Grace and Glory!
Archibald G. Brown, January 7, 1906,
Chatsworth Road Chapel, West Norwood, London
"For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you!" Psalm 84:11-12
We were very wishful, on this our last season of worship with you for a little while, to have something to pass on to you that should be so full and so sweet, that the savor of it should abide even until our return from those holy fields of Palestine: and in prayer we sought such a theme, and it seemed to us that these words came in answer — 'grace and glory'. We were somewhat startled at the answer to our prayer: we asked for something full — and can you imagine anything that is not included in this little sentence 'grace and glory'? We asked for something that might be sweet — I know not which of the two words after all is the sweetest; there is all the delicacy of the honeycomb in both 'grace' and 'glory'. We asked for something that should abide — I know not how this verse can ever be forgotten, because every hour of every day I shall need the grace — and every hour of every day I ought to be longing for the glory — 'grace and glory'.
But we found what we have so often discovered before: that however beautiful a passage may seem to be isolated, it always gains when you take it in connection with its context, and if for a few moments you look at the setting of this verse you will see that it becomes more wonderful still. This 84th Psalm is in itself a marvel, it is unique. Dr Cumming in his work on this Psalm says that there is no other record in Scripture to compare with it as a record of holy sentiment; it is what a heart feels; from the first verse to the last in a most beautiful sense it is sentimental, it is the soul's deep feeling towards God; the man from the first verse to the close really struggles to find words in which to express all that God is to him.
This wonderful song is divided by two 'Selahs' — they are musical pauses, and they are intended to make us mark the words immediately preceding them. You get the first in the 4th verse: 'Blessed are those who dwell in your house, they will be still praising you. Selah' — pause here, and think of the abiding continuing joy of the one who dwells in Jehovah's presence.
You get the second dividing Selah after the 8th verse: 'Oh Lord God Almighty, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.' Ah! that is beautiful — Jacob, not Israel; not the God of the heavens — not the God of the archangels — not the God of seraphim and cherubim — but the God of Jacob — a very imperfect character, a poor weak man, faulty almost at every step. And yet God allows himself to be known by us as the God of Jacob.
When I read of him as the God of Abraham I am not always sure that I can claim him, for I lack faith; but the God of Jacob I feel can be the God of your pastor. The God of a poor weak Jacob who so often fell — I do not wonder that the Holy Spirit puts a musical pause after that statement.
Then you will see that with the two 'Selahs' there are three blessings pronounced in this wonderful Psalm.
In the 4th verse: 'Blessed are those who dwell in your house.'
In the 5th verse: 'Blessed is the man whose strength is in you.'
And in the last verse: 'O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.'
Now, in the verse which we have selected, you have a constellation of words beginning with the letter 'G', and I want you to note these very specially. As I read the 11th verse I find that 'God gives grace and glory, and no good thing will be withheld.' 'GOD,' 'GIVING', 'GRACE', 'GLORY', 'GOOD'. Here is an infinite fullness, and if by simple faith I am only able to lay my hand upon all this and appropriate it, how rich I shall be!
Let us look into this wonderful passage for a few moments. You have, you will see,
1. The DONOR,
2. Then the DONATION, and
3. Then the MAGNIFICENT EXTRA.
You have the donor — 'the Lord God our sun and shield';
you then have his donation — 'the Lord will give grace and glory',
then you have the magnificent extra — 'no good thing will he withhold'.
If you can conceive of anything that is not included in the two terms 'grace' and 'glory', and if it is good for you — then you may be certain you will have that.
He guarantees the grace,
he promises the glory, and then
he throws in as an extra every good thing.
1. Let us try and gaze upon the Donor, and oh what a task lies before us. Have you ever noticed how through this Psalm the sweet singer takes title after title to set forth the glory of God?
In the 1st verse it is 'Lord Almighty',
it is 'living God' in the 2nd verse,
it is 'my King' in the third verse,
it is Elohim — 'God', in the 7th verse,
it is 'Lord God Almighty' in the 8th verse,
it is 'God our shield' in the 9th verse,
it is 'my God' in the 10th verse, and
it is 'Lord Almighty', in the last verse.
So that you have a most extraordinary combination of God's sweetest and grandest titles.
But the one in our verse, how amazing! 'The Lord God is a SUN.' I wonder when David used that illustration for the first time — for it has never been used in Scripture before. God has never been directly termed 'Sun' before — did even David dream what an illustration he was using! I imagine not. The Holy Spirit allowed him to use a metaphor which the Spirit knew ages afterwards would mean infinitely more than David could conceive. A sun — why, this is a blazing text, 'The Lord God is a sun.' Have you ever tried to look at it? — you become half blinded as you look. If it means anything it means this, that God is an infinity of blessing — an infinity of blessing!
Let me try for a moment to illustrate this. No one can say what are the sun's secret supplies, and what the measurement of the heat and warmth and light pouring out of that sun and have been pouring out all these ages — and as far as we know without any sign of diminution whatever.
But an American astronomer has in a very original and suggestive way given us some faint conception; he says, 'In our State of Pennsylvania we have the richest coal-fields in the world. Underlying the whole State of Pennsylvania there is coal — enough coal to supply every fire in the whole of the United States of America for over one thousand years.' That is the supply of the coal-fields at Pennsylvania alone. 'Now', says the astronomer, 'imagine for a moment, that the solar heat of the sun ceases, and there is to be an equivalent for it, imagine that it were possible to transport the coal of Pennsylvania into that great furnace up there. How long would it last in order that the sun, that great furnace, might give the same heat that it is giving out now day by day?'
And the astronomer puts it in the form of a query; he says, 'Would it last a year? Would it last a month — all the coal-fields of Pennsylvania, would it last a month? No. Would it last a week? No. Would it last a day? No. Would it last an hour? No, Would it last a minute? No. It would not last the one-thousandth part of a second! Were all the coal-fields of Pennsylvania hurled into that great furnace, in one-thousandth part of a second all would be consumed!'
And yet this wondrous sun pours out its rays with undiminished heat. Oh, the mystery of it! Beneath the corona of the sun there is what is called the chromosphere, and for lack of a better term I will call it 'an ocean of fire', and that ocean of fire is between six and nine thousand miles deep — twice as deep, that ocean of fire, as the Atlantic is broad; and from that ocean of fire there leaps up what, for lack of a better term we describe as flames, at the rate of one hundred and fifty miles a second; these flames leap up to the height of one hundred thousand miles, hang over the Sun perhaps for a few hours or a few days, and then drop in fiery sparks back again into the furnace. One such eruption as that would be enough in one hour to render the whole of this earth, what Pompeii is today under an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Were this world to fall into the sun it would simply be annihilated and evaporate before it even touched its flames — like a snow-flake falling on a red hot iron-bar!
All that lies in this text — God is a sun. And there is more than that.
Everything on earth that lives, moves, circulates — is a child of the sun. There is not a flower that is not born of the sun. You could not live without the sun. The very color on your cheek tonight you may thank the sun for. The sun blows in the wind, the sun flows in the river; it is the sun's mighty hands that lift the ocean up, and puts it in the form of snow and glacier upon the tops of the Alps. Were the sun's rays withheld for three weeks, the whole of this earth would be death and desolation! And, led of the Holy Spirit, David, who knew not these wondrous things, says: 'The Lord God is a sun.' That is, he is to the believing soul; he is to a redeemed church everything that the sun is to the solar system — the center, the light, the holding power, the living power, the all in all.
'The Lord God is a sun', and then he adds, 'and SHIELD'. One writer beautifully says: 'This is a counterbalance blessing.' We could not bear the first blessing, if we had not the second. The very fact that God is the sun, necessitates that he should also be a shield. How could I live in that uncreated light — may I say it with reverence — I need God to shield me from God! I need God to be my Shield, in order that I may dare to know him as my Sun. And how beautiful it is to observe that in this shield, we have Jesus in the Psalm.
It does not say that God will hold a shield over me — but that he himself will be the shield. In the 9th verse David says, 'Behold, O God our shield', and yet in the text he says, 'the Lord God is a shield'. What is the explanation of that? Why, that Jesus Christ, who is God, is my shield, and that I am in him; and it is only as I am in him that I can dwell before those eternal burnings! Hidden away in Christ — he is in both sun and shield.
So much for the glorious Donor.
2. The DONATION.Now what does he give? 'The Lord God will give grace and glory.'
I think GRACE is about the grandest word in Scripture: omitting the name of our adorable Master — where will you find one word to equal grace? When dear Mr Moody was converted in America, he began to study the Scriptures — all converted people do — and he came across this word grace, and when first that word laid hold of him — I had it from his own lips — he said he was so amazed, so captured by it, that for three days he thought of nothing else, and talked of nothing else. He went from house to house to his different friends, and said: 'Have you heard of the grace of God? Have you ever heard of the grace of God?'
We get so used to these things that we do not realize the marvel. What is grace? You say 'Love'. No, it is more than that. It is love to the unlovely — it is love to the unlovable. It is love that has no reason whatever but in itself for being where it is. It is that which has its springs in God's own heart, and so the fruit appears on us. He gives grace — undeserved love.
And observe the order: the grace comes first; it is not, 'He gives glory and grace.' Ah, that is how some of you would like it. I will guarantee that even this wet night, there are people here who would like to have the glory, only they do not care about having the grace first. Oh, if they could only just get to Heaven without any grace, it would be delightful to them. But God won't give glory, until grace has been received.
He gives grace and glory; and a moment's thought will show you how absolutely imperative it is that this order should be kept. How can I receive glory, if I have not first received grace? I would not be fit for it. Can you imagine a glorified sinner — I mean a man who has not been saved from his sins and yet is glorified? A glorified drunkard reeling in Heaven! A glorified sensualist there! Why, the angels would shrink back from him in horror, and the man himself, though in Heaven, would have a Hell within his own soul. He must be renewed in nature — or else how could he enjoy the glory.
Do you enjoy spiritual things? When you hear it announced that there is going to be a gathering for prayer and praise, do you feel that it is such an attraction that you must be there — or would you rather go to some silly sing-song; which do you like best? Supposing God were to take you to Heaven as you are now — you would feel that you were a fish out of water; there would be nothing in harmony between yourself and your surroundings. If I do not love the sanctuary on earth, then I am sure I shall not love the sanctuary in Heaven; if I do not find joy in worship down here, it would be an eternal perdition to have eternal worship up there. Man's nature must be renewed, and grace must do its work — before glory can come. It is first the grace — and then the glory.
And what is the meaning of that GLORY? I do not know — I cannot imagine — I could tell better after I had been a few months in Heaven. We read these words, and we become so accustomed to them that perhaps we hardly pause to ask what do they really mean?
There was a poor member of this Church, a dear girl that we lost sight of for two years; we had news of her only the week before last; she died in a poor laborer's cottage, down in Essex; and as she died, she spoke of Jesus, and her face was radiant with the light of coming glory. The laborer was so poor that he has to collect five shillings to put a little plate upon the girl's coffin. But were that poor girl to come back to earth and stand on this platform — she would be able to tell you more of the meaning of the glory than all the theologians and all the preachers and all the writers on the earth today!
You have to be there, to know the meaning. We may talk of its brightness and sing of its music — but what must it be to be there? Glory; it means something for the spirit, something for the mind, something for the body.
It is something for the spirit — for there is absolute freedom from all sin. I cannot conceive of it; I have been a sinner ever since I was born, and sin seems ingrained in me — but I can just get a glimmering of this — that if I were perfectly free from sin I would step into a Heaven at once.
There is something for the mind — all our mental limitations will be dropped, as now we only know in part.
Didn't you feel, as we were talking a little while ago about the wonders of the sun, how little we know? All our knowledge is only a modified form of ignorance. But then I shall know even as also I am known. Oh, God has wonderful treats for us mentally.
And then glory means more than rest; it means more than happiness; the idea of the word glory is this — exultation, joy, triumph! Do you see that General as he comes home in triumph from a successful campaign; the waving of banners, the blare of trumpets, the shouts of the multitude, the waving of handkerchiefs — there is exaltation, there is triumph and ecstasy. And all that lies in this word, glory. There will be the palm branches, there will be harps; these things symbolize something.
Oh, it is hard to keep patient with some people who say, 'Do you believe that there will be a literal harp and a literal palm branch?' I do not care whether there is or not. But they stand for something:
the harp means something,
the palm branch means something,
the shout of triumph means something,
and in Heaven it will be the glory of victory!
Satan under our feet; sickness, death, temptation — all these forever gone — there will be glory in the air.
There is something for the spirit, something for the mind, and there is something for the body, for I read in the First Corinthians, 15th chapter, and the 43rd verse — and it is true of your body if you are a believer, and mine — 'it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory'. I know not how — but by the wonderful working of him who feeds the furnace of the sun, he is going to turn this body even into the perfect image of Christ's body in the glory!
It is 'grace and glory' — there is the order. Only please do not leave out the conjunction. It is 'grace and glory'. How often at a railway station you have seen something like this — there is a railway porter down on the lines standing by the side of a carriage and you see him pick up that big iron chain, there is another part of the train being backed on, and as it comes you see him put the link over and then fasten those two chains on either side: one carriage cannot go without the other now, they are linked into oneness. That is what the word 'and' is; it is a CONJUNCTION 'grace and glory', and all Hell's powers cannot separate these two! There is no glory, mark you, without grace — and I thank God the reverse is true. Where there is grace — there must be glory. Grace is glory in the bud — but glory is this — grace in full bloom! You can not have the glory, man, without the grace — but if you have received the grace, then thank God you are coupled to glory, and no power that Hell knows can snap that coupling!
All this is given. It is 'the Lord will GIVE grace and glory', not barter it — not exchange it — not sell it. He gives it: he bestows salvation as a free gift from beginning to end.
3. The MAGNIFICENT EXTRA.And then here is the climax — the finale, 'And no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.' That is, if you can conceive of anything that is really good for you which is not covered by the two words 'grace and glory' — God will give you that.
Then says someone, 'Why am I not a richer Christian? How is it that I am not a happier, stronger, more buoyant, more contented Christian?' I will tell you why: you have not noticed the word 'withhold'. It does not say, He will GIVE every good thing: it says, He will not WITHHOLD. Have you gone to take it? I know he will give grace and glory — but there are ten thousand other little extras that I want in order to make my life here happy, peaceful, useful, and a blessing to others, and God says, 'For these extras you are to come and ask me. I will not withhold them — but you must ask me.' Why are you poor spiritually? Because you are not applying for the extra, you 'do not ask, you do not seek.' God has pledged his word that he will not withhold anything good — but only he will decide what that is.
The BLESSING that is pronounced then is 'Blessed is the man who trusts in you.' I would think he is blessed. The man who can look up and say 'Jehovah is my sun, I live in his light! Jehovah Jesus is my shield. I live in him, he is round about me, the Lord God gives me grace, and he has coupled that on to glory, and he has pledged his word that every good thing I need I have only to ask for and he will not withhold it' — that man can only pronounce one verdict, and it comes from the depth of his soul, it is, 'Blessed is the man that trusts this glorious God!'