Walter Brooke Sermons

No More Sea (1/2)

A Sermon Preached By Walter Brooke On Lord’s Day Morning, May 5th, 1907

“And there was no more sea.”—Revelation 21:1

I always feel an increased need to ask for special wisdom whenever I approach this book of the Revelation to use it as the basis of spiritual meditation. And I suppose we have been not a little perplexed by the conflicting representations that we have heard in our day and generation of its meaning, and of the various modes of interpretation men have used in reference to fixing the times therein spoken of. Many mistakes have been made, many miscalculations; and those of the Lord’s living family who have a real respect for the divine oracles say, “It is too perplexing a theme for us, and consequently we prefer to keep to the more beaten tracks of holy Scripture, and seek to gain what we can for our precious, immortal souls, resting in this fact, that if we are right with the Lord Jesus, if He has softened our hearts by His love and an application of His atonement, and given us to rest in His divine keeping, whatever God does in His Church, and whatever time He uses to perform and carry out the things described here, we shall be found right with Him; that is the main thing. I have been glad to settle there many times, and concerning all the conflicting representations of men, I have sometimes found not a little relief in reflecting in my own mind upon an illustration of this kind:—I think we would all admit without any hesitation that this book of the Revelation is a description of the Church’s toils and tribulations from the day of the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour to the end of time. That covers a very broad expanse, does it not?—covers very many generations of men; and when we come to think of the details of the sufferings of the Church, the various seasons that pass over her of this kind, we must at once admit that this can only be a broad outline, as it were, of the Church’s toils and difficulties. And I have sometimes said to myself, If I possessed in my house, say, a map of one of the hemispheres—for illustration, the western hemisphere where we dwell—when I look at this map I see a broad outline of the countries that form that part of the world; but if I looked upon that map to find my house where I dwell I should be disappointed, I should not find it there. And it seems to me that some good men have tried to get at the detail in this way, but, my dear friends, it is straining the thing a little too much. God has given us a broad outline of the Church’s struggles, but to attempt to fix times is trying to do something beyond our power, and I find it a very great comfort myself to think of John’s words, for instance, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is ” (1 John 3:2).

But there are things in this book of the Revelation which plainly speak of the vital union between the Lord Jesus and His people. There are themes here that the simplest spiritual mind may find profitable and establishing to the soul. And I believe that in this closing part of the book we have set before us the ultimate condition of victory over the beast, over all oppositions, over all temptations,—in a. word, that we have read to you this morning from the Book of God nothing less than a description, as far as human language, human figures, symbolic representations can set it forth, of the glorified state of the ransomed. But of course the language is symbolical, and to try to use it in any other way has led men sometimes into very wide interpretations, I think; because, for instance, if we speak of these “stones,” and the “gold” in this chapter, these are in themselves corruptible. The finest stone that ever was discovered on the earth was nothing more than corruptible in its nature. But it sets forth what is incorruptible; and once admit that illustration you must admit that the book as a whole is symbolical.

My dear friends, I have read in your hearing this text because, through the symbol which is therein used by the Holy Ghost, there is represented, to my mind, some meditation of a very profitable nature appertaining to the spiritual life, with which I have more to do than with mere representations of general things of the Church’s history this morning.

Now this “new heaven” and “new earth” sets forth, then, that kingdom wherein dwelleth “no unrighteousness.” He hath said of it who created it, “I make all things new.” The present earth on which we dwell, the Holy Ghost declares by Peter, is “kept in store” (2 Peter 3:7). It is, as it were, a platform upon which God is carrying out the eternal purposes of His grace and mercy in the Son of His love, and when those purposes are accomplished, then the fire which is held in abeyance by the Eternal mind will burst forth and this world will be consumed.

I have been thinking a good deal on this subject lately, because of the earthquakes of which we have heard, and which wrought such devastation and ruin. Geologists and scientists tells us that these are the result of a little crumbling going on in the interior of the earth. There is the statement of human wisdom today, correct or not I do not say, I am not a geologist. But if only a little crumbling in the interior of this ball upon which we dwell causes such devastation, confusion, terror, and dismay among the sons of men, what will it be when the eternal fiat goes forth and declares that time shall be no longer, gives the rein to those elements which are altogether beyond the control of man!

What will man do then! O what an indescribable confusion it will be! And yet men go on saying, “Peace and safety;” and “sudden destruction,” saith the eternal Word of God, “cometh upon them” (1 Thess 5:3).

Well now, you are aware that there is a great deal of sea upon this globe. A great part of the earth which God has created is water. And I want to use the sea in my meditation today as an emblem of various things which I think will be interesting to us. John says here, “there was no more sea,” and of course those things of which I am going to speak as enabled, are things that will not be found in the “new heaven” and the “new earth,” the blessed, glorified state.

I. First, then, I would notice that the sea represents to us that which is dark, profound, mysterious and incomprehensible. Being a maritime nation as we are, we can hardly enter into what the sea in this aspect presented to the Oriental mind. Of course during many generations there has been further discovery, and various routes have been opened up on the sea, and steam has been brought into operation, so that men can go through storms and adverse winds to their destination in comparative ease and tranquility. What a dark, unfathomable mystery the great and wide sea, as the psalmist says, was to the Oriental mind, especially, per- haps, to the Hebrew. To embark on the sea in those days was indeed a great event. Our young friends who have read the story of Columbus and the discovery of the “new world” will remember what imaginations were painted on the minds of those seamen as they went on, afraid they would never reach land in safety, and with what difficulty he kept on his course till he reached land. So, I say, to the Oriental mind the sea was unfathomable. And I say this—that although by subsequent navigation we have discovered more concerning the sea, and therefore it is less deep and mysterious to our mind than it was in ancient days, yet in reference to the things I am going to set forth we must still be “Hebrews,” and it must still be mysterious and dark to us spiritually. You know if we are blessed with faith we are children of faithful Abraham; if we are brought into oneness with Jesus Christ we are true Israelites, and therefore the things that the sea represents in this aspect of the case will be to us this day as mysterious, as profound and unfathomable as they were to the saints in past ages. I know that is not popular doctrine; I am quite aware I am speaking “profound nonsense” to human wisdom. Well, I am quite content to be “nonsensical” in the estimation of the world if I feel I am right with God; if I am running parallel with divine revelation, that is enough for me. It is what I am as touching this Book of God’s revelation of His love and mercy in the Son of His love.

Now how mysterious, how profound, how impenetrable are the dealings of the Almighty God with His children whom He has drawn out of the world, led by His spirit to the footstool of His mercy, and given some saving knowledge of His love and mercy manifested in the atonement of His dear Son Jesus Christ, upon which they are living from day to day as they pass through their wilderness journey. The ways of God with them are quite above human ken. They may be summed up in that beautiful passage in Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8,9). Hence it comes to pass that simple-hearted believers—when I say simple-hearted, I mean made so, made childlike, teachable, meek, and lowly—find that the way they have to walk becomes more and more intricate oftentimes, and what depth, what truth they see in the conclusion of Cowper,—

“Deep in unfathomable mines,
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.”

How altogether above and beyond our will that is! It is all calculated to bring us low at the divine footstool, to make us willing to admit with the ancient penman, “Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne” (Ps 97:2). When I was young in the way I was so afraid of not being able to hold on the way of my profession. I was much troubled at the thought of professing the name of Jesus Christ, and I used to go in secret places and use the appeal of David, I believe with all my heart, “Teach me Thy way, O Lord, lead me in a plain path because of mine enemies.” And I looked forward and thought of one believer having to pass through those tribulations, and another through those scorching fires of trial, and as I looked I thought to myself I could never stand in it. I seemed only just able to hold on in this plainer path. “Lead me in a plain path because of mine enemies.” And sometimes I thought, perhaps He would do it. I had soon to learn out what is decribed to us in Exodus 14. I must refer you to that a minute or two. After the children of Israel had left Egyptian bondage and escaped from the grip of the tyrant their oppressor, the Lord sends a very strange message to His servant Moses to speak to them. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.” Now if you search that out geographically you will see how very significant it is. Though they had escaped the hands of the tyrant, instead of bringing them forth into a place of permanent safety in their estimation, “singing all the way,” and so on—that is how people represent the wilderness path to be today—only accept the word and go on singing all the way. But the Lord Jesus never taught His disciples such doctrine as that. Never! It is not that I am preaching to you merely the Old Testament. Our Lord’s ministry—I think I am speaking correctly—was largely made up in substance of Old Testament description and revelation, and He handed it on to His own disciples, who also handed it on to the present generation of the Church. God’s way has ever been one and the same in substance.

Now, instead of having this clear and open way of “singing all the way” to Canaan, God brings them right into an intricate path. For what purpose?” I know what Pharaoh will say, “I have got them into a corner, there is no escape for them.” Human wisdom would say, “You keep out of that corner in a broad way where there is no danger,” forgetting what one of our poets has expressed,—

“The mount of danger is the place,
Where He displays surprising grace.”

Perhaps some would object to that remark and say, “You would not preach that God’s people may be a little careless, would you, and so fail in keeping to God’s straight ways?” I say, with all my heart, never get out of God’s straight ways. But God’s way won’t be that which will build up human wisdom, but will make you a perfect fool in your own estimation. And He won’t forsake you in those trying places, although you may be so wicked as to forsake Him in them, and grow rebellious and stupid and little-minded, as many of the sons of God have, and ourselves among them. But you will be brought to realize that had it not been for Jehovah’s delivering hand you must have been destroyed. That is why He brings you into that pathway, to spoil your human wisdom that His own divine skill and care may sparkle in your estimation. Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, “They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.” But God says, “I will be honoured upon Pharaoh and upon his host, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.”

And so it came to this literally with them. There were the Egyptians behind them and the sea before them. “We shall be driven into it,” say they, “it is impossible for us to hold back that furious host; we cannot do it, we have no strength against it, and the sea means death before us.”

Was not that dark, mysterious and unfathomable? They had no ships to embark in and leave the Egyptians behind, no horses, no means of deliverance naturally, and on comes the enemy and says, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my lust shall be satisfied upon them.” And then comes the opening of the way. “His way is in the sea, and His footsteps in the mighty waters.” What is the sea to Him who made it? Only a servant in His hands for a safe passage for His dear helpless people who are under the cloud of His divine guidance.

People say to us sometimes, “Everything in religion is very simple and plain if you will only avail yourself of divine directions.” Well, I have tried it with all my powers, I have tried to be simple, I have gone to God and asked Him to make me simple; but, how does God make me simple? I am not simple by nature. I am proud, overbearing, full of my own devisings and my own schemings, and it is by the destruction of these things God makes me simple; consequently I have to be led into those trying experiences to get rid of those props of my own devisings that I may lean upon His arm. That is simplicity —to lean upon the arm of Omnipotence, to distrust one’s own understanding.

So don’t you think, my dear young friends in the way, that you are going to pray away your troubles. Don’t you think that by spending it may be hours a day even in prayer in secret places, that you are going to have a smooth track and escape tribulation, for you will not. It will be these very things that will glorify God, which shall defeat the enemy; yes, to your observation and your knowledge, blessed be God. And when you see Satan’s schemes towards you defeated, when you see your own earthly wisdom which would have kept back the sight of the glorious Saviour from your view, taken away and spoiled, then will go up from your heart language of praise as it did here when the Egyptians sank like lead, and Israel stood, delivered monuments of divine mercy. “Who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” O it is good to praise Jesus Christ, but in order to praise Him we must know what it is to despise and even hate ourselves.

The sea, then, sets forth that which is dark, profound, mysterious and incomprehensible, and I believe we shall find, right to the journey’s end, that it is a “way we know not.” “I will bring the blind by a way that they know not, I will lead them in paths that they have not known” (Is 43:16).

You come into contact with God’s people who have trod the way forty years, and God brings upon them some fresh trouble, some new way of exercise, and you will find they are just as low, just as put to in their own experience, as the youngest babe in grace. It is true there is a maturity of wisdom, a grip of God they possess, which I would not overlook for a moment—I should be belying my own experience if I did—but this new trouble is dark and impenetrable in itself, and we need a passage made through for us as much as ever we did.

II. But further. The sea not only sets forth to us that which is incomprehensible, but it proclaims to us that which is devouring and altogether uncontrollable. We have had specimens of this during the last year or two. What terrible disasters there have been at sea! If you could have beheld some of those scenes that have been described by pen and ink, if you could have seen some of it in reality, would it not have been awful? When the sea is lashed by the storm in very fury, what is poor little man? His cry is not heard; it is completely silenced, drowned by the storm. The sea then becomes a devouring element. Man can no more control it than he can cease to be.

The sea in this aspect sets forth those tribulations, afflictions, toils, persecutions, heresies that come like grievous storms upon the Church of the living God, and for the time being everything seems in confusion, and the little bark is tossed, as it were, “up to the heavens” and down again into the “depths,” and the occupants of it are in trouble, and they “reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end ” (Ps 107:26,27). And we say, “How mysterious it is. What does God mean by these things? Hath God forsaken the earth? Hath He withdrawn His power? Is He about to let the enemies rage and triumph over the Church forever?” “How long,” said the poor afflicted, persecuted Church, “How long, O Lord, how long shall the enemy triumph and persecute and gloat over the poor, afflicted and distressed?”

The sea sets forth then those devouring things. There is none of this in the new heaven and the new earth. The sea is necessary for the present. God has made it for uses and purposes, which the human mind will never fully dis- cover, but it is absolutely necessary. It won’t be necessary then.

May the Lord add His blessing. Amen.

Walter Brooke (1863-1934) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, appointed as Pastor of Windsor Road Strict Baptist Chapel, Cardiff.

Walter Brooke Sermons