And then, as a consequence, being wholly ignorant of his own corruption and condemnation in the sight of God, this miserable man must remain ignorant and outside of all that God has done in Christ for corrupt and condemned men. "I believe that Christ died for sinners and that I shall be justified before God from the curse through His gracious acceptance of my obedience to His law. Or, then, to take it this way, Christ makes my duties that are religious acceptable to His Father by virtue of His merits, and so shall I be justified." Now, I verify believe that nine out of ten of the young men who are here to-night would subscribe that statement and never suspect there was anything wrong with it or with themselves. And yet, what does Christian, who, in this matter, is just John Bunyan, who again is just the word of God-- what does the old pilgrim say to this confession of this young pilgrim's faith? "Ignorance is thy name," he says, "and as thy name is, so art thou: even this thy answer demonstrateth what I say. Ignorant thou art of what justifying righteousness is, and as ignorant how to secure thy soul through the faith of it from the heavy wrath of God. Yea, thou also art ignorant of the true effect of saving faith in this righteousness of Christ's, which is to bow and win over the heart to God in Christ, to love His name, His word, His ways, and His people." Paul sums up all his own early life in this one word, "ignorant of God's righteousness." "Going about," he says also, "to establish our own righteousness, not submitting ourselves to be justified by the righteousness that God has provided with such wisdom and grace, and at such a cost in His Son Jesus Christ." Now, young men, I defy you to be better born, better brought up, or to have better prospects than Saul of Tarsus had. I defy you to have profited more by all your opportunities and advantages than he had done. I defy you to be more blameless in your opening manhood than he was. And yet it all went like smoke when he got a true sight of himself, and, with that, a true sight of Christ and His justifying righteousness. Read at home to- night, and read when alone, what that great man of God says about all that in his classical epistle to the Philippians, and refuse to sleep till you have made the same submission. And, to-night, and all your days, let SUBMISSION, Paul's splendid submission, be the soul and spirit of all your religious life. Submission to be searched by God's holy law as by a lighted candle: submission to be justified from all that that candle discovers: submission to take Christ as your life and righteousness, sanctification and redemption: and submission of your mind and your will and your heart to Him at all times and in all things. Nay, stay still, and say where you sit, Lord, I submit. I submit on the spot to be pardoned. I submit now to be saved. I submit in all things from this very hour and house of God not any longer to be mine own, but to be Thine, O God, Thine, Thine, for ever, in Jesus Christ Thy Son and my Saviour!
"But, one day, as I was passing in the field, and that, too, with some dashes in my conscience, fearing lest all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy Righteousness is in heaven! And, methought, I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand. There, I saw, was my Righteousness. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my Righteousness better, nor my bad frame of heart that made my Righteousness worse: for my Righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. 'Twas glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of His benefits. And that because I could now look from myself to Him and should reckon that all those graces of God that were now green in me were yet but like those crack-groats and four-pence halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw that day that my gold was all in my trunk at home! Even in Christ, my Lord and Saviour! Now, Christ was all to me: all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification and all my redemption."
"Methinks in this God speaks, No tinker hath such power."
"O thou of little faith."--Our Lord.
Little-Faith, let it never be forgotten, was, all the time, a good man. With all his mistakes about himself, with his sad misadventure, with all his loss of blood and of money, and with his whole after-lifetime of doleful and bitter complaints,--all the time, Little-Faith was all through, in a way, a good man. To keep us right on this all-important point, and to prevent our being prematurely prejudiced against this pilgrim because of his somewhat prejudicial name--because give a dog a bad name, you know, and you had better hang him out of hand at once--because, I say, of this pilgrim's somewhat suspicious name, his scrupulously just, and, indeed, kindly affected biographer says of him, and says it of him not once nor twice, but over and over and over again, that this Little-Faith was really all the time a truly good man. And, more than that, this good man's goodness was not a new thing with him it was not a thing of yesterday. This man had, happily to begin with, a good father and a good mother. And if there was a good town in all those parts for a boy to be born and brought up in it was surely the town of Sincere. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Well, Little- Faith had been so trained up both by his father and his mother and his schoolmaster and his minister, and he never cost either of them a sore heart or even an hour's sleep. One who knew him well, as well, indeed, as only one young man knows another, has been fain to testify, when suspicions have been cast on the purity and integrity of his youth, that nothing will describe this pilgrim so well in the days of his youth as just those beautiful words out of the New Testament--"an example to all young men in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith even, and in purity"--and that, if there was one young man in all that town of Sincere who kept his garments unspotted it was just our pilgrim of to-night. Yes, said one who had known him all his days, if the child is the father of the man, then Little-Faith, as you so unaccountably to me call him, must have been all along a good man.
It was said long ago in Vanity Fair about our present Premier that if he were a worse man he would be a better statesman. Now, I do not repeat that in this place because I agree with it, but because it helps to illustrate, as sometimes a violent paradox will help to illustrate, a truth that does not lie all at once on the surface. But it is no paradox or extravagance or anything but the simple truth to say that if Little-Faith had had more and earlier discoveries made to him of the innate evil of his own heart, even if it had been by that innate evil bursting out of his heart and laying waste his good life, he would either have been driven out of his little faith altogether or driven into a far deeper faith. Had the commandment come to him in the manner it came to Paul; had it come so as that the sinfulness of his inward nature had revived, as Paul says, under its entrance; then, either his great goodness or his little faith must have there and then died. God's truth and man's goodness cannot dwell together in the same heart. Either the truth will kill the goodness, or the goodness will kill the truth. Little-Faith, in short, was such a good man, and had always been such a good man, and had led such an easy life in consequence, that his faith had not been much exercised, and therefore had not grown, as it must have been exercised and must have grown, had he not been such a good man. In short, and to put it bluntly, had Little-Faith been a worse sinner, he would have been a better saint. "O felix culpa!" exclaimed a church father; "O happy fault, which found for us sinners such a Redeemer." An apostrophe which Bishop Ken has put into these four bold lines -
"What Adam did amiss, Turned to our endless bliss; O happy sin, which to atone, Drew Filial God to leave His throne."
And John Calvin, the soberest of men, supports Augustine, the most impulsive of men, in saying the same thing. All things which happen to the saints are so overruled by God that what the world regards as evil the issue shows to be good. For what Augustine says is true, that even the sins of saints are, through the guiding providence of God, so far from doing harm to them, that, on the contrary, they serve to advance their salvation. And Richard Hooker, a theologian, if possible, still more judicious than even John Calvin, says on this same subject and in support of the same great father, "I am not afraid to affirm it boldly with St. Augustine that men puffed up through a proud opinion of their own sanctity and holiness receive a benefit at the hands of God, and are assisted with His grace, when with His grace they are not assisted, but permitted, and that grievously, to transgress. Ask the very soul of Peter, and it shall undoubtedly make you itself this answer: My eager protestations, made in the glory of my ghostly strength, I am ashamed of; but those crystal tears, wherewith my sin and weakness were bewailed, have procured my endless joy: my strength hath been my ruin, and my fall my stay." And our own Samuel Rutherford is not likely to be left far behind by the best of them when the grace of God is to be magnified. "Had sin never been we should have wanted the mysterious Emmanuel, the Beloved, the Chief among ten thousand, Christ, God-man, the Saviour of sinners. For, no sick sinners, no soul-physician of sinners; no captive, no Redeemer; no slave of hell, no lovely ransom-payer of heaven. Mary Magdalene with her seven devils, Paul with his hands smoking with the blood of the saints, and with his heart sick with malice and blasphemy against Christ and His Church, and all the rest of the washen ones whose robes are made fair in the blood of the Lamb, and all the multitude that no man can number in that best of lands, are all but bits of free grace. O what a depth of unsearchable wisdom to contrive that lovely plot of free grace. Come, all intellectual capacities, and warm your hearts at this fire. Come, all ye created faculties, and smell the precious ointment of Christ. Oh come, sit down under His shadow and eat the apples of life. Oh that angels would come, and generations of men, and wonder, and admire, and fall down before the unsearchable wisdom of this gospel-art of the unsearchable riches of Christ!" And always pungent Thomas Shepard of New England: "You shall find this, that there is not any carriage or passage of the Lord's providence toward thee but He will get a name to Himself, first and last, by it. Hence you shall find that those very sins that dishonour His name He will even by them get Himself a better name; for so far will they be from casting you out of His love that He will actually do thee good by them. Look and see if it is not so with thee? Doth not thy weakness strengthen thee like Paul? Doth not thy blindness make thee cry for light? And hath not God out of darkness oftentimes brought light? Thou hast felt venom against Christ and thy brother, and thou hast on that account loathed thyself the more. Thy falls into sin make thee weary of it, watchful against it, long to be rid of it. And thus He makes thy poison thy food, thy death thy life, thy damnation thy salvation, and thy very greatest enemies thy very best friends. And hence Mr. Fox said that he thanked God more for his sins than for his good works. And the reason is, God will have His name." And, last, but not least, listen to our old acquaintance, James Fraser of Brea: "I find advantages by my sins: 'Peccare nocet, peccavisse vero juvat.' I may say, as Mr. Fox said, my sins have, in a manner, done me more good than my graces. Grace and mercy have more abounded where sin had much abounded. I am by my sins made much more humble, watchful, revengeful against myself. I am made to see a greater need to depend more upon Him and to love Him the more. I find that true which Shepard says, 'sin loses strength by every new fall.'" Have you followed all that, my brethren? Or have you stumbled at it? Do you not understand it? Does your superficial gin-horse mind incline to shake its empty head over all this? I know that great names, and especially the great names of your own party, go much farther with you than the truth goes, and therefore I have sheltered this deep truth under a shield of great names. For their sakes let this sure truth of God's best saints lie in peace and undisputed beside you till you arrive to understand it.