Lord’s Day 32, 2010
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Hymn 38. Part 1. (c. m.)
The atonement of Christ. Rom. iii. 25.
Isaac Watts (1674–1748)
How is our nature spoil’d by sin!
Yet nature ne’er hath found
The way to make the conscience clean,
Or heal the painful wound.
In vain we seek for peace with God
By methods of our own:
Jesus, there’s nothing but thy blood
Can bring us near the throne.
The threat’nings of thy broken law
Impress our souls with dread;
If God his sword of vengeance draw,
It strikes our spirits dead.
But thine illustrious sacrifice
Hath answer’d these demands:
And peace and pardon from the skies
Came down by Jesus’ hands.
Here all the ancient types agree,
The altar and the lamb;
And prophets in their visions see
Salvation through his name.
’Tis by thy death we live, O Lord,
’Tis on thy cross we rest;
For ever be thy love ador’d,
Thy name for ever bless’d.
—from The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997).
The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”
These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. 37 But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.” 41 These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
We may learn, from these verses, the duty of using present opportunities. The Lord Jesus says to us all, “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you. While you have light believe in the light.” Let us not think that these things were only spoken for the sake of the Jews. They were written for us also, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
The lesson of the words is generally applicable to the whole professing Church of Christ. Its time for doing good in the world is short and limited. The throne of grace will not always be standing: it will be removed one day, and the throne of judgment will be set up in its place. The door of salvation by faith in Christ will not always be open: it will be shut one day forever, and the number of God’s elect will be completed. The fountain for all sin and uncleanness will not always be accessible; the way to it will one day be barred, and there will remain nothing but the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
These are solemn thoughts; but they are true. They cry aloud to sleeping Churchmen and drowsy congregations, and ought to arouse great searchings of heart. “Can nothing more be done to spread the Gospel at home and abroad? Has every means been tried for extending the knowledge of Christ crucified? Can we lay our hands on our hearts, and say that the Churches have left nothing undone in the matter of missions? Can we look forward to the Second Advent with no feelings of humiliation, and say that the talents of wealth, and influence, and opportunities have not been buried in the ground?”—Such questions may well humble us, when we look, on one side, at the state of professing Christendom, and, on the other, at the state of the heathen world. We must confess with shame that the Church is not walking worthy of its light.
But the lesson of the words is specially applicable to ourselves as individuals. Our own time for getting good is short and limited; let us take heed that we make good use of it. Let us “walk while we have the light.” Have we Bibles? Let us not neglect to read them. —Have we the preached Gospel? Let us not linger halting between two opinions, but believe to the saving of our souls. —Have we Sabbaths? Let us not waste them in idleness, carelessness, and indifference, but throw our whole hearts into their sacred employments, and turn them to good account. —Light is about us and around us and near us on every side. Let us each resolve to walk in the light while we have it, lest we find ourselves at length cast out into outer darkness forever. It is a true saying of an old divine, that the recollection of lost and misspent opportunities will be the very essence of hell.
We may learn, secondly, from these verses, the desperate hardness of the human heart. It is written of our Lord’s hearers at Jerusalem, that, “though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him.”
We err greatly if we suppose that seeing wonderful miraculous things will ever convert souls. Thousands live and die in this delusion. They fancy if they saw some miraculous sight, or witnessed some supernatural exercise of Divine grace, they would lay aside their doubts, and at once become decided Christians. It is a total mistake. Nothing short of a new heart and a new nature implanted in us by the Holy Ghost, will ever make us real disciples of Christ. Without this, a miracle might raise within us a little temporary excitement; but, the novelty once gone, we would find ourselves just as cold and unbelieving as the Jews.
The prevalence of unbelief and indifference in the present day ought not to surprise us. It is just one of the evidences of that mighty foundation-doctrine, the total corruption and fall of man. How feebly we grasp and realize that doctrine is proved by our surprise at human incredulity. We only half believe the heart’s deceitfulness. Let us read our Bibles more attentively, and search their contents more carefully. Even when Christ wrought miracles and preached sermons, there were numbers of His hearers who remained utterly unmoved. What right have we to wonder if the hearers of modern sermons in countless instances remain unbelieving? “The disciple is not greater than his Master.” If even the hearers of Christ did not believe, how much more should we expect to find unbelief among the hearers of His ministers! Let the truth be spoken and confessed. Man’s obstinate unbelief is one among many indirect proofs that the Bible is true. The clearest prophecy in Isaiah begins with the solemn question, “Who hath believed?” (Isai. liii. 1.)
We may learn, thirdly, from these verses, the amazing power which the love of the world has over men. We read that “among the chief rulers many believed on Christ; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
These unhappy men were evidently convinced that Jesus was the true Messiah. Reason, and intellect, and mind, and conscience, obliged them secretly to admit that no one could do the miracles which He did, unless God was with Him, and that the preacher of Nazareth really was the Christ of God. But they had not courage to confess it. They dared not face the storm of ridicule, if not of persecution, which confession would have entailed. And so, like cowards, they held their peace, and kept their convictions to themselves.
Their case, it may be feared, is a sadly common one. There are thousands of people who know far more in religion then they act up to. They know they ought to come forward as decided Christians. They know that they are not living up to their light. But the fear of man keeps them back. They are afraid of being laughed at, jeered at, and despised by the world. They dread losing the good opinion of society, and the favourable judgment of men and women like themselves. And so they go on from to year to year, secretly ill at ease and dissatisfied with themselves,—knowing too much of religion to be happy in the world, and clinging too much to the world to enjoy any religion.
Faith is the only cure for soul ailments like this. A believing view of an unseen God, an unseen Christ, an unseen heaven, and an unseen judgment-day,&mddash;this is the grand secret of overcoming the fear of man. The expulsive power of a new principle is required to heal the disease. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” (1 John v. 4.) Let us pray for faith, if we would conquer that deadly enemy of souls, the fear of man and the love of man’s praise. And if we have any faith, let us pray for more. Let our daily cry be, “Lord, increase our faith.” We may easily have too much money, or too much worldly prosperity; but we can never have too much faith.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.