A Sermon Preached By John Kershaw At Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, London on November 24th, 1842
“The desire of the righteous shall be granted”—Proverbs 10:24
I shall not take up any time, my friends, by way of introduction tonight, but shall come immediately to the words of the text. And I hope and trust the Lord will be graciously pleased to assist me,
I. Briefly to describe to you the character of “the righteous.” And
II. To take into consideration, “the desire of the righteous,” which, it is said, “shall be granted.”
Now, in reference to the character of the righteous, I shall be very brief, as I intend to speak more at large, by the Lord’s help, upon “the desire of the righteous,” which is to be granted.
I. First, then, “the righteous.” But where are we to find a righteous man among all the fallen sons and daughters of an apostate Adam? My friends, as we stand in relation to the first Adam, our federal head, there is not a just man or a righteous person to be found under the canopy of the whole heavens. It is said, “the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.” It was the omniscient God, who beholds all things with one glance of his eye. The Lord looked down from heaven upon earth, to see if he could find any that did good, and sinned not. But what was the result? He could not find one; for there was not a just man that did good, and sinned not; all flesh had corrupted his way. There is none righteous in this sense, no, not one: our very nature is fallen, depraved and sunken; it is unclean; the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint; from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is nothing but wounds, bruises and putrefying sores. The carnal heart of man is enmity against God; it is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be; it is carnal, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. The depraved heart of man is a dark fountain of impurity; it follows us all through the wilderness, and produces a black stream of iniquity and depravity; so that the thoughts and imaginations of the children of men, arising from this impure source, are only evil, and that continually. The poison of asps is under his lips; and sin, that accursed thing which God hates, man rolls under his tongue as a sweet morsel: he lies down in it, like the sow that wallows in the mire. But to cut it short, it is said, “destruction and misery are in all their ways; the way of peace have they not known, and there is no fear of God before their eyes.” My friends, this is the universal description of divine truth concerning the awful state into which we are all plunged through sin. And therefore it is impossible to find a righteous man among the whole fallen race of Adam, as they stand in relation to him as their original head.
But, before we move any farther in this solemn subject, I have an important question to ask; and my question is this: How many of us present do in reality, from painful experience in our very heart and soul, feel that this description of an unrighteous man, which God has given us in his sacred Word, is a true one? How many of us are there who have been made mournfully to feel that we are the very characters which God has described in the good Word of his grace? Now, beloved, while a natural man may assent and consent to these state- ments of divine truth, and acknowledge them in his judgment, yet he cannot have a feeling sense of it spiritually, and sigh and groan on account of it in his mind, and repent and abhor himself in the dust of self-abasement, unless he is born of the Spirit of God, and has been taught by him these solemn truths. And therefore, I would say to every one of you that do see and feel sin to be a daily plague and a daily burden, and which causes you to sigh and mourn and groan before the Lord: depend upon it, where such is the case, it is a safe and certain evidence that the grace of God is in your heart, and that you have been convinced of sin by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Now there is one observation I must make on this part of my subject. There are many professors of religion who, so long as outward things are straight and external observances correct, and they are attending to their duties, they think all is well, and they are quite happy and comfortable; they do not feel the inward warfare and strife; they are all at peace within, and Satan never troubles them. But I would not give a straw for such a profession: for however the saint may walk circumspectly before his fellow-creatures and his brethren, he has daily to mourn over the body of sin and death which he carries about with him; he feels the plague of his sins; he is pestered with his carnal reasonings, the fires of lust, worldly- mindedness and inordinate affections; and these things make the dear saint of God sick at heart, and a torment at times to himself; so that he often stands amazed at the goodness and mercy of God, and wonders how it is that he bears with him, and does not cut him down as a cumberer of the ground. And my friends, if you are not the subject of these exercises of mind, your heart is not right in the sight of God, and you have not the evidences of the new birth. But where these feelings are experienced, such characters are manifestly those for whom Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple: for while on that solemn occasion he asked for many things, under the Spirit’s teaching, he was especially moved to pray for those that knew “the plague of their own heart.”
Now they that know and feel this plague will have to pray against the workings of it, and to supplicate the Lord to enable them to use such weapons, as shall be mighty to the pulling down of the strongholds of sin and Satan, so that every thought and power of their souls may be brought into the obedience of Christ; because wherever the Lord’s grace is deposited, it will be sure to work an inward struggling and fighting against sin and corruption. Now there are times and seasons when, by his grace, he does for a few moments so rise up for their help that they are enabled to tread upon these scorpions and adders, and crush them under their feet, and triumph over the power of their enemies; but this is only at the time when God lifts upon them the light of his countenance, and gives them to glory in the riches of his grace.
“Well,” say you, “you go a strange way to make out a righteous man!” Beloved, it is God’s way; for the Holy Spirit never made a man righteous until he first gave him to feel his unrighteousness. He turns him inside out and shows him that while he has a desire and a will, yet he has not the power of himself to perform that which is spiritually good; the will is present, but how to perform that which is good, he finds not. But still, our text says, “The desire of the righteous shall be granted.”
Where, then, is the righteous man to be found? We have discovered him where he is unrighteous, sinful and polluted – but where is he to be found righteous? Then, if we want to find him in this character, we must look for him in the place where he is to be seen. Now as all light and heat comes from the sun; so all the righteousness and holiness which exists now, or ever has been seen in the world from the fall to the present time, is alone in the glorious Person of our Lord Jesus Christ; therefore the people of God are only righteous as they stand in him. Christ is their substitute, their holiness and their sanctification; and his name is “the Lord our Righteousness,” for they stand complete and accepted in him the Beloved. But let us examine a few portions of God’s blessed Word on this subject.
If we look at the birth of the immaculate Jesus, we behold that his very nature was perfect; for the angel said to Mary, “That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” And the “Child born,” and the “Son given,” was without spot or blemish; he was “holy, harmless, unde- filed, and separate from sinners.” Now look at the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ; purity and perfection dwelt in him in all its fulness; for all that the law required, he did. He loved the Lord with all his heart, and with all his mind, and with all his strength, and his neighbour as himself. Grace was poured into his lips; yea, even his bitterest enemies were constrained to say, that “never man spake like this Man;” so that all he did, from the cradle to the cross, was but one continued act of purity and rectitude.
Now observe, he is the covenant head of his church and people; therefore all that he did was as their covenant head. He did it not for himself, it was for his mystical body. He wrought out his perfect robe of righteousness, and placed it to the account of his beloved members; so that the glorious righteousness and perfect obedience of the Redeemer is ours, made ours by Jehovah the Father, and by covenant oath secured to us; as saith the apostle, “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”
I might enlarge text upon text on this point, but for brevity’s sake, I forbear, and will bring it down to the experience and feeling of the heaven-born soul in the living family taught of God. For however there may be differences among the Lord’s people upon minor things, yet upon soul matters they are all brought to speak one and the same thing, being taught by one and the same Spirit, and made partakers of one and the same truth, “Well,” says one, “what does the heaven-born soul say – and every one who is taught the same thing by the same Spirit, say?” Why, they say, “O Lord, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we are all as an unclean thing: we all do fade away as a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away.” Then it is clear, my friends, there is no righteousness in us.
But then, on the other side of the question, and it is the language of the Bible, it is said, “The just shall live by faith.” And again, “Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” In him we have a garment of salvation, a robe of righteousness, a wedding garment; for surely, certainly and of a truth shall one say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength;” and “in him shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory.”
Perhaps I have one here that cannot join in this mode of expression, and who would give worlds to be able to say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” It may be, I say, that there is such a precious soul here tonight, who cannot make use of this language but would rather say, “O that I may have righteousness and strength in the Lord. I am hungering and thirsting after it; it is what my soul desires, and there is nothing else that can satisfy me.” Then, I would say, the blessing of the Lord is upon such an one as thee; for it is said, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Therefore, the righteousness of the saints is not found in themselves. No, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to them, and placed to their account – in it they are clothed, and beheld spotless before the eyes of infinite purity; as it is written, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered: blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
II. But leaving the character of the righteous, we will now proceed to the latter part of the clause and consider a little more at large, “the desire of the righteous,” which the text assures us “shall be granted.” But there are two or three observations of a brief prefatory nature which it is necessary for us to make first, in order to do justice to a subject of so much importance.us to make first, in order to do justice to a subject of so much importance.
The first remark then I would make is this. In looking at the “desire of the righteous,” we must view it in a complexity of character, as it is recorded in Solomon’s Song, where the question is asked, “What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.” What will ye see in the dear child of God, made righteous in the righteousness of Christ, but two armies and two companies wrestling and fighting, the one against the other? What will ye discover in him, but flesh and spirit – the old man and the new man – nature and grace; and these in continual opposition and warfare against each other? “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
Now the old man in the believer has his desires; and they are sometimes very naughty desires. They are desires after the flesh, and frequently of a very depraved, carnal and corrupt kind. And the new man of grace, created in righteousness and true holiness, he has his desires also which are of the operation of the Spirit. Now there is a continual fighting and wrestling between these two opposing principles in every child of God. But is the old man of sin to have his desires gratified? Are the lusts of the heart to be fulfilled? Oh no! they are to be mortified and crucified: “Mortify therefore your members, which are upon the earth”; and, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.” The desires of the flesh are to be kept under, to be subdued, to be put off; and no provision is to be made for the flesh for the satisfying of the lusts thereof.
Again. There are many fleshly prayers and tears which the people of God have; but they are not the desires which are to be granted, nor intended by the words of our text. Many of the desires presented in our petitions to the Lord spring up from the flesh, and he refuses to grant them; so that oftentimes “we have not, because we ask amiss, that we may consume it upon our lusts.” And indeed, even when we have had our fleshly desires granted, it has seldom been for our good. We read of some to whom the Lord granted their desires, but “sent leanness into their souls.” Therefore it is better to be denied those desires that arise from our flesh which, if granted, would prove injurious to our best interests, contrary to our true comforts, derogatory to God’s glory, and wounding to the minds of our brethren; and be the means of affording mirth to the ungodly who would rejoice over our falls and backslidings from the Lord.from the flesh, and he refuses to grant them; so that oftentimes “we have not, because we ask amiss, that we may consume it upon our lusts.” And indeed, even when we have had our fleshly desires granted, it has seldom been for our good. We read of some to whom the Lord granted their desires, but “sent leanness into their souls.” Therefore it is better to be denied those desires that arise from our flesh, which, if granted, would prove injurious to our best interests, contrary to our true comforts, derogatory to God’s glory, and wounding to the minds of our brethren, and be the means of affording mirth to the ungodly who would rejoice over our falls and backslidings from the Lord.
But “the desire of the righteous shall be granted.” The desires, then, that arise from the new man of grace, and from the teachings of the blessed Spirit in the soul, as a Spirit of grace and supplication, are sure to be granted; because every desire that he works in a poor sinner is in accordance with his sacred Word, and is always connected with the good of the soul and the glory of the Lord. And it is well always to bring our desires to the Book of God, and search the Scriptures to see whether they agree with its blessed contents; for if they are not according to the testimony of truth, and agreeable to the teachings of his Spirit, it is evident they arise from the flesh. But if our desires are in harmony with his mind and will, then the same Spirit that wrote the word in the Bible is the Author of these spiritual desires that we feel in our hearts. And therefore you will see a disposition in the Lord’s praying people to be made spiritual seekers after the truth. They have many spiritual desires; they hunger and thirst after the bread of life and the water of life. They are made to be spiritual watchers; for they get up on their watchtower, and there they plead the promises of mercy before the Lord, and put him in remembrance of his gracious declarations, how he has prom- ised to satisfy the desire of the longing soul, and “fulfil the desire of them that fear him.”
But now, having made these general observations, I hope the Lord will assist me to enter more at large into the nature of the desires of his people; and that he would be pleased to meet with us, and unfold his precious truth to us. And I would say, “Dear Lord! do bless us with thy Spirit, that our minds may be refreshed while further waiting on thee.”
Now I take it for granted, believing it to be a truth, that I have many precious souls here tonight of those that are righteous as they stand in their covenant Head. And I ask you, my friends, who have no righteousness of your own, but are looking for it all in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, what is your chief desire before the Lord? What is it you desire above everything else? Now, when I am in my closet, the thought will come home to me sometimes, “What is thy pe tition, and what is thy request?” What is it I principally desire before a heart-searching God? There are many of you present, who no doubt can say, “The Lord has shown me my weakness, sinfulness, helplessness and wretchedness; and he has taught me that if ever I am saved, it must be by grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; and I believe that he is an able and an all-sufficient Saviour, and that he is the only Redeemer of his church and people.” And then comes the heart-felt desire, and which has been my prayer for days and months, and is the earnest desire of every one of the Lord’s quickened family, “O that I might have the testimony of the Holy Spirit bearing witness to my heart that Jesus Christ is my Saviour and my Redeemer.”
But again. “The desire of the righteous shall be granted.” Now then, there is another thing the soul wants to be satisfied about. He is desirous of knowing whether Jesus has loved him, and given himself for him; he wants to have a personal testimony of the love of Christ. He says, “What will it avail me that Jesus has loved patriarchs, prophets and apostles, if he has not loved me, and shed his precious blood for me. I want to know the Lord for myself, to feel satisfied that he is mine; to be enabled to say, without doubt and fear, and that from God’s blessed testimony and unction in my soul, that I have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of my sins according to the riches of his grace: and to use the language of Job as my own, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth!’ I want to know that God is my heavenly Father, that Jesus is my Sav- iour, that the Spirit is my guide and teacher, and that heaven will be my eternal rest and home.”
I would say to such a precious soul as this who has these desires, Cannot you give yourself these things? for there are many persons that say we are warranted to believe and rest upon the Scriptures and take God at his word. But this poor soul says, “If I could have made it clear to my mind and satisfactory to my conscience that I was washed in the blood of Jesus, and interested in the love of his heart, I should have convinced myself about it long ago. But I cannot do it, for God knows the earnest cries and desires which have gone up from my heart to him to make these things clear to my soul.” And, my friends, I have often been at this work. I have tried and toiled to apply Christ’s blood and grace to my conscience: but I have found I could no more do it than I could pluck out the sun and stars from the heavens. And indeed, if I had the power to do it, then I could accomplish the work of the Spirit of God. But it is not in the power of any creature; it is the work of God himself, and it is he alone that can do it, and he will perform it in his own time and way.
Now the Lord gives the desire first, and afterwards he satisfies the longing of the soul; he gives hungerings and thirstings after it. The desire may be long delayed, but nevertheless the fulfilment of it is sure, for “the vision is for an appointed time, but in the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come.”
There may be some poor, cast-down soul present, who has long been waiting at the footstool of mercy, anxiously desiring to know when the Lord will be pleased to grant him the desires of his heart by giving him an experimental knowledge and enjoyment of his personal interest in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. And he may be ready to ask such a question as this, “How long shall I be kept in the place of waiting?” Now, beloved, I cannot answer thee as to time. It may be the Lord’s will to exercise thy faith and patience, and to keep thee long at his blessed feet. But that the desire of thy soul shall be granted at the last, we have his own sacred testimony; and I am sure that when he fulfils the desire of your heart, you will be satisfied then that his time is the best. But here I would say that, during the time such a longing, panting, hungering and thirsting soul is seeking after a knowledge of these things, he will be sure to ply the means of God’s grace; he will read his Word, attend the ordinances of his house and plead the promises of his grace. Nor will he be without some tokens of the Lord’s favour. He will impart to him some gratification of his desires; he will have some little drawings out of heart after him, though he will never rest satisfied until he is possessed of the full enjoyment of that which his soul seeks after. The Lord’s people have many wants and desires, and they are only happy as they are brought into an apprehension of his love, and as they feel Jesus precious to them.
I believe that the Lord has suffered many of his dear family, who do not feel an assurance of their interest in the blood and righteousness of Christ, to be greatly depressed in their feelings, and dark in their souls, and perplexed with doubts and fears, and that for ten, twenty, thirty and even forty years, wondering how it will be with them in their dying hour. But there is a blessed text for such in the epistle to the Hebrews, where it is said Christ came to “deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.” Precious soul! those fears which distress thee, and the devil who worries thee, shall not follow thee to the other side of Jordan, but they shall leave thee there. Jesus will ac- company thee through the cold stream of death, and land thy soul in immortal bliss and blessedness. Well then, “the desire of the righteous shall be granted;” but it must be in the Lord’s own time and way.
But I observe again, secondly, “the desire of the righteous shall be granted.” Now I would ask you, my friends, this important question: Next to the salvation of your soul, what is the chief desire of your heart, and your earnest petition before the Lord? I am satisfied, if the heart is right with God and under the influence of his blessed Spirit, and he is your guide and teacher, that next to the salvation of your soul, your fervent cry at the throne of grace will be something like this: “Dear Lord! while I am in the wilderness, keep me very humble, keep me solemn, keep me ever watchful, keep me growingly acquainted with a knowledge of my total depend- ence on thee and of my own utter insufficiency, keep me ever jealous of my own heart, and never let me trust to it and fall away from thee like poor Peter. Keep my conscience very tender by renewed applications of the blood of Jesus, and the bedewing influences of thy blessed Spirit. Let me have thy fear continually before my eyes, both in my going out and in my coming in, that my desire may be, ‘Hold thou up my goings in thy way that my footsteps slip not.’ O Lord! keep me, and I shall be well kept. Do thou enable me to stand my ground, and having done all to stand. Keep me in the ‘footsteps of the flock,’ in the ‘narrow way,’ and never let me wander away from thee. Thus, Lord, grant that the residue of my days may be devoted to thy honour and glory, that I may increasingly love thee and thy ways, that thine ordinances may be my delight, and that I may keep thy commandments and precepts, and glorify thee in body, soul and spirit, which are thine, until the time shall arrive when thou wilt come and receive me unto thyself, that where thou art, there I may be also.”
Now, my friends, I make nothing of the religion of any man or woman if it does not produce effects like these; and God makes nothing of it either, unless there is an experimental feeling of these things in the soul. Many persons when they die want to go to heaven, but they do not want their time, and their affections and every power of their souls to be consecrated to the Lord’s service while they are in this world. Wicked Balaam wanted to die the death of the righteous, but he did not desire to live the life which they live. But where the heart is right, and the affections are set upon Jesus and heavenly things, there will be a desire continually springing up in the soul to honour the Lord, and to glorify him in every- thing that they do, and to show forth the praises of that Redeemer, who lived a life of suffering for them here, and at last died the accursed death of the cross, that he might bring them to God; so that these things will be seen and manifested in their life and conversation, both in the world and in the church.
Now Jabez’s prayer is very appropriate to this part of our subject. There is very little said about Jabez, but quite enough to satisfy every God-fearing man or woman that the grace of God was in his heart. He says, “O that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me; and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.” My friends, I do love Bible words; they have a great hold on my heart, for there are no words fit and suit me so well as what are to be found in this blessed Book. And therefore, “do now, dear Lord, increase our desires after thee, that we may have more experimental knowledge of, and a deeper acquaintance with thee; that we may be more de- voted to thee, and live more to the honour and glory of thy great name, until that we have done with all things here be- low; and do enable us to lay ourselves down at thy blessed feet, and to count ourselves at the last nothing but unprofitable servants.”
But again. We have the promise of a faithful, coven- ant-keeping God that “the desire of the righteous shall be granted.” The Lord never puts a desire into the soul of one of his family to disappoint him. I know that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” It is true, the heart may be sick and faint while waiting for the fulfilment of the promise, but nevertheless it shall come at the time appointed; and when it has entered into the soul of the poor sinner, accompanied with the blessed influences of the divine Spirit, it will then be a “tree of life” to him, and he will glorify and praise God for the enjoyment of it. Therefore, “the desire of the righteous,” sooner or later, “shall be granted.”
We see this truth strikingly exhibited in one beautiful circumstance in the Scriptures. And what was that? It was in the case of Hannah, the wife of Elkanah. God had put a desire into her heart; and she went into the temple to pour out her supplications, and tell her sorrows before the Lord. His eye was upon her, and his ear open to her petition. He listened to her cry and answered it, for he gave her the desire of her soul. Beloved, the Lord knows all our desires. He is acquainted with all our secret sighs and groans. He knows our down- sitting and uprising, and understandeth our thoughts afar off. But he says, “For all these things will I be enquired of by the house of Israel, that I may do it for them.” But to return to Hannah. It appears that Eli thought that she was drunken; he, looking at her steadfastly with angry feelings, says to her, “How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.” “Ah!” says Hannah, “I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink: but I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit.” My friends, I would that there were more of “a sorrowful spirit” among us. I want to feel more of it in myself, and discover more of it in others. “I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit,” she says, “and have poured out my soul before the Lord.” The Spirit then immediately comes upon Eli and he says, “Thy request shall be given thee. Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.” Here then the promise of the text is sweetly fulfilled, “The desire of the righteous shall be granted.”
But again. There is another circumstance which we will notice, and which strikingly exhibits the fulfilment of the promise in our text. In the 18th chapter of Luke, the Lord introduces to us a parable in order to encourage us to make known our requests unto him by prayer and supplication, that he may give unto us the desire of our hearts. It is said, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, there was in a city a judge, who feared not God neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city.” Ah! in that same city, there was a poor widow woman who had a cruel adversary, which she could not manage herself; and therefore she went to this un- just judge to tell him her sorrows, and to put her case into his hands. But he would not take any notice of her, nor her trouble, and ordered her to be put away from him. Nevertheless, this poor woman went to him the second and the third day; and she continued knocking again and again at his door, and was not to be silenced, for she would not give it up nor be driven away until at last the unjust judge says within himself, “This woman troubles me; and though I fear not God nor regard man, yet because this widow wearies me with her continual coming, I will arise and avenge her speedily, that I may have done with her.” And the Lord says, “Hear what the unjust judge saith!
And shall not God avenge his own elect which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” And shall not the covenant God of his people, who hath loved them with an everlasting love, and hath given up his dear Son as a sacrifice for them – shall he not avenge them speedily? And shall not a precious Christ, who has laid down his life as a ransom for them, and hath redeemed them from the curse of the law, out of the hands of law and justice, and ransomed them from the power of sin, death, hell and the grave, and hath given them his blessed Spirit, and put holy and heavenly desires in their hearts – shall he not avenge his own elect and arise up for their deliverance, who cry unto him day and night? Yea, he will avenge them speedily, though he appears to delay for their help! Would to God my cries went up more fervently day and night to a covenant God! Alas! there is very little real prayer arising from the heart unless we are brought into circumstances of trouble and sorrow. And may I not say, my friends, that unless we are passing through deep waters and fiery trials, our prayers become very formal and there is but little of real wrestling and crying to the Lord in them, so that when we come to look at these prayers and compare them with our own, we stand ashamed and humbled before the Lord on account of our half-heartedness and backwardness to call upon him, and feel that they are not the prayers that deserve his notice or his special regard. Therefore, may the Lord quicken our souls to call more upon him in sincerity and truth. O that we may be more humbled down under a sense of our own sinfulness, that we may plead and wrestle with him to arise for our help! But when the soul is in trouble, what does he say to it then? He says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
Now the elect “cry unto him day and night;” yea, not only in the day but at night when they cannot sleep upon their beds. But someone may say, “What! cannot the Lord’s elect always sleep upon their beds?” Why, I can say for myself, and I hope and trust I am one of the Lord’s people, that I have had many sleepless nights; for, what with the darkness of my mind, a feeling sense of my own vileness and wretchedness, the temptations of Satan, the anxieties of life, with the cares of the church, these things have so harassed and plagued my soul at times that I have known what it is to have many tossings to and fro on my pillow upon my bed, and they have produced many sighs and groans and desires after the Lord that he would appear for me, and when none but himself can know.
And thus David cried out in the secret watches of the night. He wet his couch with tears, and he could find no rest until the Lord spoke peace again to him, saying, “O remember me with the favour which thou bearest unto thy people”; and, “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” Now, my friends, do you know anything of these exercises of mind? Then “shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry unto him day and night?” Yes, he will; for “the desire of the righteous shall be granted.”
It just occurs to my mind that there may be a precious soul here tonight who is in some such state of mind as this: that after having had an enjoyment of peace and pardon in his conscience by an application of the blood of Jesus, and after having lived in the light of God’s countenance and felt sweet rest and joy in his soul, he had thought that he should have gone on and continued in this state of feeling to the end of his days. But alas! there has come a weaning time with him; he has been drawn from the breast of sensible enjoyment in order that he may learn doctrine.
I can recollect the time well, when the weaning of my soul was a work of sore distress and great trouble to me. I was enveloped in darkness, and such a one as could be felt – a thick darkness wherein I could not see a hand’s breadth before me – that everything which appeared good in me was gone, and nothing seemed to be left but what was full of evil – that I thought I should go back again into the world and that all my experience would end in delusion. And then, at this time my prayers became very short and more earnest; and, my friends, I am a lover of short prayers, for the wise man says, “Let your words be few, for God is in the heavens, and thou art upon the earth.” But now, while in this state of mind, my prayers were very many in number, but of few words, and indeed they were made up principally of sighs and groans before the Lord, so that I could say, “Let the sighing of the prisoner come up before thee”; and “All my sighs and groans are with thee.” And therefore, if there should be any child of God here pre- sent that has these pantings and longings, they are from the Lord, and they will ascend into the ears of the Lord of Hosts, and in his own time he will come down for your relief.
But I shall never forget the period and the occasion when he appeared for my deliverance. I was on my knees at the time. I can recollect the place well, and it is in my mind now, though it is more than two hundred miles away from this spot. He dropped these precious words, and applied them with such divine power to my soul, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry,” that I shall never forget the feelings which accompanied it. I said, “What, Lord! and has thine eye been upon me for good, and thine ear open to all my supplications and mournings before thee?” Yes; the blessed Spirit turned preacher, and there is no preacher like him. He brought the word home to me with such power, light, life and liberty that my soul arose from the dust, my bondage was gone, the fetters were all broken away, and I was full of peace and joy in my soul. And therefore I stand here this night as a living witness, to bear testimony to the faithfulness and truth of the blessed promise in our text, “The desire of the righteous shall be granted.”
And now, may the Lord own these things to do good to his dear people, and his name shall have the praise. Amen.
John Kershaw (1792-1870) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Hope Chapel, Rochdale, serving this position for fifty-three years. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“His autobiography is one of the best books of its kind and one striking incident we will quote. It is his account of his interview in Edinburgh with Dr. John Duncan, often called "Rabbi" Duncan, because of his profound knowledge of Hebrew. Dr. Duncan (1796-1870) was Professor of Hebrew in New College, Edinburgh, and was a man of the most acute and profound intellectual powers, and at the same time a deeply spiritual and Scriptural preacher. In learning and associations he was at the antipodes of plain John Kershaw. In November, 1861, Mr. Kershaw preached in Edinburgh, arrangements having been made through Lady Lucy Smith, who was desirous that his original and powerful ministry should be exercised there. He writes:—"Another of my visitors was Dr. Duncan, who I was told by one of the ministers understood fourteen languages and that there was only one in the City who surpassed him in learning. He told me he had heard me preach three sermons, and he quite agreed with me in every statement that I had made, both in doctrine, experience and practice, save one, and that I had not fully entered upon, namely, 'the extent of the call of the gospel.' He candidly told me that his human learning had for years past been a great hindrance to his coming to a saving knowledge of the truth, and he had proved Paul's words, that the world by wisdom knew not God; and referring me to 1 Cor. 1:21,22 said he was for a long time like a wandering star or a ship at sea without a compass, ready to settle in every 'ism'—sometimes Arianism or Socinianism; and sometimes his mind was bordering upon infidelity. He declared himself much ashamed of many of his theological productions. When it pleased the Lord to work in his soul by the power of the Spirit he was for a long time in a distressed state, not knowing what to do to get peace and comfort. A conversation with another minister was made useful to him and he was enabled to go to the feet of Jesus as a little child and beg Him to teach him, a poor ignorant sinner, by His Spirit and His Word. The Lord graciously heard prayer and revealed Himself as his Saviour and Redeemer. We spoke of Scott's 'Force of Truth,' in which the author confessed he had been priding himself on his human attainments, opposing the doctrines of grace, and despising his neighbour, that dear man of God, John Newton, who eventually was made a blessing to him; also of John Berridge, who preached some years before the Lord stripped him and caused him to flee to Jesus for refuge. The conversation I had with this man I hope never to forget."