the beloved Isaac. I dare say both Abraham and Sarah were very fond of the lad, and watched his growth with all the fond affection of parents, thinking, no doubt, what a comfort he would be to them in their old age. But the Lord came and called Abraham; and Abraham said, “Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” What would nature say to this, think you? “O that can never be, Lord, What! Offer Isaac, after having had so much trouble about him, both before and since his birth! Isaac, who came in such a manifestive way of mercy! What! Cut his throat! Light a fire under him! Offer him to God for a burnt-offering! O no, Lord; not so. It is contrary to nature; it is contrary to thy law, which says, ‘Thou shall do no murder.’ I can never attempt any such thing.” Here nature would shrink! But the Lord brought patience into exercise, and said, “Abraham, go.” He went, and believed in his soul that God would raise Isaac again from the dead. So Abraham went to offer up his son, and he did it intentionally. I have often thought how blessedly the Lord wrought with Isaac; for when they got near the hill, the lad said, “Father, here is the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?” Perhaps he had some forebodings in his mind that he was to be offered up. Now he was a strong, lusty lad, and if the Lord had not made him willing, when his father bound him to the altar, he would have resisted, and endeavored to make his escape. But the Lord so ordered it, in the riches of his grace and mercy, that Isaac should be willing. His father had taken the knife, and was just about giving the fatal stroke, when the Lord called to him, and told him to withhold his hand. Don’t you think he had need of patience in doing that part of the will of God? If we search the Word of God, we shall find, in a variety of instances, God calls on his people to do his will in such a way and under such circumstances that it tries all the powers and faculties of nature; they have to give up all to the will of God. The Lord has promised to help them in trouble, and they will find him faithful to his promise.
In doing the will of God sufferingly, do not we need patience’? We do the will of God sufferingly when we endure the contradiction of sinners against ourselves. If you read the next chapter to the one out of which the text is taken [Heb. 11], you will see what a long list of God’s saints there is, and what they had to endure and bear. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were sawn asunder and put to cruel deaths; they were destitute of homes, and had no place in which they could lay their heads. They, being followers of Christ, endured affliction. I have often heard it said, “Such a minister is respectable; he has a respectable congregation.” What does that savour of but human merit and pride? If you want to see a list of God’s respectables, read Hebrews 11, and there you will see a wonderful list: “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” What should we say to them in our day, if they called at the door of some of the good folks clothed in their sheepskins? They would shut the door upon them. These very characters were doing the will of God sufferingly: “Of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and in caves of the earth.” Mind what God says in his Word: “If any man will live godly” (mind!) “in Christ Jesus, he shall suffer persecution.” A man may live what he calls a godly life; he may go on with external religion, with an outward show of godliness, and so pass for a very good man; but let a man be brought to live godly in Christ, to trace all his religion up to Christ, to say and feel none but Christ, to have no religion but what comes from Christ, to maintain that that religion only is right which is between Christ and conscience, and that all other godliness is nothing worth; let a man come here, and he will suffer persecution; he will be sure to suffer if he will live godly in Christ Jesus. When this is the case, we are doing the will of God sufferingly, enduring the contradiction of sinners.
If we are made willing to submit to the will of God, we shall, in a variety of instances, see that there is need of patience. I have heard it said that Martin Luther made the following remark: “At times I have need of patience with myself; I have need of patience with my church; I have need of patience with my wife Kate; and I have need of patience with my God. My conflicts, troubles, and sorrows are such that I need to have patience with God.” “Why,” say you, “that is outrageous. Surely we can be patient with God.” When God’s hand has gone out, and takes away a right eye—something that is very near and dear to us, as dear as a right eye, which we have been idolizing, and God says, “Cut it off, pluck it out,”— I say, when this is the case, we are like Lot: “O Lord, is it not a little one? Spare it.” But God takes our right eyes, and cuts off our right hands; so that our trials make us ready to cry out with one of old, “The hand of God has gone out against me;” and it is at these seasons that we have need of patience to endure the will of God. Say you, “Can you find any of the Lord’s people in the Word of God who ever exhibited peevishness against God?” Yes. One told God that he did well to be angry, even unto death; and another said, “O that he would let loose his hand and cut me off!” I will venture to say that some of the trials you have had in your families, some of your right eyes and right arms, some of the conflicts and trials which you have had within and without, in which you have experienced great darkness, have caused you to say, “Surely the Lord hath hedged up my way with thorns; he hath broken my teeth with gravel stones; he hath covered me with ashes. Surely against me is he turned; he turns his hand against me all the day. Yea, all seems completely against me.” But when the Lord the Spirit comes into your conscience and shows you what you are and where you are, you cry out, “Lord, I have need of patience. Lord, give me patience.’’ So you find that you need patience with God in his dispensations. It is very blessed when we are enabled to act and say with David, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord,” (Ps. 40:1-3). “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”
I have often admired a hymn of good John Berridge’s, the following words from which have been frequently applicable to me:
“For patience when I raised a cry,
Fresh burdens made me roar;
My foolish heart would then reply,
‘For patience pray no more.’”
But at length the Lord brings us forth from this tribulation, and this tribulation worketh patience. I tell my people that this is the Lord’s grand piece of machinery, and it fits vastly well. The apostle says, “Being justified, by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God; and not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed.” Here tribulation drops into patience, turns that round, and patience drops into experience, and experience produces hope, and hope, being exercised, makes us not ashamed. Here is the grand piece of machinery, well put together by the God of heaven. First tribulation, then patience, after patience experience, and then hope; all these things work confidence. Now in all this the machine wants some power to turn it. It will not move, never do any execution without power. “True,” say you; “but what power does it want to make this grand machine, tribulation, patience, experience, and hope all to work together?” The Word of God shall tell you: “And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Here is the power,—the love of God. When this is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, the machine runs well, works well, and brings glory to God. Even in tribulation the Lord blesses us with patience. We have need of patience in all these things. Tribulation worketh patience in a twofold way; for if the Lord sends patience he always finds patience something to do.
Some men are of a naturally quiet, calm, easy temper, and they may talk about possessing patience; but the men who know anything about the need of patience, in a spiritual sense, are those who find everything within go wrong, who find all their schemes upset and crossed, and almost upset themselves. We meet with so much from men and devils that we always find patience something to do. But sometimes we seem to roar like a bear, and we act in such a manner that we are ready to conclude we have not a particle of patience left, and we are obliged to cry out for help, saying, “O Lord, help me! My patience is all gone.” By and by the Lord is pleased to produce patience, and we are led to see that God has delivered, that he does deliver, and we trust also that he will deliver. Thus, he works patience, and patience is brought forth into sweet act and exercise: “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” The Lord comes and cuts off our right arms, and takes away our right eyes, in order to keep us from some horrible crime, some mischief into which we should fall that we are not aware of. There is a needs be for all that the Lord brings upon us: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them and carried them all the days of old.” You never were in one trouble, cross, trial, or perplexity alone, since the Son of God revealed himself to you, and you never will be. Whether you see him or not, he is there. When we pass through the waters he is with us, and he has promised in his Word, “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” His blessed Majesty has promised to hold you up with the right hand of his righteousness. See what patience Moses needed. He was raised up of God to be very useful, to be the deliverer of Israel. He believed it many a long year before the Lord called him to the work. I have often admired the dispensation of God to Moses. He believed God had raised him up to deliver Israel. He was a very strong man, and, when he saw the Egyptian smiting the Israelite, he thought the time was come for him to deliver Israel, for both the time and place seemed favorable; but the time had not come. Moses must have a little more patience. The Lord sent him forty years to college in the desert, to qualify him for bringing the people from Egypt. The Lord was teaching him to be humble and meek; and after he had been forty years in the wilderness he did not run so zealously; for he said, “O Lord, send by whom thou wilt send. I am not eloquent. I am slow of speech.” There was not a word about this forty years before. Now that the Lord had been qualifying him for the work, he shrinks back, and does not like to go; but the Lord had determined to bring him forth. Moses had need of patience before the Lord made known his truth to him and brought him forth to lead his people through the desert. So we find in every instance that we need patience in doing the will of God.
Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. If the Lord has blessed your soul, you will esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. What an honor, what a glory is the very reproach of Christ! It is greater than all the treasures of the world. You see how God exercises the patience of his people. Sometimes he works in such a blessed way that we are made willing to suffer reproach, to be set at naught, to be contemned, to be held up to ridicule, to be anything, to suffer all things, and to bear the cross; and thus the Lord blesses us with patience, and we are enabled to say, “The will of the Lord be done.” But the family of God will need daily supplies from the Fountain-head. Moses, with all his faith and the wonderful dealings of the Lord with him found that he needed patience in doing the will of God in leading Israel through the wilderness. He found it hard work to endure the murmurings, insults, and contradictions of the people, and he cried unto the Lord, saying, “What shall I do unto this people? They be almost ready to stone me,” (Ex. 17:4); and though the Lord appeared so blessedly conspicuous, and brought forth water out of the rock,—a sweet and blessed type of the water of life that flows through a once smitten Christ to poor parched-up sinners; I say, although this was the case, when they wanted water again, and the people chode [archaic for “chide”] with Moses, and the Lord said to Moses, “Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink,” (Num. 20:8); Moses does not appear to be over-burdened either with faith or patience; for when he had gathered the congregation together before the rock, instead of speaking to the rock, as the Lord commanded him, he spoke to the people, and that not in a very patient way either, and said, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And with his rod he smote the rock twice,” (20:10-11). Had faith and patience been in sweet exercise, this swelling freewill “we” would never have fallen from his lips. This we and its connections kept him out of the land of Canaan, (Num. 20:12; Deut. 32:51-52). Indeed, Moses needed patience, and he smarted for his peevishness and unbelief. God’s ways are sometimes very mysterious; and we need both faith and patience to wait upon him, and act according to his revealed will.
It was a strange way that the Lord took to raise Joseph next to the throne of Egypt, for the purpose of preserving Israel in time of famine, and to keep them in Egypt till the time appointed for deliverance. And do you not think that poor Joseph needed patience in all the sharp trials he had to endure?
In a word, if we are led to examine the dealings of God with his people, as revealed in his Word, we shall find that in every age they have been a tried people, and have needed patience to endure and do the will of God with solemn submission. David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the various prophets and apostles, and the thousands who have suffered in and for the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ, all had need of patience.
God grant that we may be enabled to let patience have its perfect work, and in all things act as becomes the gospel of Christ. But mind, the promise is sure. What a mercy is that! Though we have unbelieving fits, the promise is fixed on the verity of God, and secured in the life of Christ. Thou shalt find, poor tried, tempted child of God, whatever trouble thou art in, that God’s promise is sure, that eternal life is sure.
May God Almighty bless you and me with a feeling sense of his faithfulness, and enable us to cleave close to himself; for his name and mercy’s sake. Amen!