The Right Hand of the Lord!
Charles Spurgeon, Delivered on Thursday Afternoon,
February 22nd, 1872, by at the East London Tabernacle
"The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!" Psalm 118:16
This word might full often have leaped from the lips of believers in the olden times.
This verse might have constituted part of the song of Moses at the Red Sea, for how wondrously God overthrow the hosts of his enemies there! Then the horses and the chariots of Egypt were swallowed up, God himself causing the last foe of Israel to be swept away by the mighty waters. "Sing to the Lord," they said, "for he has triumphed gloriously;" and by the shores of the Red Sea they knew "the right hand of the Lord is exalted — the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
It was so in the wilderness when Joshua fought with Amalek, and Moses held up his hands in prayer. It was so when they struck down Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan. Are these things not written in the book of the wars of the Lord? And is it not said, "The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name!"
It was conspicuously so in driving out the Canaanites. When the people of Israel, untrained for war, marched into the promised land, they found that their enemies had chariots of iron, and were entrenched in cities that were walled up, even to Heaven; yet all the hosts of the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites could not stand against the twelve tribes of Israel; they fled before them like chaff before the wind. O praise the Lord and magnify him, for he cast out the heathen and he planted his people in their own land. The right hand of the Lord was exalted that day, for his right hand fought valiantly.
So it was throughout the period of the Judges. Time would fail us to tell you of Samson, and of Gideon, and of Barak, and all those mighty men who were used as weapons in the hands of Jehovah — javelins cast forth by his omnipotence. Truly in those days, also, the right hand of the Lord did valiantly.
David, who penned this psalm, knew this in his own experience, for he struck down the Philistines hip and thigh with great slaughter, and overthrew all opposing nations in the name of the Lord Almighty.
Long after David had slept with his fathers, others arose, and God was with them, and the Lord did mighty deeds. Have you forgotten how the hosts of Sennacherib lay like the sere leaves of autumn when the breath of the archangel had blasted them? Or have you not heard of the rout of Syria at the gates of Samaria? Right onward throughout the whole history of Israel, when the foes of God have made headway for a while, he has plucked his hand, even his right hand, out of his bosom; and dashed the enemy into pieces!
His people have chanted the solemn psalm, "Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered!" and those who have hated him, have fled before him; in the fire of his presence, the wicked have been consumed like the fat of rams upon the altar; into smoke, they have been consumed away. "The right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
From those triumphs of physical might over warlike powers, we turn our eyes to another field of battle — a spiritual one; and God, who was mighty with weapons of war, we find mighty with the sword of the Spirit, and with the weapons of the gospel; and we claim the verse which is now before us as a song of the New Testament as well as a chant of the Old. "The right hand of the Lord is" this day, "exalted," and it "does valiantly!"
We will ask your attention, not to a very lengthy sermon — but to these three points:
1. The Triumphs of the Lord Jesus.
2. The Triumphs of the Gospel in the Church.
3. The Triumphs of Grace in individual hearts.
To all these, and I know not to which one more than another, the text is most appropriate.
I. First, then, concerning the triumphs of the Lord Jesus, it may be said that "the right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly." He did not come as a man of war, for he is the prince of peace. He did not come here with shield and buckler — but he came with a body fitted to suffer, and with a heart strong to endure. The Christ of God came in lowliness and in shame, to be despised and rejected by men; but for all that, he fought great battles in the midst of his weakness, and won for himself wondrous spiritual victories.
Observe, dear friends, with holy adoration, how our Lord Jesus Christ met SATAN in conflict, not once or twice — but many a time; in fact throughout the Savior's life, the prince of powers of the air constantly assailed The Perfect One. It was a glorious duel which was fought in the wilderness, and on the lofty mountain from which they had a view of the whole world, and on the pinnacle of the temple too. Sharp was the sword of Diabolus when he sought to strike the Savior under the fifth rib, and make a full end of his innocence. But, oh, how glorious were the strokes of the Lord himself with the sword of the Spirit, when he replied, "it is written," and yet again "it is written," and yet again "it is written!" And so he chased the fiend away, and triumphant angels came to minister to the conqueror amidst the loneliness of the desert. O you attendant angels! You might have sung that day "the right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
All through his life our Savior kept his vantage ground. The prince of this world assailed him — but he made no dent on his armor, much less wound on his soul. He was tempted in all points; the darts flew so thick that they assailed him from head to foot; but he was without a wound at the close of the conflict. He was in all ways tempted as we are — yet without sin.
You know how it came to the last struggle in the garden of Gethsemane. Oh what a wrestling that was when, as it were, the arch fiend grappled close with Christ, and seized him so that,
"That desperate tug his soul might feel,
Through bars of brass and triple steel."
It brought the bloody sweat down the master's face — yet he did not relinquish his hold upon the foe — but gave him such a fall that he shall never recover the defeat which he sustained amidst the olive trees. Gethsemane is a name of dread to the apostate angel.
On the cross, too, when the devil rallied his forces for the last time, and assailed the spirit of our Lord with all the malice of his infernal nature; there, too, the great Michael, the true archangel, set his foot on the dragon's head, and though his heel was wounded — yet he broke that head, and crushed out the reigning power of evil forever. The right hand of the Lord, though it was a pierced hand — the right hand of the Lord, though it had grasped a scepter of reed — did valiantly, and was highly exalted!
The same might be said (but we would go over the same ground again) if we spoke of the conquest which our Lord achieved over SIN in every shape and form; it mattered not how it approached him, he repelled it; he overthrew it as far as he was personally concerned.
And when the sins of his people were laid upon him — O brethren, how dreadful was that hour — but how we ought to look back on it with devout thankfulness when the sins of his people came like an avalanche to crush him — how gloriously he sustained the load. With what wondrous power of endurance he suffered the wrath of God which was due for the sins of his people. How steadfastly he,
"Bore all incarnate God could bear,
With strength enough, and none to spare."
But when he had made atonement forever for all his people's sins, and brought in everlasting righteousness for all his chosen people, and could say "It is finished!" then truly the right hand of the Lord was exalted, and the right hand of the Lord had done valiantly.
I will leave that point because you know it, and your meditations can enter into it without the assistance of my words.
But, brethren, the Lord Jesus has this day conquered all our sins. There is not a transgression left to accuse his people; there is no record against them in God's book, "By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy!" Hebrews 10:14. The work is finished; salvation is complete. The right hand of the Lord has done for us what we could not have done for ourselves. What the angels of Heaven would not have been so foolish as to attempt, the Lord Jesus Christ has most surely completed for all believers. Heaven rings this day with the joyful songs of its triumphant saints who tell how the right hand of the Lord is exalted.
Our precious Lord is to be praised in language like our text for having vanquished DEATH as well as sin. Satan and sin he overthrew, and in this he virtually conquered death. It did not seem as if he would vanquish death, my brethren, when he laid in the grave. The image of death was set as with a seal upon his brow. The Lord of life and immortality was as really dead as any of the departed sons of Adam. The three days passed over — the appointed time in which, like Jonah, he should be in the bowels of the earth — but on the third day he could not be held by the bonds of death. I think I see him like another Samson who had been bound with cords, awaking from his slumber, like a strong man refreshed, and so he snaps the bonds of death, for it was not possible that he could be held by them. Acts 2.24 Then the stone was rolled away from the door of the sepulcher, and he came forth resplendent in the glory of his resurrection body!
From that moment, death has been destroyed for the believer. The children of God shall pass through the grave — but they cannot be confined in it. "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" Christ has forever taken away the gates of the Gaza of the grave, carried them far away where Satan can never bring them back, and death cannot restore his stronghold. Glorify the ever-living Christ, for his right hand is exalted.
The same was conspicuously true in that day when our Lord left this world, and ascended to the Father. Our imagination can hardly depict that scene when those who received him after the apostles had lost sight of him,
"Brought his chariot from on high
To bear him to his throne."
Oh, what an ascent that was when the conqueror mounted to the golden city! Lash the eternal coursers up the celestial hills, for he comes "mighty to save!" He went forth to battle — but he comes back to glory, to wear his well-earned renown! Do you not see at his chariot-wheels, the monsters bound? They must be dragged to the very gates of Heaven, and then hurled down again! "He has led captivity captive, and received gifts for men." Psalm 68.18. Oh, in that day of our Lord's ascending up on high, those who gazed upon the matchless spectacle of the returning King of Kings, might have cried aloud, "The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
In those victories, beloved, you and I have a share. Satan was conquered for us; sin was overcome for us; death was bound for us.
"Hell and our sins obstruct our course,
But Hell and sin are vanquished foes.
Our Savior nailed them to his Cross.
And sung the triumph when he rose!"
Believe and be glad of it — all your enemies are overcome! You have to battle still — but you fight with conquered foes. The dragon who is most dreadful to you, carries a deadly wound about him. Your sins with which you have to contend from day to day, have received their death warrant. They shall not be able to follow you into Heaven, or to ruin you on earth. Oh, rejoice with your Lord; conquer in his conquest; be victors in his victory; overcome through the blood of the Lamb, and give him all the glory of your salvation.
But now I pass on to note, in the second place, that our text is very applicable to,
II. The Perpetual Triumphs of the Church of Jesus Christ.The church began with feeble numbers, with small wealth, and with comparatively little talent; but she was clothed with the Holy Spirit, and was therefore mighty. Let us just look at the history of the church a minute or two, so that our souls may be comforted with the prospect of like victories in days to come. Beloved, when the church was first in the world like a new-born man-child, the Dragon vomited forth torrents with the hope of drowning it. Rev 12.15. You know the rough weapons with which the world assailed the church at first. The sword was used, prisons were put into requisition, the rack, unutterable torments, shame, reproach, all the infernal arts of persecution were employed to put down if possible, the cause and kingdom of Christ in the world.
Now only think for a minute what became of the continued attempts, the cruel attempts of the world against the church; for the result conspicuously shows how the right hand of the Lord was exalted. The more they persecuted Israel in Egypt — the more they multiplied, and it was the same with the church of God. Those that were persecuted went everywhere preaching the word. If they had been allowed some quiet, they might have tarried at home, and perhaps been like grain in the granary. But persecution broke down the door, and they were thrown like handfuls of wheat broadcast over the nations, and everywhere, the precious seed sprang up. It was of no avail to kill Christians — it was like a battle with a hydra, in which cutting off one head makes a hundred fresh ones to spring up. Young men went to see the martyrdoms of the saints, and as they saw their holy patience, they came to be believers themselves, until martyred Christians became the most powerful preachers of the gospel; and even the saints that believed, were comforted by the sight of their deaths. Young converts stood around the stakes of Smithfield to learn the way to give themselves up for Christ.
The anvil never strikes the hammers in return — and yet it breaks many hammers. Here is the perseverance of the saints. God being in his church, she has borne year after year, and God has forborne to avenge her — and yet she has triumphed. Her feeble maidens and her illiterate men, her gentle sons and tender daughters who did not lift a hand in self-defense — have vanquished those that were armed to the teeth, and had the power of Imperial Rome or other mighty empires at their back. The right hand of the Lord, amidst the host of martyrs who wear the ruby crown in Heaven today, is exalted, for "The right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
Then at the same time the church was sent into the world to combat with the superstitions which existed in that age; and brethren, the superstitions of ancient Rome were very attractive, and very venerable. They had existed through long ages; they were interwoven with the daily life of the people; they were endowed with wealth and established by authority. Poetry, art, philosophy — all had lent their power to maintain the old heathenism with which the Christian church came into contact. I have no doubt whatever, that the Pontifex Maximus of that day, if he had been told that he saw a rival in Paul, teaching a religion which would break down all the altars and the temples of Rome, he would have ridiculed the statement. And yet it was so, for where are the gods of old Rome today? Who bows before Saturn, "father of the gods?" Who pays reverence to Juno or Diana? These have gone — and what has struck them, and broken them in pieces? The stone cut out of the mountain without hands, has dashed them all in pieces, and broken their power like a potter's vessel, so that none shall set up these false gods again.
Nor was it so in Rome alone. In all countries, the church of God has achieved a complete triumph. Strange superstitions, magical pretensions, mysterious incantations — these have fled like the birds of night before the rising sun. No form of superstition which the enemy has been able to devise, has been able to retain its hold where the gospel has been fully preached. Superstition has seemed to stand like the eternal hills — but faith has said "Who are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!" Zechariah 4.7, and the mountain of superstition has melted away. "The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
But, my brethren, the Church has been assailed by heresies within herself; and if anything might have destroyed her, surely it would have been these. I will single out but one: it was the Arian heresy. You that are well versed in Church history will know how very potent at one time the Arian heresy was in the ancient Church. The divinity of our Lord became almost universally denied, he was said to be a mere man — a good man, or perhaps the best of men — but nothing more. It was a grand day when Athanasius declared that Christ was very God of very God, and finding himself alone, still said "I, Athanasius against the world." It seemed an unequal combat, for there were monarchs on the side of the Arius, and all their force was wielded against the truth. But Arianism — where is it now? The pure faith of God has flung it off like drops of rain from a shield of burnished steel. Arians may exist — but they slink into the dens and corners of the earth to hide their ignoble heads; the heresy is dead for any power that it has in the Christian Church, and so shall every heresy die as the eternal God lives.
Nothing is immortal but the truth, nothing is eternal but the gospel. The right hand of the Lord does not fight for a lie — but his arm is made bare for the truth of His Son Jesus Christ. All through the pages of Christian history this is true — that "the right hand of the Lord is exalted and does valiantly" in overthrowing error.
But the church had to suffer from something that exceeds any common heresy, because it is the aggregation of heresy, superstition, and apostasy; I mean the spread of Popery. In the middle ages the night was sevenfold. There was scarcely light enough for the anxious seeker to see his Lord; and men's souls were crushed by the Inquisition, by the practice of priestly confession, by the domination of priests and bishops and popes. If any man had then bewailed the absence of the light, as some did, and an angel had said to him "Courage, my son, the day shall come in which this entire system shall lose its power, and the old gospel shall come back," I can imagine I hear the weeper say, "If the Lord were to make windows in Heaven, would such a thing be?"
But such a thing was. God found the man and gave him a heart of iron, a brow of brass, and a tongue of thunder, and Marlin Luther's voice was heard ringing across these waters and saying, "A man is justified by faith, and not by the works of the law!" And other voices took up that strain, until in the regions where that truth was utterly unknown before, it became familiar to the peasant at the ploughtail; and humble men and women repeated to each other that gladsome sound, "The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those who published it." Psalm 68.11. You know, beloved, how God struck down the church of Rome in those days, and as you read the story of the Reformation, you can say, "The right hand of the Lord is exalted!"
But I will not detain you with ancient histories. I will bring you to this day, for the truth of the olden time is fulfilled in your ears again this day. Wherever the gospel is preached, the right hand of the Lord is exalted. We have seen it, and therefore we speak what we know; if the gospel of Jesus is faithfully preached, no matter by whom — if it is the whole gospel passionately declared, prayed over, and believingly delivered — it will always glorify God's name. I want you to notice in what respect the Lord's arm is exalted in our time.
First, in arousing the attention of a negligent people to the gospel. There is nothing in the world that makes so much stir, as preaching Christ. You may preach anything else you like, and the people will slumber; but if you preach Christ out and out, simply, in plain Saxon — as Paul would have preached it, not with "wisdom of words" — you will find the people come together. I do not know why — but so it is, that even those who dislike the gospel will come to hear it; and though sometimes they gnash their teeth, and curse the man that preached it — yet they will come again — they cannot help it.
A gospel preacher has chains coming from his lips which bind themselves around men's hearts, and he holds them captives, unwillingly at first — but afterwards joyfully. They are captives to the power of sovereign grace. There will be little need for the simple, plain, bold gospel preacher to advertise. You may put him down in a back street, give him a room down a court, do nothing more for him than let him speak to a handful of people, and the first news you hear of him will be that he is eccentric, that he is odd, that he is a fool, that he is a madman. This is good news, always: there is a man of God somewhere about, when you hear that. Immediately people want to hear this enthusiast, this Puritan, this babbler, and they rush to listen; and then it is, that a strange power is felt by the people. They do not know what it is — but there is something in the preaching which seems to seize their hearts and hold them. It is nothing other than the fulfillment of the word, "If I am lifted up, I will draw all men to me." Where Christ is lifted up, there people will be drawn to hear; they must hear. We need not ask them to come; they must come. Where this body is, there the eagles will be gathered together. Where a full Christ is proclaimed, there they will come who need to find a Savior.
Does philosophy achieve this triumph? Where are the crowds that, year after year, hang on the lips of its learned men? You call it a poor triumph; so it may be in itself — but in its ulterior results it is a very great one. There are wise men of the earth who would give their eyes and their ears if they could only get the people to listen to them.
Where Christ is not preached, there are generally more spiders than human souls. Put Unitarianism into the pulpit, and you will soon see how the pews can be emptied, and the congregation shrink. A gospel-less gospel has great power of dispersion — and little power of attraction. But the gospel of Jesus Christ soon draws a multitude together, and the right hand of the Lord is exalted.
Yet you may say this is little; and I will confess that it is comparatively little, but mark it — if the gospel is preached, it does not end in men's coming to hear it and returning home; for soon that gospel comes like an eagle from afar and pounces down upon men's hearts, and makes them a prey to its power. Those who came to scoff — remain to pray; those who looked on out of curiosity like Zaccheus — receive the Savior into their house; and those who came even in enmity — are converted into friends.
How greatly the right hand of the Lord was exalted in the days of Whitefield and Wesley. The lives of those two eminent men have been written of lately by many loving pens; and I must confess that I am always delighted to read the narratives, however they may be written.
Though I have read them many times, I can always read them again. Oh, it was wonderful, that when the whole land was asleep — when the Church of England was asleep in the dark, and the dissenters were asleep in the light — there suddenly rose up a man who dared to stand on his father's grave in the church-yard and to preach the Gospel. And side by side with him flew a twin seraph, who went into the fields and began to proclaim the gospel; and all at once true religion stirred our country from shore to shore! These men preached faith as a saving grace, the necessity of regeneration, and the work of the Holy Spirit, and these truths had power in them. Those were brave days — the days of the early Methodists — when the time of the singing of birds had come, and the land was full of the Holy Spirit.
And it is just so now. Wherever the same gospel is preached with the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven, there are conversions, there are broken hearts, there are spirits healed by Jesus' love, there are glad ones consecrating themselves to the Redeemer's service. "The right hand of the Lord is exalted — the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
And this becomes true — we have seen it — in some of the very darkest parts of London. What a wonderful instance of what God's grace can do may be seen by anyone who chooses to learn the history of such spots as Seven Dials, where God's love has placed earnest evangelists; or in Golden Lane, where a dear brother of our own labors amidst the poverty and sin of the masses. Why, when I have gone to see my brethren meet together there, the poorest of the poor, hucksters, men who were drunkards and blasphemers, women that were thieves and harlots, and have heard them sing the praises of Jesus and rejoice in his dear name — I have felt, "The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
And here and all around I need not quote instances, for you know them better than I do — lions are turned into lambs, ravens into doves, and the most unlikely spots in East London that were deserts, salt lands, and uninhabited, that looked as if they were cursed by God — have been made to rejoice and blossom like a rose when the preacher of the gospel and his master have set their feet upon them. Oh yes, the right hand of the Lord is exalted. They say that the gospel has lost its power.
I read the other day that some of us were the echoes of dead puritanism, that we were not abreast of the age, and were preaching a faith that was practically dead. Sirs, those that say so, carry a lie in their throats. Some of them know that they lie, and are full of malice because they know it. The gospel is no more dead than they are, nor half so much. It lives, and lives in all its energy. They do not love the truth who dare to say that it has lost its force; they are blind with hate who thus malign it.
But it is "unphilosophical." Hair splitters do not care about it; neological divines sneer at it as only fit for old women. Glory be to God, if it suits old women, it will suit us and all kinds of people; but inasmuch as it is not philosophic according to their declaration, that word of God is fulfilled in our ears, "The foolishness of God is wiser than man, and the weakness of God is stronger than man."
It is also common enough to hear men say, "But look at those who preach it: they are uneducated men, men that are not of the higher class of society, unskilled in classic learning, and not always able to give the original Greek or Hebrews words of the scripture on which they preach." Yes, sir, and it would be a difficult task for any man to prove that the early triumphs of the gospel owed a solitary jot to education and learning.
In looking at the inscriptions in the catacombs a few days ago when I was in Rome, I could not help the observation continually coming to my lips, that the earliest Christians — most of them, or almost all of them — must have been illiterate. They were scarcely able to write their friend's names, for the most common words on the slabs of stone placed on the graves of the early Christians, are very frequently badly spelled; Greek letters and Latin letters are intermingled, showing that they hardly knew how to finish a word in one language — but must piece it out with another, not completely knowing either the one alphabet or the other. Ah — but it was because God had put his truth into the mouths of babes and nursings, and so established strength. When the world was conquered by such humble instrumentalities, and the truth was mighty when preached by such simple men — then it was that the right hand of the Lord was exalted. For the right hand of the Lord had done it — and not the wisdom, nor the craft, nor the energy of man. God's arm was more conspicuous, because of the feebleness of the instrumentality.
Much rather, then, would we glory in our infirmities, because the power of God rests on us. If we were able to preach with power of ourselves, and if we had the gifts that some contend for, we might share the praise of our usefulness. But if we are unlearned and ignorant as they say — yet God draws the people to hear the gospel, and God saves them by our preaching, then we rejoice in this; yes, and we will rejoice. If we are vile for sticking to the old doctrine — we will be viler still; and if we are loathsome in the sight of the world — we will be more loathsome yet, and speak more boldly in this name. We will not seek to be found among the great and mighty — but rather among the feeble and foolish, by whose ministry the right hand of the Lord is exalted, and does valiantly.
But now I must, in the third place, say a few words, and only a few, for time fails us, upon,
III. The triumphs of grace in individuals.Let us talk together. Do you remember, some of you who are converted — the time when the gospel first had power over your souls? I remember how I fought against it. A mother's tears could not move me, nor a father's earnest rebukes. I heard the gospel many times and I was little affected by it, though I knew it all. But I shall never forget when it came with power to my soul. I had no shield that could shake off its darts; the arrows of God found a ready way into my conscience, and they seemed to drink my very blood. My wounds rankled and were corrupt; my soul refused to be comforted. Then I used to go up to my little chamber and bow my knees in prayer, and come out more wretched than when I entered it. I searched the Word of God to find comfort — but could not find it. Then it was that one who knew me, might have said "The right hand of the Lord is exalted in that young man, for he was proud and lofty and self-righteous, and now he lies in the very dust, and wonders that God lets him live — he marvels that there should be a gospel for him, and can only half believe it is true that such a wretch as he can ever be saved,"
Oh I wish the Lord would come with power to some self-righteous ones who are here this afternoon. You say that you are as good as your neighbors! Ah — but suppose you are damned with your neighbors — will that help you? To be damned in company is small benefit. Oh — but you say that you have never done anybody any harm! No, except your God, and you have robbed him of all the praise that was due to him, and lived in this world just as you might have lived if there had been no God. O proud sinner, I cannot bring you down — but God can. Oh, for a blow from that mighty arm to level you and roll you at his feet, biting the dust in shame and self-abasement.
Some of us know what that means. May you know it too, and then you will say, though your heart is breaking as you say it, "The right hand of the Lord is exalted! He is good — but I am evil; He is great — but I am nothing; He is infinitely holy — but I am shamefully impure. God be merciful to me — to me, a sinner! God save me for his name's sake." When his sharp arrows pierce men's hearts, the right hand of the Lord is exalted.
But let me talk with you further. You who know the Lord and love him. Do you remember when you sought to escape from the multitude of your sins? Do you recollect when they compassed you about — when they compassed you about like bees? You could not count your sins — you had forgotten them; they seemed dead and buried — but they all came to life again, and they swarmed about you. They buzzed around you at your table; they stung you in your sleep; in your dreams they harassed you; at your work you had no peace because of them.
And do you recall the place, the spot of ground, where you met with Jesus? Some of us recollect it precisely. We looked to him upon the cross, and the battle was over at once. One look to Jesus crucified, and the sins that compassed us about were destroyed in the name of the Lord; and the foes that threatened to devour us like fire devours thorns, were quenched through the precious blood of Jesus. Do you remember it? Oh let your soul go back to your spiritual birthday; ring the bells of your heart again; hang out the streamers of your soul for that happy day when Jesus washed your sins away! Oh beloved, on that day beyond all others, the right hand of the Lord was exalted, the right hand of the Lord did valiantly for you.
It is a grand picture — I would like to see some artist attempt to sketch it — but he certainly must fail. I would like to hear some poet sing it — but he could hardly reach the dignity of the argument as when Miriam and the daughters of Israel took their timbrels and went forth with dances to sing because Egypt had been destroyed and Israel was free!
Do you know the note in that song which pleases me best of all? It is this: when they said, "The depths have covered them! There is not one of them left!" They looked upon the Red Sea and could not see a trace of their foe; and I think I hear them singing, "The depths have covered them; there is not one — not one — not one," and they answered each other "not one — not one — not one of them left!" And so when you and I looked to Christ and saw the atoning sacrifice like a mighty sea rolling over all our sins, in that day our spirit sang, "The depths have covered them! There is not one — not one — not one of them left." Every sin is gone, every transgression is swallowed up in super-abounding grace. "The right hand of the Lord does valiantly!"
But I must still talk with you of things which you know. Do you recollect brethren, that troublous time since your sins were forgiven? How hard you found the struggle with some sinful habit. Some of us, it may be, had fierce tempers to fight with. Some converts have formerly indulged in many foul habits, and it cost them many struggles to get rid of these evil propensities; but the grace of God always enables a Christian to overcome every sin.
I know there are some who think that they cannot overcome some sins. "O," they say, "that is constitutional — it is my temperament." Brother, never excuse sin in that way. Do you think Jesus Christ did not intend to cleanse you from constitutional sin? Do you think constitutional sins have no evil in them? I have no doubt it was constitutional sin that made Cain kill his brother — but he was sent to Hell for it. And so all men will be if they allow constitutional sin to reign in them.
No, by the grace of God we can overcome every sin, and we must. I would be very glad to see a man who had reached perfection — but I will tell you what I expect to see; and that is men and women who will never rest satisfied short of it, who feel that as long as they live, they mean to wage war against every sin; no truce — no parley — no signing a peace-treaty with the Gibeonites and saying, "You are to remain in my soul to be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water." Jos 9.23. Let them all perish! Let every sin be put to death! And as God helps us to drive out sin, and to be made like his dear son in our outward life — we shall ascribe every victory we win to him alone, who is our sanctification, as well as our justification; and we must say that his right hand is exalted, for he does valiantly.
The same has been true, beloved friends, in many cases in which you and I have had to overcome our troubles. What sore afflictions we have passed through! Some to whom I speak, it may be, have had mountains of tribulations. Yes, beloved; but when God has been with you, you have stepped from mountain top to mountain top without going down into the valley at all — you have been enabled by God's grace to have the hind's foot which stands upon the rocky places without slipping. You have gone through deep waters of tribulation — but they have never drowned you, for God has been with you, and your strength has always been equal to your day.
Some of us can look back on a long fight of affliction because our hair is grey with age; and others of us who are still in the midst of the battle, can join with the saints who have passed through similar tribulation, and can say in our delivering mercies — the right hand of the Lord has been exalted.
But, beloved friends, to close all this, where there was much room for greater enlargement, let me say that when you and I come to die (as soon, thank God, we shall, for it is a subject to be regarded with thankfulness), we will find in our dying moments that the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly. I might almost say that I came here from the grave, for in truth, it is but a day or so ago since I went to bury one of the holiest men I ever knew, and I may add, the happiest man I ever saw in all my life. He fell asleep at a good old age; but as I stood by his bedside in his last illness, I often envied him. Covered though he was with sores, his body lacerated, all his bones aching, and as it were out of joint — yet he said to me, "What a happy thing it is to be here," and I said, "Is it a happy thing to be on a dying bed?" "Yes" he said, "for I am with God and God is with me, and Christ is mine and I am his, and it is the happiest day I ever lived."
He had often said that in his lifetime, for I never knew him other than rejoicing in his God. I was glad to see him, when his eyes were almost closed in death, and hear him say, "It is the happiest day I ever lived!" Just before he died, instead of expressing any regret at the pain he was feeling, or regret at his departure — he turned round and said to the dear ones around the bed, "You seem all changed to me from what you were. I love you — but I have reached a higher stage than the things that are seen. I have seen the King in his beauty, in the land that is very far off, and I have heard words that it is not lawful for a man to utter." And they said to him. "Can you not tell us something of what you have seen?" He said, "You must pardon me; I am forbidden to tell you — but from now on, I am done with all things here below, and I am taken up with the joy and glory of my Lord. My bliss is so great that it kills me. I cannot live much longer through the excess of joy I feel." In a few minutes he had closed his eyes and was with God!
Oh, when I have seen the saints expire, as the negro said of his minister, "He is dying full of life" — so I have seen them dying full of life — the best of life; and I have then thought, "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously! The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!" Fear not, the last conflict will be the chief of your victories this side of the river.
And, now beloved friends, I congratulate you, the members of this Church, upon entering into this new house of prayer. I have already tried to express in prayer what I feel in my heart towards you who shall worship here. Do make this your daily prayer — that God may be exalted in this Tabernacle. May God save some of the biggest sinners in Stepney in this place.
They used to call Tottenham Court Road "Whitefield's soul trap!" I hope that this may be a soul trap. Oh, that many might be caught in it — not of those who belong to other Churches. We are glad to see you here today — but we don't want to see you here again. Nobody here desires to be a sheep-stealer — get back to your own fold. As you are here, however, be so good as to leave some of your fleece behind you this afternoon. We do desire to see in this place many strangers, many of those who have been accustomed to go to no place of worship whatever. I trust we will have plenty of people from the Ratcliff Highway — plenty of people from the docks and shipping — plenty of people who will gather here to hear the gospel, who have not cared to listen to it before. Dear hearers, fill this place.
You say, "Mr. Brown, our minister, must do it." But you know one man can't fill a chapel like this. Let each one bring a friend, and no doubt if each one does that, we will always have a multitude assembled here. Let us begin with a full house, and I believe those who hear my dear friend, Mr. Brown, once, will continue to hear him, and will keep on coming, and you will continue to have a full house for many a year to come, and hundreds will be converted. May the Lord bless you, and make you a blessing.