A Sermon Preached By William Gadsby At Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London, On Sunday Morning, May 28th, 1843.
It is a blessed time with the soul, when it can really feel, and sweetly enter into the enjoyment of the language you have just been singing:
“While Jesus shows his heart is mine, And whispers I am his!”
But I believe the Lord never bestows such solemn favors either to be sported or trifled with; and when the favour comes to our souls in this way, it is either to prepare us for trouble, to prop us up in trouble, or to deliver us out of trouble. It is now more than fifty years since God first spake this to my heart; and from that time to the present moment I have always found, more or less, that any spiritual visit to my soul, any soul-overcoming visit, has been attended with one of these three things: If I have not been in any particular trouble at the time, one has been very near; or it has been given when in the midst of trouble, to prevent me from sinking under it; or it has come as a deliverance out of trouble; so that, when God does favour the soul with such blessed visits, it is for a solemn purpose, and never either to be sported or trifled with.
That is a precious portion of the Word of God recorded by the prophet Zechariah; but I know that poor fallen sinful man does not like it, or he is very different to me, for God knows my heart and flesh do not. You will say, “What is it?” Why, to be brought into the fire, and to be led through the fire. For though I have been a thousand times in the fire, and brought out of it again, yet I do not like it now a whit more than I did fifty years ago. My flesh shrinks away and tries to escape from it as much as ever. But the Lord says to the prophet, “I will bring the third part through the fire; I will refine them as silver is refined, and try them as gold is tried.” And what will they do then? That which they did not do before: “They shall call on my name, and I will hear them, saith the Lord.” When they were not in the fire, they went back in their affections into the world, they pursued after the things of the world, and their backsliding hearts were wandering after every forbidden object, so that they had not much tune to call upon the Lord; but when they get into the fire, and begin to feel the heat of it, when they are brought into trouble, then they will cry out, and call upon the name of the Lord. But will he not refuse to listen to them then? No! He says, “I will hear them.” O how full of grace and mercy he is! How different to the actings of our minds! He gently reproves ns for our wanderings; and it is as though he said to us, “You now come to me because of your necessitous circumstances, but you would have done without me if you could; there are no thanks due to you; you would not have come, if it had not been for this.” God knows we can never do without him, he knows that well; and therefore he brings us into these necessitous circumstances that we should find that we cannot do without him. But when he puts us into the fire and into the furnace, and we feel it to get hotter and hotter, then, saith the Lord, they will be glad to come unto me, and to call upon my name. And what do you think he will say to them? O the wonders of his matchless mercy! He says, “I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God!” Now it is under such solemn and special circumstances as these that Christ appears so gloriously blessed to the poor sinner, when the Lord the Spirit is pleased thus to manifest him under trials and conflicts.
But the portion of Scripture I now design to read, and from which I shall make a few remarks, you will find recorded in Deuteronomy 33:23: “And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord.”
Moses was now about taking a farewell of the world and of the people of God. He had led them through the wilderness for forty years, and yet he found them still to be the same stiffnecked and gainsaying people they had ever been. And as it was with typical Israel then, so it is with spiritual Israel now. They are more than a match for the management of Moses. He never did, he never can manage them. He gave them many thundering lectures as they passed through the desert, and brought the people into a multitude of legal forms, concerning which they said, “All that the Lord hath commanded us we will do!” But they never did a jot or tittle of them; for they failed in all the legal forms which they promised to perform. And just so it is with the poor child of God now. While he is immediately under the terror of the law of works, O what vows and promises he makes! But he never performs one of them. But now, when Moses was going to give up the charge, and was about committing the people into better hands, even into the hands of Jesus himself, he says, “Yea, he loved the people.” What a wonderful thing that he should love such a reptile race as his children are! “Yea, he loved the people. All his saints are in thy hand; and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words.” It is as though Moses had said, “I have been trying to teach them for forty years, and they are now just as dull and absent as ever; but I will deliver them up altogether into the hands of Jesus; they shall become his scholars and sit at his feet; they shall be taught of him. and receive of his words.” And I have thought before now that Paul had this circumstance in view when, in writing to the Galatians, he said, “The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ;” but when we are brought to Christ, and made partakers of Christ, we are no longer then under that schoolmaster, but receive at the hands of the blessed Redeemer, by the power of the Spirit, solemn, sweet, and spiritual instruction. Moses then pronounces a variety of blessings on the different tribes of Israel, according to the design of God; and the portion we have read this morning as a text are the words which are spoken concerning Naphtali; and as I believe it is not to be confined to its mere literal meaning, but is to be taken in a spiritual sense also, I design, with the Lord’s help, to look at it in that sense at the present time. We shall, therefore,
I. Make a few remarks upon the person spoken of, Naphtali.
II. Show that these Naphtalis, in God’s own time, are satisfied with favour.
III. Prove how they are full with the blessing of the Lord. “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord.”
I. The term “Naphtali” signifies one that struggles, or wrestles, or is a great fighter; and I consider it is applicable to three characters: 1. To the Son of God himself, as our blessed Immanuel; 2. To the whole church of God, and to every individual member of that church while here below. And, 3. To every man whom God calls, qualifies, and sends into the ministry. Now all these are found to be wrestlers, strugglers, and fighters unto a better country, and in the end they are “satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord!”
The foundation-stone, then, in this solemn building is our blessed Immanuel. There is no building without him, no standing without him; and all God’s people find that whatever wrestling, struggling, or fighting they may have, if God did not bring them to feel that their standing was upon Christ, they would be sure to sink; but when they are brought, by faith, to find that they are fixed upon this immovable Rock, and to know that their standing is alone upon Christ, by the blessed revelation of the Spirit to their souls, why all the fury of hell is unable to move them, and Satan’s rage is no more than the shaking of rushes against them. And while God thus maintains his power in the consciences of those who, by precious faith, are building alone upon the Son of God, they will find that all their enemies will give way, and flee from them, and Christ alone be exalted.
But, first, we said that the term “Naphtali” was applicable to Christ himself. Now, in his mediatorial capacity, Christ was made in all points like unto his brethren; he was made low and little. I have often been struck with an expression of Hart’s, in one of his hymns; I do not know that I can quote it correctly; but the substance of it is:
“We speak of his greatness and power,
But who his weakness knows?”
And one solemn branch of the mystery of God is, to have a faith’s view of the feebleness, weakness, meanness, and littleness of the Son of God! For if we could only view his majesty and glory as God, it would be terrific to the poor, weak, struggling sinner; but when, under the teachings of the blessed Spirit, we can view our mighty Captain struggling, buffeted, tempted, tried, burdened, cast down, and low as “a worm, and no man,” as he calls himself; I say, when we can see him thus low, wrestling, struggling, and cast down; and yet, at the same time, to view him as the mighty God, and the upholder of all things; to behold devils alarmed at his look, obliged to obey his nod, and ask his permission where they may go; I say, what blessedness have such views afforded me many a time, to see him come down thus into such low circumstances, even into our low estate; so that, poor child of God, he not only knows thee by his infinite power and knowledge, but sympathetically he knows thy state, for he has been there before thee, yet without sin! Look, ‘hen, at this blessed Redeemer, in his low estate, made in all points like as we are, yet without sin; for no sooner was he made known as the Babe of Bethlehem born, but his stragglings and wrestlings came on; and as he grew up to youth and years of maturity, they increased upon him. And I could wish that God’s ministers, when they immerse in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, would keep this more in view, as there is no other emblem that sets forth so strikingly the amazing stragglings and overwhelmings of the Son of God as baptism I When Jesus was baptized, the Eternal Three appeared solemnly to sanction it; and I really do not know any ordinance that God’ instituted, either under the Old or in the New Testament, that was so manifestly honoured with the Persons in God. While the Person of the Son was being solemnly immersed in our nature, the Person of the Father spoke from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased!” And the Person of the Spirit descended from heaven like a dove, and rested upon him; so that the blessed Trinity, in his Divine Persons, appeared to crown this sacred act, to show that the majesty and glory of God were figured forth to us in the blessedness of this ordinance for all time to come. But no sooner had the Holy Ghost descended upon him, and the Father had given this glorious testimony concerning him, than we are told that he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. “Driven!” say you? Aye, he was; but it is his humanity that trembles and struggles; nevertheless, he must go. Do not wonder at it, brethren. He was now going to wrestle against all the malice, rage, spite, and venom which the devil ever has hurled out against his church, or ever will. It was all thrown upon him, and he bore it all; or you and I must have sunk under the weight of it, to rise no more! I know some poor child of God is ready to say, “I cannot believe that Christ was ever tempted as I am.” Well, then, if he were not, for certain you could never get through your temptations. II Christ had not been tempted like unto his brethren, how could he succour and support them under temptation? But, having passed through the same conflicts, he can sympathize with his suffering people and enter into all their sorrows and trials. “O,” says one, “it is impossible that Christ could have been tempted like unto me. He was not a sinner; but I am a poor, polluted, vile, and guilty sinner. He was ‘holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.’“ But stop; though this is the case, yet I will prove to you that his temptations were more painful than yours. Let me only ask you a question or two. Was there not a time when you did those things that would be horrifying to you to do now? Could you not, some of you, blaspheme, curse, and swear, and even call upon God, with awful oaths, invoking his solemn judgments upon your person, and run into all manner of obscenity and uncleanness? And yet, the mere temptation or suggestion from the enemy of souls to do any of these things now, or to gratify the vile passions of your carnal nature, is horrifying to you! How came all this to pass? From whence this change in your feelings? “O,” say you, “I can hardly tell.” I will tell you then. God, in the riches of his mercy, hath communicated unto you a measure of his grace; he hath imparted unto you a new nature, a principle of divine life; and the actings of that life cause you to sigh and groan under the temptation of these horrible things; and this measure of God’s communicable nature, this principle of holiness, is that which produces in your conscience so much distress at things which are so contrary to God and holiness and so horrifying to your mind. Well now, if these things are so with you, in a little measure, what mast temptation have been to the Son of God, who was altogether holy, both in his essential Godhead and in his perfect manhood? If the infernal foe could hurl such blasphemies at the head of Christ, what may not you and I expect from him in the force of his temptations? Yet Jesus bore the whole of his fury and malice; he straggled and wrestled against him and all his subtle temptations; but he fought to conquer; he overcame the prince of darkness; he braised his head; and, blessed be his name! he vanquished him for his tried and tempted people. But we are told that Christ was in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, without eating or drinking, and all that tune tempted of the devil. Who can number the amount or extent of his temptations during the whole of that time of his sufferings? But the two or three which are left on record are quite sufficient to show the nature of them and serve to prove that it was not possible for any temptation to be worse. He was poor. He said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head;” and yet it appears that the devil showed Christ the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of it, and promised to give it all to him, if he would only fall down and worship him! The devil had the impudence to tempt Christ to worship him, when he could appeal to the Father, and say, “All mine are thine and thine are mine!” I say, could anything be worse than this, for Christ to be tempted in our nature to worship the implacable foe of God and his church; and for no better purpose than worldly gain? And if he came thus, with his “ifs” and “buts” to the Son of God, do you think he will let as go free? As Hart says,
“That impious if, he thus
At God incarnate threw,
No wonder if he cast at us,
And make us feel it too!”
But he is a blessed and a true Friend. “He is a Brother born for adversity, and he sticketh closer than a brother.” Well; for forty days he struggled with his and our enemies; he met them in the field, and struggled with all the temptations and fiery darts that Satan ever has hurled in the consciences of God’s elect, or ever will be able to do. And though Christ had to sigh and groan, while fighting the battle, yet he gained the victory. He rose triumphant over sin, death, and hell. He overcame all our foes, and the church is blessed and saved in him with an everlasting salvation.
But if we leave him for a moment or two, or rather pass on from this spot of his temptation in the wilderness, and follow him to his travail in the Garden of Gethsemane, we shall there see how he had to struggle with, and to wrestle against the coldness, indifference, worldliness, and hard-heartedness of his own people. O how cold and indifferent we are at times! How full of base unbelief and carnal reason! He said, on one occasion, to his disciples, “How is it that ye have no faith?” Why, the people of God sometimes are not able to move a step, faith is so low with them. Gracious dispensations seem nothing at all to them, they are so cold and lifeless; and sometimes they can look upon a suffering Christ with a degree of indifference which would surprise an infidel, if an infidel were capable of understanding it. But, blessed be the dear Redeemer, he struggled with all this; he put up with the hard speeches, and felt for the infirmities of his people, and nothing prevented him from manifesting his mercy towards the objects of his love.
But O! What a solemn scene was that which took place in the Garden of Gethsemane! Whom do we now see on the ground, weltering in his blood? What was it caused that solemn conflict, that heart-rending struggle? Child of God, poor trembling sinner, it was thy sins, thy lusts; aye, thy internal lusts; all thy wanderings in heart and affections; all the sin that thy nature containeth, which thou knowest to be sin, and which thou knowest not to be sin, but which is all here (the preacher putting his hand upon his heart); for there is not a sin in hell which does not exist in thy nature. All the sin that has ever been committed and shown forth by those in the bottomless pit is in the nature of every child of God. Well, then, all the ponderous weight, all the awfulness of thy sin, united with the malignity, enmity, spite, and rage of hell, accompanied with the wrath of God and the curses of a broken law,—all met together upon Christ at Gethsemane. He must now do battle with them all single handed, receiving no help or aid from man; no, not even from his disciples! I often wonder at those who talk about being such wonderful helpers of God, why they did not aid and help him when he looked for some help; when his disciples fell asleep; when such sleep and heaviness came upon them as they had never felt before; and when even Peter, who only a few hours before had boasted that he would die for him and that, though all men forsook him, he would never deny him, had, along with the rest, all fallen asleep, and forgotten their suffering Lord and Master! But O! These sleepy, selfish feelings, how they pierced the heart of the Son of God and caused him to groan in the Garden of Gethsemane! All the accumulation of sorrows met together upon him here. He “looked, and there was none to help,” and “wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore his own arm brought salvation, and his fury it upheld him!” Poor believer! Thy salvation is the single-arm salvation of Immanuel, God with us! Thy works, good or bad, have no hand in procuring it; it is accomplished wholly by the Lord for such a poor sinking, feeble, tempest-tossed, devil-driven sinner as thou art! O what a mercy ft is sometimes to be brought to feel that this single-handed salvation, accomplished by God the Son, is wrought out for such a poor helpless worm as I am! Blessed be his name, he hath finished the work alone; he hath brought life and immortality to light; he has fulfilled the requirements of law, satisfied the demands of justice, and honoured all the perfections of God!
But, behold our struggling Naphtali triumphing in the solemn scene, while wrestling against the rage of hell, the wrath of God, and the terrors of a broken law! In the midst of his agony, an angel is sent from heaven to minister unto him, to afford a little help and consolation, but not to help him in the amazing work of salvation. He only came to strengthen him in his dolorous sufferings; for angels witnessed the pressure which he was enduring on account of sin. They saw his awful conflicts, beheld the blood falling to the ground and saw it smeared with it; and all this, poor trembling sinner, for such wretches as you and I! Does it not appear too much for belief? Some talk about believing just as they like, and can always believe -when they please. Why, bless you, it is too much for our belief. But when the Lord the Spirit really gives faith in this blessed mystery, and we can get spiritually into the Garden of Gethsemane, feel a little of the Sowings in our heart of the love of this blessed struggling Hero, this mighty Captain of our salvation, and trace his glorious work in our souls, why then we can with confidence say, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad!” And we can solemnly declare and show forth the mysteries of his love.
Well, then, Christ is our spiritual Naphtali, the great struggler, wrestler, and burden-bearer of sin. All that law and justice required was charged upon him. There is not one iota of the law’s curse but was laid upon him; not an iota of sin and death but was laid upon him; and he bore it away; yea, sins which we have never known, nor ever been conscious of, were all laid upon him; for “the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” I do not know how it is with you; but I have forgotten mine many a time; and if it had been left for me to lay my sins upon Christ, I should not have remembered a thousandth part of them, and, therefore, must have sunk under them, for ever. But infinite wisdom gathered them all together and laid them all on Christ, and he hath sunk them into everlasting oblivion. But O! What an amazing burden he must have had to wrestle and struggle with! When my sins are so great and enough to sink a world to hell, what must have been the ponderous weight of all the millions of the sins of God’s elect laid upon him, which ever have been committed or shall be till the end of time; when all the lust, anger, vain glory, ungodly pursuits; a$ our fleshly devilism, which is enwoven in our nature, or has ever been suffered to come out of the secret corners and inmost recesses of a desperately wicked heart; when all this accumulation of guilt was gathered together and laid upon the head of Christ; when justice demanded and received full satisfaction for the infinite debt, and would not let him go till the last mite was paid; I say, what an intolerable burden it must have been! But, glory to God in the highest! our Immortal Straggler, our Divine Wrestler, our Blessed Naphtali, overcame sin, death, and hell, and all the power of the foe. He triumphed gloriously, and hath brought life and immortality to light.
And now, after he had accomplished his bloody sweat in the Garden, he arose to awake his disciples; and he awoke them to some purpose now. He awoke them before; but they went to sleep again. I do not know any place where the cankerworm of fleshly doings is to be seen more than in the Garden of Gethsemane. You that are so fond of your mighty works, your exploits, and of showing what you will do for God, just observe what now is about to take place. I say, Jesus arose up, awakes his disciples, and calls them forth; and now Peter began to brisk up a little, to see what great work he should do for him; and seeing the soldiers coming, he rubbed his eyes, drew his sword, and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. And what good did this do? None at all. It only gave his Master a job, for he had to put it on again; all that it did was to give him another job. Jesus told him to put up his sword; for, he said, “All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword.” And this is just what our legality does, with the use of carnal weapons; but the Lord says, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, hut mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds.” We are not to fight with carnal weapons. In ages past, our Christian nation, as it is called, fought with carnal weapons, and burned their fellow-creatures to make them Christians. They might as well suppose that burning in hell would make the devil an angel of light as to suppose that burning and torturing men could make them Christians. It must be the life and power of God alone to accomplish this. But we are fast hastening on to a time when, if I am not greatly mistaken, something of the kind will take place again; for there has not been such a dark foreboding time over the church, since you and I were born, as there is at the present time. Now I am quite easy about who may be offended or pleased at what I am going to say; but I tell you, if that infernal Bill, which is now agitating the country, should pass into a law, it will be food for Popery, and it will not be very long before you will have to seal the testimony of God with your blood. I believe this in my soul; and I say, it becomes the church of God zealously to oppose this infernal Bill, and to let it be publicly known that our hearts are alive for the interests of Zion. But if after all our efforts it should pass into a law, why then, we must leave the issue with God; but it becomes us to act with boldness, and to use with diligence the means which are given to us to frustrate it; and if you are anxious for the welfare of yourselves and posterity, you cannot be indifferent or unconcerned about it. Why, I cannot suppose that any one but the devil himself could have put it into the heart of any man to frame such a God-dishonoring Bill! (The Bill referred to was the Romanist Emancipation Bill.)
Therefore, let us stand in awe while we are in this solemn position, which is likely to bring the church into so much trouble and distress.
But to come back to the point. After the blessed Redeemer had left the Garden of Gethsemane, they bring him to the judgment-seat. See how low he is, and how they degrade him! They use him worse than a wretched match-carrier, or a vagabond stroller, who is brought before the Lord Mayor, or City officer! He is treated with insult and contempt, and mocked and derided as the Son of God! What would the newspapers say, if a poor vagabond stroller were brought before the Lord Mayor, and one of the officers of the court should pluck the hair from his cheek, another spit in his face, and a third smite him with the palm of his hand; and yet that the Lord Mayor sat quiet and easy all the time, and took no notice of it? Would not all the newspapers in the country be up in arms against such an outrage? Certainly they would; yet this was the treatment which the Son of God, the Lord of life and glory, met with! And why did he suffer these indignities to be heaped upon him? Because he was enduring the curse due to the sins of his beloved people. Therefore he allowed every insult that men and devils could invent or inflict to come upon him. But he rose above it all, and accomplished the glorious salvation which he had designed! Peter, the great coworker Peter, who a little before was boasting what great things he would do, and who had just cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, now begins to show his infirmity, by cursing and swearing that he knew him not! And this was another thrust in the heart of the Son of God; for Peter’s cursing and swearing went to the heart of Jesus! Was he not, then, a wrestler, a struggling and a fighting Naphtali? Yes, indeed; and it is a mercy for you and me that he was! And did he not take a sword, and stab Peter for stabbing him? Yes, he did; but his sword was the rebuke of love, a silent manifestation of his mercy and compassion. He “turned, and looked upon Peter;” but it was a look of love. O how it stabbed him to the heart, and made him go out, and weep bitterly! O the wonderful mercy of a covenant God to such sinners as we are! Who is there that pities like him? Who is so full of loving-kindness and tender mercy? May it be our happiness to feel more of the Sowings of his loving heart to us in the time of trouble, when we are called to endure something of the sorrows and conflicts which he passed through. “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord.”
But the dreadful work is yet to come! After he had come from the Garden of Gethsemane (a place most dear to the sinner), had been mocked at the judgment-seat, and sentence given against him, then they proceed to scourge him, and to make deep furrows in his back. They strip him naked and hurl him prostrate on the ground! Bless you, if it were possible for the vilest person in England to be used so cruelly, the whole nation would be up in arms against it! He had to bear his cross; and it was not till he had fainted under it that they allowed one to bear it for him; and at length, when they had spent the fury of their infernal malice, they nailed him -to the cross and suspended him between heaven and earth, as the vilest of men! And what had he done to merit such treatment? He had healed the sick, raised the dead, caused the dumb to speak, and opened the eyes of the blind; and this was the return he met with for it! But none of these things could alter his purpose of love. He struggled and wrestled through the whole of it. He fought it manfully out, and accomplished such a mighty work that none but himself could have effected, and which shall fill all heaven with endless praise!
I have often thought of the saying of an old countryman now dead, a simple-hearted man of God, and which is now brought fresh to my mind. About thirty years ago I had been baptizing in a place called Boroughbridge, and it made no little bustle in the neighborhood to see what they called “dipping.” An old friend, who was known in that place by the name of Richard, but who was generally called “Dickey,” was asked by an old countryman, “Who are these dippers? Do you know anything about them? What are they?” “O!” replied Dickey; “the Head of them was the finest man that ever lived! He healed the sick, clothed the naked, opened the eyes of the blind, and caused the dumb to speak; he fed the poor, and the people flocked to him from every quarter; yet he never turned one away that came to him in the time of need, and all without charging one farthing for it. And, what do you think? They nailed him, at last, to a piece of wood!” The person said, “Why, what wicked folks they must have been!” And just so are we. We should have committed the same sin, if left to ourselves and brought into the same circumstances and condition. But our spiritual Naphtali straggled under, overcame, and rose triumphantly, the mighty Hero over all!
But now, he is brought to the cross, and his humanity begins to tremble! The clouds gather thick darkness, and the sun puts op mourning! The rocks rend and the earth quakes! Some of the sleeping dead are so alarmed that they come out of their graves to see what God was doing upon earth, and to witness the solemn scene! But, I say, while our immortal Hero was thus struggling against the enemies of his church, he shook the pillars of the earth, and made them to tremble! The sun refused to shine while it beheld the solemn effects of sin! But man, more careless than the devil— monster man! could view the awful scene, and yet be unfeeling and unconcerned! Aye, so it was. But did this cause the dear Redeemer to give up the point? No; he undertook our cause and–was determined to go through with it! And at length, the struggling Hero, in his last conflict, gave a death-blow to sin, and a death-blow to the king of terrors; and in the last words which he uttered on the cross, when he said, “It is finished!” he for ever gave a death-blow to the prince of darkness, leading captivity captive, spoiling principalities and powers, and making a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it! Poor sinking heart! Poor tried believer! If this is revealed to thy conscience, and thon art brought into a faith’s apprehension of it, it will give thee a sweet resting on the finished work of Christ! I would say, “Holy Ghost, impart more powerfully to our souls an enjoyment of the finished work of Christ, that we may feel that he is gone to the right hand of the Father, exalted above all principalities and powers, to reign as our immortal Hero for ever and ever!” “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of, the Lord.”
Now from this part of the subject, let us just notice one or two things. Can you, poor sinner, look over a subject of such a solemn nature, be indifferent and unconcerned about it, and not desirous of knowing whether you are interested in the strugglings of this mighty Hero, who made heaven and earth to tremble, and who will shortly “come in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God?” Careless sinner I What will then become of thee, when the heavens and the earth shall pass away, the elements melt with fervent heat, and the sky become like a useless scroll of parchment; when the devil and the damned shall be brought to receive their sentences, to hear their final doom pronounced, and the church be raised up to indescribable glory and happiness, in body and soul for ever and ever with their Lord! Careless sinner, I say again, what will then become of thee? No father to pray for you then! No mother’s sympathy for you then! All the scorn and contempt, all the ridicule and derision which you have showed to your parents, will pierce your heart then. You will have the terrors of a guilty conscience, and sink into the blackness of hopeless despair for ever! But may the Lord have mercy upon you, even our blessed Hero, who struggled and overcame all his foes! O Lamb of God! Struggle in the heart of some poor careless sinner, and bring him to God; show him that his sin is put away, that it has been laid upon one who was mighty to struggle, and who has gained the conquest and triumph, that so he may be brought to glory in thee alone as his blessed Redeemer.
Poor struggling child of God, who art tried with sin, troubled with Satan’s suggestions, and tempest-tossed in thy mind, see what sympathizing Saviour thou hast; and may you never forget that he knows all your wilderness trials, that he knows the path you are now walking in; and though you may have lost the sight of him, and are ready to say with Job, “O that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his mercy-seat!” his eye of compassion is fixed on thee, and he will appear for thy deliverance. Well, poor soul, I had very nearly said, Keep where thou art; do not go away from this spot; thon shalt be brought to see greater things in thy pilgrimage; keep on sighing, groaning, and waiting at his footstool; he knows when to come to you. What a mercy, he will come in his own blessed time, and bring all thy conflicts to a peaceful end, on the ground of his own strugglings and wrestlings. He will come, and bring it to thy heart, and thon shalt rise up in immortal glory, and be brought at last to triumph in him as thy covenant God. O may the Lord then direct your mind to look more unto him, to rest on his finished salvation, and to wait on him till he appears for your deliverance.
But again. Is there a child of God here who is tempted to backslide from the simplicity which is in Christ, who is tempted to sin, and to think lightly of sin? God carry you to Gethsemane! See what our murderous crimes did to Immanuel there! Now, what would you think of a child, who knew the person who murdered his father, and yet could hug and cherish the wretch to his bosom? Would you not say to such an unnatural child, “James, John, Sarah, or Susan, you could have no feeling for your father, to cherish the monster who put him to death!” And when you and I attempt to sin, and to think lightly of sin, we cherish in our bosom the monster that put to death the Son of God! Shall we then trifle with that which brought our Jesus to an ignominious and a solemn death? Shall we cherish such a monster as this? The Lord forbid! O! May he give us grace and strength to struggle against it, through the precious blood of the Lamb! May we be enabled to fight manfully the “good fight of faith, laving hold of eternal life;” and thus may we be strengthened, through our mighty Hero, to wage war with all our foes, and to overcome them in the power of his might. “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord.”
But I shall leave the subject till the evening. May God give you and me a solemn faith’s view of the triumphs of Christ, and speak it powerfully to our hearts, for his name and mercy’s sake. Amen.
A Sermon Preached By William Gadsby At Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London, On Sunday Evening, May 28th, 1843.
We proposed this morning to take up this portion of God’s Word in three spiritual things.
I. To give a short description of “Naphtali.”
II. To notice the favour he is satisfied with; and
III. To show that he is full with the blessing of the Lord.
I. The first head we proposed to consider in three senses:
1. That it had respect to the Person of the Lord Jesus; 2. To that of every individual member in his mystical body; and, 3. To all his own God-called, and God-sent ministers.
1. The meaning of the word “Naphtali” we said signifies one that is a wrestler, struggler, or fighter; and we noticed at large, how fully it was applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ, from the cradle to the cross. And indeed, if you take Jesus away from any part of truth, nothing but emptiness remains; take away Jesus, and there will be nothing but an eternal bankruptcy for poor sinners; take away Christ, and all the holiness in the world will not save a sinner. There is not now, never was, neither ever can be, since the fall of man, holiness enough, separate from Christ, to save a single sinner! If any of you had it all, and had not Christ, it would profit you nothing; you would be damned without him; for there is no salvation in any other way; nor is there any other Name given under heaven among men whereby you can be saved but the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ! But if we are blessed with a living faith in Christ, we have it all; as Hart saith:
“Some this some that good virtue teach,
To rectify the soul;
But we first after Jesus reach,
And richly grasp the whole.”
For when a soul is brought to feel where the holiness of God’s glory lies, that sinner is made a partaker of Christ, and then he blessedly and spiritually enters into the mysteries of Christ. But without going over the ground which we noticed in the morning, we will notice,
2. That the term “Naphtali” is applicable to the church of God, and to every individual member of his mystical body; they all become fighters, strugglers, and wrestlers. When God is graciously pleased to quicken a dead soul, and communicate divine life to it, from that moment he commences wrestling and fighting; and whether the sinner is left to struggle in self, so as to feel the horrors of the damned, or if he does not sink quite so low as another, yet this one thing is certain, that every quickened soul must be brought to feel that he is lost, helpless, and ruined, and desperately ruined too; and that there is no more ground for hope in self than there is for Beelzebub! All his self-hope and self-confidence must give up the ghost. And what does the sinner, under the feeling sense of all his self-hope and confidence being cut off wrestle under and struggle for? He wrestles under darkness, deathliness, confusion of mind, guilt, and wretchedness; and he struggles for pardon, peace, reconciliation, liberty, and joy; he struggles hard to find the ground upon which a sinner like him can have peace and access to God, and wherein God can be just and yet appear gracious to him! The matter is not with him a trifling thing now. Eternity lies open before him; and to him eternity is of that solemn moment and importance that everything else is of no weight compared to it. He wants now to feel pardon through the blood of the Lamb, to enter into an enjoyment of reconciliation with God, to have spiritual power and life communicated to him, to feel divine truth sealed on his conscience, and to be enabled to say, “He loved me, and gave himself for me!” But a number of things will rise up to damp these feelings, and, if possible, to drown them, and he will have to struggle against them. If a youth, whether male or female, all will be opposed by their flesh and the world; and a tempting devil will set on such a one, and say, “Why, you are going to unman yourself, you are going to give up all pleasure, you are going to set aside every thing which youth embraces, and you are going to become a fool, to be the laughing- stock of your companions, to be considered a mere dunce and a novice; you have plenty of time before you, and there are many pleasing things and pretty prospects await you. Do not throw yourself thus away in your young days, to become gloomy and inactive, teasing and perplexing your mind about religion.” And I tell you, such is the power of Satan’s temptations, the allurements of the world, and the deceitfulness of sin, that these things would damn their souls, if God did not prevent it by his grace; for so bent is the heart upon pursuing the world and the things of it that the carnal mind will rush on in pleasure, or something which it calls pleasure, that it will not stop till it has hurried the soul into black despair! And when these temptations come thus upon it, after the first awakenings, they will act as a check, or a damper, and will appear for a time to extinguish every thing therein; but he who imparted the spark of divine life will draw forth that life in wrestlings, sighings, and cryings after God, the living God, and all hell cannot extinguish it! Why? Because the life of God is in the heart, and the Lord the Spirit still keeps it there, causing the poor soul to struggle after God!
Now, do you know anything of this? Let me speak for a moment or two to you, young people. Do I hear one say, “Why, Sir, if I were to tell you a secret or two, you would be alarmed!” The poor soul may be ready to say, “God knows I went to a playhouse, in order to get rid of my misery!” Well, and how did you feel while you were there? “O,” say you, “for a time I tried to be amused; but, alas! alas! All my amusements turned into misery, and I became in a worse state of mind than I was before.” Another, perhaps, would say, “I went along with my companions, and we set up a dancing party, and I thought I could dance my convictions away; but it was all in vain!” But how came that to pass, think ye? Because God went there with you? “Ah,” says one, “you will not say God goes to the playhouse and to a dancing party?” Yes, but I will. When any of his church are there, God will go there too; and he will keep the poor soul still, and cause it to struggle, to fight, and to wrestle after the living God. He will never suffer him to give up the point; but his glorious Majesty will show forth the riches of his grace by bringing him to himself. I know a little of what I am talking about. I remember how my fleshly mind tried to get rid of religion. I was a mere fool, and so full of frolic that I was the provider of sport for all my companions. I was the life of their society, and they seemed as though they could not live without me. I recollect once, when between sixteen and seventeen years of age, I left a shop of work; but three of my companions came to me and said unless I came back they should leave the place too; they would not work without me; and as they came with a full determination to have me again, it so filled my fleshly mind with delight that I went back. But in that very shop God met with me; and O the wonders of grace! All their strugglings and wrestlings were of no avail then. They could not quench what God had put into my soul. All that they laid before me was not able to keep me from struggling hard after God, and fighting and wrestling for God. And under these things the sinner cannot help struggling, when God thus puts in life, and when the Lord is pleased thus to manifest his grace.
Now sometimes the soul may be brought to such a point as not to be able to make use of one sentence that seems to fit his case, when sin, Satan, death, destruction, and carnal reason are all up in arms against him, and when he feels just as though he was struggling and gasping for his last breath, and with a deep sigh says, “Lord, help me!” But the Spirit will come at such a time, draw forth power and life, and bless the poor sinner with faith to look to the Lamb of God. And O what a blessed look it is, when this is the case!
Well; the child of God will have an abundance of wrestling and fighting all the way. But I like that sentence of Hart’s, “Prayer’s a weapon for the feeble; Weakest souls can wield it best.”
And the prayer of the man who has the greatest wrestlings and strugglings and feels himself the weakest, can storm heaven the most. God hears the sighs, groans, wrestlings, and pantings of such a soul, and in his own time he will come down to deliver him. And thus he will be brought to know and enter into some enjoyment of the mysteries of grace. I recollect somewhere of a story, concerning a poor creature being possessed with the devil; and at that time people had ac idea that if they could get together a number of ministers to pray, the devil would go away. So the ministers assembled, and began to pray over the man who was possessed; but in the company there was a poor old woman, who got behind a screen to watch their proceedings; and after they had been praying some time, as the tale goes,, the devil says, “Turn out that old woman, or else I must come out!” So you see, if that be true, the poor old woman had more power to cast him out than all the parsons who had assembled together for that purpose; and when that was done, he came forth, and the victory was obtained. Well; be that as it may, it is so with the child of God. When he is brought into circumstances of sorrow and distress, he supplicates the throne of God, and struggles, fights, and wrestles under the power of sin and Satan, and he is brought to cry in his heart to the Lord; and the Lord will appear for his help and deliver him; for “is there anything too hard for the Lord?”
And, brethren, do you and I, at any time, ever fear about the things that belong to Zion? God help us to be wrestlers with him! O that God would pour out upon us a wrestling spirit, and make us more earnest with him at the throne of grace! The Lord says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thon shalt glorify me.” And he also says, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, I will do it.” Yet how many times do we make mention of the name of the Lord, and pray to him for special things, and they are not done. “How is that?” say you. Because we do not feel it; for when a poor, weak, worthless, sighing, mourning worm, from necessity pleads entirely in the name of the Son of God, it is impossible but that he must, sooner or later, prevail. When he thus wrestles in the name of Jesus, our conquering Hero, God will hear and appear for his relief. But time will not allow me to enlarge any more upon this part of the subject; and, therefore, I shall proceed to notice,
3. That the term is applicable also to all God-qualified, God-sent’ ministers. I believe that all the literature and learning that was ever taught at the college or academy never did nor ever will make a man spiritual. And when men imagine they are qualified for the ministry by attending such institutions, they are sporting with God, and set at naught, as far as they can, the power of the Holy Ghost. When God designs to make a man a minister, no matter what a fool he may be, he knows how to manage him. I am sure of this; and I can bear witness to it for one. When the Lord first put into my heart a spiritual concern about preaching the gospel, a greater fool never had existence! I had been brought up in a country place, where my speech was so broad that I could only say maun for man, and caun for can; and my appearance and manners were all of a piece; and as it respected literature, or learning, I could not read a single chapter in the Bible. All were full of what I called hard words, from beginning to end; and what with my want of learning, and want of language, and my great ignorance, it appeared altogether the highest pitch of presumption for a fool like me to attempt to preach at all; yet I could not get rid of the feeling. I dare say some of you think I am only a fool now. But I got into such a state of mind that I could not rest in my bed; and many a time I have gone into the cellar, with only my night-clothes on, in order to take cold, and get my death; but I could not die for the life of me! Still I have gone again and again, in the most dejected state; yet I could not die, nor in reality take cold; and really at last I got into such a state of misery that I did not know what to do. Till at length, in the midst of my wrestling, struggling, and sighing to God, to know the worst of my case, and beseeching his Majesty to take the thought of preaching away from such a fool, since he knew what I was, he was pleased to apply this blessed text to me in such a way as to set me for ever at rest on this point: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.” And it came to me with such power that it set my tongue moving, and my heart was so lightened that I said, “Ah, Lord, if this is the way of thy working, thou never hadst a better opportunity, for thou hast never given it to such a fool before!” And so I had solemn access to his blessed Majesty, and felt liberty and joy in my soul; and the very next Lord’s day I was sent for to preach; and from that moment to the present, with the exception of the time I lay in bed for six weeks with a broken leg, there have not half-a-dozen days elapsed without my being once or more engaged in the work. God has never left me, and I have proved the truth in my own experience of this declaration which he gave me. But if anything ever troubled me in my life it was the thought of preaching I And I would say to any that may be exercised about preaching, Do not try to select your sermons out of books, nor think to take sermons down in shorthand to smother your brains, and fill them with other men’s matter. But may you wrestle, struggle, and pray unto the Lord for the manifestation of his mind and will, that he may deal with you in his grace and mercy, that you may know his design, and find prayer a weapon for you; that you maybe filled with his Spirit, when all human inventions fail. I believe that that man who gets his sermons from books and other men’s preaching is never sent of God; for God empties all whom he sends. He takes every thing away from them and then fills their poor earthen vessels with his rich treasure, and enables them to come forth in the name and strength of the mighty God of Jacob! And you may be sure of this, if God designs a man for the work, he will bring him forth is a light in his blessed hand, and all the men in the world will not be able to put it out!
II. But we pass on to the second thing proposed—the favour with which he is satisfied. “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour.” Now what favour was Jesus Christ, our spiritual Naphtali, satisfied with? Why, as man, he desired life; and in Psalm xxi. it is said, “He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him; even length of days for ever and ever.” All earth and all hell were enraged against him to take away his’ life; but he was rich in the favour of a covenant God. As the Head, he was in union with his people as his members, and they are secured to him in eternal length of days; their souls shall live in him for ever. And, blessed be his name, he lives now for them,. and is satisfied with this favour as the immortal Head of his Church!
Another blessed favour which his solemn Majesty is satisfied with is, “He shall see his seed, he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied!” He shall have every sinner for whose cause and in whose name he stood for ever with him. Not a hoof of his family shall be left behind; not a soul shall perish who has been committed to his care, and on whose account he wrestled, struggled, and conquered. Some men tell us, “there are surely those in hell for whom Christ died!” What a mercy for them God does not stop their blaspheming mouths I Why, it is daring and open blasphemy! What would they have? That Jesus Christ loved them so well as to struggle, wrestle, and die for them; but that neither God the Father, nor the Spirit, would call them by grace; so that, in this sense, the Deity would appear divided! Here is the Son, in his mediatorial capacity, suffering all the horrors of hell to redeem them; and yet the Holy Ghost sits silently by, and will not so much as stretch forth his arm, or draw it out for their help and salvation! What awful blasphemy is this! But no. The eternal Trinity in Unity chose them unto eternal life, and, therefore, he hath saved them with an everlasting salvation; and so the Lord Jesus Christ shall “see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” Every soul that was given to him in eternity shall surely come to him in time. according to what his gracious Majesty has said, “Thine they were, and thou gavest them me;” and “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto mo; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” And again, he says, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” And thus the Lord Jesus Christ is satisfied in having the reward of his work; in having a whole host of sinners saved by grace, as the effect of his eternal love and precious blood, to be with him for ever, to behold his glory; as he says, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me;” and, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.” And thus he struggled to have the whole of the purchase of his precious blood with him, to sing the praises of his love throughout a blessed eternity! “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord.”
But again. Now that he is raised to the right hand of the Father, where “he ever liveth to make intercession” for his beloved people, he is looking forward to that solemn moment when the whole church of God shall be raised up to glory, and when all his enemies shall be for ever trampled under foot; for mind, it is said, “After he had offered one sacrifice for sins, he for ever sat down at the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.” And O! How will he be “satisfied with favour,” when his ransomed are brought into the possession of that glory to which they were predestinated! As he says, “That they all may be one, as thon, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us;” and, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour!”
But O what solemn satisfaction did he feel when he received the immortal approbation of Heaven, when all the perfections of God were glorified; when he had honoured the law, and satisfied the claims of divine justice, and when it was said, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in!” When he had finished the work which the Father gave him to do, he went home to glory. He ascended up to God, and he led captivity captive, dragging the devil and all hell at his heels, trampling them under his feet; and he enters into heaven with majesty. As it is written, “God is gone up with a shout, even the Lord with the sound of a trumpet!” O how solemnly satisfied is the Lord Jesus Christ with his finished work! And now, in his mediatorial capacity, he is exalted far above all principalities and powers, and sits upon a throne of glory, with garments dipped in blood, pleading the cause of his people, and sending down the Spirit to rest on this sinner, and on that sinner, as the effect of his amazing love. But O! How satisfied will he be with the final accomplishment of his work, when the whole church shall be brought to glory at last, to celebrate the praises of his love for ever!
Well, in the next place, how is the poor sinner satisfied, who is wrestling, struggling, and crying out under a feeling sense of his sinfulness, and who is panting after a manifestation of pardon from the Lord! What will satisfy him in this state? I can tell you what could not satisfy me. When I was wrestling with legal workings, a friend thought to satisfy me by putting into my hands “The Whole Duty of Man;” and when I opened it, I thought what a nice book it was; but it never gave me satisfaction, for when I tried to keep up to its requirements it was too fast for me, it ran me out of breath; and there I lay, a poor crawling reptile, without any relief from the “Whole Duty of Man!” I did not then understand God’s method of salvation, nor did I know the necessity of knowing Christ crucified.
But our God gives his church degrees of satisfaction. To some he just gives a little hope, and a little faith, and reveals Christ in such a way as to prop up hope, and bring the soul to say, “Well, who can tell, but after all the Lord will have mercy upon me?” Now there is some degree of satisfaction in that; but especially so when it is accompanied with freedom and liberty, and the mysteries of salvation are opened up in view, and when the poor sinner, who has long been shut up in bondage and fetters, has his hope now stayed upon Christ—why it produces such a wonderful change in. his mind that he knows not how to make it out; yet there is a considerable feeling of satisfaction even in this! But there is another degree of satisfaction which the soul experiences; and that is, when it is brought spiritually to believe in Christ as a sure Saviour, and to see that there is an all-sufficiency in him, that he is able to save, and willing to save to the uttermost; and when a little hope and a little faith are given, so that he feels a degree of longing satisfaction; and though not fully satisfied, there is something realized in the conscience which he would not give up for ten thousand worlds. Then in a little while the Lord will be pleased to speak with power to him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” But, perhaps, in the first instance, he will say, “Ah, Lord, I cannot believe this is for me! I believe that Jesus is the Christ! I believe there is no other method of salvation! I believe that Christ is able to save! But, somehow or other, I feel such darkness, such deathliness, that I cannot believe that he has saved me!” But the Lord comes in his own blessed time, with power to his soul, and says, “This people have I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise.” And when the Holy Ghost gives him a hope that he is amongst that people, and speaks home to the conscience such a sentence as this: “It is finished!” he cries out, in holy faith, “Lord, it is enough! I want no morel” He is blessedly satisfied with the love and blood of the dear Redeemer, and sings his matchless grace to sinners,—to such a reptile as he is. O what a divine satisfaction there is in Jesus! And the poor soul who is thus led is satisfied with God’s salvation, and sings the wonders of his grace and mercy. “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour!”
And let me tell you, poor child of God, it is all of free favour; “not of works, lest any man should boast.” All of it, from first to last, is from the free grace of God! You and I can no more merit any of this favour than the devil himself can: and, depend upon it, you do not know the plague of the heart, or what sin is, till God makes you to feel it; and when he reveals it to the conscience, you will then see what a rich and free favour his sovereign grace is.
Again. If we look at it as applicable to God’s ministers, O how satisfied are they with favour when God gives them his word and causes them with it to separate the precious from the vile; and when he blesses them to feel that their preaching is from the Lord. But I know and am obliged to confess that I often have to come to preach without feeling his presence; and my proud heart kicks against it; yet the Lord is full of grace to such poor wretches, and he brings us to see that “the counsel of the Lord shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure.” Here, therefore, we rest. It is God’s counsel: and when his gracious Majesty in some measure opens up the mysteries of his salvation to us, O how it satisfies the soul then I “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour!”
What a wonderful favour it is for such poor sinners as we are to le employed by the Lord as his messengers and his ambassadors! What a bustle there would be in this nation, if the Queen were to send for some poor beggar, who was dying on a dunghill, to enrich him, make him a nobleman, and send him abroad as an ambassador! All the newspapers in the land would not want anything else to write about for a month! And yet this is the way our God acts! “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the beggar out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.” The Lord enriches him with matter from above. He will be with him, and make him a blessing to his people; he will enable him to separate the precious from the vile; and his word is sure to accomplish his gracious purposes. The Lord’s servants come forth in these senses, and they are representatives of God’s truth, and stand forth as his messengers to speak forth the messages of his love. And while we are thus enabled to see our standing, and feel the kindness of our God in bestowing such favors upon us, when there is such an infinite disparity between him and us, O how we stand astonished at his grace! “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour!”
III. Lastly, they are full with the blessing of the Lord. The failure of my strength and the departure of your time tell me to come toward a conclusion; and, therefore, I must be very short on this head.
But, first, let us view it in Christ. O what a fulness there is in him! All spiritual blessings in heavenly places are treasured up in him. He is full of grace, full of mercy, and full of truth! Do you want help? He is full of it! Do you want peace? He is full of it! Do you want reconciliation? He is full of it! Do you want holiness? He is full of it! He has an inexhaustible fund, an overflowing fulness of grace to bestow on poor sensible sinners. As it is written: “Out of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” Bless you, if any poor empty vessels want filling, here is an overflowing fulness to satisfy all their needs. There would be no use for it otherwise. He does not want it for himself; the fulness is not for his own personal use. As God, he is infinitely holy, and as man, he is perfectly pure; and in his complex character, he has an everlasting fulness to give out to the necessities of his people. He has a fulness of life, a fulness of holiness, a fulness of power, a fulness of wisdom, and a fulness of bliss and blessedness, and all treasured up in his glorious Person, to satisfy the wants of his poor and needy family, who have no might nor wisdom of their own. He has it to bestow on such poor wretched, ruined sinners as they are, that they may be “full with the blessing of the Lord!” Blessed be his name, he delights in mercy, and he has a fulness of covenant mercy to bestow upon his people! He is full “with the blessing of the Lord!”
But when may it be said of the poor child of God that he is “full with the blessing of the Lord?” There are times in the experience of the soul when the Lord satisfies it with favour and when it is “full of the Holy Ghost;” but you that are spiritual will too frequently feel it to be otherwise. And I will tell you how you will find it. You will want to be “full with the blessing of the Lord,” and you will try to pray; but you will feel so empty and barren as to be able only to utter a few lifeless words, and honest conscience will be accusing you all the time. Then the devil will take an advantage of it, and begin to tempt and harass you, and will suggest that you are only acting the hypocrite; and if in this state, you should be among a few friends, and called to engage in prayer with them, you will be so full of confusion, and so ashamed of what you feel, that you will say, “If ever I get out of this place I will never get into it again;” and if in secret, and you want to pour out your heart in. prayer to God, you will be obliged to get off your knees, for your heart at such times will feel so cold, so indifferent, that you will have but little power to call upon God. But the life of God in your soul will not allow you to give it up. You will be praying, wrestling, and struggling against it. And by and by, the poor soul, in the midst of his distress, will be brought to feel the truth of that declaration, “I will pour upon them a spirit of grace and of supplication;” and when God appears for the soul in this way, and works out a blessed deliverance, the poor sinner enters spiritually into that text, “I will honour them that honour me.” Now the Father honours Christ, and Christ honours the sinner, and the sinner is led to honour the love and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ; and thus heaven is begun below in the peace of his soul, in the sweet foretastes of that bliss and blessedness which God has provided above for his people; and they are “full with the blessing of the Lord!”
And so again, with the Lord’s ministers, whatever satisfaction, at times, they may have from feeling the presence of the Lord with them, yet they will never be fully satisfied until they, with the whole mystical body, awake up in the likeness of the Lord Jesus, and get to glory! What a wonderful fulness of “the blessing of the Lord,” will that be, when every corruption will be for ever removed, and when the glorified soul shall inhabit a body fashioned like unto that of the Lord Jesus Christ, when the Eternal Three-one Jehovah shall be filling us with his own declarative glory, and when we shall be rising up into the enjoyment of his love, to live with him for ever and ever! “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord!” O that the Lord would give us now to know and enter more into these truths in our hearts by precious faith!
And now to conclude. We are all passing into eternity; some of us are just ready to step in; none of us know how soon; and the youngest cannot say they shall live to see to-morrow. Then where is your hope placed? What are your pursuits? Where do you look for satisfaction? What is the ground of your hope? O Lord, if it is thy sovereign pleasure, open some poor sinners’ hearts, and bring them to cry to thee for mercy!
And now, the Lord grant that these solemn truths may be accompanied with the blessing of the Spirit of the living God; for his name and mercy’s sake.
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.