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.
Who are the godly? A people who by God’s decree were, are, and ever will be, in Christ, and as Christ. A people who are brought to know their sinfulness and depravity, the curse and condemnation of God’s righteous law, and their deliverance from every evil by the interposition of their adorable Representative, Saviour, and Surety, who rendered to God, on their behalf, perfect satisfaction. A people who are taught by the Holy Ghost to hate sin, enmity, and rebellion, to feel and know His stripping power, and to experience the covenant love of God in their being washed from all sin and pollution in the full, free fountain of atoning blood. A people “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, delivered from the authority of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.” “A people near unto Him” whom He is bringing to His own glory, to share with Him His throne and His home, amid the acclamation of angels, and of that flood of eternal and unceasing praise which shall ascend from the adoring Hearts of the elect and glorified throng. The godly are those who have no religion apart from God. God in election for them. God in redemption with them. God in regeneration in them. They are never truly satisfied, but when they know by blessed experience that He is in them and they in Him. He, having put His fear in their hearts, teaches them to look up to Him when in the depths, to walk with Him when the pathway is painful, to plead with Him when perplexities abound, and to seek counsel from Him when dangers and difficulties darken the pathway. When foes and fears abound, and He graciously makes Himself known to us in His love, grace, and compassion, we delight ourselves in Him, and sing,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend.
His love is as great as His power,
And neither knows measure nor end.
‘Tis Jesus, the First and the Last.
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home,
We’ll praise Him for all that is past,
we will ask Him for grace to enable us to
Why are we here tonight? Is it simply to see and be seen? or is it because we thirst for the living God? Are we gathered here in the name of Jesus, by the power of His Spirit, to worship and adore His Father and ours? The godly love to meet with Him in the assemblies of His saints, and to enjoy sweet fellowship with Him in prayer, praise, and preaching. They love to hear His gracious voice speaking pardon, peace, life, love, and liberty to their souls. May this be our gracious lot each time we are brought within these walls, to rejoice in the unfolding of the mystery of godliness to our waiting hearts, that we may say, and that beyond the shadow of a doubt, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” We now notice—
II.—The Privilege of the godly—” Shall pray unto Thee.” The godly are a praying people. While in this world of sin, and caged in a body of death, they cannot live long without it. It has been said by some, “Oh, that man at the Grove makes light of prayer.” Such, surely, know not what they are saying, but the devil knows. Yes, and God knows that I do make light of loquacious babble and presumptuous prating, with which proud, conceited professors dictate terms to God. Let me ask, What is prayer? It is not the repeating of forms of prayer, which in themselves may be sound, sweet, and savoury, neither is it the laboured attempt to manage matters without a form. There may be liberty of speech, fluent address, unctuous phrases, and marvellous extemporaneous effusion, where there is nothing but polluted breath and no prayer at all. True prayer is the pouring out of the heart in pure desire to God and for God. It is hope and expectation created in waiting spirits by the grace and indwelling of God the Holy Ghost. I cannot forget hearing my friend, the bold and uncompromising, but now glorified, William Parks, of Openshaw, describe prayer thus: “Prayer is the hidden movement of God the Holy Ghost in the heart of an elect vessel of mercy, creating desires and longings for that which the God of all grace afore designed to give.” Neither do I desire that to be effaced from my memory which once fell upon my ears, and sunk into my heart, from the lips of one whose spirit ofttimes seems to thrill within my own. He said, “Prayer is just asking God for what I want. I cannot mock God with meaningless words.” Prayer is the soul of a sinner, thoroughly done up by the assaults of Satan and the burden of the flesh, running to God for help. It is the cry of a child for support. It is the groaning of the prisoner of hope for deliverance. It is the longing of the weary pilgrim for rest. It is the supplication of the sin-burdened sinner for pardon. It is the eager expectation of the accepted son or daughter for brighter evidences of a place among the children, and of heirship to the kingdoms of grace and glory. I do love that precious verse by Montgomery, the Sheffield poet—
The gift of Him is all our plea,
Our righteousness—what He hath done.
Our prayer—His prayer for us to Thee.“
It is a mercy indeed to know that when we would pray, but we don’t know how, we have in the courts of bliss, One who opens His mouth for the dumb, and in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction (Proverbs 31:8). From the oppressed heart, a groan is prayer. From the crushed spirit, a sob is prayer. From the sorrowing soul, a sigh is prayer. Listen!—
Utter’d or unexpress’d;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the heaving of a sigh,
The falling of a tear.
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.”
“When none but God is near,”
because prayer is for the ear and heart of a prayer-inditing, prayer-hearing, and prayer-answering God. The text declares that every one that is godly shall pray. It is not every one that prays shall be godly. Oh, no! For God declares to some, “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear” (Isaiah 1:15). And when the Lord shall gather in His own elect, many shall say unto Him in that day, “Lord, Lord, open unto us!” but their disappointed and despairing spirits will meet with the withering rebuke, “I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).
The sovereignty of God is seen in this sweet declaration. Notice that precious word “shall.” “For this shall every one that is godly pray.” Times for prayer and subjects of prayer all in accordance with God’s unalterable plan and purpose. All the sighs, cries, groans, and longings of the people of God ascend to Him in keeping with His predeterminate counsel and foreknowledge, and in harmony with that covenant declaration in Ezekiel 36:37—”Thus saith the LORD God, I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” We now are brought to notice—
III.—The Petitions of the godly, expressed in the words, “For this.” For what? For the blessings and gracious experience recorded in the preceding portion of the Psalm. Look at that cluster of new covenant blessings displayed in the first two verses: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” When transgressions abound in memory’s prolific domain, and appear like a dark cloud hiding the face of a loving Father from view, then the prayer ascends—”Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness; according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1). When sin is a burden and a grief, and sins are multiplied, then the truth of verse 5 of Psalm 32 is a living reality in the experience of the child of God—”I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgression unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” When iniquities prevail against the living in Jerusalem, then such cries as these are heard in the court of heaven—”For Thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great” (Psalm 25:11). “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities” (Psalm 51:9). “Take away all iniquity” (Hosea 14:2). When the deceitfulness of the heart is experienced, and the depravity of the old man is oppressive, then the earnest petition is presented—”Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right (or constant) spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Often have we sighed and cried for forgiveness through the blood-shedding of Jesus, for acceptance and confidence, knowing that all our sins are covered by the sea of eternal oblivion, removed into the land of everlasting forgetfulness, and hidden for ever behind God’s back. Yes, and we have prayed for the non-imputation of iniquity, that we might see a perfect transfer of all our iniquities to the person of the Divinely-appointed Surety, and that by the indwelling of His Spirit we might be free from pride, reserve, and guile. O, it is no small mercy to know that we stand holy, and unblameable, and unreproveable in His sight, and, by the confidence He Himself inspires, we dare be free and open with Him.
This brings us to notice the painful and profitable experience expressed in verses 3 and 4. Silence, roaring, weakness, and drought. Inward conflict unknown to superficial religionists and to proud professors. Mark that! “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.” Silent, yet roaring. Such is oftentimes the experience of the godly, and, blessed be God, it is a godly experience. We know what it is to earnestly desire an ability to express our wants and woes, but this is denied us. No mortal ear can detect a sound of the storm which is raging within. Patience is pictured in the face; but within are murmurings, discontent, roaring. Moses knew something of this, when, not having spoken a word with his tongue, God said unto him, “Wherefore criest thou unto Me?” (Exodus 14:15). Painful though this experience may be, yet the true-born child of God will pray for it, and would sooner have it than be shut out altogether from God’s presence, and go to hell on the quiet. Then comes a time of love, a time of confession, and the sweet experience of forgiveness flowing from a Father’s lips, through the once broken heart of Jesus, by the gracious power of the Comforter. Meltings of heart are experienced, and sweet healing through a sight of the bleeding Lamb of God, and the saved sinner rejoices in the light of his loving Father’s countenance. For the possession of these new covenant blessings, and of this God-wrought experience, the godly shall pray. Know ye anything about it?
IV.—The Period—“In a time when Thou mayest be found,” or, according to the marginal reading, “in a time of finding.” This sets forth still further God’s covenant provision for His praying people. It also declares, that by nature, we are utterly lost to all idea of God, and God is lost altogether to our knowledge of Him. By the quickening grace of God the ever-blessed Spirit, we are raised to some little apprehension of JEHOVAH’S justice, holiness, purity, and power. Sin in its terrible nature, workings, and effects, is felt and known, and we long to see our God Himself bringing grace, mercy, and peace to our anxious hearts. Well, “the time of love will come,” and it is ours, whether we are willing or not, to wait His time. He will come to seek the wandering, find the lost, save the sinful, heal the broken-hearted, soothe the sorrowful, comfort the mourning, and bless the humble suppliant with the sweet consciousness of His unchanging love. This time of finding, when God finds His lost one amid the ruins and rubbish of the fall, is irrevocably fixed in God’s mind. It was a time of finding when, by one stroke of invincible grace, blaspheming Saul of Tarsus was changed to praying Paul of Zion. It was a time of finding when, in the lonely sea-girt isle of Patmos, the beloved disciple was blessed with the presence of his Master. It is a time of finding indeed when a precious Jesus reveals Himself amid the throes of dissolution, and carries His redeemed one to the glories of His Father’s house.
We may have some seeking ones here this evening, who are seeking Him with the sigh of desolation—”When wilt Thou come to me?” Nothing short of Himself will satisfy you. The plaintive cry of the bride is yours, “Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?” Look at chapter three of Solomon’s Song! The watchmen could not bring the lost, loved Object to her view, but He was nigh at hand, waiting to be gracious to her in His own time and way. Turn with me to those precious covenant commands given in Isaiah 55:6, 7, and read according to the punctuation I give you. “Seek ye the LORD. While He may be found call ye upon Him. While He is near let the wicked forsake His way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” It is a precious mercy to be taught to acknowledge that “my times are in Thy hand.” In the blessed assurance of this we can confidently say, “But as for me, my prayer is unto Thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of Thy mercy hear me, in the truth of Thy salvation” (Psalm 69:13).
When His dear sons should mercy find;
From everlasting He decreed
When every good should be convey’d.”
V.—the Promise—“Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.” O what a precious promise of glorious security! Through waters of adversity, waves of troubles, billows of temptation, and floods of ungodliness, the elect and redeemed of God must pass to the fair, sweet land of eternal rest. See! The trials and temptations of God’s people are not set before us in the text as waters, or great waters; but as “the floods of great waters.” None but those whom Jesus loves, and the devil hates, can truly experience these things. Well, it is our mercy to know that if the devil were commanded to open all the floodgates of hell, sin, and death upon us, he could do us no harm; for He who experienced every sorrow and suffering, trial and temptation, that His poor people are subject to, and in the experience of them proved Himself Sovereign Ruler of all, will see to it that His tempest-tossed ones shall weather every storm, and, at last, rest with Him in that fair country of which it is declared, “There shall be no more sea.” He, who holds the waters in the hollow of His hand, has pledged Himself to keep in undisturbed security every “tossed with tempest and not comforted” friend of His. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” (Isaiah 43:2). All these spent their rage upon Zion’s Surety, and now, amid the wild waves of sin and temptation, the redeemed ones are for ever safely sheltered in the Rock of eternal ages.
May the blessings abounding in the text be yours and mine by the grace and indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Amen.