A Sermon Preached By William Gadsby In Manchester, Jan. 26th, 1840
Where are we at this present period of our existence? Are we amongst this blessed number, “My people?” Are we of those who are dwelling in peaceable habitations, sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places? What proof have we that we are in this state? Do some of you ask within yourselves, “How can I dwell in this peaceable habitation, when all is war and tumult within and without?” Or, “How can I dwell in these sure dwellings, and quiet resting places, amidst this busy, bustling, commercial town,—this deceitful world,—which tosses my poor fickle heart to and fro like the troubled sea?” Why, poor soul, this is the very time you shall dwell there; as you may perceive by reading the next verse: “When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place;” or, as it is in the margin, “when it is utterly abased.” Thus it is, when troubles come upon you like hail, so strong, so heavy,—then it is, when you are in the midst of confusion, that the Lord saith, ”Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will hear thee, and deliver thee.” And you have here a further declaration of mercy: “Ye shall dwell in peaceable habitations.”
Some say the promise refers to the time when anti-Christ shall be destroyed, and the Millennium commences. But, no. We have all in this a personal interest, and it is my desire not to carry your minds to those speculative ideas, such as the Millennium; but so far as God shall make me the means, to impart unto you such blessed truths, by unfolding the mysteries of God’s Word, you shall live in the enjoyment of from day to day; mysteries they are, inasmuch as they are hidden from the eyes of the world; but they are revealed unto babes.”
Sometimes we are afar off, and we think this habitation is not for us; but you will not despair, for God has promised, and therefore will perform, “that you shall dwell there.”
I. God has a people: “My people.”
II. They shall dwell in peaceable habitations, sure dwellings, and quiet resting-places. And let us notice that we shall, not that we do, dwell in this peaceable habitation; we cannot, while on earth, always be in this blessed habitation.
I. God has a people. “Yes,” say some; “all are the people of God.” They are, as his creatures, as all are created by him; but not as his chosen people. All are not the chosen people of God. He has a chosen people, as he says, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
How very frequently is that parable of our Lord concerning the tares and the wheat misconstrued. Some say the field is the church and the tares are the hypocrites in the church; and they contend from this that hypocrites should not be turned out of the church, lest some of the good seed should go with them. But we are told by the Lord himself, “The field is the world. He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that soweth them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers arc the angels.” (Matt 13) We are not to take away the lives of any in the world; for we know not how many of the good seed may be in their loins. All are to be left to the end of the world. (Matt 13:40-43) What could be more explicit? The world is divided into two classes, compared to tares and wheat, sheep and goats. Is it, then, not dishonorable to Christ to say it is his church, when his church is but one body, even as Christ is one? For they are one in Christ their Head.
It has pleased God that, through the foolishness of preaching, men should be saved. We are commanded to preach the truth; and when we have done so, to leave it to the blessing of God; and God says, “My people shall dwell in peaceable habitations.” What proof does it want to show that you are one of this number? First, you must be absolutely unmanned by the blessed Spirit and become as helpless and dependant as a babe; for “of such, saith the Lord, is the kingdom of heaven;” yea, all our strength must be done away with, and all our goodness, and we must be made to view ourselves as fit subjects only for black despair. Without all this, we are not fit subjects for Christ. We may compare our hearts to an inn, crowded with fine inmates, as it were; so that there is no room for Christ, as there was none at his birth. But when we have been emptied of all our self props, we shall seek elsewhere for a sure dwelling, and, like the dove, which found no place of rest for the sole of her foot, so returned to the ark. You hope in Christ, you desire to lay fast hold of his garment, and live in him as your “peaceful habitation.” You cannot give up a hope that this will be your happy lot. You look not so much at what may come to pass with all God’s children, and that at one or some future period all shall enjoy these quiet resting-places; but you want to enjoy them yourself; for you feel so tossed about with sin and Satan that, unless you can get here, you must be for ever miserable, for ever lost. To you, then, is this promise given: “You shall dwell in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.”
“My people,” not all people. It is one of the greatest errors a man can fall into to deny the discrimination of God’s grace in selecting a people for himself, and crying, “Peace, peace,” where God hath not made peace, and saying, “If you live in peace with God, you will have no trials.” What! If you have no trials, what need of humility? What then can humble you? What! Those healed whose hearts have never been broken? God causes repentance for sin, and a broken heart for your iniquities; but he has promised that he will not despise a broken and a contrite heart.
God draws a line of discrimination between his people and those who are not his people, which is decisive in itself. I would ask you, “Has God made this discrimination in jour conscience?” If not, if you think you can still bring something to him to merit his favour, all is a dream. This little something must go; it must be cut off. You must be entirely stripped of all hope but in Christ. You, must be made entirely dependent on him, and him alone; and not until then can you be brought to dwell in this “peaceable habitation.”
II. Now, in the second place, let us consider what is meant by this dwelling in a peaceable habitation, &c. I would notice, that if all men are the people of God, all men will be saved and dwell here. But are all men as David was,—after God’s own heart, God’s own people? David says, “Behold, I am poor and needy.” Such and; these alone, “the poor and the needy,” shall dwell there.
What is this dwelling? Christ is emphatically called “the Peace,” “the Prince of Peace.” How can we get into this peace? By the works of the law? No. If you seek this dwelling by your own good works, you will, like Israel of old, “stumble at that stumbling stone.” The power of the killing letter must be removed out of your conscience; and until this is done, you will have no real peace. This is set forth by Hagar and Sarah. As saith the Scripture: “Cast out the bond-woman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free.” Now I durst not have said this was typical of the law, had not Paul, the inspired penman of God, said so: “Which things are an allegory. This Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” Therefore must be cast out of your consciences this killing letter, which is the law; for in it no man shall live; and so long as Hagar remains in the house there will always be a quarrel. As also saith the apostle: “As them he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” This is not setting aside good works, but the trusting in your own good works; for you cannot live by the law, neither can the law save you. Nay, the law will curse you for your best works. You cannot please Moses, do what you will; neither will you find this peaceable habitation in the law. Therefore may the Spirit lead you to Christ, the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. May you have faith in him, and rest in the atonement he has made for his people. He has magnified the law and made it honourable for all his own. He has not merely kept the law. Honours crown his brow, he has also magnified it; as it has not merely had the obedience of man, but of God, even God in our nature. He is a peaceable habitation, and on this ground would I rest. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Who? “Why,” says the world, “any one may have plenty to lay to their charge. As they are always bemoaning themselves on account of their sins, they must be a vile, guilty people.” But, no! What they most mourn about, the world would not call sins. “It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” If God justifieth, what matters it who condemns? If Christ died in our room and stead, how can we be left to die? And if he make intercession for us, how can we be found guilty before God, unless his intercession be unavailing? No, beloved; he has gone to heaven with a receipt in full for all his blood-bought family. Has he, then, by this dishonored the law? Nay, he has indeed magnified it and made it honourable. Some of these “pious” folks, as they think themselves, would rob the law of its awful and divine authority, and then make it a rule of life. But, now are we delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held, that we should live in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. The law has gained honour in Christ. There is no peace but in Christ; but a sinner who is wrapped up in the beauty of Christ shall dwell in this peaceable habitation. It will be as a new world to him; it sweetens conscience and temper, and all seems quite new. If you read the Word of God, you see a beauty in it you never saw before. This is dwelling in a peaceable habitation. But without Christ, all is only a delusive peace. Therefore cease from your own works as any ground of peace. What good works can spring from an unregenerate heart, when the heart of man “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked?” The apostle Pan! said, “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” But where you have been brought to Christ, watchfulness looks out, patience waits, and God waters his vineyard, even your souls. You find a residence in him. You see your right and title to it, and are thus dwelling secure in God’s heart. You dwell in him and he dwells in you. Thus there is a mysterious oneness between you and him; your hearts triumph; you feel it and rejoice.
This, then, is a peaceable habitation. But you are not always so. Sometimes you wander from this peaceable habitation, like a youth who has rambled from his home, thinking he can have more liberty away from home and enjoy himself; but he finds himself among strangers, who draw him aside from the path of rectitude. He squanders his money in riotous living, and thus brings upon himself want, and starvation. All is misery within and without. This is our case spiritually. These things afford us no comfort. God makes them prove thorns in our flesh and goads in our sides. All is confusion and disorder; nothing but misery within. Like the prodigal, guilt keeps us back, until we find we are destitute of even the common evidences of life; and then we are made to arise; but ere we get home, God comes and meets us, and welcomes us. Yea, he did not wait for his son to get home (he was his son all the time, even when among the swine), but ran out, met him, fell on his neck and kissed him.
“Come needy, come guilty, come loathsome and bare; You can’t come too filthy; come just at you are.”
May the Lord enable you and me to rest in this peaceable habitation, for his mercy’s sake.
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.