Lord’s Day 31, 2010
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Yet I Sin
Thou art good beyond all thought,
But I am vile, wretched, miserable, blind;
My lips are ready to confess,
but my heart is slow to feel
and my ways reluctant to amend.
I bring my soul to thee;
break it, wound it, bend it, mould it.
Unmask to me sin’s deformity,
that I may hate it, abhor it, flee from it.
My faculties have been a weapon of revolt
as a rebel I have misused my strength,
and served the foul adversary of thy kingdom.
Give me grace to bewail my insensate folly,
Grant me to know that the way of transgressors
that evil paths are wretched paths,
that to depart from thee is to lose all good.
I have seen the purity and beauty of thy perfect law,
the happiness of those in whose heart it reigns,
the calm dignity of the walk to which it calls,
yet I daily violate and contemn its precepts.
Thy loving Spirit strives within me,
brings me Scripture warnings,
speaks in startling providences,
allures by secret whispers,
yet I choose devices and desires to my own hurt,
impiously resent, grieve,
and provoke him to abandon me.
All these sins I mourn, lament, and for them
Work in me more profound and abiding repentance;
Give me the fullness of a godly grief
that trembles and fears,
yet ever trusts and loves,
which is ever powerful, and ever confident;
Grant that through the tears of repentance
I may see more clearly the brightness
and glories of the saving cross.
—The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002).
Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
These verses show us what St. Peter meant, when he said, “There are some things hard to be understood” in Scripture. (2 Pet. iii. 16.) There are depths here which we have no line to fathom thoroughly. This need not surprise us, or shake our faith. The Bible would not be a book “given by inspiration of God,” if it did not contain many things which pass man’s finite understanding. With all its difficulties, it contains thousands of passages which the most unlearned may easily comprehend. Even here, if we look steadily at these verses, we may gather from them lessons of considerable importance.
We have, first, in these verses, a great doctrine indirectly proved. That doctrine is the imputation of man’s sin to Christ.
We see the Saviour of the world, the eternal Son of God troubled and disturbed in mind: “Now is my soul troubled.” We see Him who could heal diseases with a touch, cast out devils with a word, and command the waves and winds to obey Him, in great agony and conflict of spirit. Now how can this be explained?
To say, as some do, that the only cause of our Lord’s trouble was the prospect of His own painful death on the cross, is a very unsatisfactory explanation. At this rate it might justly be said that many a martyr has shown more calmness and courage than the Son of God. Such a conclusion is, to say the least, most revolting. Yet this is the conclusion to which men are driven if they adopt the modern notion, that Christ’s death was only a great example of self-sacrifice.
Nothing can ever explain our Lord’s trouble of soul, both here and in Gethsemane, except the old doctrine, that He felt the burden of man’s sin pressing Him down. It was the mighty weight of a world’s guilt imputed to Him and meeting on his head, which made Him groan and agonize, and cry, “Now is my soul troubled.” Forever let us cling to that doctrine, not only as untying the knot of the passage before us, but as the only ground of solid comfort for the heart of a Christian. That our sins have been really laid on our Divine Substitute, and borne by Him, and that His righteousness is really imputed to us and accounted ours,—this is the real warrant for Christian peace. And if any man asks how we know that our sins were laid on Christ, we bid him read such passages as that which is before us, and explain them on any other principle if he can. Christ has borne our sins, carried our sins, groaned under the burden of our sins, been “troubled” in soul by the weight of our sins, and really taken away our sins. This, we may rest assured, is sound doctrine this is Scriptural theology.
We have, secondly, in these verses, a great mystery unfolded. That mystery is the possibility of much inward conflict of soul without sin.
We cannot fail to see in the passage before us a mighty mental struggle in our blessed Saviour. Of its depth and intensity we can probably form very little conception. But the agonizing cry, “My soul is troubled,”—the solemn question, “What shall I say?”—the prayer of suffering flesh and blood, “Father, save Me from this hour,”—the meek confession, “For this cause came I unto this hour,”—the petition of a perfectly submissive will, “Father, glorify Your name,”—what does all this mean? Surely there can be only one answer. These sentences tell of a struggle within our Saviour’s breast, a struggle arising from the natural feelings of one who was perfect man, and as man could suffer all that man is capable of suffering. Yet He in whom this struggle took place was the Holy Son of God. “In Him is no sin.” (1 St. John 3:5.) There is a fountain of comfort here for all true servants of Christ, which ought never to be overlooked. Let them learn from their Lord’s example that inward conflict of soul is not necessarily in itself a sinful thing. Too many, we believe, from not understanding this point, go heavily all their days on their way to heaven. They fancy they have no grace, because they find a fight in their own hearts. They refuse to take comfort in the Gospel, because they feel a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Let them mark the experience of their Lord and Master, and lay aside their desponding fears. Let them study the experience of His saints in every age, from Paul downwards, and understand that as Christ had inward conflicts, so must Christians expect to have them also. To give way to doubts and unbelief, no doubt is wrong, and robs us of our peace. There is a faithless despondency, unquestionably, which is blameworthy, and must be resisted, repented of, and brought to the fountain for all sin, that it may be pardoned. But the mere presence of fight and strife and conflict in our hearts is in itself no sin. The believer may be known by his inward warfare as well as by his inward peace.
We have, thirdly, in these verses, a great miracle exhibited. That miracle is the heavenly Voice described in this passage,—a voice which was heard so plainly that people said it thundered,—proclaiming, “I have glorified my name, and will glorify it again.”
This wondrous Voice was heard three times during our Lord’s earthly ministry. Once it was heard at His baptism, when the heavens were opened and the Holy Ghost descended on Him. Once it was heard at His transfiguration, when Moses and Elijah appeared for a season with Him, before Peter, James, and St. John. Once it was heard here at Jerusalem, in the midst of a mixed crowd of disciples and unbelieving Jews. On each occasion we know that it was the Voice of God the Father. But why this Voice was only heard on these occasions we are left to conjecture. The thing was a deep mystery, and we cannot now speak particularly of it.
Let it suffice us to believe that this miracle was meant to show the intimate relations and unbroken union of God the Father and God the Son, throughout the period of the Son’s earthly ministry. At no period during His incarnation was there a time when the eternal Father was not close to Him, though unseen by man.—Let us also believe that this miracle was meant to signify to bystanders the entire approval of the Son by the Father, as the Messiah, the Redeemer, and the Saviour of man. That approval the Father was pleased to signify by voice three times, as well as to declare by signs and mighty deeds, performed by the Son in His name. These things we may well believe. But when we have said all, we must confess that the Voice was a mystery. We may read of it with wonder and awe, but we cannot explain it.
We have, lastly, in these verses, a great prophesy delivered. The Lord Jesus declared, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”
Concerning the true meaning of these words, there can be but one opinion in any honest mind. They do not mean, as is often supposed, that if the doctrine of Christ crucified is lifted up and exalted by ministers and teachers, it will have a drawing effect on hearers. This is undeniably a truth, but it is not the truth of the text. They simply mean that the death of Christ on the cross would have a drawing effect on all mankind. His death as our Substitute, and the Sacrifice for our sins, would draw multitudes out of every nation to believe on Him and receive Him as their Saviour. By being crucified for us, and not by ascending a temporal throne, He would set up a kingdom in the world, and gather subjects to Himself.
How thoroughly this prophecy has been fulfilled for eighteen centuries, the history of the Church is an abundant proof. Whenever Christ crucified has been preached, and the story of the cross fully told, souls have been converted and drawn to Christ, in every part of the world, just as iron-filings are drawn to a magnet. No truth so exactly suits the needs of all children of Adam, of every color, climate, and language, as the truth about Christ crucified.
And the prophecy is not yet exhausted. It shall yet receive a more complete accomplishment. A day shall come when every knee shall bow before the Lamb that was slain, and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He who was “lifted up” on the cross shall yet sit on the throne of glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations. Friends and foes, each in their own order, shall be “drawn” from their graves, and appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. Let us take heed in that day that we are found on His right hand!
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.