Master Sermon List
Paul A Pattern
by Robert Murray M'Cheyne
"Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." (1 Timothy 1:16).
There are three remarkable things contained in this verse. The first is that Paul felt himself to be the chief of sinners. He says, 'For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering.' But the word is the very same with that in the preceding verse, but is there rendered 'the chief'; therefore Paul might have said, 'That in me the chief of sinners Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering.' That is the first thing spoken of in this verse.
There might be other sinners saved in the world; still, Paul felt himself the chief. 'Never was there a black soul washed, so black as me.' Paul was very fond of repeating this. You will observe it in another form in 1 Corinthians 15:9 and in Ephesians 3:8. Brethren, these are not words of a feigned humility. Paul was writing under the direction of the Spirit. These words are words of truth and soberness.
I think these words were true in two aspects.
First of all, I think Paul was the chief of sinners in the sight of God, although outwardly he was, touching the law, blameless. Outwardly, no man could lay any thing to his moral character; yet, he fought against God and against Christ. Ah! brethren, there is many a one that has got a fair character who is yet an enemy and rebel against God. There are many that are as graves that do not appear, and those that walk over them are not aware of them. There are many that are like whited sepulchres that look fair to the eyes of men, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
But, further, I think Paul was the chief of sinners in his own sight. You know, brethren, if you take a very bright light into a dark chamber, it discovers the things that are there. So God took a bright light into the chamber of Paul's heart, and discovered to him the pollution that was there, and then he knew more of his own self, he felt himself the chief of sinners, and could say, 'O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' (Romans 7:24).
But there is a second thing contained in this verse: 'I obtained mercy'. Twice over he says it. He says it in the 13th verse: 'Who was before a blasphemer and persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy'. And then, at the 16th verse, 'Howbeit for this cause, I obtained mercy'. It is just like what he wrote to the Ephesians, 'By grace are ye saved' (2:8). Brethren, this is an expression that exactly suits one who is the chief of sinners. He did not say, I obtained justice, that would have been the chiefest place in hell; but, I obtained mercy. 'I was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy.' He did not say, I obtained silver, or gold, or houses, or lands. God gives silver and gold to men who are cast into hell, but God gives mercy to none but those who are eternally saved.
There is still a third thing contained in this verse, and that is the cause why he obtained mercy. 'For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all the long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.' Paul felt, brethren, that he was saved to be a pattern to others. The Lord had chosen him, not because he was better than others, for he says, 'I am the chief'; but to show what the blood of Christ and the Spirit can do.
I suppose there are many reasons in God why he shows mercy to any sinner. I believe that it is agreeable to all the attributes of God. I believe there is a meetness in God to show mercy to any sinner. 'It was meet that we should make merry and be glad' (Luke 15:32); but Paul fixes on 'Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting'. I cannot tell why others get this mercy; but, 'for this cause I obtained mercy'.
You know, brethren, we understand better by pattern than any other way. Now this is what God did, he saved Paul to be a pattern to all that should hereafter believe. I might tell you for twenty years that God was willing to have mercy on sinners, and you would be no better; but ah! an example such as this proves that God will have mercy on sinners. Let us examine why the conversion of Paul was a pattern for all who should ever believe. I think he was a pattern before conversion, at conversion, and after conversion.
1. Before conversion
Paul was a pattern to shew us that God is long-suffering. We are often told that God is long-suffering. We are told in that passage to Moses, 'The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth...' (Exodus 34:6). And in Psalm 103:8: 'The Lord is slow to anger, and of great kindness.'
And we have many examples: it is said, 'The long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah' (1 Peter 3:20). You remember how long God waited on Abraham. You remember how long God waited on Moses, when in the palace of Pharaoh. And you remember how long God had waited on all his Old Testament saints. And how long did he wait on the thief on the cross?, all his life. But the most illustrious example of long-suffering in God was in the case of Paul.
It is true he was a young man; but long-suffering does not depend on that, but on how he provoked God. God found he was the chief of sinners. He was a pattern of the long-suffering of Christ. He is held up to the world's end, as a pattern and a mirror to show the long-suffering of Christ. As Christ dealt with him, so is he willing to deal with you, O sinner!
I suppose when a boy at Tarsus he resisted the Holy Spirit of God. And I have no doubt that even in his own heart he learned to be a persecutor. And when he sat at the feet of Gamaliel, no doubt he heard often about him that died for sinners. No doubt Gamaliel often told the students of him who died; and that filled his heart with thoughts of persecution. And, still farther, when he saw Stephen stoned to death, he could take the clothes, and consent unto his death. Ah! it was then that he was provoking Christ to the uttermost to let him go. But no!
And then when, after the death of Stephen, 'he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committing them to prison' (Acts 8:3). Not content with making havoc of the church at Jerusalem, he sought letters o f the high priest to Damascus, that, if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem; yet even then Christ did not let him go, he followed him even to the wilderness; and, when he was about to spring upon the fold where the sheep were, Christ laid his hand upon him, that he might be a chosen vessel to bear his name to the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.
And there may be some among you that may have provoked Christ in a dreadful manner. I have no doubt there are many here who have an outward decent morality, yet are provoking Christ to let them go. And, ah! my brethren, perhaps some of you are saying within yourselves, It is of no use in seeking mercy. O sinner, look to the pattern! Christ made him a pattern that none may despair.
2. In his conversion.
First, he was a pattern of the sovereignty of God. You are often told in the Bible that he is a sovereign God, though you do not believe it. You are often told that 'he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy' (Romans 9:8).
We have also many examples of divine sovereignty in the Word of God. We have the example that God sent his Son to man, and not to fallen angels. You have also the remarkable example of God choosing Abraham out of a family that worshipped graven images.
And you have another example, in what God told the Jews: 'The Load did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; (for ye were the fewest of all people) but because the Lord loved you' (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). 'Not for your righteousness do I do this, be it known unto you, O house of Israel, for thou art a stiff-necked people' (Deuteronomy 9:6).
And, again, God sovereignly rejected the Jews, and chose the Gentiles, and said, 'None of these men that were bidden shall taste of my supper' (Luke 14:24).
Another particular example in the Word of God is, the example of Jacob and Esau. 'Was not Jacob Esau's brother, saith the Lord, yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau.' And before they were born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, it was said, 'The elder shall serve the younger' (Romans 9:10-13).
But of all the examples of divine sovereignty, Paul's was the most remarkable, because he was the chief of sinners. And, if it could reach the chiefest sinner, then it can reach to all others. Ah! my brethren, when Paul was seated at the feet of Gamaliel, what man in all the world could have said that that young Jew of Tarsus would be the man that was to save the world? Why did God take him, and not his fellow?
And, brethren, if you follow him along the desert, until he came within sight of Damascus, if you were to see him grasping the letters, that he had to Damascus, when he thought of his prey, which of you would have said, that he was to be the man whom Christ would choose? He was the chief of sinners of all that company, yet the Lord appeared to him; the rest of them were speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. It was only to Saul that he appeared.
Ah! my brethren, why was this? It was that he might be his name to the Gentiles. What was that? Just to be a pattern to all that should ever hear the gospel, to show what divine sovereignty is. Ah! brethren, this is the pattern of divine sovereignty. There may be some here today saying, 'How can he come to me?' Ah! my brethren, you think your heart is so hard that he cannot come to you; but, ah! he may. If Paul had been told that morning that Christ was coming to him, he would have smiled in bitter scorn, but he did come; so he may come to you. 'His way is in the sea; and his path in the mighty waters; and his footsteps not known' (Psalm 77:19).
Secondly, Paul was a pattern of effectual calling. We are often told, in the Word of God, about this. In the Psalm 110:3 it is said, 'Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.' We are told in Psalm 65:4: 'Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee.' There are also many sweet examples in the Word of God. There is that in Hosea 11:3: 'I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by the arms.'
We have also particular examples in the Word of God of effectual calling. We have the example of Lydia. It is said, 'The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, to attend unto the things that were spoken' (Acts 16:14). And we have the example of Zaccheus. Christ said to him, 'Come down, for today I must abide at thy house' (Luke 19:5). But by far the most remarkable example of effectual calling was that of Paul. If you had gone round the world, you would not have found another heart more completely at enmity to God and Christ, yet he was effectually called.
Ah! my brethren, if you had seen them that day when they left the gate of Jerusalem, and been asked who was most likely to receive the truth, would you not have said that Paul was the bitterest enemy that Christ had, and that he was the unlikeliest to receive the truth? And yet, when the cry came, 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? he trembling and astonished said, Who art thou, Lord?' And when the voice came again, 'I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest', he exclaimed, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9:4-6).
Brethren, you often hear about effectual calling, and you read about it in your catechism; and yet, perhaps, you do not know what it is. This is it. This is what is meant by effectual calling; it is the whole powers of the mind that flow out to Christ. It is making that which was blind to see, that which was deaf to hear, and that which was dead to live. This is effectual calling, and this is God's example of it. Oh! is there a man here saying, 'It is not possible to turn the current of my soul to God?' But he that called Paul out of darkness into his marvellous light can do the same to you. Brethren, I believe that many of you here are dead, and are like the dry bones of Ezekiel's valley. And I believe that if you were brought to feel that Christ can turn you, that that would be the beginning of life to you. The first thing that Christ does, is to convince you that he is able.
Thirdly, Paul was a pattern of a sinner justified by another. He was not only a pattern of divine sovereignty, but he was a pattern of justification by another.
You know, brethren, you are continually told in the Bible that a man is not justified by what he is, but by what another is. We have also the example of many that are justified by the righteousness of another in the Bible. We have that of Abel; we are told 'that, by faith, he offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous' (Hebrews 11:4). We are told of Abraham, that he 'believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness' (Romans 4:3).
But by far the most eminent example of any being justified by another, is Paul. It was so for two reasons: (1) because he was inwardly most vile; (2) and outwardly most decent. I believe that there never was a man more difficult to cooer with another's righteousness than Saul, for God said he was the chief of sinners. And there was another reason, and that was he thought himself righteous. If ever there was one that was outwardly, touching the law, blameless, it was he; he had lived a most religious life in the world. And, oh! brethren, when the righteousness of another was offered to him he said, 'I do not need it'; it was the most difficult thing to convince him of the need of another's righteousness, yet, when he was convinced he sought, he desired no other.
Hear his own words, 'I do not frustrate the grace of God','I count all things but loss ... that I may win Christ and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is by faith, the righteousness which is of God by faith' (Philippians 3:8-9). O brethren! if that man be justified in the righteousness of another, then why may not you? If the deluge covered the loftiest mountains, would it not cover the little hills? If the sun, when it rises, casts a mantle of beauty over the snowy Alps, will it not cover and cast a beauty over the lesser hills? If this righteousness can cover Paul, then it can cover any other. This is good news to the vilest wretch before me. If the Pharisee found righteousness in another, then may you. Brethren, many of you may have heard that there is a way of righteousness through another, and yet perhaps you did not understand it. This is it; Paul is a pattern of it.
3. After conversion
Paul was a pattern before conversion, at conversion, and now I would show you that he was a pattern after conversion. He was a pattern after conversion in this respect: that he became the chief of saints, and the first of apostles. You are often told in the Scriptures that the gospel makes men holy, and we have many examples of it in the Word of God; but by far the greatest example was that of Paul. He might well say like one of old, 'I am not the man I was'. Paul often reminds us of one who had been in heaven: 'Our conversation is in heaven' (Philippians 3:20). He looked to God as a reality, to heaven as a reality, to hell as a reality, and then he says, 'We walk by faith.' He says, 'I am persuaded, that neither death nor life...' (Romans 8:38, 39).
Brethren, that is a pattern to you to show that conversion makes a man a new creature. Ah! is there any one here thinks that you have been called, that you are converted, and yet living in sin? You do not answer to the pattern. He was a pattern in all he did, he was a pattern in his labours, he was like his Lord, he travelled by sea and land to preach the gospel. Before conversion, he laboured hard to destroy men, but now he labours hard to save men. He is a new creature.
My dear brethren, from all this, let us learn two lessons:
The first is by the way, but it should not be omitted. If there be any great sinner in this congregation that is saved, you are saved to be a pattern, a pattern to your family, a pattern to your friends, a pattern to the world. I believe, brethren, that worldly men are often scandalised to see notorious sinners saved. It is hard to say who is the chief of sinners: it is not those that are open sinners that are the chiefest. Paul was no drunkard, no swearer, and yet he says, 'I am the chief.' But, remember, if you are saved, it is not for your own ease, God forbid.
One lesson more, brethren, and I am done. What you have heard this day makes some of you inexcusable for not coming to the Saviour. If the chief of sinners found mercy, why have you not found it? There are many, many in this congregation, who know they are not saved, that they are not washed. Now, sinner, I say if Paul who was the chief of sinners was brought to Christ, and not only saved but made the chief of saints, why may not you? O brethren! I believe that Mary Magdalene and Manasseh and Paul will rise up in the judgment and condemn you. They will lift up their blood-red hands and say, 'We found mercy, why have not you?' Oh! what will you answer? Paul will say, 'I had a harder heart than you, yet Christ made me willing in the day of his power.' And why not you?
ADDRESS AT FENCING THE TABLES
In conformity to the custom of our fathers, it is now my duty, brethren, to put a fence around the Lord's table. And I would say in one word that all should come to the Lord's table who are saved like the pattern. If you can look back to the time when Christ found you, and if you can see divine sovereignty in your conversion, and if you are righteous in the righteousness of another, then, as it was said, 'Who can forbid water that these should be baptised?' (Acts 10:47); so, brethren, we can say in like manner, who can forbid wine and bread to those who have received Christ as well as we? I can say to all in this congregation who have been saved according to the pattern that they are not only welcome by me, but by Christ: 'Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved' (Song of Solomon 5:1).
Let me, dear brethren, lay before you one or two texts of Scripture that will show you, if you will be honest with yourself, whether you are a saved soul or not.
'And have no confidence in the flesh' (Philippians 3:3). My brethren, if you have been saved, if you have been taught of God, if you have been made to come to the Lord, then you are one that has no confidence in the flesh. You have no confidence in a flesh righteousness. You do not look to your past life for righteousness. You do not look to your conversion for righteousness. You do not look to the work of the Spirit in you for righteousness. This is the mark of every child of God: if you lack this mark, you are none of his; if your peace flows from looking at yourself, it is not divine.
A second mark, brethren, you will find in Hebrews 6:18: 'who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.' Ah! brethren, that was the way with the pattern. Paul fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Have you done this? Are you one of those that have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us? Now, brethren, it cannot but strike you that there are many persons that have no confidence in the flesh, yet have not fled to Christ. Now, you will observe that both of these are necessary; both are necessary if we would come rightly to the Lord's table. I now put it to you in the name of my Master, whose I am and whom I serve, 'Have you fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before you? Have you fled out of Sodom, and into Zoar? Have you fled to Christ, the hope set before us?' If not, brethren, you may come to the Lord's table, but you will find no good there; you will not find a feast of fat things, you will not find wine upon its lees.
Another mark is in 1 John 1:12: 'but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.' Ah! brethren, I put the question, 'Have you received him?' At the Lord's table you are to receive broken bread and poured out wine. The meaning of that is, 'I receive him that was broken for sinners.' Is it then true, have you received him? Do not make a mistake, brethren; a mistake on this matter is vital. They that receive him will be saved; they that receive him not will be lost. They that receive him may come to the Lord's table; they that receive him not ought not to come.
It is not, my brethren, an unmeaning service. If you receive the bread and wine unworthily then, brethren, Satan hath filled your heart to lie unto the Holy Ghost. It is false as hell; there cannot be a more complete and more blasphemous falsehood. But have you received him? Are you saying, 'Thou art willing and I am willing; thou art willing to be mine, and I am willing to be thine; I am polluted, thou art the fountain; I am empty, thou art fullness; I am nothing, thou art all?' Are you willing to lie down at his feet, to allow him to be all? Do you believe this? Then you are welcome to the Lord's table. It is not I that bid you, it is he that made it; he is come, and calleth for you.
One more, Psalm 119:5: 'O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes.' Brethren, this is a simple verse, but it is the breathing of the new creature; never did an old creature breathe this from his inmost soul. Can you say that? Do you breathe an entire devotedness to him? Have you given up every sin for him? Some of you may say, 'God forbid that I should part with every sin. It is but a little one; I cannot part with my money, I cannot part with my pleasures, I would come to the Lord's table.' Well, you may come, but you come uninvited; nay, you come against the Master's will. None are invited but those who want complete devotedness to him. Is it so with you? Some soul may say, 'O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes.' I am vile, but thou knowest it will be heaven to me to be like thee. Is it so? Then the Master says, 'Come.' He says to you what he said to the disciples, 'Come and dine' (John 21:12). Amen.
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TABLE SERVICE, BEFORE COMMUNICATING
My dear friends, if you have received Christ, he welcomes you now to his table. He says, 'Eat, O friends, drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved' (Song of Solomon 5:1). And you should say to him, 'Let my beloved come into his garden and eat his pleasant fruit' (Song of Solomon 4:16). 'This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief' (1 Timothy 1:15).
Ah! brethren, this should be the very word upon your tongue, when you take the bread and wine; you ought to be remembering you sins, 'I am chief.' Even in heaven, at the table there, we will remember our sin, though we shall have no grief on account of it. We shall be conformed to his image. Much more ought we to remember them here. Eat bitter herbs with your passover lamb. Remember that you are the chief of sinners. I believe, if you are truly following God, you have seen more sin in yourself than ever you saw in another. Ah! brethren, I protest to you, that when I have the most solemn thoughts of these things, when I have most thoughts of heaven and of hell, it is then that I see most the meaning of these words, 'I am the chief.'
And you will notice, brethren, that he does not say, 'I was the chief,' but 'I am the chief.' It is not only that you had such a nature, but you have it yet. It is not only that you grieved the Holy Spirit, but you do it now. Ah! it was this that grieved Paul.
But Christ came into the world to save sinners. That is what the broken bread says, that is what the poured out wine says. He died for sinners. There is a voice rises from the communion table that says, Christ saves sinners. The bread broken and the wine poured out are lively witnesses that he has died. The bread was first broken that night in which he was betrayed, and then after supper he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, 'this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you' (Luke 22:20).
These are lively emblems to shew he came to die. Oh! he did not come in his chariot as a king: he saves us by dying. The couch he lay down on was a rocky sepulchre. This is a faithful saying, you may stake your eternity on it. It is a saying that never failed yet, with any that laid grip upon it. Brethren, it is worthy to be received, it is not only faithful, but worthy. Your eternal weal or woe depends on it. It is worthy of all acceptance. It is worthy to be received with the will, the affections, the mind, the conscience. He came into the world to work out a righteousness, and now he reigns above. Ah! brethren, have you received this faithful saying? Then you are welcome, and the Lord meet with you, and may he come to you in the breaking of bread.
I said to you, brethren, that you would remember your sins in heaven. I said to you, too, that you would look back upon them all, and yet not be sad; and what is the reason, brethren, that we will not be sorry for our past sins in heaven? The reason is that we will be with Christ, and he has died.
'And I looked, and lo, a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written on their foreheads' (Revelation 14:1). Brethren, the happiness of heaven is that we will be with the Lamb, not that we will be beyond the reach of fear; but that we will be with the Lamb. Therefore, Paul says, 'I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). And John says, 'We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is' (1 John 3:2). You will notice in the whole Scriptures that it is Christ that is the happiness of heaven. 'I saw them on the Mount Sion with the Lamb.' And oh! it is this that makes your little cottage like heaven. To have the Lamb with you is to have the essence of heaven with you.
And you will observe they have the Father's name on their foreheads. Now, I will tell you what that means. It is to be like the Father. Christ is the likeness of the Father; then they will be not only inwardly, but outwardly like him. O brethren, this is our joy on earth. 'Be ye merciful, as your Father which is in heaven is merciful' (Luke 6:36). It is the heaven of heavens to be like the Father. You know the Bible tells us some have got the whore's forehead, their sin is written on their forehead. Oh brethren, the happiness of heaven is to have him formed in us.
And it is said, 'I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps' (Revelation 14:2). Brethren, observe the employment of heaven. The company in heaven are to be like Christ, and the employment of heaven is to sing the new song. Oh! shall we ever sing the new song. Oh! shall we ever sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb? Brethren, I believe we shall. I think it can hardly be possible when I think of this heart. When I think, O brethren, of that, I say, 'And shall we ever sing the new song? Shall we ever sing when the wicked lie dead at our feet?' Ah! brethren, I believe that we shall.
At the beginning of another year let us raise up our Ebenezer and say, 'He will bless us still. The Lord shall keep thy soul, he shall preserve thee from all ill. God is faithful, who also will do it.' Oh brethren, if we are to sing the new song, let us do it now.
O sing a new song to the Lord,
For wonders he hath done;
His right hand and his holy arm,
Him victory have won.
If we are to sing the new song in heaven, let us sing it at Calvary. If we are ever to sing the new song, let us do it now, let our spikenard send forth a sweet smell. The Lord go with you and keep you. Amen.
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CONCLUDING ADDRESS, AFTER THE DAY'S SERVICES
Suffer, dear brethren, one more word of parting exhortation. You may read in Romans 8:13: 'For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' Brethren, I think a goodly number of you have this day got the peace of God that passeth knowledge. It is not like the world's peace, 'Not as the word giveth give I unto you' (John 14:27). It is a peculiar peace, heaven-sent, calm, unruffled by the trouble of this word, sanctifying peace. But ah! brethren, the peace of a believer is not always uninterrupted. If you are his children you will also have the warfare of his children.
Observe, dear brethren, first of all, that you have 'flesh' as well as 'spirit'. You have an old man as well as a new man. Brethren, perhaps some of you would like to forget that you have an old heart, and while the king is sitting at his table you would like to forget that you have a nature opposed to him in you. But, ah! it is not good for the soul to be without knowledge. Then carry away this lesson, It is good to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, yet, remember, you have a law, a law of sin and death. 'They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts' (Galatians 5:24). 'The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and these two are contrary the one to the other, so that we cannot do the things that we would' (Galatians 5:17). 'In me, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing' (Romans 7:18). It is called in Colossians, 'members', 'Mortify your members'. And in Romans it is called a body of sin and death, a complete body. Observe, brethren, that if you are come to Christ, you have not only got the new law written in your heart, but you have got the complete law of sin written on your body. O brethren, never forget this 'sin that dwelleth in you'. Remember that sin will dwell in you till you die. It is good to know this. A believer that does not know this is unarmed. Remember, let indwelling sin keep you at the feet of Christ, not from him.
There is a second thing I want you to carry way: 'If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.' Oh! my beloved, if you are really Christ's, you will be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. It is quite true that if the great Shepherd has laid his hand upon you, none will pluck you out of his hand. But yet, listen, brethren, it is equally true, 'if you live after the flesh you shall die.' A wicked life and hell are linked together. My brethren, there is an indissoluble connection fixed in the purpose of God between a wicked life and an eternal hell, and you cannot separate them. Remember, if you live after the flesh you shall die. If sin get the upper hand and reigns in you, then you are on the way to hell. If you live after the flesh, you will prove that your experiences were all delusion.
Oh! are there not among us fearful monuments of this? Are there not those that once sat down at the same table with us, and now they live after the flesh, and will die? 'It had been better for you not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after you have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto you' (2 Peter 2:21).
O my brethren, I earnestly entreat your attention to this. In the judgment day you will not be asked, What did that man think? but, What did he do? It is quite tree, brethren, that all who are savingly united to the Lord Jesus will be saved and go to heaven; but they will be saved in a way of holiness. There is no path but that of holiness that leads to heaven. 'If ye live after the flesh ye shall die.' Remember, sin will be in the vessel with us: but it will be fettered. But if sin is at the helm, then the vessel will bleak upon the rocks.
One word more: 'If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' My dear brethren, this is to be your constant duty, to mortify the deeds of the body. You will notice it is also slow, it is a putting off the old man with his deeds; it is a mortifying the deeds of the body; that is a slow death. Mortification is a slow death, so with sin in the soul. I believe that no sin will die till we be dead; but, brethren, we are every day to be mortifying the deeds of the body.
How are we to do this? It is through the Spirit, this is the secret of gospel holiness; never forget it. The world tries sometimes to mortify the flesh, but not through the Spirit; but do you through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body. What is the meaning of this? It is to let the Spirit always manifest himself, there is no other way. Brethren, if you do not keep the Spirit on the throne, then sin will reign. Let the Spirit teach you. Let the Spirit keep you always at Gethsemane. Oh there is nothing like a pacified conscience, pacified through the blood of Jesus! Try to be always at Gethsemane. You know, brethren, there is a wind in foreign countries that blights vegetation. Such is the wind that blows over Calvary and Gethsemane to the lusts of the flesh, it is withering to them.
But it is not only through the teaching of the Spirit, but also through the indwelling of the Spirit, that the deeds of the body are to be mortified. In the 8th chapter of Romans, Paul says, 'If Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin; but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness' (verse 10). The only way to put out the fire is to let in the water of the Spirit.
Brethren, you think your planning will do it; but, no, there is nothing between you and deepest fall into sin, but the Spirit. Ah! many do not believe this; they say, my principles, my good name, my resolutions will keep me; but, ah! brethren, remember, there is no power but the Spirit dwelling in your soul that will keep you from sin.
There are may be many here who say, 'I will never go back to sin, I will never go back to the world', and, I believe, you are honest in saying so. But wait until your soul is far from Christ, when you do not have that sense of his presence that you now enjoy, and see what you will do.
Ah! brethren, we are but worms, and they are the happiest worms who do least. Then, brethren, we must be sanctified entirely through the Spirit. If there be not an Almighty hand behind me, I cannot go to the Lord Jesus, I cannot keep myself from any sin.
And, last of all, if it be so, brethren, that it is by the Spirit we are to be sanctified, then do not grieve the Spirit of God, do not resist him.
Now, I would just tell you one way of grieving the Spirit, and it is entering into what I would call the outward eddy of temptation. Now, this is just the same with other kinds of temptation: if you enter into the outer circle of temptation, you will grieve the Spirit. There are many Christians who would not go into temptation; but they go to the outer circle. Ah! how many have fallen there, and why? I will tell you why, they grieve the Spirit. He is easily grieved. He is like the dove, easily driven away. 'If you then, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.'
Oh! then, see that you are wholly Christians, that you give yourselves wholly up to him. It is good, at such a time as this, on the first day of this year, to devote yourselves to him. But, oh! it is not enough that you should profess with your lips. There are many that profess, but do not.
Dear friends that did not sit down at the Lord's table: Some, I think, kept away on account of their guilty conscience. I do entreat you to think that the harvest is coming, when it shall be said, 'Gather the tares, and bind them in bundles, to burn them' (Matthew 13:30). God is calling you to turn now, and you will not turn. But, ah! when that day comes, you will remember you were warned. Dear friends, is it not a solemn thing not to sit down at the Lord's table? Is it not a solemn thing to say, 'I do not take the bread and wine, because I do not take Christ'? If you do not acknowledge him, you make a solemn profession that you are not his. Ah! my heart's desire and prayer for you is, that you may be saved. God wants you to turn and live; your opportunity for being saved is going past, it will be far less if you let this day pass without your soul being saved. Dear brethren, let this solemn day move you. God said to Moses, 'It shall be the beginning of months to you' (Exodus 12:2). Oh! if you are saved, this will be the beginning of years to you.
Now, dear brethren, 'I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified (Acts 20:32). I commend you to the Lord on whom you have believed. To whom could I commend you, but to him? The Lord be with you through this year. God knows whether it will be the last year of my ministry among you or not; but I would leave you with him, because I know that 'he that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ' (Philippians 1:6). I would leave you with the Lord: 'Have respect unto the work of thy hands.'
The Lord bless this day's service. Amen.
As was customary with Mr M'Cheyne, on such solemn occasions, to leave texts for meditation, the following were at this time suggested:
With those of you who are seeking Christ: Psalm 50:15.
With those of you who are God's children: Acts 14:22 (last clause).
With those of you who are Christless: Romans 2:4.
This chapter is the substance of the sermon and addresses delivered on January 1, 1843, at the last Communion season in St. Peter's Dundee, spent by the author on earth. Towards the close of the day's service, he remarked, 'God knows whether it will be the last year of my ministry among you or not.' Little was it then thought, that ere another such season came round, he would be with the general assembly and church of the firstborn in heaven, sitting at the table above, and drinking the wine new in his Father's kingdom. Such being the peculiar nature of these addresses, we hope that they will be acceptable and profitable alike to those who knew and loved the author for his work's sake and to others who did not enjoy the privilege of his labours.