And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there stood a man opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went to him, and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” and he said, “No; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said to him, “What does my lord have say to his servant?” and the captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Take your shoes off; for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13-15)
A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, February 16, 1868, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
1. The Lord divided the Jordan so that his people might pass through dryshod. This miracle greatly dispirited the Canaanites, and so prepared the way for an easy triumph for the invading Israelites. You would have naturally expected that the Lord would have asked his people to avail themselves immediately of this terror to strike a heavy blow at once, and press on with might and main before the enemy could catch their breath, and so sweep the land clear of the adversaries in a single campaign. But it was not so. Instead of immediate activity, the children of Israel pitched their tents at Gilgal, and stayed there for a considerable time. For God is in no hurry. His purposes can be accomplished without haste, and although he would have us redeem the time because our days are evil, yet in his eternity he can afford to wait, and by his wisdom he so orders his delays, that they prove to be far better than our haste. Why, were the people to delay? So that they might be obedient to commands which had been forgotten. In the desert, for various reasons, circumcision and the passover had been neglected. They were not visited with any chastisement on account of this neglect, for the Lord considered their position and condition, and winked at their error, but before he would use them he would have them fully obedient to his will. It cannot be expected that God should tolerate disobedient servants, and therefore they must stay for awhile, until they had been attentive to the two great precepts of the Mosaic covenant. Dear friends, let us pause and ask ourselves, as believers, whether we have been in all respects conscientiously attentive to our Master’s commands? If not, we may not expect him to send a blessing to the church or to the world through us, until first of all we have yielded our willing obedience to what he has prescribed for us. Are any of you living in the neglect of a known part of the divine will? or are you not desirous of knowing some portions of God’s will, and therefore wilfully blind to them? My dear brother, you are cutting the Achilles’ tendon of your strength. You can never overthrow your enemies like Samson while your locks are thus shorn. You cannot expect that God should send you out to conquer and to bring to him renown, when you have not as yet conquered your own personal indolence and disobedience. He who is unfaithful in what is least will be unfaithful in what is greater; and if you have not kept the Master’s saying in the little vineyard of your personal history, how much less shall you be able to do it if he should entrust you with a greater field of service! Here then is the reason for Israel’s delay, and it is a reason why at the beginning of our special services we should make diligent search for neglected duties, and promptly fulfil them.
2. The two precepts which had been overlooked were very suggestive. The one was circumcision. Every man throughout the whole camp of Israel must be circumcised before God would begin to speak about Jericho. Not a word about the walls falling flat to the ground; not a syllable concerning circling the accursed city seven days, until, first of all, the reproach of Egypt had been put away, and his people had received the sign of the covenant. Now, we are told in the New Testament that Christians must partake in a circumcision without hands, not of the flesh, but of the spirit. “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly…but he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” In the epistle to the Colossians the apostle tells us that the true circumcision is the putting away of the body of death by the circumcision of Christ, by which I understand that the Christian must purge himself, in the power of the Spirit and in the name of Christ, of every fleshly defilement, of every sinful thought, of every wrong ambition, of every carnal desire: if he is to be used by his Master it is imperative that this is done, and is done at once, in the name of the Most High. “Be clean you who bear the vessels of the Lord.” God will not fight his battles by the uncircumcised. He will have his people clean from the sin that does so easily besets them, or else he will not use them. Stop, then, my brethren, and let me beseech you to search your own hearts, and see what there may be within that might render you unfit to be blessed. If I, as God’s minister, have no conversions, I dare not attribute the fact to divine sovereignty. It may be so, but I am always afraid to make divine sovereignty the scapegoat for my iniquities. I rather think that if God withholds the blessing, there is a reason; and may not the reason be in myself, that I do not live as near to God as I should, or am indulging in something which his holy eyes cannot look upon? I speak to you who are church members, if in the Sunday School, if in your tract distribution, or if in any other work you are doing, you do not win souls to God, cry to him, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Sin dams the channel of mercy; the stream is strong enough, but you block its flow; your sins separate you and your God; and, therefore, I implore each one of you, if you are the Lord’s, now shake yourselves from the dust, sanctify a fast to the Most High, and come before him with supplication. Sit before him in sackcloth and ashes, in the silent dejection of your abashed spirits, and confess before him all your sins. Arise, pour out your hearts like water before the Lord, acknowledge your sins and offences, and then, being purged from these by the water and the blood which flowed from the riven side of Jesus, you may arise to service and expect to be made a blessing.
3. But circumcision was not enough, they must also keep the passover. This it appears they had only observed twice, once in Egypt, and once at the foot of Sinai; but they were now to begin a passover which was to be kept every year without cessation. Brethren, you know the meaning the passover has for us; it represents feeding upon Christ. He is the Paschal Lamb; we must put away the old leaven of sin, and we must come with pure hearts to feed upon our Lord. You will never be able to fight the Canaanites until you have fed on Christ. A spiritual man who tries to live without feeding upon Jesus, soon becomes weak; he who has only slight communion with Christ, he who day after day has no sight of the King in his beauty, who is never taken to the banqueting house, and does not see the love banner waving over his head, is not likely to be a hero. If you do not eat the bread of heaven, how can you do the work of heaven? The husbandman who labours must be the first partaker of the fruits; and if we wish to labour for God with success, we must first of all feed upon the Christ of God, and gather strength from him. “Son of man,” said the voice from heaven to the prophet, “eat this roll”: he must first eat it, and then speak concerning what he has handled and tasted. We must enjoy true religion in our own souls before we can be fit exponents of it to others. How shall you be heralds of a message which has never been spoken into your inner ear by the voice of the Lord? How can you expect to bring others to life when your own soul is all but dead? How shall you scatter the live coals of eternal grace when the flame upon the hearth of your heart has almost expired? Brethren, let us keep the feast, let us draw near to our Lord Jesus with pure hearts, let us renew our first faith and early love, taking the great Son of God to be once more the basis of our hope, the source of our joy, the object of our desires. Let us come near, yes, nearer and nearer still to him, pressing to his embrace; so we shall be prepared to brave the conflict, and earn the victory.
4. After the ordinances had been kept, you will suppose that at once the trumpet sounded for an assault, and the valiant men of Israel with their scaling ladders, and their battering rams, gathered around that cursed city to attack and carry it by storm. Patience! patience! you are always in a hurry, but God is not. Joshua himself, that bold, brave, spirit is in some haste, and therefore, he goes out at night, meditating and patrolling; and as he is meditating upon God, and gazing every now and then at that huge city, and wondering where the best point of attack would be, and how it would be captured, he is astonished by the appearance of a stately personage who bears a sword in his hand. Brave Joshua, unconscious of anything like fear, advances at once to the apparent interloper and demands of him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” He little guessed in what august presence he was standing until a majestic voice said, “No, but as captain of the host of the Lord I am now come.” Then Joshua discerning the divinity of the celestial warrior bowed and worshipped and humbly enquired what he should do; and then after he had been instructed, he rose and went according to the Lord’s directions to the capture of the city of palm trees.
5. The children of Israel may be compared to that gallant vessel, prepared for a long voyage. All the cargo is on board that is needed, all the supplies are there, and every man in his place. In all respects, the good ship is fully equipped, but why does she linger? Why do the sailors not weigh the anchor? If you ask the man at the helm, he will tell you, “We are waiting for the captain.” A good and sufficient reason indeed, for until the captain has come on board, it is idle for the vessel to put out to sea. So here Israel had been circumcised, and the blessed feast of the paschal lamb had been celebrated, but still they must not go to the conflict until the captain himself had arrived; and here, to Joshua’s joy, the angel of the presence of the Most High appeared to claim the presidency of the war, and lead out the hosts of God to certain victory. Brethren, this is precisely the condition of this church at the present moment; we have endeavoured, I think, to draw near to God and to abide in his love; we have sought to purge ourselves from sin, and to be holy even as he is holy; but still this will not suffice, we need the divine presence, and we are now asked to pause for awhile and to seek it, prayerfully, that in its matchless power, we may go forward successfully.
6. I. I shall ask your earnest attention, this morning, to two or three brief rules for our present solemn engagements. First, REALISE THE FACT OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE.
7. Jesus himself comes to this holy war. Joshua saw a man clad in armour, equipped for war. Can the eyes of your faith not see the same? There he stands, Jesus, God over all, blessed for ever, yet a man. Most surely God, but with equal certainty bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. He is in the midst of his church; he walks among the golden lampstands. His promise is, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” I do not wish to talk, but I desire rather that you should exercise your own minds, your faith, your spiritual powers, and vividly believe that Jesus is here; so believe it, so that your inner eye sees what you believe. The Son of Man is here, as surely here as he was with the disciples at the lake, when they saw coals of fire, and fish frying, and bread; he is here to talk with us by his Spirit, as he did to Peter and to the rest of the disciples on that memorable day. Not carnally, but still in real truth, Jesus is in the place where his people meet together. Joshua saw him with his sword in his hand. Oh that Christ might come in our midst with the sword of the Spirit in his hand; come to effect deeds of love but yet deeds of power; come with his twoedged sword to strike our sins, to cut to the heart his adversaries, to slay their unbelief, to lay their iniquities dead before him. The sword is drawn, not in the scabbard, as alas! it has been so long in many churches, but made bare for present active use. It is in his Hand, not in the minister’s hand, not even in an angel’s hand, but the sword drawn is in his hand. Oh, what power there is in the gospel when Jesus holds the hilt, and what gashes it makes into hearts that were hard as adamant, when Jesus cuts right and left at the hearts and consciences of men! Brethren, seek this presence, and seeking it, believe it; and when you hear the gospel preached, or when you meet together for prayer, think that you see in the centre of the assembly the Champion of Israel, with uplifted sword, prepared to do great exploits, as in days of old.
8. The glorious man whom Joshua saw, was on his side. The day shall come when the ungodly shall see this man with his sword drawn; but in answer to their question, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” they shall find him to be the fiercest of their foes. In the midst of his church, Christ carries a sword only for the purposes of love for them. Oh, how blessed it will be if you can know that out of his mouth there is a twoedged sword, like a flame of fire; and if you dare to bring your heart near to that sword, so that it may cut and kill in you everything obnoxious to the divine will, and then can bring your children and relatives, and those who sit in these pews side by side with you, and say, “Oh Master, let your sword of fire go through them according to your word, ‘I kill and make alive, I wound and I heal,’ oh kill, so that they may live; oh wound, so that they may be healed.”
Thine arrows sharply pierce the heart
Of the foes of the King;
And under thy dominion’s rule
The people down do bring.
Oh thou that art the mighty One,
Thy sword gird on thy thigh,
Ev’n with thy glory excellent,
And with thy majesty.
9. The divine presence then is what we desire, and if we have it, brethren, faith at once is encouraged. It was enough for the army of Cromwell to know that he was there, the ever victorious, the irresistible, to lead on his Ironsides to the fray. Many a time the presence of an old Roman general was equal to another legion; as soon as the cohorts knew that he was come whose eagle eye watched every motion of the enemy, and whose practised hand led his battalions upon the most salient points of attack, each man’s blood leaped within him, and he grasped his sword and rushed forward certain of success. My brethren, our King is in the midst of us, and our faith should be in active exercise. “The shout of a King is in the midst of us,” it is said, for where the King is there the people shout for joy, and because of confidence of victory. The preacher may preach, but what is that? but if the King is there, then it is preaching in very deed. The congregations may have met, and they may have gone again. “The panoramic view which has dissolved,” you say. Ah, so it may seem to you, but if the Spirit of God was there, all that as been done will abide, and remain even to that day of judgment, when the fire shall try every man’s work determining what kind it is. “Nothing except a simple girl sitting down to talk to a few little children about their souls.” Just so, but if the Lord is there, what awe gathers around that place! If the King himself sits in that class, what deeds are done that shall make the angels of heaven sing anew for joy! “Nothing except a humble man, unlettered, earnest, but not eloquent, standing in the corner of a street, addressing a few hundred people. His talk will soon be forgotten.” Precisely so, but if the King is there it shall never be forgotten. The footprints of every true servant of the Lord shall not be in the sand, but in the enduring brass, the record of which shall outlast the wreck of matter. When the King is with us, faith is confident, because God girds faith as with a golden belt, and from head to foot clothes her with a panoply of armour, and puts a sword into her hand which is all destroying, and with which she cuts through coats of mail, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
10. When the King is with his people, then hope is greatly encouraged, for says she, “Who can stand against the Lord of Hosts?” There must be conversions; it is no longer a question of trust and expectation, but of absolute certainty when Jesus is in the preaching. My brethren, if by earnest prayer we shall really bring the King into our midst today, as I am persuaded we shall, and if we keep him here, holding him by our entreaties, and by our tears, which are the golden chains that bind Christ to his people, then we need not think that there shall be good done, nor hope so, but it must be so, it shall be so, for where Christ is, there is the display of the omnipotence of deity, and the hardest of hearts feel its influence.
11. Where Jesus is, love becomes inflamed, for oh! of all the things in the world that can set the heart burning, there is nothing like the presence of Jesus. A glimpse of him will overcome us, so that we shall be almost ready to say, “Turn away your eyes from me, for they have overcome me.” Oh, but a smell of the aloes, and the myrrh, and the cassia which drop from his perfumed garments, only a smell of these I say, and the sick and the faint among us shall grow strong. Oh, only a moment’s leaning of the head upon that gracious bosom, and a reception of his divine love into our poor cold hearts, and we shall be cold no longer, but shall glow like seraphs, being made equal to every labour, and capable of every suffering. Then the Spirit of the Lord shall be upon us, and our old men shall see visions, and our young men shall dream dreams, and upon the servants and the handmaidens God will pour out his Spirit. If we only know that Jesus is here, every power will be developed, and every grace will be strengthened, and we shall throw ourselves into the Lord’s battle with heart, and soul, and strength. There is not a single part of our inner man which will not be improved by the presence of Christ; therefore this is to be desired above all things.
12. Brethren, suppose that Christ is here, this morning, his presence will be most clearly ascertained by those who are most like him. Joshua was favoured with this sight because he alone had eyes that could bear it. I do not read that even Caleb saw this man with his sword drawn; only Joshua saw him, because Joshua was the most spiritual and the most active. If you desire to see Christ you must grow to be like him, and labour to serve him with heart, and soul, and strength. Christ does not come in the visions of the night to those who toss upon the bed of indolence, but he reveals himself in the night watches to those who learn to watch and war. Bring yourselves, by the power of the Spirit, into union with Christ’s desires, and motives, and plans of action, and you are likely to see him. I wish that all of you were Joshuas; but if not, if only some shall perceive him, we shall still receive a blessing.
13. I am sure this presence of Christ will be needed by all of us. All of you who love Jesus intend to do him service during this next month, and indeed, I hope as long as you live. Now, there is nothing good which you can do without Christ. “Without me you can do nothing,” is a great and undoubted fact. If you meet to pray, you shall not pray acceptably unless he is with you. If you teach, or preach, or whatever you do, however small the labour, you shall accomplish nothing unless it is through his power, and through his revealed presence with you. Do not go to warfare at your own expense, but wait upon your Master, tarrying at Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.
14. But, brethren, Jesus Christ’s presence may be had. Do not despond and say that in the olden times the Master revealed himself, but he will not do so now. He will, he will, he will. His promise is as good as ever. He delights to be with us even as with our fathers. If he does not come it is because we hinder him—we are not constrained in him, but constrained in our own hearts. Let me persuade you that all the great things which were done at Pentecost can be done again in this Tabernacle. Let me persuade you that all the wondrous conversions which happened in any of the ages of the church may be repeated at this hour.
15. Do not say that Luther, or Calvin, or Whitfield, or Wesley were great men, and therefore around them great things happened; my brethren, the weakest of men may be more honoured than the greatest, if God so wills it. Our weakness, lack of learning, lack of eloquence, and whatever else—I look upon these as advantages rather than not, for if we were eminent, we might perhaps claim some of the glory, but if we are “less than nothing and vanity,” then there is a clear stage for the divine operations. And why should we not see in this place such a revival as shall shake all England, and stir the dry bones in the valley of vision at this day as they never were stirred since apostolic times. We have only to expect it, to believe it, to pray for it, to work for it, and we shall have it. God’s clouds still pour down the water floods as plenteously as when Elisha went up to the top of Carmel. The Lord thunders mightily against his enemies at this day, as when he went out with his people in the days of yore. Do not think that the Almighty has ceased to do marvels—the Lord of Hosts is still the eternal, immortal, and invisible King, with an arm which does wonders. You only still have to plead the power of the precious blood and the meritorious death of Christ, to see wonders in this year of grace which shall even eclipse any that your fathers saw, or heard of in the old time before them. May God grant to each believer among us the vision of the godlike man with the sword drawn in his hand, and then may we go out in the strength which he alone confers.
16. II. In the second place, UNDERSTAND THE LORD’S POSITION IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE. “As captain of the host of the Lord I am now come.”
17. What a relief this must have been for Joshua. Perhaps he thought himself to be the captain; but now the responsibility was taken from him; he was to be the lieutenant, but the King himself would marshal his hosts. I feel it to be no small relief to my own mind to feel that though I have been at your head these fourteen years, leading you on in God’s name to Christian service, yet I am not your captain, but there is a greater one, the presence angel of the Most High, the Lord Jesus—he is in our midst as Commander-in-chief. Although my responsibilities are heavy, yet the leadership is not with me. He is a leader and commander for the people. Brethren, wherever Christ is, we must remember that he is Commander-in-chief to us all. We must never tolerate in the church any great man to domineer us; we must have no one to be Lord and Master except Jesus. Christ is the Field Marshal, the Captain of our salvation; and if you are a member of the church of God, you must admit this, not as a general fact only, but as a fact particularly in your case. Christ is your Master. You are not to say, “I prefer this or that doctrine.” What have you to do with likes or dislikes? Believe what he tells you. You are not to say, “I prefer a certain form of worship.” What have you to do with preferences? Worship as the Master asks you to do. Alas! for the day when whims and tastes and fancies come into the Christian church to lead the people. All this Puseyism (b) which we hear so much outcry about, is simply the substituting taste for the simple obedience to Christ. If we would only keep close to Christ’s word, we should be right enough. I pray each believer here to remember that he is in no respect his own master in the things of God, but that Christ is Commander-in-chief. “Is it of any use to send missionaries to India?” said someone to the Duke of Wellington. “What are your marching orders?” said the Duke. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Those are our marching orders. We have nothing to do with whether they are prudent orders or not; they are sure to be good if they come from him! Our duty is to do as our Commander asks us to do. Every word of Christ, if we wish to see him do wonders in our midst, must be obeyed. Not the great precepts only, but the little ones, too. It behoves Christians to do away with that heresy about nonessentials. My brethren, every command of Christ is essential to us as servants. Not essential to our salvation—we are saved; that is not the question for us to raise; but being saved, and being servants of Christ, it is essential for every soldier to keep every command which comes from the great Captain. It does not matter though it is simply a ceremony, yet we still have no right to alter it. What would the court martial say to any of the private soldiers, who, having received an order from a captain, should say, “Well, I did not consider it to be exceedingly important?” “Drum him out of the regiment, sir, there is an end to all discipline in the army when soldiers criticize their orders.” So is it with Christ’s law. We have no right to say, for instance about believers’ baptism, “Well, it is a nonessential.” Who told you so? If Jesus commands it, obey it, and if it is the Lord’s law, make haste and do not delay to keep the Master’s statute. I single out that one precept, but there are many others which are perhaps of greater importance, if we are allowed to say greater or less about anything which Christ has asked us do. My brethren, do let us seek now to put our minds into the hands of the Holy Spirit to be taught what the great Captain’s will is, and when we know it, let our souls bend under it, as the willow bends in the breath of the wind, and as the boat upon the sea is driven to and fro in the storm. Down with you—self, down with you! Carnal judgment and foolish reason, lie still! Let the Word of God be paramount within the soul, all opposition being hushed.
18. Brethren, if we do not act with the Captain, disappointment will be sure to follow. The Lord had issued orders that no one of the tribes should take of the accursed spoil of Jericho. Achan did so. I have often wondered that only Achan did it, but that one Achan brought defeat upon Israel at the gates of Ai. I wonder how many Achans are here this morning. I should feel myself very much at ease if I thought there was only one, but I am afraid that there are many who have the accursed thing hidden within them, the love for money, or wrong ways of doing business, or unforgiving tempers, or an envious spirit towards their fellow Christians. Now, if the possession of these bad things by one will stop the blessing, we are in a very evil plight, but he is in a worse plight by far who is the occasion of the evil. Where are you, Achan? God will find you out even if we do not. He will bring us all by our tribes, by our families, by our households, and then man by man, and woe to the son of Carmi if he is taken. Brethren, the violation of the law of the captain may bring defeat upon the whole company.
19. And where the law is not obstinately and wilfully violated, yet its neglect will cause much trouble. They were commanded to make no covenant with the Canaanites, but in a thoughtless hour, the Gibeonites came like people from a far country, they believed their deceitful story, and made a covenant with them; and this became a trouble to Israel for many years. If as a church we forget the law of Christ, even though we do not contemptuously break it, if we ignorantly forget it, we may expect no small amount of evil to flow from it. Do not tolerate the idea that God punishes his people for sin in the sense of punitive justice, but always hold it for certain, that the Lord chastises his people for sin as a father chastises his children, and that the great Head of the church will not tolerate his laws to be broken with impunity by his own people. I wish I could speak to you with the earnestness which I feel boiling up within my soul. I wish, my brethren, that we should keep our Master’s commands in every jot and tittle, depending upon his presence, feeling it to be here, not daring in his presence to offend, but yielding up to him the reins of government in all respects, so that we might then have his blessing. I want that all of us should keep the Word of God, minding each precept as far as we understand it. I want, moreover, that we should be attentive to that mind of Christ which is often expressed by the Holy Spirit in divine warnings in our minds, that the law of the book may be with us, and the law of the Spirit within us. If we are obedient to both of these, we shall be prepared like Joshua to advance to the war.
20. III. Thirdly, and very briefly. Our third rule is WORSHIP HIM WHO IS PRESENT WITH US.
21. Joshua, it is said, fell on his face to the earth. Worship is the highest elevation of the spirit, and yet the lowliest prostration of the soul. If Christ is here, brethren, when you reach your homes take a little time for quiet and worship, and when you come up again, this evening, in your songs and prayers truly worship the ever present God, bow down in the lowliest reverence of your subdued spirit as though you actually were in heaven. If you have no wings with which to veil your face, still cover it with shame; if you have no crown to cast, yet such talent as you have, lay it all down reverentially before him. Worship the Son of God! Then, when you have done so, give yourself up to his command: say to him, “What does my Lord have to say his servant?” I wish you could spend this afternoon, those of you who are not actively engaged, in trying to get an answer to this question: “What does my Lord have to say to his servant? What is there for me to learn, for me to feel, for me to do? and as I would help my brethren during this month, Lord, what part of the work am I to take?” When you have done this, dear friends, I want you to imitate Joshua in the third thing, namely, take your shoes off your feet. Joshua, perhaps, had not felt what a solemn thing it was to fight for God, to fight as God’s executioner against condemned men. He must take his shoes off, therefore. We never can expect a blessing if we go about God’s work flippantly. I shudder when I see any sitting at the Lord’s table who can indulge in light remarks or in wandering thoughts, on so solemn an occasion. What have you to do here, not having on a wedding garment? There are some of us whose besetting sin is levity of spirit. We are to cultivate cheerfulness but we must beware lest levity become a cankerworm to our graces. Brethren, this next month must be a holy month for us. I ask our young and our old friends alike to seek for a quiet and sober spirit. To seek to save souls from going down to the pit is no idle pastime: to talk of Jesus is no trifle. We do not meet to pray in sport; we do not gather together in supplication as a mere matter of form. Angels are in our midst observing us, the King himself is here. How would you behave if you actually saw Jesus with your eyes? If I were to vacate this pulpit and the crucified One stood here, stretching out his pierced hands and looking down upon you with the mild radiance of his sovereign love, how would you feel? Ask to feel just like this, for he is here. Faith can perceive him. Ask to feel just like this at this present moment, and so to go out to your work this afternoon and all the remaining days of your life, as a servant of God who is standing in the presence of his Lord upon holy ground, and cannot therefore afford to trifle, since he has solemn work to do, and means to do it in his Master’s name.
22. IV. To conclude, let us now even before we separate, ADVANCE TO ACTION, according to the Master’s command.
23. Unconverted men and women, you are in our Jericho, we wish to conquer you for Christ. Our desire is to win you to Jesus for your own good and for his glory. Now, what are we to do with you? Joshua was ordered to go around the city seven times. We would preach to you the gospel of Christ, not seven times, but seventy times seven. They were to blow the rams’ horns. The rams’ horn was most a common thing, most dull concerning sound, and the least showy concerning appearance. So, not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in simplicity we warn you with rough sound of our ram’s horn, that unless you repent, you must perish. Sin must be punished. Sin is upon you, and God must punish you. Heaven and earth may pass away, but not one jot or tittle of his law can fail; and this is one part of his law, “The soul that sins, it shall die.” You have sinned, you are always sinning, and you must die. Some of you are going from bad to worse. If you do not live in outward sin, yet the sins of thought and heart will condemn you. You will die before long, and when you die the Lord will cast you into the place which he has prepared for the devil and his angels. Do not be deceived, there may be only a step between you and death; or if your life is prolonged for a little while, yet how soon it will be over. Eternity! eternity! how dread to you if you plunge into it unprepared, to face an angry Judge, no righteousness of Christ to plead, and no blood in which to wash your guilty soul. You are standing, some of you, between the jaws of perdition. The gospel has been preached to you and you have neglected it. You have been brought up by godly parents, and you have despised their admonitions. Therefore wrath will come upon you to the uttermost. As surely as you live you shall be driven from Jehovah’s presence into the place where hope cannot follow you, and where mercy will never seek for you. We must sound this ram’s horn; we only pray that God may bless our warning voice to you.
24. After the rams’ horns came the ark, which the priests carried around and around the city. That ark was the type of Christ. We are bringing Christ before you, you unconverted ones. Jesus Christ came into this world to seek and to save those who were lost. God struck him instead of us. He took the sins of his people, and God punished him for our sins instead of punishing us. Christ is the great Substitute for sin. If you trust him you shall live. Today if you will take him to be your Saviour, and to be your Master and your Lord, you shall never perish, for God has pledged his word for it, that if you believe in him you shall be saved. Oh that you would look to Christ, and live! Your good works are nothing, your tears and prayers all go for nothing with respect to merit, but if you look to Jesus hanging from that cross, you shall live. If you will trust yourself with him who is now at the right hand of the eternal Father, crowned with many crowns, heaven’s high throne would sooner be shaken than your soul be allowed to perish. Only believe in Jesus, and you shall live; for this is the gospel, “He who believes and is baptised shall be saved, he who does not believe shall be damned.” We seek not to mince matters with you—damned you will be unless you trust Christ, you shall never be damned if you will come and cast yourself before him. “Kiss the Son lest he is angry, and you perish by the way, when his wrath is kindled only a little.” Suppose that in the visions of the night, tonight when you are on your bed you should suddenly see in your bedroom the man with a sword drawn in his hand! You would not need to ask the question, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” for your own conscience would soon tell you. Suppose you should hear a solemn voice declare, “The harvest is past, and the summer is ended, and you are not saved.” “Because I have called and you refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded…I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear comes.” Suppose you saw that sword uplifted, and about to strike you, would you not awake from your dream, and your face would be covered with a clammy sweat, feeling indescribable horrors? Yet such is your case today; unless you repent, such will be your case eternally. I bless God that now our Lord Jesus has no sword drawn in his hand, but he comes to you with open hands, and says, “Come to me all you who labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” With tears he invites you to come to him, persuades you to come. Oh why do you delay, why do you turn your backs upon your own mercy, and seal your own death warrant? May God grant that you may come to Jesus, and before he grasps that sharp destroying sword.
25. Lastly, brethren, we are not only to sound the ram’s horn of warning, and to bear around and around the sinner’s conscience the ark of Christ’s grace, but all the host must engage in the work. Did you notice that all of the people were to compass the city? Any other way would not do; and they were to shout, too, at the last. I want you, my fellow members, to unite in our earnest efforts to win souls for Christ. I have a right to claim it, and now I entreat you to fulfil the claim. You profess to have been bought with the Lord’s blood, and to be his disciples. I ask you all, if you are sincere in your professions, come with us all around this Jericho, every one of you. If you cannot all come up to the public prayer meetings, yet send us your hearts, pray for sinners, plead for the unconverted, give the eternal Leader no rest until he is pleased to use his great power for their conversion. I am almost inclined to fall on my knees to ask you church members to rally around us at this hour. If you owe your conversion to me under God, as many of you do, I charge you by every filial tie you feel, do not desert me just now. If you have ever been comforted, as I know some of you have, if I have ever been God’s voice to your souls, I beseech you return to me this kindness by drawing very near to God in prayer for the souls of others. For your own children’s souls be very earnest; for the souls of your servants, and relatives, and neighbours, wrestle with God even to tears; and if you will not do it, I had almost said I would sooner wish you were not with us. If you will not pray, if you will not join in the common supplication, why do you encumber us? Oh Meroz, take care lest you are accused if you do not come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty! But you will come, God will be with us, and show us his bare right hand resplendent in our midst, and to him shall be the praise for ever and ever.
(a) This sermon was preached in the midst of a month of a special outreach meetings. Editor.
(b) Puseyism: A name given by opponents to the theological and ecclesiastical principles and doctrines of Dr. Pusey and those with whom he was associated in the ‘Oxford Movement’ for the revival of Catholic doctrine and observance in the Church of England which began about 1833; more formally and courteously called Tractarianism. OED.