EVERY ONE THAT IS GODLY
Preached In Grove Chapel, Camberwell, On Sunday Evening, September 16th, 1877
Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
IF I were to consult my own feelings, you would not hear a word from my lips tonight. That precious hymn, by the Olney poet, which we have sung, causing my heart to bound with praise and thanksgiving, seems quite enough for me. But, it pleases God “by the foolishness of preaching“—not by foolish preaching—”to save them that believe.” Those who have been called by His grace to the enjoyment of the blessings of His covenant, and the sweets of His company, are thoroughly dissatisfied with everything they see in themselves, but are fully satisfied with Him. I am dissatisfied with my foolishness. I am satisfied with His wisdom. I am dissatisfied with my sins. I am satisfied with His salvation. Such dissatisfaction is not pleasant, but very profitable. It proves that God is near and not afar off, as expressed in those lines of Catesby Paget’s precious hymn—
I cannot nearer be;
For in the person of His Son,
I am as near as He.“
Nearer to the Father than Jesus is we cannot be, and this is our position and standing, expressed by our blessed Lord in His prayer to the Father: “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. 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” (John 17:21-23).
As my Redeemer’s intercession is all-prevalent for me, and I am brought to know my grace-union with Him, the blessed Spirit teaches me that my citizenship is one of no mean city, yet I am a stranger with Him in a strange land. This is breathed forth in the experience of this Psalm xxxii. In whatever state I am, a precious Christ is with me. When I am led to see that in myself I am as black as sin and Satan can make me, that all the vileness of the vile concentrates in me, and I loathe myself because of my sin, even then, according to His own gracious testimony, I am free from all sin, standing in the person and perfections of Jesus. As Jesus is, in the eye and heart of His Father, so am I. This is a paradox. Well, the Gospel abounds in paradoxes, which, I grant you, are unintelligible to all but those who have been led by the Holy Ghost into the knowledge and understanding of that which He spake by the mouth of that wretched soothsayer, Balaam, “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). It is a marvellous mercy to be alone with Jesus, drinking in of His Spirit, willing to be nothing, anything, everything at His bidding.
Elect, and loved by Thee;
And quickened by Thy Spirit,
To share Thy company!
Thy voice is sweet and tender,
It bids me come apart,
To rest in Thy rich love, Lord,
Which stills my throbbing heart.”
Those who are thus blessed with the friendship and company of Jesus, know by painful but profitable experience, that they are sinners in heart, sinners in lip, and sinners in life, yet sinners saved by free and sovereign grace.
Let us now look at the precious truths breathed forth from the exercised heart of David, and expressed in the latter portion of this Psalm. Would it were written in our hearts in letters of living fire. Begin with the seventh verse—”Thou art my Hiding-Place.” A Hiding-Place from the curse and condemnation of the law, from the flaming sword of Divine justice, from the wrath and indignation of a sin-hating God. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, said, “Art thou afraid of God? Fly to His arms.” Precious Shelter! Glorious Hiding-Place for all those who know the wrath of God against sin working in a guilty conscience through the convincing power of God the Holy Ghost. I remember the time when, as a law-condemned sinner, I thought that God’s wrath was against me. In everything I performed I could see nothing but sin. In my punctiliousness I found dreariness and dissatisfaction. And now I see so much pride and presumption in my praying and preaching before the Church, that, if it were possible for God to say to me, Depart from Me into everlasting fire, I could only say Amen to my own damnation. But, blessed be God, under the shelter of atoning blood, I am for ever safe.
‘Tis found in the merits of Jesus alone;
The weary, the tempted, the burdened by sin
Were never exempted from entering therein.”
“Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” The sweet knowledge of our eternal preservation in Christ Jesus from death and hell, gives peace and joy to the heart of the preserved ones. But oftentimes days of mourning and nights of sorrow are our lot. When others are singing songs of gladness, I am sad. While all around looks gay, and the hearts of God’s redeemed bound with delight, there is nought for me but lamentations and woe. Yet here “songs of deliverance” shall reach and “compass me about.” These are descending songs, descending to the depths of my griefs from my covenant God and Saviour; and this must be before ever I can make melody in my heart unto Him.
Now just turn to Nehemiah 8:10, where you read, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” The joy of JEHOVAH the Father was in His first Elect in covenant before the worlds were framed. See Proverbs 8:30, 31: “Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth, and My delights were with the sons of men.” The Father rejoicing in and with the Son, and the Son rejoicing with the Father, and communicating their joy to elect and redeemed sons of men. Sometimes “I would but cannot sing,” I have no voice. But mark this well, the Father can sing, the Son can sing, and the Holy Ghost can sing, and all for me. See how this is blessedly set forth in Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love: He will joy over thee with singing.” Turn to that blessed second chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, 12th verse. A singing Saviour says to the Father, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren; in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto Thee.” Now turn to the Song of Solomon 2:10-12: “My Beloved spake and said unto me, Rise up, My love, My fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing is come, and the voice of the Turtle is heard in our land.” Did you notice that I left out those two words in italics, “of birds?” I did this purposely, for I want you to see the real nature of this singing, and the very persons who sing. Mark! It is “the time of the singing is come.” No singing like that when the voice of the Turtle is heard in our land. Why, that is the voice of the Holy Ghost in the land of covenant favour, Divine revelation, and spiritual relationship. The Father sings and rejoices over His elect people in Christ Jesus. The Saviour sings and rejoices with His redeemed brethren. The Comforter sings and rejoices in the hearts of His living companions. He who is blessed with such singing as this may well cry out, “Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” Blessed be God, in every season of danger and doubt, a delivering God will be ready to save, and nigh at hand to bless.
“I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go” Isn’t that kind? The Father undertaking that all His children shall be educated for the glory He has prepared for them. “Who teacheth like Him?” (Job 36:22). Jesus is a patient Teacher to His dull and forgetful disciples; for in the days of His flesh, “as He was wont, He taught them again” (Mark 10:1). The Holy Spirit is a faithful Teacher, according to the precious promise in John 14:26: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” In these three precious portions we see the Three-in-One JEHOVAH bound by mutual consent and solemn engagements to teach the whole election of grace the way to glory, and to prepare them for the enjoyment of the same. It is by this teaching that the “heart of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly” (Isaiah 32:4). Now notice the words, “in the way which thou shalt go.” Let us look at that again, “the way which thou shalt go.” Not anything about the way thou oughtest to go. No Arminian uncertainty here. Here we are reminded of that very blessed hymn by dear old Joseph Irons,—
Mysterious, yet ’tis plain enough:
And we, when faith is changed to sight,
Shall know the ways of God are right. ‘Tis ‘the right way,’ when pain and loss
Our flattering expectations cross:
And if our souls the end could view,
We should approve the pathway too.”
Do we halt on the journey? A faithful Friend is ever near to guide us with His eye, guard us with His arm, and succour us with the sweet sympathies of His heart.
“Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding.“
And not need to be curb’d by the bit:
But, taught by Thy Spirit, be quick to discern
What Thy mind is, and quickly submit.”
The rest of the Psalm is taken up with declaring sorrows to the wicked, and merciful preservation to those who trust in the LORD; also with a call upon the righteous to be glad and rejoice, and to the upright in heart to shout for joy. What is uprightness? Honesty, integrity, purity of mind. Is this our state and condition in the presence of a just and holy God? Are we honest and sincere in our approaches unto Him? Are the confessions of our lips according to the convictions of His Spirit? If so, then as upright ones in Christ we shall be found confessing to our God and Father our want of uprightness in self; and, making a clean breast of every sin and want to Him, we shall desire not to appear to be anything but that which He makes us by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The text was given to me in a marvellous manner and opened up so blessedly to my mind last Thursday evening in a quiet corner of Olney, Buckinghamshire, which was consecrated by the presence of the Master. I have spoken from this text before, and I have no doubt that it is some little pride that causes me to shrink from taking the same text a second time; but to speak “the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe“ (Philippians 3:1). The simple truth is, I was shut up to the text and to the precious truths contained in it. We will now, humbly asking the blessed Spirit’s teaching and guidance, endeavour to find a little instruction and encouragement therefrom. The text was laid before me thus:—
I.—The Persons—” Every one that is godly.”
II.—Their Privilege—” Shall pray unto Thee.”
III.—Their Petitions—” For this.”
IV.—The Period—”In a time when Thou mayest be found.”
V.—The Promise—”Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.”
I.—The Persons—” Every one that is godly.” Who are the godly, and where are they? They are a people eternally loved in Christ Jesus, chosen in Him to stand before the face of the Father holy and without blame. A people separated from the rest of Adam’s lost race by sovereign decree, eternal election, personal redemption, and spiritual regeneration. A people in whom He would make known the riches of His grace and glory, and at last display them as vessels of mercy afore prepared for glory (Romans 9:23). This people, during their time-state here upon earth, have nothing in themselves but sin, enmity against God, condemnation, and death. In the first creation Adam was made in the image and likeness of God. Look at the successive chapters of the book of Genesis. In chapter iii. we see man fallen; in chapter iv. we see the evidences of his fallen state—murder, departure from God, adultery, and thorough worldliness; in chapter v. man is the propagator of sin and death, as seen in the declaration, “And Adam begat a son in his own likeness . . . and he died,” In chapter vi. we read, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
With so painful a picture before us we may well cry, Where are the godly to be found? Well, blessed be His holy name, He knows where to find them. In Christ He has hid them, and in His blessed Book He describes them. In the world they are scattered and scarce. On every hand ungodliness is rampant. We behold it in the Church and in the world. Politically, God is despised; commercially, He is excluded; religiously, He is a mere accommodation. Is godliness to be found on the judicial or episcopal bench? If so, God knows I don’t know where to find it. Look in the pulpit and in the pew, and you will see ICHABOD, but not godliness. Hear ye of episcopal convocations and church congresses? Ungodliness is their spirit, in which a sovereign God is insulted, Christ is despised, the Holy Ghost is dishonoured, and God’s elect are laughed to scorn. Now turn to the unions and associations among Dissenters, and you will soon perceive confederation without the glorious Head of the Church. What see we in trade and commerce? Godless competition! In the midst of all this the godly live, and cry, and sigh, and from it all they shall be blest with gracious deliverance. David in his day lamented the paucity of godly men. See Psalm 12:1: “Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” Such is the cry of the godly now. We come across many who are true and just in all their dealings with their fellow-men; many who are moral, respectable, sober, and benevolent; many who are self-denying in their efforts of charity and philanthropy; many who are pre-eminently pious, and devotedly attached to their pastor and cause, but who hate godliness as God describes it, who despise God’s Christ as the Spirit reveals Him, and who persecute God’s elect, the godly whom God has set apart for Himself.
Where are the godly? Echo ofttimes answers, Where? If we begin to judge of the godly according to their outward acts, we sorrow and almost despair. Notice this, and may it make you fear and tremble before Him. A man may be godly and yet not always upright in the eyes of the Church and the world. A man may be godly and yet not always chaste. Look at that precious portion given by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost through the pen of Peter: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds): the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:1-9). In this Scripture we see two godly men saved by free and sovereign grace from awful judgments surrounding them. Why were they saved? Not because they were better in themselves than the depraved mass around them, for the vineyard in Noah’s case (Genesis 9:21), and the cave in Lot’s (Genesis 19:30-38), abundantly testify that by nature they were the same as those who were damned. Why then were Noah and Lot saved while the rest perished? Because God, before the worlds were framed, foreknew them as His own peculiar property, and predestinated them conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). In the person of God the Son they were godly, and by the Spirit of Christ they were brought to rejoice in the blessed truth, “But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for Himself” (Psalm 4:3). “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations,” out of their own ungodliness and out of the ungodliness surrounding them. He knows how because of His omniscience and omnipotence, and because He has the time, the ways, the means, ay, every detail set down in His grand design of eternal love.