Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more, I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. God knows us. He knows what we are; he knows also what he meant us to be; and upon the difference between these two states he founds his testimony concerning us. (Heb. 12:26–29)
It is the voice of Jehovah that the Apostle here speaks of. That voice, as being the expression of his mind, the utterance of his purpose, went forth armed with the power of the Godhead. For it was not the mere majesty or melody of sound which issued from the lips of Jehovah that wrought the vast results, but the resistless purpose which it expressed.
Of this voice we read, “the voice of Jehovah is powerful, the voice of Jehovah is full of majesty; the voice of Jehovah shaketh the wilderness, Jehovah shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.” (Ps. 29:8) It was this voice that said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” It was this voice which spake so often to the Patriarchs and Prophets. It was this voice that was heard on Sinai shaking the mountain and the whole desert around. (This was the meaning of verse 18, “the mountain that was touched,” i.e., touched by God, as we read, “touch the mountains and they shall smoke.”) It is this voice which is yet to be heard again on earth saying: “Behold I make all things new.”
There are two shakings here referred to by the Apostle: the first is that of Sinai, which is already past; the second is that at the Lord’s coming, which is still future. Of this still future shaking he affirms three things.
It is a final shaking. It is but “once more,” and then all creation is at rest for ever. It is but “once more” that the awful voice is to be heard. It is but “once more” that the stormy vengeance of Jehovah is to be let loose upon the earth, to work havoc there. That last tempest is even now drawing together its clouds of darkness from every region, and mustering its strength for the terrible outburst — an outburst terrible indeed, but yet the last!
It is a more extensive shaking than any heretofore. “I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” The heaven here spoken of is not the “third heaven,” which is the peculiar dwelling-place of God and the shrine of his glory: but the visible heavens above us — the same as those of which we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This universal shaking is that which Jesus himself predicted in these words: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” (Matt. 24:29) It is also that of which the prophet Isaiah, in his twenty-fourth chapter, has given at length so dark a picture: “The earth is utterly-broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage.” (Isa. 24:19–20) Very fearful will these convulsions be. Above, beneath, around; earth, air, and sea shall be all one dark, wide circle of desolation and terror. And there shall be no hiding-place from that wind, no covert from that wasteful tempest, no refuge from that universal uproar! Careless sinner! What shall then become of thee?
It is a shaking followed by a glorious issue. It is not for the annihilation of this material fabric, nor is it for reducing all things to their primitive chaos. It is for a very different end. That end is twofold. There is first “the removing of those things which are shaken, as of things which are made,” that is, things of perishable workmanship. Then there is the consolidating of what resists and survives this shaking into an immovable creation. The whole universe is to undergo this shaking, in order that all that is perishable and crumbling may be shaken off, and the imperishable, the stable, the eternal may remain. How glorious! Here surely is enough to outweigh, in the estimate of the saint, all that is gloomy and terrible in the scenes that lie between. The foreground is dark, but the scene beyond it is all glad and bright. The commotions in immediate prospect, of which we are already beginning to descry the forerunners, are apt to depress and sadden; but all beyond that is so stable, so unchanging, and spreads itself out before us in such refulgent, holy beauty, that we can overleap the dreary interval, and stay our hearts as well as refresh our eyes with the glory to be revealed when the skirts of the last cloud shall be seen passing off in the distance, and the echo of the last thunder heard remotely upon the joyful hills.
The apostle having thus foretold the convulsions of the last days, and alluded to the “times of the restitution of all things,” proceeds to show the effect which these things should have upon believers, and in what a solemn attitude it places them. This is the object of what follows, which, from the use of the word “wherefore,” is obviously an inference from his preceding statements. Keeping this in view, let us endeavour to understand each clause in succession. In doing so we shall follow the order not of the words but of the ideas.
The Kingdom. It is “a kingdom which cannot be moved.” All present things are to be shaken, and out of these is to come the kingdom that cannot be moved — a kingdom unchangeable and eternal. Sin, we know, has loosened everything, transforming a stable world into a decaying, crumbling ruin. In order that stability may be restored, all things must be shaken, and after these shakings comes this immovable kingdom. There may be reference here to Daniel’s prophecy of the kingdoms which were to arise on the earth. There was first the Babylonian, lion-hearted, eagle-winged (Dan. 7:4), mighty and magnificent, as if it could not but abide for ever. Yet, when it had served God’s purposes, and run its ordained course, it passed away like a vision of the night, proving that it was not the kingdom which cannot be moved. Then, out of its wide ruins there arose the second kingdom, that of the Medes and Persians, ravenous and devouring, as if it would swallow up all others, and remain in its strength. But it, too, fell to pieces and departed, proving that it was not “the kingdom which cannot be moved.” Then, out of the ruins of the second there shot up the third kingdom, the Macedonian, renowned for its winged swiftness of conquest and far-ranging dominion. But it, too, fell asunder and crumbled away, showing that it was not “the kingdom which cannot be moved.” Then there arose the fourth, the Roman kingdom, “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly.” It still survives, even as it has survived the storms of many a century, the shock of a thousand earthquakes. But its days are numbered too. And when it has fulfilled Jehovah’s purposes and finished its appointed course, then shall it pass away like the chaff of the summer thrashing-floor, proving that neither is it “the kingdom which cannot be moved.” But out of the wrecks of these broken empires, there arises yet another kingdom very different from all the rest — different in origin, in nature, and in duration. It is thus described: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold! one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given to him dominion, and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:13–14)
Here, then, is the kingdom which “cannot be moved,” glorious and imperishable, which is to outlast all others here, nay, to be established upon their ruins, and to stand for ever. There is no kingdom like this among all that have ever been. Everything about it is incorruptible, as well as undefiled. Its territory, its subjects, its laws, its throne, its sceptre, its Sovereign, are all everlasting! Nothing can shake it. No war, no enemy, can disturb its peace. No storm, no earthquake, can assail it. No internal weakness or decay can dismember or dissolve it. It shall be in itself unchangeable and immovable: and, besides, all that could weaken it from within, or wage war against it from without, shall have passed away for ever. The day of its duration shall be the eternal Sabbath — the rest that remaineth for the people of God.
The Kings. Who are they? “We,” says the apostle — that is, not “we apostles,” but “we saints.” As believers, we have received a kingdom, being made kings and priests unto God; being made “heirs of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.” Hence we read, also, in that chapter we have already quoted, “The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even forever and ever.” (Dan. 7:18) In believing, then, we not only receive forgiveness and eternal life, but we receive a kingdom too. It becomes ours in right, though not ours in possession, till the time appointed of the Father. What honour! What dignity! What glory is this! Angels are but “ministering spirits”: we are kings — partakers with Christ himself of his crown and throne! Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us! What a holy life should then be ours! Surely we may be expected to keep in mind our coming glory, and to walk worthy of it — worthy of such a calling, and of such a kingdom! What is the world to us, whether in its poverty or wealth, its glory or its shame, who have already received an everlasting kingdom, and shall ere long wear an unfading crown?
And, oh, let careless sinners think how much they lose. What an infinite gain might be theirs! And what an infinite loss shall infallibly be theirs, if they turn away from him who speaketh from heaven! Hear, then, and your souls shall live; nay, you shall receive a kingdom too!
Our present position and employment. It is that of “serving God.” “Let us serve God,” says the apostle. Our whole life is to be one of service: not merely certain portions of our life, but our entire life from the moment that we believe. It is the life of men redeemed to God, and who have therefore become his property. It is not merely in the closet or the sanctuary, upon the bended knee or with the clasped hand, that this service is to be performed, but always and in every action of our life.
The allusion here seems to be to the Levitical service under the former law. In that we have the true specimens of what God calls service — priestly service. “Every priest, it is written, standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices.” (Heb. 10:11) It was a continual ministering before the Lord and in his temple. All that was done, was done to God, as under his immediate eye. That carnal priesthood has been done away. There is but one High Priest now, and he is above in the better sanctuary. There is no longer any of the indirect communication through the medium of a fellow-sinner. All our dealing is directly with God, for we are God’s priests on earth. Each saint is a priest unto God as well as a king. And as Jehovah’s priesthood, we serve in the true sanctuary “which the Lord pitched and not man.” Ours is a consecrated life, and therefore a continual service, the service of priests. We are sprinkled with blood, set apart for God, and our whole life is to be one of priestly service. Not merely in our holy duties, or at our holy times, but always. Each word we speak is to be an act of priestly service; each step we take is to be an act of priestly service; each action of our life is to be an act of priestly service. And this unceasingly; at every time, in every place, in every station, in every act, we are to remember that we are God’s priesthood.
In believing, we become Jehovah’s priests. The blood is sprinkled upon us, the holy anointing oil is poured over us, the priestly raiment is put upon us. We take our censers and enter into the tabernacle of our God; no longer merely into the holy place, but into the holiest of all, through the veil that was rent. We make our dwelling within these hallowed walls. We pitch our tent beside the mercy-seat, under the immediate vision of the glory. Our whole life is to be spent in that sanctuary. For it is not a going out and coming in, but an abiding there. All we think, or feel, or say, or do, is to be done there as under the very eye of God.
How solemn is a believer’s life! What an exalted, yet what a blessed thing! To be a priest unto God, and, as his priest, to dwell in his temple, to serve him there unceasingly, and to go out no more! What a dignity does it throw over the life even of the meanest saint! What an importance does it attach to his most common actions and thoughts! For his whole life is priestly service — a service of a nearer and more peculiar kind than angels. They serve, but not as priests. All our service is priestly as well as royal.
How solemn should our walk and conversation be! How anxious to redeem the time, to make it manifest that we consider ourselves wholly God’s, set apart for him, and dedicated to his service alone! What room is there left for folly, or frivolity, or vanity, or worldliness? With our holy garments upon us, our censers in our hands, and standing under the shadow of the glory, how can we give way to levity, or wickedness, or indolence, in circumstances so unutterably solemn and overawing? Oh, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness!
In what manner is this service to be performed? Acceptably and reverentially.
(1.) Acceptably — that is, so as to please God. In all our service this is to be distinctly kept in mind. In our prayers, praises, duties, we are not only to gratify ourselves but to please God. All our service is to be fragrant to him, a sweet-smelling savour, “a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” Let us observe, however, that to serve God acceptably is not to serve for the purpose of making ourselves accepted. No, before our services can be accepted, we must be accepted ourselves. It is not our services that make us acceptable, but we that make our services. We do not serve in order to be accepted; but we serve, because, in believing, we have already been made accepted in the beloved. We do not pray and praise in order to make ourselves accepted, but because we have been previously accepted in Christ Jesus. A saint is not one who serves God in order to be forgiven; but one who, having found forgiveness, serves God in love and liberty as a forgiven soul, and with an enlarged heart.
(2.) With reverence and godly fear. There is to be no irreverence, no rashness, no presumption in our service, as if God were one like ourselves, or nearly upon our level. There is to be fear and solemn awe when we consider whom we worship; who we are who are thus permitted to draw near; in what temple it is that we worship, and what blood it cost ere we could be permitted to enter. Reverence in the presence of God is often spoken of and enjoined upon all who draw near to him. (Ps. 22:23; 33:8; 31:9; 89:7; 115:11–13) Oh, what profound and self-abasing reverence of spirit does the service of Jehovah demand of us! How entirely does it rebuke all levity and vain speech or frivolous deportment, even in our common walk of life! How can we serve God, and yet indulge in foolish talking and jesting? How can we serve God, and yet join with the world in its idle words, its laughter, its gaiety, its song, its mirth? Surely it becomes us to preserve reverence and godly fear in all things — in our actions, in our words, in our very looks and tones. Let our deportment be ever such as becometh the servants of the most high God, his royal priesthood below, who, though serving him in weakness here and in the midst of much prevailing sin, are anticipating the time when we shall serve him in the fulness of our strength and in the perfection of holiness, without infirmity, without weariness, and without end.
How are we to maintain this service? By holding fast grace, says the apostle. (This is the marginal reading, and is a common meaning of εχω. See 1 Tim. 1:19; 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:13.) Let us, says he, have or hold fast grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably. It is only by continuing in that free love of God, into the joy of which we entered when first we believed, that we can be enabled to serve him aright. As sinners, we laid hold of that free love at first, and found forgiveness there; and it is as sinners that we are still to keep hold of that same free love in which alone we can find a resting-place. When that free love entered our souls, it brought with it liberty and gladness and light. It dispelled all our darkness, it removed all our sorrow, it struck off every fetter, and blessed us with the liberty of God’s beloved Son. And it is in this same love that we are to abide to the end. We are to beware of losing sight of it, or letting it go. Our believing this free love first brought us nigh; and it is our continuing to believe it just as at the first that keeps us nigh. It is the “beginning of our confidence” that we are to hold fast to the end. As we have received Jesus Christ, even so are we to walk in him and abide in him.
There is no other way in which we can render acceptable service. The moment I lose sight of this, my service becomes unacceptable, nay, displeasing to God. If I am allowing suspicions of God to enter my soul, or doubts to arise as to what his feelings are towards me, then I cannot serve him acceptably; I may serve him outwardly, but it will be in bondage, not as a son. And can I be an acceptable worshipper if I come in the spirit of bondage and not in the spirit of adoption? Can I be an acceptable worshipper if I draw near, denying, or at least doubting, his grace, his free love? Can I be an acceptable worshipper if I know nothing of forgiveness and peace with the God I come to worship? Can that be worship or service which knows no liberty, no joy, no love, no enlargement of heart; but instead of these, can tell only of gloom, and suspicion, and uncertainty? God, in the riches of his free love, forgives me that I may serve him acceptably. This is his way. But I reverse the order. I serve him in order that I may procure forgiveness. But in this there is nothing acceptable, because there is no keeping hold of the free love of God.
Yet is not the life of many Christians in our day just a life of bondage and of doubt? How little of acceptable service does God receive from all the tens of thousands that name his name! And whence is this? The grace of God is not their resting-place. The free love of God is not the main-spring of their lives. And till this is the case there can be no acceptable service, no glowing zeal, no simple-hearted, unwearied, joyful labour in the cause of God. An intolerable weight presses them down, and an unseen chain fetters every limb. How sad, that the glad tidings of the grace of God should have done no more for them than this! Yet these same glad tidings still compass them about; and will they not even now believe them and be set free from bondage? Will they not believe them, that being delivered from these burdens, they may gladly enter into Jehovah’s service with all the joy and zeal which men who have tasted that love, and are living upon it, cannot help displaying?
But a question naturally arises here — How does a sight of this free love produce reverence and godly fear? It is not so difficult to show how it produces acceptable service, but how does it produce reverent service? In many ways; but chiefly in the following:
(1.) Grace takes for granted the infinite evil of sin and our infinite wickedness. It proceeds entirely upon this from first to last. It refuses to deal with us on any terms save the acknowledgment that we are utterly corrupt and lost. It will not concede to us one particle of good, otherwise grace were no more grace. It is the most thoroughly condemning, man-humbling thing that can be conceived. It makes us totally debtors — nothing short of this. It will only take our case in hand upon the admission of our entire and desperate wickedness. It brings free forgiveness, but only upon the acknowledgment that we are altogether guilty. It brings salvation, but only on the supposition that we are completely lost. And if such be the case, is not the free love of God the most humbling thing in the world? And is not the sight of it the most likely to produce reverence and godly fear?
(2.) Grace shows us far more of God than we could ever learn in any other way. God’s way of saving sinners is also his way of bringing into view the depths and heights of his own glorious character. It gives us a new sight into it, and opens up to us most marvellous discoveries of his greatness, glory, majesty, wisdom and might, as well as of his love. Nothing unveils to us so much of God as grace. And surely that which spreads out before us his infinitely glorious character and purposes must be the thing, of all others, most fitted to abase us — to produce the profoundest reverence towards that all-excellent, all-perfect One. When we knew less of God there might be irreverence, but not now. In the case of Adam, or of angels, who see less of the character of God than a redeemed sinner sees, their might be the possibility of irreverence; but surely not in us, who know something of the exceeding riches of the grace of God, and of his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(3.) Grace brings us far nearer to God. It takes us into the inner circle, nearer far to God than Adam was before he fell, nearer than angels are who never fell. And surely that which brings us so near to God must produce reverence and godly fear. They who dwell afar off, who occupy the outer circles of being, may be irreverent; but those who stand so near to God, who have not only come into his tabernacle, but been made to dwell even in the holiest, can never cherish or tolerate the faintest approach to irreverence or want of solemnity in the service of God. We are one with Christ, we are members of his body, we are joint heirs with him of all that he has received of the Father. And this union, this nearness, is above all other things fitted to awaken reverence in the soul. The more we realise this nearness by dwelling in the grace of God, the more shall we be broken down and filled with lowliness of spirit in worshipping this great and mighty God.
Our God is a consuming fire. This evidently comes in as an additional reason to the preceding. And a most weighty and solemn one it is, though but little understood.
Let us observe the peculiarity of this expression. It is not, “God is a consuming fire”; nor is it, “God out of Christ is a consuming fire”; for in truth there is no such being as a God out of Christ. But it is “our God is a consuming fire.” The fire, indeed, has not consumed us, but still it is consuming. The God with whom we have to do, is a God who has saved us, yet still this very God whom we call ours is a consuming fire. Should we not, then, serve him with reverence and godly fear?
God is the God of salvation, yet he is a consuming fire. In him these things are combined and displayed together. The saved soul sees both these things in one. The very thing which shows him God as the God of salvation is the thing which shows him God the consuming fire. And on the other hand, the very thing which manifests God as a consuming fire is the thing which displays him as the God of salvation. He is not represented as possessing these characters separately to different classes, but as presenting himself at once under both; so that, looking to him in this twofold light, the apostle exclaimed, “our God is a consuming fire.”
We can trace this double manifestation all along from the beginning. Look at Abel. He kneels before the altar on which the bleeding firstling of his flock is laid. In a moment fire descends from heaven and devours the sacrifice. That fire passes close by him. Yet he fears not. He knows that it will not reach him, for it is the lamb that attracts it. On that lamb it must descend — but descending on it he remains unharmed. And after the fire has consumed the victim, Abel can lift up his eyes to heaven without terror and say, “our God is a consuming fire.”
In like manner we might trace this downward from altar to altar, from worshipper to worshipper, from Abel to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses. Each altar speaks of grace, yet of fiery vengeance too. On one side of it is written Salvation: on the other, God a consuming fire.
But look at the true altar. Look at yonder cross. Hear the cries which issue as the fiery wrath of Jehovah descends upon the sufferer. What does that mean? It means that God is a consuming fire, and yet that that consuming fire is finding vent to itself, so as to pass by us and leave us not only unharmed, but assured of the abundant grace of God towards us. It is when standing by that cross, and seeing the flames of wrath expend themselves upon Jesus, that we are made to see the character of God as the God of grace, and to say “our God.” The fire that consumed him shows us how great is his hatred of the sin, yet how tender is his love to the sinner. The brightest display of his holiness is also the fullest manifestation of his love; so that that very object which wins our hearts and awakens our confidence is the object which fills us with the profoundest reverence and godly fear. No one has such a view of the righteous majesty of Jehovah and his abhorrence of iniquity as the soul that has found forgiveness at the cross of Christ. And thus it is that he can say, “our God is a consuming fire.”
Thus the consuming fire of which the Apostle speaks is not the fire which descended upon Sodom, nor the fire which consumed Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, nor the fire which so often smote the enemies of the Lord. These were terrible enough, but not half so terrible as the fire of the altar — the fire of Jehovah’s wrath, which came down upon the head of his beloved Son. It is at the cross alone that we learn what Divine vengeance is. The others are but sparks from the furnace — this is the furnace itself. The others are but reflections of the lightning — this is the infinite thunderbolt itself. It is only at the cross that we really see God the consuming fire.
Yet this fire, in which the whole wrath of God was poured out, is the proclaimer of grace and salvation. When standing by the cross, what is it that assures us that there is no more wrath for us? It is just that we have seen the consuming fire descend upon him who was laid as a sacrifice upon that altar. It is this that enables us to look up to heaven without a fear of wrath. Had that fire not descended — had we not seen it consume the victim, we should have been casting glances of infinite terror to those clouds which hung above us. We must have felt that they were charged with thunder for us — that they were as the quiver of Jehovah, containing his vengeful lightnings in their cloudy sheath. Till we knew they were exhausted, that they had discharged their contents, we could not look up unalarmed. But having seen the consuming fire come forth — having seen it expend itself upon the cross — we can cast upwards a tranquil and loving eye, and send up along with our joyful glance the utterance of filial hearts, saying, “Abba, Father.”
The sword which was placed at the gate of Eden, to bar man’s re-entrance, was “a flaming sword.” It was the earliest proclamation to man that God was a consuming fire. It prohibited all access; nay, it threatened with immediate death any who should rashly seek to enter. But that flaming sword has been removed. Its fire has been quenched. The sinner may now go freely in. Nay, he is invited by God himself to enter. Nay, more, the highest wickedness of which he can be guilty, is just his refusing to enter. And how is this? Jehovah spoke and said to that flaming sword, “Awake, O sword, against the man that is my fellow.” (Zech. 13:7) The sword awoke, and smote the Son of God. But in doing so, it was quenched, and taken out of the way. It no longer came between the sinner and God. It was henceforth not to bar our access into Paradise, but to point the way, and to assure us of a welcome.
Thus, in preaching God a consuming fire, we preach the gospel of the grace of God. “Out of the eater comes forth meat.” We can tell you of God’s holy love, and how that love has found free vent to itself. We can tell you how that love is now flowing like a stream from heaven throughout the manifold regions of our fallen earth, and how each sinner among you is invited to stoop down and drink of that river of love and life that is flowing past his dwelling. We can tell you of God’s willingness to save unto the uttermost, and we can invite you to draw near with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith. Far-off sinner, come! The message is to you; it addresses you by name; it breathes kindness and welcome in every word; it scruples not about your unpreparedness; it will admit of no delay. It does not say, After you have prepared yourself, come; after you have repented, come. It says, Come as you at this moment stand — a sinner upon God’s earth, not knowing but that another moment may cast you into an endless hell. Remember how the Lord himself has said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
And now mark the sad and dread reverse. “Our God is a consuming fire.” Words of inconceivable terror these to the stouthearted sinner! The world has already seen one awful manifestation of this truth in the cross of Christ. It has yet to see another — in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. It is that second manifestation that awaits the despiser of the cross. The saints have seen God a consuming fire, but that fire never reached nor injured them. Not one spark of it was permitted to alight upon them. Thou shalt also behold it, thou scorning unbeliever; but thou shalt feel it, too. It will not pass thee by. It will descend upon thy head; it will enter thy very vitals; it will wrap thee in its endless folds of flame; it will toss thee upon its burning waves. What a doom shall thine be, when thou leavest the pleasant earth, and goest down to the lake of everlasting fire!
Yet it is all thine own doing! Thou art self-doomed, self-destroyed, self-tormented! God opened to thee the gate of heaven and beckoned thee in; but thou didst deliberately turn away, and go downwards to that prison-house of fire. Thy crime is deliberate rejection of the free grace of God — a rejection begun in infancy, carried on throughout life, and resolutely persisted in, till it has now landed you in the abyss of wrath and woe. The compassions of God towards you were as true as they were tender; his entreaties and invitations were as honest as they were earnest: but you had no ear for these beseechings — no heart for all that love. Oh what love might have all been thine! And in that love what an inheritance! And in that inheritance what a glory! And in that glory what a joy! And in that joy what an eternity of song and praise! All lost! All vilely cast away! Oh misery and madness without a name! The devils exult in it, yet they stand amazed at such desperate folly.
Not that it is yet too late, or that thy case is hopeless. Who says so? Not God; he still invites. Not Jesus; he still beseeches. Not the Holy Spirit; he still strives. Not angels; they still watch for thy return, that they may rejoice over a new-born fellow-immortal. Not ministers; they still point to the open gate, and proclaim free access and a joyful welcome. Not he who now addresses you; he assures you that God has no pleasure in your death — that there is love enough in his bosom for you; that there is room enough in his house and in his heart for you. He takes the bread of life and reaches it out freely to your famished souls, that you may eat and live for ever; he sets before you, and presses upon your acceptance, a present pardon and a present salvation, without money, or price, or condition, or qualification, or delay. He tells you that there still is hope, so long as you are on this side of hell, and that not till your feet have crossed the threshold of the eternal prison, and you have heard its gate close heavily behind you, making damnation sure — not till then can your case be desperate, or you a lost soul, for whom there is no gospel more — no cross, no Saviour, no love, no life, no heaven, for ever!
With a kingdom such as this in view — a kingdom that cannot be moved — what a life should be that of a Saint! How circumspect, how consistent, in all things! He is to walk worthy of his calling, worthy of his hope, worthy of his inheritance, worthy of him who has translated him out of the dwellings of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. Surely his life should be a holy one, as it is a blessed one. In word and deed; in his temper, deportment and intercourse with others, he is to manifest that he is not from beneath, but from above — that his heart has gone forward with his hopes to the inheritance for which he is looking — that his conversation is in heaven.
Men and brethren! Let our lives be such as that the world will know that we are servants of Christ, and heirs of his coming glory. While many say that they are Christians, let us be so. In an age of hollow religion like this, let our endeavour be, “to be what others only seem.”
The following sentence from Romaine (7:258–59) may come in very appropriately at the close of this: “The conscience says, I will have nothing to do with anything for salvation but the righteousness of Jehovah-Jesus, and his atonement on the tree. The heart says, This is all my desire. Hope says, I have cast my anchor on Jesus, I cannot be disappointed. Fear says, I would not for the world offend my God and Father. Then the whole man bows in subjection to Father, Son, and Spirit, and says, Lord God, rule in me, rule over me, guide, keep, bless me and mine all the way to heaven. You see, my good friend, from whence I draw my safety and my happiness — Not from self. O no, but from God in Christ. I look not at — depend not on, not in the least, myself — but wholly on my God. Whatever is of mine own, and comes from myself, shows me the necessity of walking humbly with my God. Self consists, as I feel to this hour, of wants, miseries, temptations. These do not stop me, but help me to walk more humbly with my God. They show me my constant want of salvation, and keep me constantly dependent on it. No failings in duty, no sense of indwelling sin, keep me from my reconciled God and Father, but bring me to walk in nearer fellowship with him. And seeing that all is of his grace, and mere sovereign love, pride is hid — every high thought is brought down — and the Lord Jesus alone gets all, it is his due, all the glory. This is my daily walk, a little sketch of it — but enough to let you see, that I have to do nothing for the peace of my conscience, the happiness of my heart, the conformity of my tempers and walks to the will of God, but Jesus — his Father’s love, and my Father’s, witnessed by the Word, and made mine by believing.”
’Tis first the true, and then the beautiful,
Not first the beautiful, and then the true;
First the wild moor, with rock and reed and pool,
Then the gay garden, rich in scent and hue.
’Tis first the good, and then the beautiful,
Not first the beautiful, and then the good;
First the rough seed, sown in the rougher soil,
Then the flower-blossom, or the branching wood.
Not first the glad, and then the sorrowful,
But first the sorrowful, and then the glad;
Tears for a day, — for earth of tears is full,
Then we forget that we were ever sad.
Not first the bright, and after that the dark, —
But first the dark, and after that the bright;
First the thick cloud, and then the rainbow’s arc,
First the dark grave, then resurrection-light.
’Tis first the night, — a night of storm and war, —
Long night of heavy clouds and veiled skies;
Then the far sparkle of the morning-star,
That bids the saints awake and dawn arise.
William Romaine, “Letter 118,” Works (London: R. Baynes, 1821). (Editor)