THE SAINT OF THE SMITHY.
BY C.H. SPURGEON.
WE have a great liking for everyday saints. The taste of the mediteval ages was enchanted wkh holy men who could sail over seas upon outspread table cloths, or fast for forty consecutive days, or carry their heads in their hands after decapitation; but these specimens of sanatity, besides being in these degenerate times most hard to get at, are too unearthly, we mean too little human to enlist our sympathy. St. Francis, when dcscribed as so elevated by his devotions that his disciples could only kiss the soles of his feet as he floated in the air, is too ethereal for our liking, we want a little more gravity than this in a saint, peradventure it may turn out that a little more levity would do as well.
The grace which unfits a man for the duties of this present life is a doubtful blessing; in a romance your superfine mystic may have a conspicuous place allotted him, but in real life he is a nullity, a chip in the porridge or worse.
He who can pray like Elias is all the better an example for mankind if he avoids all affectation’of superhuman refinement, and lets us see that, like the grand old prophet, he is a man of like passions with us. We admire Paul caught up into the third heaven, but those who were thrown into his company felt the power of his godliness all the more because he could make a tent or light a fire as occasion demanded. Itoliness in white gowns or black silk aprons, or lace half a yard dcep, reminds us of love on a valentine, very romantic, roseate, and all that, but quite another thing from solid flesh a.d blood affection. One longs to see the popular idea of holiness once for all dissociated from everything unreal and unpractieal, yoked with the common virtues cf everyday life: the smashing up of the whole caravan of sanctified waxworks which, in years gone by, have attracted ignorant admiration, and the exhibition of real, household, commonsense religion in its most vigorous form, would be under God one of the greatest blessings which our age could receive.
Our remarks will not we hope be misunderstood, sanctification cannot, be earrid too far, holiness unto the Lord can never be too eomple:e; the ve:y highest forms of elevated character are to be our models, and we ought not to rest until we have equalled them; but we have lived l;ng cueugh in this world to be afraid of squeamish and pretentious sanctity. The grossest hypocrites we have ever been deceived by were superfluously unetious in expression; and the faultlest professors ‘hose hlls have saddened us, were superlatively fastidious in their religious tastes. We have come to be afraid of gold that glitters too much, and bread that is too white. Men always will be imperfect, and when they profess perfection, and become too good to attend to their duties as husbands, or servants, or children, or parents, so as to make others happy, they prove themselves to be “the worse for mending, washed to fenlet stains.” If they could manage to be perfect nithout making everybody else miserable, they should have our reverent admiration, but wMe we can find in the life of the only truly perfect man so much that is genial and intensely human, we shall never enshrine mere unearthliness in the heavenly places. Our Savior could not have been more a man had he been sinful, his humanity though immaculate was not effeminate, though without sin he was not therefore abrid’zed of any essential attribute of everyday manhood; he was no walker on stilts, his holiness trod on terra firma with other men; he was no recluse, he ate and drank with the many; he was not even an ascetic, but was found a marriages and festivals; a man among men, nothing that concerned mankind was alien to him, no joy of humble men was to him ridiculous, no sorrow of mournful women contemptible. Give to the world an exhibition of such holiness on a wide scale, and while convents and monasteries would moulder into ruins, the whole earth would be gladdened by a golden era worthy to match with the millennial glory. Let the parlout and the drawing-room be adorned with cheerful piety, let the kitchen and the scullery be sanctified with unobtrusive godliness, let the shop and the office, the shed and the factory, be perfumed with unassuming holiness; let forge and bench, and stall, and lathe and sphming-jenny, all be holiness unto the Lord, and the better times long sig’hed for will have come at last.
We do not mean that men should become abject slaves of mere external religiousness, far from it, the true pier)’ of which we write, will give them the fullest freedom; when hearts are right, wills are rectified, and goodness becomes the highest delight of the soul: the reign of righteousness will be the era of liberty and joy. Men will be all the more men when they become God’s men; and even the peculiarities of their individual temper and constitution will not be extinguished, but made to subserve the glory of the Lord by exhibitirg in charming variety the beauty of holiness.
Such thoughts came into our mind as we took up a memoir which we read years ago, and which we dare say some of our readers have even now fresh in their memories, we refer to the “Life of the Village Blacksmith,” Samuel Hick, or more correctly, Sammy Hick. Sammy was a Yorkshireman, belonging to no readily specified order of men; if you sort and arrange mankind, he comes under no genus; he was one by himself, after his own order; he was — well, he was Sammy Hick, and nobody else. Simple, yet shrewd, bold, yet cautious, generous to a fault, thoroughly original, quaint to a proverb, humorous, devout, full of faith, zealous, sufficiently selfopinioned, humble, rough, gentle, pure, dogmatical, resolute — he as as a Christian a very remarkable amalg’am of much gold and silver, with here and there a lumu of iron or clay. Called by ‘aee while wielding the hammer, he continued in his honest calling, and made his smithy the center of evangelical activities, which entirely changed the apizearanee of the society among which he moved. He was a man who could not be hid, and though poor and illiterate, the force of his character made him a power among all around. O that all our church members would make it their ambition to make their worldly avocations a vantage ground for fighting their Master’s battles!
While Sammy’ was yet a mere seeker, he showed the force of his nature by defending an open-air preacher against a clergyman. Just as his reverence was about to pull down the Methodist evangelist from the preaching-block, the youthful neophyte clenched his hands, and holding them in a menacing fashion before his face, accosted the surprised divine with the summary remark: “Sir, if you disturb that man of God, I’ll drop you as sure as ever rou were born.” The emphasis of the words prevented the necessity of the blows, and having secured a hearing for his teacher, the muscular Christian subsided into the attentive listener. When at length led to the cross, and admitted into peace with God, Sammy thought that he could make all the world believe, and resolved to commence operations upon the landlady of an inn, which he had frequented in his unregenerate days. The woman was surprised to hear words of warning and instruction from such a mouth, and indignantly turned him out of her house; but having bug lately proved the power of prayer on his own account, Sam wi[hdrew to a quiet corner, and poured out his soul to God on her behalf. ‘o sooner was the cry lifted up to heaven than it was heard: the woman, on his return to the house, begged his pardon for her rudeness, entreated him to kneel down and ask the Lord to save her, and lived and died a lover of the truths which she had once despised. Thus encouraged, Hick became a leader among a zealous band of Wesleyans, who were’inces-.santly seeking the conversion of souls; and so absorbed did he become in soul-winning, that one night, awaking suddenly from a dream, he aroused his wife, and accosting her by name, exclaimed, “Marty, I believe I am called to preach the gospel.” Martha, who was his guardian angel, and an admirable make-weight in the direction of prudence, bade him goto sleep again, at the same time casting considerable doubts upon the authenticity of the call. His brethren in the ircuit judged otherwise than Martha, and Samm7 was allowed to deliver his singular but powerful addresses from the Methodist pulpits around his native village. His harangues would, doubtless, have been the reverse of edifying to our educated readers, but they created no small stir among the colliers and labonrers of the district. Hick, as a preacher, was adapted to his hearers, a matter of the first importance; it is of no use to try to open oysters with a Mappin’s razor, and, on the other hand, delicate surgery is not to be performed with a bill-hook; every instrument must be adapted to its end. In so wide a world as this, it is a man’s own fault if he does not find a sphere for which he is better fitted than any other man. Some of the quieter Methodists could not stand Samnel’s noise; “But,” said Samuel, “it was a mercy thW went out, for it rid the place of a deal of unbelief, which they took away with them.” Xo good man can hope to please everybody, and no brave man will break his heart when he finds that he has failed in this respect, as others have done before him. Our hero went on with his praying and preaching, and left others to criticise or censure who felt a leaning in that direction. His discoursings were once condemned as terribly rambling, and the good man, instead of denying the charge, claimed some sort of merit for it — “ For,” said he, “those who go straight on may perhaps hit one, but my talk, as it goes in and out among the crowd, knocks many down.” His best preachings, however, were not from the pulpit, but by the smithy fire. Though he ranged his circuit with burning zeal, and had his name on two sets of plans, because, as he said, “There is no living with half work.” Yet it was at the forge that he dealt the heaviest strokes in riveting his life-work. A neigh-bouring squire rode up to Sam’s forge, upon a horse which had lost a shoe in the heat of the chase. His squireship commenced swearing at some other smith, who had yesterday put on the shoe so clumsily; whereupon, without further ceremony, the worthy blacksmith quietly informed him, that he paid the rent of the shop, and that while it was in his hands he would suffer no man to take God’s name in vain within those walls, and that if he swore again, he would not set the shoe on. Many a man with a cleaner face would have hesitated before he so consistently maintained his Maker’s cause. The rebuke was kindly taken, and when the horse was shod, a piece of silver was offered in payment, which he was expected to retain, but Sam, as honest as he was bold, returned the change, saying, “I only charge a poor man twopence, and I shall charge you, sir, no more.” Shoeing must have been cheap in those days; but the return of the change has a nobility about it, grandly like the princely independence of Abraham, when he said to the king of Sodom, “I will not take from a thread to a shoe-latchet, lest thou shouldst say, I have made Abraham rich.”
His rebuke of certain fox-hunting parsons was as clever as it was cutting. “‘ They met anent (opposite) my shop,’ says Samuel, ‘ and stopped till the hounds came. Among the party were the Hon. C. C — , vicar of K — , the Earl’s brother; the Rev. W — , rector of G —; the late Rev. C — , vicar of A —; and Dr. E — , who followed the medical profession at K — . It came into nay mind,’ continued Samuel, ‘ that the three clergymen had no business there.’ His movcments gen.erally corresponding with the rapidity of his thoughts, he instantly ‘ threw down the hammer and the tongs,’ darted out of the shop door, and appeared in the midst of them with his shirt sleeves turned up, his apron on, his face and hands partaking of the hue of his emplomaent, as fine game, in the estimation of some of them, to occupy the lingering moments, till other game should be started, as any that could present itself in human shape. ‘ Most of them,’ says he, ‘ knew me. I said to them, gentlemen, this is one of the finest hunts in the district.
You are rayon red wi[h two particular privileges; and they are privileges which other districts have not.’ This excited curiosity, wh’ich was as quickly gratified; for the enquiW relative to ‘privileyes’was no sooner proposed, than the answer was given, ‘ If any of you should happen to slip the saddle, and get a fall, you have a doelot to b/eed you; and three 2arsons to Fray for you: and what are these but privileges?THREE PARSONS! Oh! yes, there they are.’“ Methodists are great at begging, and our hero never flinched from his share of that hardest of labors. His success was remarkable, but his courage was more so. His begging was not confined within the limit which decorum usually suggests. “‘ I went to Ricall,’ says he; ‘ and as I parposed going to all the houses in the town, I thought there would be no harm ill calling upon the church clergyman. I did so; and found him in his garden. I presented my book, which he gave me again, and looked at me.’ The look would have had a withering effect upon many of Samue[‘s superiors; but the same spirit and views which had emboldened him to make the application, supperLed him in the rebuff with which he met. ‘ I am surprised,’ said the clergyman, ‘ that you should make such a request; that you should ask me to support dissenters from the Church of England!’
Samuel instantly interposed with ‘ No, sir, we are not dissenters; the church has dissented from us. The Methodists are good churchmen, where the gospel is p];eaehed. And as for myself, I never turned my back on a collecting paper when I went to church. I think there is no more harm in you helping to supporL us, than there is in us helping to support you.’ The clergyman here took shelter under the wing of the State — his only ground of defense, by replying, ‘ You are obliged to support us; the law binds you to do it.’ Samuel, in return, resorted to the only code of laws with which he had any acquaintance, and which he consulted daily, the Chrislian code, saying, ‘ Ours is a law of love; and if we cannoL all think alike, we must all love alike.’“ Though foiled by the ecclesiastic, he succeeded better wRh the laRy, and notably on one ,occasion when he carried a miser by storm.
He had stated the needs of the Lord’s work, but found his friend utterly immovable. Down on his kness fell Samuel, and commenced fervently pleading for the miserly soul, that God would forgive him for daring to plead poverty when he had thousands of gold and silver, and for venturing to profess to be a Christian while he worshipped his pelf. “Sam,” cried the farmer, with greaL vehemence, “I’ll give thee a guinea if thou wilt give over.” This availed nothing, for the suppliant only began to plead with the reater fervor that pardon might be given to the miserly creature who could only give a single guinea towards the evangelisation of the world, wlen the Lord had done so much for him. This last assault ade the farmer alarmed lest he should be induced to give too much, and therefore he roared out, “Sam, I tell thee to give over: I’q give thee two guineas, if thou wilt only give it up.” The two guineas were instantaneously secured, and borne away in triumph. Shockingly bad taste no doubt all this; but the man could no more help it than an eagle can help flying. His heart and soul were as red hot as his own coals when the bellows were going, and ‘there was no room in his case for deliberations as to taste and propriety, t\is own giving was always bwond the point which prudence and Martha would have tolerated; he emptied his pockets on all missionary and collecting occasions, was far more glee than money grubbers feel when they are filling theirs, lie had a right to fetch another man’s ass for his Master, since he was delighted to put his own clothes upon it.
Sammy was great at a sick bed, though even there the eccentric element would occasionally crop up, as for instance, when he, going to visit a Roman Catholic, was repulsed by the priest, but urged as a reason for admittance that he could help the priest, for “two are better far than one.”
Prayer was his delight, and his power in it with his God made many wonder. We know personally too well that prayer is a reality, to cast doubts upon the many instances narrated in which this childlike man prevailed in supplication. One of those most often earfiled at, is thus narrated by his biographer, ]fr. Everett: “Samuel was at Knottingly, a populous village in the neighborhood of Ferry- bridge, in 1817, where he took occasion to inform his hearers, that timre would be a love-feast at Micklefield, on a certain day, when he should be glad to see all who were entitled to that privilege. He further observed, with his usual frankness and generosity, that he had six bushels of corn, and that they should be ground for the occasion. These comprised the whole of the corn left of the previous year’s produce. When, therefore, he returned home, and named his general invitation and intention, Martha, who had as deep an interest in it as himself, enquired very expressively, ‘ And didst thou tell them, when all the corn was done, how we were to get through the remainder of the season, till another crop should be reaped?’ To-morrow, alas! rarely entered into Samuel’s calculations, unless connected with the church. The day fixed for the love-feast drew near — there was no flour in the house — and the wind-mills, in consequence of a long calm, stretched out their arms in vain to catch the rising breeze. In the midst of this deathdike quiet, Samuel carried his conl to the mill nearest his own residence, and requested the miller to unfurl his sails. The miller objected, stated that there was ‘no wind.’ Samuel, on the other hand, continued to urge his request, saying, ‘ I will go and pray while you spread the cloth.’ More with a view of gratifying the applicant than from any faith he had in him who holds the natural winds in his fists, and who answers the petitions of his creatures, the man stretched his canvas. No sooner had he done this, than, to his utter astonishment, a fine breeze sprung up, the fans whirled round, the corn was converted into meal, and Samuel returned with his burthen rejoicing, and had everything in readiness for the festival. A neighbor who had seen the fans in vigorous motion, took also some corn to be ground; but the wind had dropped, and the miller remarked,’ You must send for Sammy Hick to pray for the wind to blow again.’“ We have trore faith in that story than all the Papist miracles put together, laugh who may.
His plain personal remarks to individuals werq frequently the means of conversion. WouldtoGod thatweall were more skillful in the like means of usefulness. “A young lady, who had been known to him from her childhood, and whose palfry had lost a shoe, called at his shop to have it replaced. She appeared delicate. He looked cornpassionately upon her, and asked’Do you know, barn, whether you have a soul? Startled with the question, she looked in return; but before she was permitted to reply, he said, ‘Yo have one, whether you know it or not; and it will live in happiness or misery for ever.” These, and other remarks, produced serious reflections. Her father perceived from her manner, on her return home — her residence being not far from Samuel’s dwelling — that something was preying upon her spirits. She told him the cause: ‘ What!’ he exclaimed, ‘ has that old blacksmith been at thee, to turn thy head? but I will whack (beat) him.’ So saying, he took up a large stick, similar to a hedge-stake — left the house — posted off to Samuel’s residence — found him at the anvil — and without the least intimation, fetched him a heavy blow on the side, which, said Samuel, when relating the circumstance, ‘nearly felled me to the ground,’ adding, ‘ and it was not a little that would have done it in those days.’ On receiving the blow, he turned round, and said, ‘ What are you about, man? what is that for?’ Supposing it to be out of revenge, and that religion was the cause of it, he made a sudden wheel, and lifting up his arm, inclined the oher side to his enraged assailant, saying, ‘Here, man, hit that too.’ But either the man’s courage failed him, or he was softened by the manner in which the blow was received;. beholding in Samuel a real disciple of him who said, ‘ Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’ He then left him; and Samuel had the happiness of witnessing the progress of religion in the daughter. Some time after this, the person himself was taken ill, and Samuel was sent for. He was shown into the chamber, and looking on the sick man, he asked, ‘ What is the matter with you? are you bown to die?’ He stretched out his arm to Samuel, and said, ‘ Will you forgive me?’ Not recollecting the circumstance for a moment, Samuel asked, ‘ Wllat for? I have nothing against you, barn, nor any man living.’ The case being noticed, the question was again asked, ‘ Will you forgive me?’ ‘ Forgive you, bar? I tell you I have nothing aai.st you! But if you are about to die, we will pray a bit, and see if the Lord will forgive you.’ Samuel knelt by the side of the couch, and the dying mau united with him: and from the penitence, fervor, and gratitude which he manifested, there was hope in his death. The dau,hter continued all object of his solicitude: she grew up to woman-hood — became a mother, and he afterwards exulted to see her and two of her daughters members of the Wesleyan Society. Four conversions are here to be traced, in regular succession, and attributable apparently to a word fitly and seasonably spoken, by one of the weak lhilgs of this worM, becoming mighty through God.
So accustomed to success was our friend, that when he was in London he felt an impulse to try his hand at the conversion of a Jew, who kep a silversmith’s shop opposite his lodging. The result was such as one could have prophesied. Jacob eyed Samuel with keenness, thinking to himself, “Here is a greenhorn from the country, I will make some mouish out of him.” Samuel on the contrary, with childlike simplicity, said within himself, “Here is a soul to be saved, I will tell him the blessed gospel.” They exchanged looks, and Samuel opened fire. “Bless the Lord! here is a fine morning!” Jacob replied, “It ish, it ish ibry fine. ¥at be to besht news in to city.” “The best news that I cau hear,” replied Samuel, “is that Jesus Christ is pardoning sinners and sanctifying believers.” “Poh, poh,” rejoined Jacob, turning red as scarlet, “tuff and nonshensh! It ish all telusion.” Whereat Samuel rallied with the testimony of his own experience of this blessed delusion, which for forty years had comforted and sanctified his soul: but Jacob bad banged the shop door, and beaten a retreat into the little room, leaving Sanreel to bless the Lord that he had not been lefL to be numbered with unbelievers. Such a man would beard the Pope himself, and tell the Grand Turk to his hoe, that in Jesus alone is salvation. The fact is, he lived an artless life; he believed unquestioningly, and was strong; he acted conscientiously, and had no need to fear; he served his Lord un-wareringly, and his reward was power both with God and men. The reader may enquire concerning his death, but we shall give no details, fin’ more important is it to gather wisdom from his life. Like him, we may expect to die, singing, “Glory, glory, glow,” if we have lived under the power of grace.
We should be sorry to see any man imitate Sammy Hick, the copy would be disgusting; but if all our working men and women who are saved by gTace, would in some such way as he did, live and labor for the spread of the gospel, the dW would soon break, and the shadows flee away. 3lore genuine, simple, personal piety, and less burnish and mimicry of religion, and the world would behold the church as “terrible as an army with banners.”
A THURSDAY EVENING DISCOURSE BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“The glory of the Lord shall bc thy rereward.’ — Isaiah 58:8.
THE church of God is an army marching through an enemy’s territory. She can never reckon upon a moment’s peace. If she were of the world, the world would love its own; but because true saints are not of the world, but Christ has chosen them out of the world, therefore the world hateth them.
As the Amalekites suddenly fell upon the children of Israel, unprovoked, and without givin’ any warning of their hostile intention, so not only in times of persecution, but in these apparendy softer days when the world does not use the stake and the sword, at all seasons the world is ready to pounce upon the church of God, and to call in its grand ally the devil, to overthrow and destroy, as far as possible, the militant hosts of Israel.
Every Christian then, must be a soldier, and take hissbare in the battles of the cross. We must not look upon our life as being; a pleasure-journey through a fi’iendly land, but as a march, a march through the very midst of foes nho Will dispute every foo of our way.
Now, if we thus view the church as an army, it is consolatory to know that we have a vanguard. “My righteousness shall go before thee.” We take our Lord Jesus Christ to be “the Lord our righteousness;” he is the forerunner, and he has gone before us, even through the river of death, and up to the skies, that he may prepare a place for all those who have enlisted under his standard.
Our text, however, speaks not of the vanguard, but of the “reward.” There is always dang’er there, and it is comfortable to behold so glorious a shield borne in the rear by so mighty an arin. “The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.” It is but little I have to say to you this evening, but may Gd make that little profitable to you. We will, first of all, dwell upon the rereward, and enquire what it is which is here intended; and, secondly, we will try to show how the glory of the Lord brings up the rear, and protects the saints on every side.
I. In the first place,WHAT MAY WE UNDERSTAND BY THE REREWARD?
Taking the text to refer to the church of God as a body, we remark that there are always some who bring up the rear. God has never lef his church without men to stand in the front. A few choice men have always been raised up by God, and who have led the way, both in testimonv and in suffering. The race of the prophets will never be extinct. “The sceptre” in this sense will not depart from the members of the church until Christ shall come a second time. The teacher shall not be taken out of his place, nor the candlestick be removed, nor the bread of life be taken away. But the mass of the church are rather like the lody of the army, marching on and fighting well, but not attaining unto the first three mighties. We have, moreover, in the church, a consideral:be proportion of those who are always behind.
Some of those are here tonight. You feel yourselves to belong to the rear, because or are so wealc i faith. It is a blessed thing to enjoy hll assurance of faith, and yet no doubt there are thousands in the fold of Jesus who never reach this attainment. It is a great pity that they should not reach it, for they miss much happiness and much uset’alness, but still— “Thousands in the fold of Jesus, This attainment ne’er could boast; To his name eternal praises, None of these shall e’er be lost.”
Deeply graven On his hands their names remain.” There are some who, from their natural constitution, and other circumstances, are very apt to despond. Like Mr. Fearing, they not only go through the Slough of Despond, but, as Bunyan says, they carry a slough of despond about with them. They are little in faith, but they are great at foreseeing evil. They are alwws expecting some dreadful ill, and they cower down before a shadow. I thank God that those of you who have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, shall not be left. fhe glory of the Lord shall gather you up. The stragglers, the wounded, the halt, the lame — though these cannot march with the rest as we could desire, though, like Mr. Ready-to-Halt, they have to go on crutches, yet the glory of the Lord shall be their shelter and protection. Then there are some of you who are not exactly weak in the faith. but ill your humble eslimale of yourselves, you put yourselves in the rear. “I am very poor,” says one; “it is but little’that- I can ever give; even if I gave a mite, as the widow did, I might almost give all my substance in so doing; I am obscure, too, for I have no talent; i cannot preach; I can scarcely prw in the prayer-meeting to edification; I hope I love the Lord, and that I am one of the stones in the walls of his church, but I am quite a hidden one.” Ah! well, poor though you are, despised and forgotten, the glow of the Lord shall secure your safety. It is said of the tribe of Dan, “These shall go hindmost with their standards,” and there must be some to be in the rear; so, while the rich may rejoice in what God has given to them, yet you, in your contentment with your lot, may be thankful for your poverty, and bless the name of the Lord that, though you may be in tke rear, you are yet in the army, and you shall soon, as much as those in the van, have your full share of the spoil.
Possibly there are some who get into the rear from a much more painful cause, namely, from backslidiuy. I would not say a word to excuse backsliding, for it is a dreadful thing that we should depart from our first love, or lose the rigour of our piety. It is dangerous to get even half a yard from the Savior’s side. To live in the sun, like Milton’s algol, that is blessed living; no lack of light or warmth there; bu to turn our backs on the sun, as the descendants of Cain did of old, and to go journeyin away from Christ, this is dangerous in the extreme. “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” Many men talk of David’s sin: it were well if they would recollect David’s repentance, and David’s broken bones, after he had received pardon. He never was the same man afterwards that he;;as before. His voice was hoarse and cracked. You can tell the psahns that he wrote after his fall, for his pen quivered as he wrote them; and yet, blessed be God, he could sw, “Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.”
Even these falling ones, Christ is kind to them. Though they have wandered, his ¥oice is not that of condemnation, but of consolation.
Return, ye backsliding ones! He owns the marriage bonds still. “I am married’unto thee, saith the Lord.” Backslider, let this be some comfort to you, if you are bewailing your backslidings; but oh’. if you are not conscious of them, or are conscious of them, but are not mourning them, tremble, tremble, lest backsliding should become aposLacy, and you should prove beyond question that you never had a sound work of grace in your heart.
Now, whoever it may be in the militant host of the Lord that may be in the rear, here is comfort — that the glory of the Lord shall he the rereward.
Only one or two of you can guess, in any adequate measure, what the care of such a large church as this is. I have sometimes said, with Moses, “Have I begotten all this people, that I should carry them in my bosom?” But here is my consolation, “the Lord knoweth them that are his;” and those of you who do not alwws show due faith and courage — who do not advance to the front, as we could wish, in Christian service, we, nevertheless, commend you to the care of our God, praying that the rear may be divinely preserved. We wish that you would quicken your pace, that you would grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; but we know that, even as it is, you shall be found of him in peace in the day of his appearing, since your righteousness is found in him, and you are not trusting in yourselves.
But, now, supposing the text to refer to the individual Christian, how shall we translate it? “The glory of the Lord shall be your rereward.”
We will translate it in three ways. First, as relating to our past — that which is behind us. We need a protection from the past. Now, what is that which is behind us? There is something to rejoice in, for God has been gTaeious to us, but there is yew much to mourn over, for we remember our former lusts in our ignorance, things whereof we are now ashamed. Christian, look back awhile upon those sins of yours, the sins of your youth, and your former transHes-sions; sins against law and against gospel, against light, and against love; sins of omission, and sins of commission! What about them? Suppose that, like a pack of hungry wolves, they should pursue you; suppose they should come after you, as Pharaoh and his chariots went after the children of Israel, when they escaped out of Egypt I Ah! then the glory of the Lord shall be your rereward. Christ and his atonement shall come between us and our sins, and he shall drown our enemies in the Red Sea of his blood, even as he drowned Pharaoh and all his raging hosts who pursued the chosen people. Fear not your past sin, Christian. Tremble at the thought of it, by way of repentance, but thank God that you shall not be called to account for it; for your sins were numbered on the Scapegoat’s head of old, and he took them, and made an end of them, and carried them away for ever. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” As to past sin, the glorious atonement shall bring up the rear.
Then there are our past habits. How much of injury we still suffer from these! A man who has been accustomed to witness scenes of vice wfil frequently have most fearful pictures pained upon his eye-balls, even when they are closed for prayer. Yes, and when the sacred hymn is going up to heaven, a word in it may suggest a snatch of a profane song, or bring to the recollection even blasphemy itself. It is a sad thing to have learned the arts of sin, to have acquired habits of passionate temper, of pride, or covetousness or of falsehood. We may well tremble lest these old enemies should at last prove too much for us. We have left them behind us! they do not lead and guide us as once they did, but they dog our steps; the dominion of sin is broken, but the law of sin is still there to vex us. The tree is cut down, but the sprouts still arise from the root, and are all too vigorous, especially at times when they have bees watered by circumstances, for at the scent of water they will bud and:a;row. Ah! then, we must take our bad habits to the Lord Jesus. We mus ask him to manifest his glory by helping us to conquer them, and we shall yet break these bonds which had become like fetters of iron; we shall snap them as Samson of old did his green withes, and we shall be free: but the glory of the Lord must do it, and we shall have to give him all the praise. So the whole of the past, if you take it in any of its aspects, need not cause the Christian tormenting sorrow, for he can believe that all his sinful past is left with God, so that as neither thins present, nor things to come shall be able to separate him from the love of God, so not even things past shall be able to do it.
But again; understanding the text as referring to the individual believer, we may speak of the rear as signifying that part of our nature which is most backward in yielding to the power of divine grace. Brethren, often to will is present with us, but how to perform that which we would we find not. The understanding is convineed, and that leads the van; the affections are awakened, and they follow after; but there is a weaker passion which would, if it dared, consent to sin, and hat is this flesh of ours in which there dwelleth no good thing. It is this dangerous rear, this weakest part of our nature, which we have most cause to dread. O friends, you know but little of yourselves if ,:on do not know this, that there are such weak points about you that you might be overthrown in a moment if almighty grace did not preserve you. Peter is laughed at by a silly maid, and he falls. How are the mighty fallen! How little a thing brings an apostle to the level of a blasphemer! As for this rear-part of our army, what shall we do with it? It is here that God’s glory will be seen in conquering and overcoming.
Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, and gives us victory in the very place where we were accustomed to say, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Those straggling passions which we cannot marshal as we would into regular order; those wandering thoughts; those downward desires; that cold hearL which will not grow warm as we would have it, but will lose its holy glow — all these powers of ours shall be brought into subjection and sanctified by grace. God shall gather up the stragglers, and bring the whole man safe to perfection by the sanctifying power of the Spirit.
Once again, understanding still the individual Christian, may we not speak of our rear as signifying the end of our days? The glory of the Lord shall be the rereward of our mortal history. The van was blessed, when we looked to Christ and were lightened, and our faces were not ashamed. “Many days have passed since then; Many changes have we seen; Yet have been upheld till now — Who could hold us up but thou?” But the rear of the march of life is coming. We shall soon be up to our necks iu the chill river. The waves and billows must soon roll over us. We may desire to be with Christ, but death itself never can be desirable. “We shrink back again to life, Fond of our prison and our clay.” We long to be with Christ, for it shall be far better, but that last pinch, when soul and body shall be separated, cannot be looked forward to without solemn awe. Oh! how sweet to think that Christ shall bring up the rear If ever we have had his presence, we shall have it then. We shall “Sing when the death-dew lies cold on our brow, If ever we loved thee, our Jesus, ‘tis now.” Perhaps our last day will be our best and brightest day, and we shall be surprised to find what floods of glory there are around and above the floods of death. I see, before me many, very many veterans. Your grey hairs tell of your nearness to heaven. I trust your locks are whitened with the sunlight of glory. Oh! be not afraid; you shall find it a blessed thing to sleep in Jesus: and even as you go to that last bed, you shall not tremble, for he shall be so manifestly with you that you shall not be afraid. The glory of the Lord shall be your rereward, and what that glory shall be, what heart can imagine, what tong’ue can tell? The glory that excelleth, the glory of perfection, the glory of being made like unto the first-born among many brethren; the glory of the Wellbeloved, which he had with his Father before the world was. “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them.”
Behold then your latter end. O that our last days might be with the righteous, and our last end be like theirs! The glory of the Lord shall be the Christian’s rereward.
II. But now, only for a minute or two, let me show now THE STORY OF THE LORD thus, both in the case of the church, and of each separate Christian,BECOMES THE MEANS OF GRACIOUSPRESERVATION.
What is this “glory of the Lord” which shelters the weak and preserves the saints? May we not understand it to mean, first of all, the glorious attributes of God? God’s mercy is one of his glories. It is his great glory, you know, that he is a God passing by iniquity, transgression, and sin, and remembering not the iniquity of his people. Now, brethren, as to our past sins, and our weaknesses, and all those other senses in which we understand the rear of our spiritual host — as to all these, the mercy of God will glorify itself in them all. Notwithstanding our weakness, mercy shall find a platform for the display of itself, and where sin abounded there shall ace much more abound. When you think of the greatness of your sin, think also of the greatness of God’s mercy at the same time. As Master Wilcox says, “If thou canst not keep thine eye on the cross when thou art repenting, away with thy repenting.” A sense of sin which is not also attended with a belief in God’s mercy is not an evangelical sense of sin. O to know the superabounding mercy of the loving God who delighteth in mercy, his last born, but his best-beloved attribute! He will glorify himself by his mercy in delivering you where you most need it.
So will he also use the glorious attribute of his wisdom. It takes a wise captain to conduct the rear. To be in the van needs courage and prudence, but to be in the rear often needs more wisdom, and even more courage still, and Ood will show the wisdom of his providence and the fidelity of his grace in taking care o the weakest of the host, and in preserving you, believer, in that place where you are most in need of preservation. So will he also show his power. Oh, what power it will be that will bring some of us to heaven! We need a God to get us there. Nothing short of divine strength will ever be able to preserve some of us.
So crushed and hardened, and sometimes so stung wifi the venom of the old serpent, unless the bare arm of God be reveled, how shall we who are in the rear be kept? The glory of the Lord in mercy, wisdom, and power, shall shine transcendently in our case.
And here, too, shall be conspicuous the immutability of God. Be loved, of all the attributes of God,next to his love, this is, rhaps, the sweetest to the tried Christian, namely, his iramutability. “Immutable his will; Though dark may be my frame.” You are not trusting in a Savior who was yours yesterday, but is not faithful to-day, or who will fail you to-morrow; but every word of his promise sLandeth sure, and he himself standeth fast to it. How the immutability of God will be illustrated in those who have had a long life, and borne trial all through it, but who find at the last that Christ who loved his own, which were in the world, did love them even unto the end. Yes, the weakness which you now discover and mourn over, shall only afford an opportunity for the faithfulness of God to reveal itself in your case. The glory of the Lord, in all its attributes, shall bring up the rear.
May we not also understand, besides his attributes, his providenee? The providence of God is his glory. Thus he shows the skirts of his royal robes amongst the sons of men, as he has dominion over all the events of time.
Ah! yes, you may rest assured that in all those points in the Christian church which are the most weak, and the most behind, the providence of God will be seen in bringing the entire army of God home, safely home, victoriously home. Looking at the history of the whole church, it is wonderful to see how God has never sustained a defeat, and when his army seems to have been repulsed for a time, it is only drawn back to take a more wondrous leap to a yet greater victory One wave may recede, but the main ocean advances, the great tide of our holy faith is coming up; and as we water wave after wave dying upon the shore we must not weep, or think that God is sustaining a disappointment, for the main flood must advance, and it shall, till all the mud of idolatry and human sin, and all the sand of human rebellion shall be covered with the silver tide of truth and love, and against the rocks of eternity, the great waves of gospel truth shall for ever beat. Courage, my brethren, the Lord will bring up the rear by his providence, ruling and overruling, making evil produce good, and good something better and better still in infinite progression, Not only to the whole church, but to you also shall it be so, and in due time if you will but wait, you shall not be disappointed, but your light shall rise ill obscurity, and the days of your mourning shall be ended. The glory of the Lord shall thus be on reward.
But may we not believe that the glory of the Lord which brings up the rear is himself? After all, we cannot dissociate the glory fi’tml the glorious One.
God himself we must have if we would see his .dory. Ah! brethren, the wine of communion with our Father and his ,’-;oil Jesus Christ is the surest preservative, and espeeially ought we to cultivate this communion when we feel that we are most in danger. Near to the Savionr’s t;osom, and it does not matter what we suffer. C!oe to God, and he who is full of infirmities will overcome them all. Whatever your besetting sin may have been, put our head upon the Savior’s bosom, and that besetting sin shall not overthrow you. Close to the Master, and since his garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, you shall never want for perfume. Have Christ with you, and you cannot walk in darkness, however dark your way may be. Get you to your chambers. Wait upon him in prayer. In coming down from those chambers with your souls refreshed, say to him, “Abide with me from morn to eve,” for you may rest assured that in this holy communion you shall find the true protection, while they who neglect this are most apt to slip with their feet.
And so, let me close these few words of address by entreating you always to fly to the glory of the Lord whenever you feel your danger, and even when you do not fed it, for it is well to be there. “Trust in the Lord, and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fcd.” Trust not in man, nor stay thy confidence in the glory of man. Rest not in thy circumstances, thy wealth, nor thy health, for the glory of all these shall pass away as the beauty of the flower in the field, which is soon cut down beneath the mower’s scythe. Trust thou in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. Yo sons of men, trust in your God, and ye shall be secure beneath the shadow of his wings. Ye sinners, fly to the Savior. “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found.” Look to the cross of Jesus, and put all your dependence in his sufferings, and his merits, and you who have so done already, fly more than ever to your God; and to your God alone in every hour of ill, and every night of grief. The Lord bless you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.