[Notes Of A Sermon By Mr. James Popham, Preached At Galeed Chapel, Brighton, Sunday Morning, January 29th, 1882.]
“I am Thine, save me; for I have sought Thy people.”—Psalm 119:94
Many a child of God present may feel that, if he possessed the world, and parting with it would bring into his soul the assurance of his being the Lord’s, he would gladly part with it. Oh, what an infinite mercy we see and feel it to be, to belong to God! Well, but some may say, “We do belong to Him as His creatures.” Yes, you may be saying that in your heart, yet listen to what He Himself says: “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you.” It will be a solemn matter for those who, when assembled before the great white throne, hear that “I never knew you.” Being God’s by creation is not enough for God’s children. They want to know they are His by redemption and by regeneration; and, until they know it to their soul’s satisfaction, they have no solid rest.
Sometimes we argue from cause to effect. Now, I feel my mind led to reverse that order this morning; and, in looking at the words, “I am Thine,” will try to show in what respects, besides creation, God’s people are His.
To begin with vital religion at once, let me say they are His by the regenerating work of God the Holy Ghost in their souls: ”The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” And this work is at once, though in different degrees in different cases, manifested by the state of feeling the new-born soul comes into. The desires, the confessions, the prayers, the breathings of this soul are quickly manifested, to all who have eyes and ears, to be spiritual. If born of God, you will go where God is to be found. If you know, by divine teaching, what a sinner you are, you will seek salvation in Christ Jesus. As the Spirit influences your heart, though you know not God, nor that He loves you, you will be constrained to seek an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Holy Ghost dwells in every elect person when quickened; hence, although between your soul and God there are mountains of guilt, quantities of sins, and an unbelieving heart that none but He can overcome, notwithstanding all that, you are obliged to seek Him. Your heart will cleave to God’s children, though you do not feel fit to be where they are. Every mark of grace in them you admire. You will seek the Word, go into your room, drop on your knees, and your heart will heave such sighs as only God’s people know.
Here is a following after God, although the soul feel to be getting further away from Him; but there is no giving Him rest until He is found. God has got the heart, the ear, and the attention of this poor soul. Oh, what God has accomplished in a man when He has got hold of him, body and soul, so to speak!
But such a sinner says, “I am not fit to go where God’s people are.” Yet you belong to Him. Though guilt seems as if it would drive you into perdition, and though the delay in answering your prayers much tries you, you belong to God, and you will some day come to this—
“‘Midst all my sin, and grief, and woe,
Thy Spirit will not let me go.”
Certainly, you are His by quickening grace, if this is your experience. Here is a word some of us know—
“Determined to save, He watched o’er my path
When, Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death.”
“Sported with death.” We remember the time when our hearts said, “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” Oh, what enemies to God and goodness! what desperate creatures! And yet grace subdues us, and squeezes many a prayer out of our hearts.
If, then, you are God’s by quickening grace, let me go a step further—you are His by redeeming blood. When I carried the burden of my sin and rebellion against God and His truth, what a bowed down creature I was, until He took the burden away by that word, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ;” clenched afterwards with this—“But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”
You say, “If the Lord would tell me He had redeemed me, I should want no more.” Well, ask Him as well as you can. Do you find you cannot rest without redeeming blood made known to your heart, through faith? He has it for you. It will come in His own time. The brokenness of heart, the earnestness you feel in following after God, are so many graces given, and the blessing you are seeking is one God has in store for you. Then you will say, “I am Thine.”
Again. “And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.” Now, let us test ourselves by that for a minute or two. What spirit have you got? Do you want the world or God? Will the literature which pleases a carnal mind please you, or do you turn to the Word of God? Does a form of prayer satisfy you, or do you want to be breathing out your soul to God daily? Does sin press you down? Do you sigh for a broken heart? Do you always want to do your own pleasure? or is this rather your desire, “Make Thy face to shine upon Thy servant; save me for Thy mercies’ sake”? Is that your desire, your prayer? “Hereby know we the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Does godly fear keep you from going wrong? Does the spirit of humility make you drop down and take the lowest place? Do you sometimes see such beauty in the mangled form of Jesus, in His bleeding, dying love, as to cause your soul to go out in earnest longings—
“Oh, that closer we could cleave
To Thy bleeding, dying breast”!
“Rend, oh, rend the veil between!
Open wide the bloody scene”!
Have you such a spirit? You are the Lord’s if you have.
Paul says, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God.” He is the Spirit of truth. What will the letter of truth do for us if it is alone? Nothing in a saving way. But you have felt the truth warm upon your heart, fitting your case so exactly that you have said, God must have written it expressly for you. The blessed truth has so strengthened your faith that you have felt you could go through fire for it. It is the Spirit who makes truth warm with life and moist with unction. We may, without that life and that unction, pick up truth, and afterwards have to go back and learn it by experience.
But you may say, “I cannot see the Lord Jesus—cannot behold Him as my soul desires.” Now, what heaviness you feel; but when He “stands confessed,” then, “or ever you are aware, your soul makes you like the chariots of Amminadib.” How your arms entwine round Him! He is precious; and your language is—
“I love the Lord with mind and heart,
His people and His ways.”
Then you belong to Him—you are His. Did He ever hold communion with one who did not belong to Him?
If, then, we are the Lord’s in this way, we may go a step further, and say we are His by eternal choice—by election. The knowledge of this truth, got in a right way, never makes the heart hard. It does not harden the heart to trace up to God’s eternal choice every sweet grace—a broken heart, the tender feeling of godly fear, the hope you have in the Person of Jesus. No; but it will melt it still more. What a mercy to belong to God! Jesus said, “Thine they were.” “Thine by choice.” All the hope, the godly tenderness, the faith, the earnestness these chosen ones possess and feel, flow from this river of love coming from the throne of God. ” And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live” (Ezek. 47:9). And, when it touches your souls, you live.
“I am Thine.” What a mercy to be enabled to look up to God and say that! What peace I felt one evening during the past week, and was constrained to look up and say, “I do belong to Thee, Lord!”
Perhaps there are some here who are saying they fear they shall never get the blessing they desire and seek, because they have such hard, unbelieving hearts. Friends, whoever got a blessing for a soft heart? Whoever obtained it for faith? “But my sins,” says one. When the blessing of pardon comes, where are they? The blessing of God was never merited by faith. It works brokenness and contrition, and immediately it comes, faith mixes with it and embraces it.
“I am Thine.” And there is another way in which we know and feel we are the Lord’s. By His preserving grace and power. Where should we have gone to, since we have known the Lord’s calling grace, but for His preserving grace? What gins and snares have been laid for us! What sins have bubbled up in our hearts, and yet we are preserved! “Having obtained help of God, we continue to this day.” “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say, if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick.” What a comfort it is to sometimes look back upon the way God has led us! “For by Thee have I run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.” Thus, child of God, you feel you are His. Well may you say—
“And can He have taught me to trust in His name,
And thus far have brought me, to put me to shame?”
Ah! no. If anything could turn the Lord’s heart away from us, unbelief would. If aught could make Him alter His purpose of mercy, our treachery would. But, instead, He has kissed us over and over again. What a Gospel this is! What a God we have!
So good, boundlessly good; and this goodness leads us to repent, reproach ourselves, and embrace Him.
Again, do we not belong to the Lord by reason of His many deliverances, freely wrought for us? How many, how wondrous, they have been! Oh, the depths we have gone into! the proud waters that have gone over us! What shipwreck have God’s people suffered in all ages! You have no doubt lived through Paul’s journey to Rome, spiritually, in Jonah’s depths: “Lover and friend hast Thou put far from me;” and, worst of all, God at a distance. “Ah!” you have said, “I cannot live through this.” But you have got through; yes, and in this very place, “the place of drawing of water, you have rehearsed the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts towards the inhabitants of His villages in Israel” (Judges 5:11).
Now, has not the Lord made this known to some of you? You doubt it, but gather together, dear friends, the stones of help you have, and, even if you have no high heaps, you will not be able, in the face of those stones, to say God has done nothing for you.
But God’s dear people experience many temptations. If the enemy, the devil, could dare to throw an “if” at the Lord Jesus, who knew, and was equal with, His Father, think not he will hesitate to hurl it at us. Well may we say with dear Hart—
“View that amazing scene;
Say, could the tempter try
To shake a tree so sound, so green
Good God, defend the dry.”
But yet the Lord has been pleased to rebuke the enemy, who has then left us in the field more than conquerors. Still, we are yet open to the attacks of the devil. Sometimes he will thrust hard at your hope; at others, at the Object of your hope, the Lord Jesus. Now he will stir up the evils of your heart, and then turn accuser, and say the sins of the true child of God are kept under; anon he will tempt you to try, in self-sufficiency, to do without the inward work of the Lord the Spirit, and then accuse you of that. We don’t know how he may tempt us. If we are not ignorant of some of his devices, we don’t know how he may come an hour hence. Yet, how encouraging to Little-Faith to look back and see what deliverances God has wrought! Thus viewing His mercy, the soul can say, “I am Thine.”
And, to those who cannot say as much, I would remark, what a mercy it is to be able to put your hand on your heart, and say, “l want to be His”! Well, wait on Him. Some of us were as destitute, as dark, as lost in ourselves as you, yet He came to us and saved us; and, therefore, we say to you, “Wait on the Lord.” He never said, “Seek ye Me in vain.” Go, poor souls, with the chains about your necks, and tell Him how sin and guilt oppress, and fears distress you—
“The sight will melt His piteous heart,
Soon touched with human woe.”
He knows all about it, but loves His people to tell Him. Soon you will obtain what you want—forgiveness and cleansing. Of all miracles in this world, the greatest is a purged conscience, whereby the soul can look to God and say, “I’m clean, just God, I’m clean!” To such a confidence God will bear witness, and confirm all with a smile, so that the soul can say, “I am Thine.”
“Save me.” That seems strange to nature, and to many secure and self-satisfied professors. But we want saving repeatedly, and that down to the end of the journey; for, although we may have been plucked as brands from the fire, yet we often need to be saved from evils of various kinds. The Lord’s people do not want only to get to heaven, but they desire as much of heaven, of communion with God in Christ, as they may have here; but sins and foes often interrupt and spoil them; and, when they view their enemies, both within and without, their language is, “Save me from them all, Lord!”
I must leave it now. May a kind and gracious God bless His Word, and enable His own to say, “I am Thine, save me.” Tell Him, dear souls, what you want. The more you are enabled to do this, the closer you can creep to Jesus, the nearer you can live to Him, the more comfort you will find.
James Kidwell Popham (1847-1937) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. In 1882, he was appointed pastor of the church meeting at Galeed Chapel, Brighton, a position he held for fifty-five years. Between 1905-1935, he served as editor of the Gospel Standard magazine. Gilbert Hyde wrote of him—
“It may be said that James Kidwell Popham is not appreciated as he deserves to be. We feel that, if William Gadsby (1773-1844) was the founder of the Gospel Standard Strict Baptists, through instituting The Gospel Standard magazine, and if J C Philpot (1802- 1869) was used of God to establish the Gospel Standard churches on a sound, Scriptural and experimental foundation, then J K Popham (1847-1937) was raised up by God to refine and re-enforce doctrine, experience and practice among the Gospel Standard churches.”