Amen, O Lord!
Archibald G. Brown, December 2, 1894, East London Tabernacle
"Then answered I and said: Amen, O Lord. [Or, So be it, O Lord]" Jeremiah 11:5
Few, if any, of the characters in Holy Scripture are grander than that of Jeremiah. He was a man among a thousand — indeed, among ten thousand. But, singularly enough, no man has been more misunderstood. The popular idea seems to be that he was on the whole rather a weak character, slightly sentimental, very much addicted to weeping, and sensitive to a degree, if not to a fault; one who took a very gloomy view of affairs; a man who must have suffered more or less from depression, and one who knew very little of strong, holy, boldness — but was chiefly characterized by that which is plaintive.
So far is this from being the case, that Jeremiah stands all but unequaled as a single-handed hero. He was no cowardly, retiring prophet, shrinking from delivering his testimony, apologizing for his existence, and speaking with bated breath when in the presence of the Lord's foes. God declared that he should be as an iron column and as a brazen wall — and such the Lord made him.
We know more of Jeremiah than we do of any of the other prophets, for there is such a strong personal element in his book. Isaiah is all but unknown as a person. Once or twice we get a glimpse of him in his prophecy, as in the 6th chapter — but our conception of Isaiah is really the conception of his writings.
But the man Jeremiah is always appearing. The whole book is full of personal incidents, and we are able to look right into his character. He was wonderfully observant, and he seemed to keenly note his own passing thoughts, and he jots down in beautiful simplicity the expressions which fall from his own lips.
If ever there was a bold warrior, it was Jeremiah. It is a grand mistake to suppose that in order to be a hero, it is necessary to have a hide like a rhinoceros. You will generally find that the most heroic men are the most sensitive. The men who have done the grandest work for God, and borne the most fearless testimony, have not been of hard, unfeeling natures — but men who have worn their nerves outside, and who have known what it is to tremble often with heart agony.
Jeremiah was faithful among the faithless. He lived during the very darkest days of Jewish history. Apostasy was all but universal. The people had forsaken God by the wholesale. But there was one man who stood and faced a mad populace and angry kings for forty years. Never do you find him yielding. In an essentially selfish age, he was whole-souled. Amidst utter worldliness, he was consecrated. To the end of the age, Jeremiah will stand forth as one of the most splendid men that God ever raised up or used in carrying out his work.
And what would poor, erring humanity become, if it were not that God is pleased to raise up these elect souls who interpret to others the will of God, and then become in themselves sublime illustrations of whole-souled faith and obedience? While it is true that God works by his word, it is just as true that he does so through human instrumentality. And, if you take the history of Christ's church, you will find it to be the consecutive histories of master-men, choice souls who differed from the common herd; men who were called and equipped by God to bear some peculiar testimony. Oh, may God raise up a race of them today, for I am sure that we badly need them!
Such men serve as moral breakwater, and, when the storm and the tempest and the cyclone of doubt and immorality and skepticism go sweeping over a nation — the waves break on them, and they stand like a Plymouth breakwater flinging off the surges amid clouds of blinding spray. They seem almost hidden and half-drowned themselves; but under their lee what a number of little ships find shelter! What a multitude of weaker souls find the force of the tempest broken by them! God grant that now, while such a hurricane of doubt, suspicion, 'higher criticism', and all other kinds of devilry, are abroad — there may be still found some who, although they may have to pay an awful price for the honor, may, in some measure, be breakwaters behind which weaker souls shall drop their anchor and ride out the storm.
Jeremiah was all this. He was one of the reminders of God. We see in the 106th Psalm that human nature is quick to forget that there is a God; and I believe that human nature would forget it altogether, if there were not some men to whom God is such a gigantic reality that they make others feel it. As Jeremiah walked up and down in the land, he practically kept saying, 'God is: God is' — and God could not be forgotten while there was a Jeremiah ringing out this note. He was just a God-raised witness for despised truth. While he thus interpreted the will of God, he illustrated it in himself.
And you cannot interpret the will of God unless you are willing to illustrate it. The mightiest sermon is never the sermon that you preach: it is the sermon that you live; and, while Jeremiah kept foretelling and expounding the will of God, he was in himself a magnificent illustration of . . .
unswerving fidelity, and
Do you say, 'Why this introduction?' It is because, as you will see now, it is the explanation of the words of my text. If you read a few verses back, you will see that the Lord is reminding Jeremiah of the covenant that he had made with the people as to their possession of the holy land, and he is reminding Jeremiah how they had broken that covenant, and how practically they had brought themselves under the curse; for you read in the 3rd verse that the Lord said to Jeremiah, 'Cursed is the man that obeys not the words of this covenant, which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to that which I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, that I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day.'
It is very terrible language to hear. God says, 'Remember what I said. I said, "Cursed is the man that obeys not" — and this people have not obeyed the covenant, and I must turn them out from this land, and give it unto others.' And what do you read? 'Then I answered and said: Amen, O Lord.' If you would come across a grander text than this, I think you will have to look a long while to find it. Jeremiah hears the thunder of the curse ringing in his ear. He knows that his beloved people have broken this commandment of God, that they have forfeited all claim upon him for the land, and yet I do not find him quibbling with God. I find him acquiescing. I do not find him protesting against the seeming severity of the word. He simply bows his head and says, 'Amen, O Lord'; that is, 'So be it.'
I. Here you have the one response which a man of God must ever make to the words of God.When God says anything to him, there is nothing left for him but to bow the head and say, 'Amen, Lord,' and perhaps we shall find out before the sermon is over, whether we have been doing this or not in our past career, and it may be that the secret of many a contention which is going on between God and some of you will be made clear. God has spoken to you — but thus far there has not been Jeremiah's response of 'Amen, O Lord.'
I think that you will see that this response is the only one that suits a creature's lip. When God speaks, there is nothing left for man but to hear. When God decrees, there is nothing for man to do but acquiesce. When Jehovah gives a command, what is there left for his creature to do but obey? Any other word than 'Amen' springs from rebellion. Any other response to the word of Jehovah, simply tells of a heart that wars with God. It is not for men to judge God's words, far less to amend them. If it pleases Jehovah to say anything, no matter how stern, how terrible, how searching — there is only one position for man: that is to bow his head and say, 'Amen.'
'Oh', says one, in the proud spirit of our times, 'you are making a bold bid for your God this morning.' I am. The sovereignty of God needs to be brought to the front. There has been too much trifling with Jehovah. Man needs to have the peacock's feathers plucked out of his cap, and be taught that he is a poor little nothing, and that for God to speak to him at all is infinite condescension, and that for him to say anything else than 'Amen' is boundless impudence.
If God condescends to utter a command, am I to go and judge whether the Lord has a right to say it? Shall I take the word of Jehovah my Maker and weigh it in my scales, and bring up his thoughts to the paltry bar of my fallen reason, and virtually enter my protest unless I can see a good reason for God speaking as he does?
When God promulgates a decree, He does not send it to man to be revised. According to the pride our times, the only Bible that is worth reading is one that has been amended by its readers. God has not come down to this yet — and He never will. His claim is this, 'I am Jehovah. I, the Lord, speak that which is right, and let man say, "Amen, O Lord."'
We are living in the days of the deification of humanity. One gets sick even of the very word 'humanity'. We hear so much about 'the enthusiasm of humanity', and 'the glory of humanity', and 'the triumphs of humanity', that God has become little better than a very inferior deity who runs after man and tips His cap to him. This is not the picture which God's Book gives. God's claim is this, 'I am the Lord, and you are but the creatures of my hand. The brightest of my angels are but sparks struck off from the anvil of my creative omnipotence. When I speak, let men and angels be silent; or, if they must speak, let them say, "Amen, O Lord."' This is the only the response that suits a creature's lip.
Let me take you but one step further. This response is the only one that can be given if you remember the character of God. Here my poor little skiff is launched on a boundless ocean. The character of God! Can you tell me all that lies in those three letters, G-o-d, the most wonderful word that was ever spelled? If you appeal to this platform the answer is: I cannot tell you. I do not know what God is. I cannot conceive what God is. No man has dreamed what God is — except as God has been pleased to reveal himself. Now, what has he revealed himself as?
As a God whose wisdom is infinite; and methinks the scientist will grant that, for after all, what are the triumphs of science but the discovery of those wondrous laws of nature that tell of an infinitely wise law-giver and law-maker? If you can conceive of a being who is . . .
and all gathered up into boundless love — that is God.
If such a One speaks, what is there left for me but to say, 'Amen'? I am stark, raving mad, if I dare question the utterance of Infinite Wisdom. I am unutterably vile, if I can dare to criticize the utterance of Absolute Love. Idiocy must have taken hold of my brain and, alas! of my heart, if I would amend anything which His infinite holiness has declared. The very nature and character of God declare that the only response for man when God speaks, is 'Amen, O Lord.'
And yet I must not leave this point until I touch one other aspect of it, and that is that this response must be universal in its nature. I am not to give a vociferous 'Amen, O Lord', to one thing, and then keep a total silence when the Lord says another. I am to say 'Amen' all round. You will see that in this particular instance Jeremiah had to say 'Amen' to what was not pleasant. The first word is 'cursed'. Oh, let the dilettante gentlemen of the present century, who have such fine ideas of universal fatherhood of God and I know not what — those gentlemen who spend their time in blowing bubbles which are not more remarkable for beauty than for the way in which they burst — hear this word 'cursed!' But you say, 'That is not kind. It must be a mistake. The dear Father could never utter such a terrible word as that.'
Jeremiah heard the word 'cursed', and he said, 'Amen, O Lord.' Oh, brethren and sisters, it is not for us to be picking and choosing! It is so easy, is it not, to turn to a nice sweet invitation, such as 'Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest', and say, 'Amen, O Lord'? Or we turn to some precious promise, 'My grace is sufficient for you', and we say, 'Amen, O Lord.' But when God denounces sin, and your sin, and your besetting sin, and when God tells of righteous judgment for apostasy and unbelief, we are to say, 'Amen, O Lord!' to that, and say it as deeply from the heart as when he says, 'Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden.'
Oh, for that grand attitude of resignation and submission to God, that bows before every word of God, whether it be a silver note of mercy from Heaven, or a thunder-clap of denunciation! We want that spirit which covers its head before God, and says, 'Amen', even to the lightning flash which threatens to blast us. 'Amen, O Lord', is the only response which a saint of God can give to the words of God.
II. I will mention some lips from which we would gladly hear the response.Thus far I have only dealt with the matter in general, and I trust that God has in some measure showed you that it is the only response to be given to any word of his. Now let me try to point out some of the lips from which we long to hear the word 'Amen.'
First, the lips of the lost sinner in reference to God's method of salvation. You will see how the context will help us. God reminds Jeremiah that entrance into the promised land was contingent upon Israel falling in with and accepting God's methods. Now, sinner, would you be saved? Have you any desire to enter into that more blessed land, the heavenly Canaan? Then it behooves you to find out what God's covenant is, and to see how God is going to admit you into that land; and it is for you to say, 'Amen, O Lord', to all the conditions of the new covenant. You will have to fall in with all that God says, as to his way of salvation.
Let us see how this will work out. I wonder how many of you will say 'Amen' all the way through. May our prayers for souls being ingathered be answered even now. To begin with, there will have to be on your part an acquiescence of the sinful position which God gives you. What position is that? Ruined by the fall of your first father, Adam; perverted through a fallen nature that you received from your own parents with a bias toward evil in you, accompanied by deliberate sin on your part — you have been brought into a condition of being depraved and guilty before God.
And God, pointing to the sinner, says, 'Sinner, you are lost, you are guilty, you are under judgment, you are under a curse. Do you take the position assigned to you?' The proud sinner says, 'No, Lord, I object to it'; but the humble sinner says, 'Amen, O Lord.' That is the first step. Until you acquiesce in the depraved position which God gives you as a poor, lost, ruined, helpless sinner, there can be no salvation for you. Have not some of you quarreled with God long enough over that point? When are you going to bow the head and say 'Amen', to it?
What is the next step? The sweeping away of all supposed human ability. God says to the sinner, 'You never can save yourself. You have nothing in you that ever can be evolved into salvation. Your holiest things are all defiled, and, if you could work a decent holiness, that would not save you, because my plan is not of works, lest any man should boast.' And the hand of God comes and sweeps the table. 'Not of works'; and away fly, as a ground of salvation, chapel-going, church-going, baptism, the Lord's supper, Bible-reading, praying, almsgiving. 'Not of works.' The proud soul runs and tries to save the works which have been swept off the table. The humble soul says, 'Amen, O God.' He sees all his supposed good works being swept into the dust-bin, and he simply says, 'Amen', and he lets them go.
The third step is this: God says, 'Sinner, in my covenant of salvation I have put the whole of your salvation in the person of my Son Jesus Christ. I do not trust you with it at all. I have laid it all up in Him. His merits, not yours. His righteousness, not yours. Any acceptance can only be an acceptance in him. Any completeness on your part can only be a completeness in him. It pleases my sovereign will to entrust the whole of your salvation in the person of my Son.' And would to God that with a lowly heart you might respond, 'Amen, O Lord. So be it.'
And then the Lord will take you one step further, and say, 'The simple acceptance of my Son is the one condition on which I save you. All the merits which are treasured up in him shall be put down to your account, the moment you trust him.' I wonder whether any man or woman will bow before that word, and say, 'Amen.' If so, you are a saved man. This is a saving 'Amen'.
Paul's expression in the 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is most remarkable, 'the obedience of faith' ; and that defines just what faith is. It is being brought into obedience. God designs to save you in one way, and you want to be saved in another; but God will never give in to you. Then you had better submit to God's method. Drop all your false pride and dignity, and bow and say, 'Amen, O Lord.
No more, my God, I boast, no more,
Of all the duties I have done;
I leave the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Your Son.'
Only a moment more. Should we not hear it from the lips of the saint concerning God's instructions as to daily life? God says, 'Be separate from the world', and the response should be, 'Amen, O Lord.' Only you want to go to a ball, do you not?
'Amen, O Lord--with the exception of that card party.'
'Amen, O Lord--only please let me go to the theater next Tuesday.'
Nay, if you are a real loyal soul — then all the diamond dust of God's commands will be infinitely precious to you; and when he says to you, 'Be separate', you will say, 'Amen, O Lord.' And when he tells you to think more of him than of your business, you will say, 'Amen, O Lord.' And instead of worshiping that business as you have been doing lately, you will only toil in trade in order to have the wherewithal to give to glorify him. The idea of amassing wealth for wealth's own sake, will be abandoned.
You will have heard his word, 'Seek first the kingdom of God', and you will say, 'Amen, O Lord.'
You will hear him say, 'Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers', and you will break off that engagement with that ungodly young man and you will say, 'Amen, O Lord.'
Why is it that there is so much friction and misery and wretchedness abroad? Is it not in great measure because those of us who profess to be the Lord's are so slow to say 'Amen', concerning all that God says as to ordinary every-day life?
But I hasten on to the last point, and I want to put it right down into the very center of your soul. It is this: these words ought to be heard from the lips of the people of God in reference to providential dealings. God does not only speak from the pages of his word; God speaks from providence. Oh, how tough a work it often is to say 'Amen!' Is it not so?
'And the Lord said unto Abraham, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go into a mountain which I will show you, and offer him as a sacrifice.' I think I see the muscles of Abraham's brow knotted with an unutterable agony. And yet he says, 'Amen, O Lord.' The next thing I read is that early in the morning he starts with his son.
Now then, sir, the God of Abraham lives still, and he is trying and testing his saints today, as he did then, and he waits for the response of your heart, 'Amen, O Lord.' God has wonderfully prospered you in business. Suppose the Lord just turns the tide altogether aside, and your business ebbs away from you. Do you think you can say, 'Amen, O Lord'?
God has wonderfully blessed your home. There is health, there is rest, there is love, there is joy, there is peace. With what light steps will you go from this tabernacle back to your home! You have everything there to praise God for. But suppose the angel of death should spread his wings, and the brightest, fairest, and loveliest of that home should be removed. What if your young wife should be laid low? What if your stalwart young husband should be taken? What will you say then? May God help you just to answer with Jeremiah, 'Amen, O Lord.'
Oh, it is this that God is waiting for, and it is to this that he is educating us by losses, by sicknesses, by trials, by deaths — to learn to say 'Amen.'
I was so charmed the other day in reading the story of those three Hebrew youths in the book of Daniel. There is the furnace burning. I hear its roar. It has been heated seven times, and Nebuchadnezzar is giving the sign that they are to be cast in. And what do those three Hebrew youths say? "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king!" And then come three grand words: "But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up!"
That is what I call grace. Oh, it is so easy to say, 'O Lord, we will worship you if you help us. We will be true to you, if you bless us. Only keep us out of the furnace, and we will sing to you.' But the spirit of Jeremiah is a spirit that says, 'But if not, we will be true to our God still. If he puts his sword to our throat, we will say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him"; and, as the life-blood gurgles from the wound which his own sword has made, my last struggling breath shall say, Amen, O Lord!'
Fellow workers for God, we ought to be foremost in saying it. I find that Elijah never hesitated. The word of the Lord came to Elijah, and said, 'Arise' — and so he got up and went. The word of the Lord said, 'Go to Kishon's brook' — and he went. The word of the Lord said, 'Go to the widow who is picking up sticks, and ask for bread' — and he went.
'Amen, O Lord' ought to be the characteristic of the Christian worker. Where are you to labor? Well, where would you like to labor? Perhaps you say, 'Oh, I have labored so long in this sphere that I feel as if my roots had got intertwined with a thousand others, and it would be half death to me to be plucked up.' But if the Lord says, 'Be removed' — O worker, there is only one thing left to you to do, and that is to say, 'Amen, O Lord.'
If he tells you to step out of the pulpit and teach an infant class, say, 'Amen, O Lord.' If he tells you to give up preaching to that congregation and go and spend your time in the with the aged, say, 'Amen, O Lord.'
You see that this covers the whole ground. The most perfect example of this is Christ. The clever men, the wise men, and the rich men — all ignore him; and the few that gather round about him are of low caste and ignorant. But is Jesus wounded and hurt? Listen, 'I thank you, O heavenly Father, that it has pleased you to hide these things from the wise and prudent, and that you have revealed them unto babes.' Did he murmur? 'Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight.' There is God's perfect servant saying, 'Amen, O Lord.'
But the last great prophecy remains, and the church of God is to add her 'Amen' to it. He who died for sinners and who for sinners was buried, and he who rose from the tomb and ascended up on high as the true Melchizedek, the combination of high priest and royal king, has left this word, 'Surely I come quickly.' The hope of the church is the return of her Lord. Let the church bow her head, and say, 'Amen, O Lord. Even so come, Lord Jesus.'
The theme is inexhaustible. Whether God is speaking to you by his word, or speaking to you by his providence, or speaking to you through this morning's sermon — bow before the Almighty Sovereign. Let no word of rebellion rise to your lip. Doff your helmet until its plumes trail in the dust, and say with Jeremiah, 'Amen, O Lord.' God help us to add that 'Amen', for his own name's sake.