What Christ Has Done for Me!
Archibald G. Brown, April 21st, 1872, East London Tabernacle
"Come and hear, all you who fear God — and I will declare what He has done for my soul!" Psalm 66:16
It is only natural that birthdays should be remembered days, and I sincerely trust that among the many time-honored observances which are gradually becoming obsolete, the "keeping of the birthday," may never be reckoned. It is the gala day in the years of childhood, before the stern lessons of life have arrayed it with a solemn hue. Yes, let the children "keep" it. They pay their happy if unconscious homage to a most momentous event.
To live is a grand responsibility, and the day of birth has a thousand claims to be remembered. The world, Heaven, and Hell — are all interested in the new-born child. Future destinies as everlasting as Jehovah, are ushered in with birth. Let then the returning birthdays be seasons of joyous praise and solemn thought. Let memory put her mark against the date.
But if the birthday is a time of joy with the child, it is equally a time of interest to the parent. With loving eye and thankful heart he notices the growth, and watches the gradual opening of the bud. The awakening intellect, the improving speech, the developing character — are all marked and compared year by year. Father and child, though from different causes, are one in their remembrance of the natal day.
Now if it is so with the natural birth, how much more should it be so with the spiritual! If to be born is not to be forgotten, then surely to be "born again" is to be held in undying remembrance. The importance of the first birth dwindles into insignificance, compared with the importance of the second. Indeed, the joy of the first depends on the second, for only one who can also tell of being "born again" has cause to rejoice in birth. On the tombstone of every man who has never known the second birth, might be truthfully engraved the words, "It would have been good for this man if he had never been born!" Mark 14.21
But, beloved, hundreds of us have known what it is to be born from above. We have had a heavenly natal day. There has been a moment in our lives when Heaven joyfully sang over our salvation. Then let us keep it, and make it our gala day. Let us reckon our life (and it is the only true life) from that date of mercy, and whenever the anniversary comes round, let us see to it that it does not pass unnoticed or unsung. Known or unknown, noticed or unnoticed — there was a day when the cry of a new-born child of grace first broke from our lips.
Rejoice in the fact, and remember also that our heavenly Father rejoices with you. O, it cannot be that earthly parents celebrate the birthdays of their children, and the heavenly Parent remains indifferent concerning His. All that is in a father's heart, is infinitely more in God. His joy over us is greater. His watchfulness is more intense. His interest is deeper. He marks the growth of His own life in the soul, and with satisfaction He beholds the increasing likeness to Himself. He "rejoices over us with singing, and rests in his love." Zeph 3.17. The heavenly Father and the heaven-born child rejoice, and together "keep" the happy day.
These thoughts have been suggested by the fact, that the whole past week I have been celebrating my own heavenly birthday. It was last Wednesday, eleven years ago, at half-past eleven in the morning, that by the grace of God, the new life commenced within my soul. The anniversary has brought old times back to mind. Vividly, as if it only happened yesterday, I see myself, at one moment the anxious sinner — the next moment, the singing sinner saved. The old joy still has the dew of youth on it, and can I speak to you this evening about nothing else.
Our text is one that every saint can enter into and understand. God grant that our love may become inflamed, and our gratitude intensified, as together we declare what God has done for our souls. We will divide our subject into two very simple parts.
1. We will try and tell the tale.
2. We will give a few reasons that we think warrant our doing so.
I. Let us try and tell the tale."I will declare what He has done for my soul!" What has he done?
Why, first, He has done that which no one else could have done.From first to last, the work is of His own right hand, and infinitely beyond the power of any other. No angel, nor any number of angels, could have done for me, what He has done. They may indeed "excel in strength," but the work required, as far exceeded their strength, as their might exceeds a gnat's.
I will tell you what an angel can do. He call pass through the streets of an Egyptian city in the dead of night, glide into every house with unsprinkled door posts, and place the seal of death upon the sleeping first-born. He can do so fearful a work between midnight and daybreak, that there will not be an abode without a corpse! Before his power, Egyptian pride will bite the dust, and Egyptian cavalry will succumb.
Later on, an Assyrian host is encamped, as numerous as the forest leaves. Loud is their laughter, blasphemous are their boasts, as they resolve on the morrow to swallow up the chosen of the Lord. But,
"The angel of death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved and forever grew still!"
No might of the Gentiles could arrest that foe. Single handed he was more than a match for the Assyrian legions; and on the morrow when the sun rose, it shone on upturned faces, as white as marble — eyes already glazed in death, and breastplates rusted by the night dews. It gleamed on silent tents, and banners whose proud inscriptions seemed to mock the death-stricken host.
One angel can do all this and a thousand times as much — but all the shining ones combined, could never have done what "God has done for my soul." Assemble all their glittering ranks — let cherubim and seraphim, angel and arch-angel, stand in a blazing circle — and put within that circle a little child, and tell them to change that heart from stone to flesh. They are powerless, and they confess that there is but One who is mighty enough to save. Thanks be to God then, for He has done for me what no angel nor any number of angels could have done.
He has done also that which no saint nor any number of saints could have done. But few words are required here. The very longing of our hearts for the salvation of others has taught us the utter helplessness of man to convert man; for when our soul has yearned most over them, we have had to cry,
"But feeble my compassion proves,
And can but weep where most it loves,
Your own all-saving arm employ,
And turn these drops of grief to joy."
He has done for my soul that which no minister or any number of ministers could have done. I know that many truly good men — doubtless intending some other interpretation to be put on their words — declare over the unconscious infant they have just sprinkled, that it has been regenerated and grafted into the body of Christ's church. And then, with what appears to us as bordering on wicked audacity, they venture to thank God for it, saying "Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that by baptism this child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ's church — let us give thanks to Almighty God for these benefits." Well, the afterlife proves the folly of the assertion, and most of these pastors, better than their creed, plead with their unregenerated congregations to be reconciled to God.
He has moreover done that which I could never have done for myself. The work of conversion is not more completely beyond external power than beyond internal human power; and salvation by others is not more impossible, than salvation of ourselves. Salvation of self! Sooner could the infant that is cast out in the field, and lying in its blood, say to itself "live!" Salvation of self! Yes, maybe when dead men with cold lips can call themselves to life — when blind men can give sight to their eyes that have never seen the light — when the white hand of the leper can with a touch make the rest of his body like the flesh of a little child — and not before! Of all the impossibilities under the sun, self-regeneration is the greatest. Come then, and hear all you that fear God, and I will tell you that He has done for my soul what neither angels, saints, ministers, self, nor all of them combined, could ever have done!
Secondly. He has done that which requires many words to describe.No one word can fully express the work done, though in general it may be described as saved. Saved! Ah, that is a grand word worthy of being written in letters of gold. I have hanging up in my vestry an engraving that has suggested many a thought, and it will now serve me for an illustration. Standing on the edge of a rocky reef over which the surf roars and boils, is a sailor, evidently one of a life-boat crew. A ship is being dashed to firewood on that iron coast — but a rope has been successfully stretched from wreck to rocks, and along this rope the passengers are being slung in a rough-made cradle.
The engraving represents the honest follow just grasping the cradle, across which there is a swooning mother, her long hair dripping with the salt wave; while nestled in her arms and looking with wondering gaze, is a child about two years old. Under them leap the waves — over them flies the scud, but round them are arms with sinews that look like whipcord knots. At the foot of the picture is one word that tells the whole history; that word is "Saved!"
Do any ask "What has God done for your soul that you should talk so much about it?" I answer, pointing to that thrilling scene, "He has done that for it. He has saved it. Out of the jaws of death and from eternal wreck — he has delivered it." But while "saved" may describe the work in general, it fails to tell all. A saved soul includes many things. I can only mention them.
A saved soul is a God-pardoned soul. All its sins are forgiven, and its iniquities are drowned in that deluge of pardoning love that rises high above the topmost peaks of all its mountain sins!
A saved soul is a God-reconciled soul. Once at enmity — God and the sinner are now at peace. All differences are at an end. The prodigal sinner has been embraced and kissed by the father. The rebel has thrown down his weapons, and bent his knee to the Monarch — and the Monarch has raised him up, and with a smile of love, has put him among His children. If I may so express it, God and the sinner have met and shaken hands beneath the shadow of the cross. They are at at-one-ment there.
A saved soul is also a sin-delivered soul. This is something more than pardon, or reconciliation. It is a higher blessing. Pardon remits the punishment of sin — but leaves the guilt of sin. But justification acquits the person of every charge. Believer, your sins are not merely forgiven — but they are done away with, put out of sight, removed from you as far as the remotest east is from the extreme west! In the eye of God, you are as guiltless as His spotless Son! "You are altogether beautiful, My love; there is no flaw in you!" Song of Songs 4:7
A saved soul is also a God-arrayed soul. This is higher still. The former blessing was a negation of guilt — this is a possession of righteousness. A righteousness, mark you, that is not capable of improvement — but a righteousness that is superlative in its quality — it is the righteousness of God Himself! A saved soul, even to the omniscient eye of Deity, is not only without spot or wrinkle or any such thing — but it is altogether lovely and glorious, robed in the splendor of "Jehovah Tsidkenu" — "The Lord our Righteousness!"
A saved soul is a Heaven-entitled soul. This crowns all. Not merely am I delivered from Hell — but in my hand is placed a title-deed to eternal glory! This is no fiction or flight of imagination — but a blessed fact. Possessed by every saint, is a title that God Himself will declare to be valid to all eternity.
Now believer, if all these things are included in what God has done for our souls, then did I not say rightly that many words were necessary to describe the work? Let us then, as God-pardoned, God-reconciled, Sin-delivered, God-arrayed, Heaven-entitled souls — call on all, far and near, to come and listen to our joyous tale.
Thirdly — He has done that which can never be more completely done.Notice the past tense used in the verse, "What He has done." Yes, blessed be God, not "what he has begun — and left us to finish," but what He has Himself gloriously completed. Let us mark this well, for much of our joy as Christians, depends upon our realization of this wondrous feat. If God had but laid the foundations, and left it to us to complete the superstructure, He would as well have done nothing.
But "done," "done," "done!" is replete with joy! It leaves me nothing else to do than sing my thankfulness. He has not merely put me in a salvable condition — but has actually saved me. He has not merely made reconciliation a possibility — but has actually reconciled me to Himself. He has not merely put me on a road that leads to Heaven — but has actually guaranteed my reaching there.
One would be a fool for his presumption, if he called all to hear what had only been commenced by God — but was dependent for completion on his own exertions.
On the other hand, one would be a traitor to his Father's glory, if he holds his tongue concerning what his God has done. A religion of the two letters, DO, can never be a religion of song. But a religion of the four letters, DONE, is a religion that need never lack its accompaniment of praise. See to it then, that in salvation's anthem, this note of divine completeness rings loud and clear.
Fourthly, He has done that which can never be undone.Not only is the work complete in itself — but its completeness shall ever abide. No power from within or without, from earth or Hell, shall ever undo that which is so divinely done. The rope that linked the wrecked vessel to the shore, and bore the precious freight I just now described might snap, and let its burden fall within the sight — but helplessly beyond the power, of the gallant life-boat man on the rocks. But the cords of everlasting loving-kindness never break. He who wove them is the One who by the word of his power upholds all things.
Or to change the simile; no storms or blasts can lay low the palace of salvation built upon the Rock of Ages, for every bolt is riveted by omnipotence, and the whole is buttressed by Almightiness!
Yes, He has done for my soul what can never be undone. Inspired by this thought, we feel we can dare throw down the gauntlet and challenge Hell: O lion of perdition, seize if you can those whom the Lion of Judah guards! Wolf of the pit, you are welcome to the sheep you can tear from the embrace of the shepherd's arms. In the name of our God we defy you and shout in your face,
"Once in Christ in Christ forever,
Nothing from His love can sever!"
I do not know how you feel, beloved but the thought that, eleven years ago, God did for my soul what all Hell and sin can never undo — fills me with a bliss that rises beyond all expression, and makes every corner of my heart echo in song!
Fifthly. He has done for my soul that which brings more glory to His name than all His other works.All his works praise Him. There is not a flower that blooms, or bird that sings, or wave that rides the ocean deep — that is not as vocal with its praises. But richer by far is the tribute of glory that He reaps from salvation's field. The stars of grace shine with a brighter luster round his throne, than those that stud with points of light the midnight sky. The trees planted by his right hand, more loudly clap their hands than all the monarchs of earth's forests. God's glory is great in our salvation. He looks upon His redeemed people as the masterpieces of his love and power, and he will before assembled worlds exhibit us as the grandest trophies Heaven contains. For, says Paul, He has "made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come, He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us!" Eph 2.6-7
Just as in ancient baronial castles we have seen the walls adorned with trophies eloquent of the prowess of the warriors of the Middle Ages — so Heaven is God's grand trophy room, and saved sinners are the trophies. He points to them as proofs of what eternal grace can do, and from them a never ceasing revenue of glory flows to the throne.
Lo, there stands the foremost of the throng and the loudest in his song: the once apostle of the Gentiles. Chief of sinners — chief of saints — and chief of songsters now.
And there I see Manasseh, who made "the inhabitants of Jerusalem do more evil than the heathen!" — bowing before the footstool of Him whose altars he once spurned.
And there is John Bunyan, the black sinner and the bright dreamer! And by his side is John Newton — the African blasphemer — the consecrated preacher — but now the immortal singer.
Sixthly. He has done for my soul that which I am able to know is done.If a man does not know what God has done for his soul, there is some reason to believe that nothing has yet been done. Is conversion so minute a matter, so small a change, that it can only be detected by the most delicate tests, and then never to a certainty? Nonsense! It is a poor kind of conversion, that only remains a trembling hope and never develops into a conscious fact. Is being in a dark pit with feet sinking in the clay so like standing on a rock with the fresh air of Heaven blowing on you, that it is impossible or difficult to tell the difference? Is blindness so much like sight that the two can become confounded? Is corruption so nearly akin to life and health, that to distinguish between them is a perplexity? Could not the leper know himself to be cleansed — or rather, could he help knowing it? Certainly not. Yet all these changes are insignificant and imperceptible — compared with the change effected by what God does for the soul.
Do not think that it is a lack of humility on your part to know and declare God's work done in you and for you. Strong faith is the truest humility — and unbelief is the greatest presumption. I will show you how: God says, "He who believes has everlasting life."
"Well," replies a soul, "I believe — but I would not like to say that I have everlasting life." Do you see what that soul is doing in its false humility? It is making God a liar! True humility says "Lord, it seems almost too good to be true that such a wretch as I should be possessed of such a gift — but I dare not doubt Your word, and therefore I believe it."
Seventhly, and but for a moment — He has done for my soul that which will bear the test of eternity.I have already rather anticipated myself on this point by what I said about the impossibility of the work ever being undone; yet there is much more that may be said.
The work done in our souls is often severely tested on earth — but it withstands all, and never appears more grandly real than when it is tested the most. This thought has been deeply impressed on me by the life and experience of our dear brother Jones, who has just gone home. For months he had been a dying man, and for weeks he had anticipated every day to be his last. If ever the work of God in a soul was put to a severe strain, it was in his case; and if ever there was a triumphant manifestation of its power, it was in Jones' bedroom.
Those of us who were privileged to see the light, will never forget it or cease to bless God for it. Day by day — week by week — month by month it stood the test, seeming to grow stronger and more glorious the longer it was tried, until at last it culminated when — in answer to a question from me as to whether there was anything we could do for him — he replied, "Sing, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" etc. And then when all found it difficult to commence the tune through emotion, with a great effort he led it himself, Heaven shining in his face as he sang.
Ah friends, it is something real that is done in the soul which enables a man to go down to the river of death singing his doxology. But death cannot quench the song, and eternity cannot wear it out. There are myriads in Heaven this evening who have been enjoying its bliss for ages, and still the subject matter of their song is what God has done for their souls. "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory forever!" Rev 1.5-6
And when this world has passed away, and a million ages have rolled their courses, still — outliving all time and all matter — the song shall be heard as fresh as when it first burst from the Psalmist's lips, "Come and hear, and I will declare what God has done for my soul." Thus I have tried, poor and imperfectly I know, to tell the wondrous tale of what God has done for me and hundreds more that hear me.
II. A few reasons that warrant telling the tale.As the tale itself is the chief matter, I have devoted almost all my time to telling it. So I shall have to be very brief in giving the reasons that warrant my doing so.
First, then, let me say that saints in all ages have done the same. Our text declares that David did so. We have abundant testimony that Paul did the same. He seemed ever ready to tell the simple story in all places and before all classes of people. Throughout all his epistles the same thing shines. He never forgets his own salvation. Those personal allusions are glistening like little gems in a setting of gold. "I obtained mercy." "Of whom I am chief." "By the grace of God I am what I am." The two men whose names I have previously linked with his, were one with him in the practice:
How many souls have thanked God for "Grace abounding to the chief of sinners, or a brief relation of the exceeding mercy of God in Christ to his poor servant, John Bunyan."
Who has not heard the anecdote of good John Newton, who when advised because of his years to stop preaching, replied, "I cannot stop. What, shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?"
Surely that must be right which the holiest in all ages have loved to do.
There are also inward promptings that compel the lips to tell the tale. It is not only true that the saint may tell of mercy found — but it is equally true that he must. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak. If Christ had laid an embargo on us not to tell the tale, I think we must have told it just the same. How can a man keep silence when his heart is brimful of a subject? He feels he must be out with it or die. Now as these strong desires come when we are nearest in heart to God, surely they go far to prove that telling the tale is in accordance with his mind. Tell it, for it is a good thing for ourselves.
Too often we forget that we have been purged from our old sins; the day of our conversion grows dim in the distance, and our heart's love loses its fervor and intensity. The fire becomes caked-over and gives out but little heat. Tell the tale, and in telling it, old memories spring into fresh life. The fire is stirred, its hardening crust is broken, and the flames leap out as bright as ever. O, it is a grand thing for one's own soul to live over again the day of conversion.
Tell it — it is the best argument for lost sinners. The world can understand a fact far better than a theory — cannot we all? A man may come to me with a prescription which he declares is just suited to my disease, and he may bring forward a hundred reasons why it should result in cure. But his words will have a thousand fold power if he adds, "I know it will, for I was dying with the same malady. I took it and see what it has done for me!"
Friends, with no egotism I trust — I can humbly bear my testimony to the truth of this. It has been my joy to see nearly one thousand people about their souls, and my experience is that, when everything else has failed, the simple recital of what God has done for my soul has won the day. Here then, is work for all.
Do you say "I could never preach a sermon or speak a word in public"? Perhaps not; but there is one thing you can do — yes must do, if you would be clear of the blood of souls — you can take a fellow sinner by the hand and quietly and gently tell him about what the love of Christ has done for you. O, do not keep it a secret — it is too good to be unknown — tell it and you may win a soul.
I will close by asking a question — and making a proclamation.
The question is a solemn one. Answer it, I implore you. It is this: What has God done for your soul? I think I hear some sadly answer, "nothing yet." But would you like to know what He is willing to do for it? Then listen to this proclamation: In the name of my God I declare that . . .
though it is filthy — He is willing to cleanse it;
though it is guilty — He is willing to pardon it;
though it is lost — He is willing to save it;
though it lacks everything — He is willing to do all for it.
May God in His mercy grant that everyone in this congregation may at last be able to say, "Come and hear, all you that fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul!" Amen.