The Church Encouraged And Exhorted
“Bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.”
IF YOU will look at the connection of these words, you will see that they were spoken with the view of encouraging the Church–“Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your seed from the East, and gather you from the West; I will say to the North, Give up; and to the South, keep not back: bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.” The Lord loves His Church and He loves to see her full of courage and confidence, but, sometimes, her ministers appear to labor in vain and to spend their strength for nothing. The services in connection with the various agencies of the Church appear to be like plowing upon a rock. The bread is cast upon the waters, according to the Lord’s command, but it is not found again even after many days have passed away. At such times the Church begins to tremble–she is full of fear. She cannot give up her mission which is the enlightenment of the world, but she is very apt to continue in it with a faint and feeble heart and, consequently, to do what she is doing as a matter of mere routine, with very little zeal, or love, or hope, or joy.
Now, Beloved, the Lord would not have it so. He intends that His cause and Kingdom shall prosper in the world. It is written concerning the Messiah, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He has set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for His Law”–and He would not have His people to be discouraged! Does not the farmer, after sowing his seed, wait a long while for the precious fruits of the earth? And for such fruits as those which are to be reaped by us we may well be content to wait, not merely for weeks, or for months, but for centuries! We need not be in such a hurry as we often are. God has great leisure. He lives not merely in time, He inhabits eternity. A thousand years are to Him but as one day, so He can afford to wait. We are only children and we feel that we must have something done at once, or we may be dead and gone and never see it–but Jehovah is always the same and of His years there is no end, so He bids us cease to judge by the appearances after a few days or years of toil for Him and to believe in the grandeur to be revealed in the ages yet to be, for, before the end of the age, this prophecy must be fulfilled and Christ shall “set judgment in the earth, and the isles shall wait for His Law.”
My subject, on this occasion, is intended to cheer up the workers for Christ, to encourage those who are seeking to serve the Lord by giving them full assurance that the Lord has a people whom He means to save, that they will be saved, are being saved, now, and that it becomes us to see to it that we help–each one of us according to his or her own measure–in this glorious work.
- The first Truth of God that I see in the text is that THE LORD HAS CHILDREN FAR AWAY–“Bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.”
Some of them are far away in the matter of locality. They are not dwelling where the Gospel is preached. They arenowhere near to the happy shores where the message of salvation is constantly being proclaimed. Some of them are where roads have not as yet been made and the commerce of civilization has not come. I doubt not that, in dark Africa, the Lord Jesus has multitudes of those who are redeemed with His precious blood–those who are elect according to the foreknowledge of God–whom He is determined to save. And in those lands of which Mr. Hudson Taylor spoke to us the other night–in Tibet, in Manchuria, in Tartary–Christ has a people whom He has ordained unto eternal life and whom He means to bring unto Himself. In all nations and among all kindreds, people and tongues, there is a remnant according to the election of Grace upon whom the eyes of God are especially set, and of whom He has declared, in His eternal purpose, “They shall be Mine in that day when I make up My jewels.” It should be a great encouragement to every missionary of the Cross to know that the Lord has a people everywhere. He said to Paul, concerning Corinth, “I have much people in this city” and that assurance encouraged the Apostle to preach the Word there. We can never tell where the Lord has much people, but this we do know–our commission runs thus, “Go you into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature”–and one reason for this command is because the Lord has many of His sons and daughters who are far off as a matter of locality.
But we know that He also has many sons and daughters who are far off in a worse sense than this–for they are faroff as to character–as opposed to God as darkness is to light! Alas, alas, that it should be so! Yet so it is, for the whole race of mankind has gone astray. But God has His chosen people among the fallen race. Some of the human race have gone further astray than the rest by gross criminality, or by long-continued habits of abominable filthiness, yet even among those who are reckoned to be beyond the pale of decent society, among those who have gone the full length of their tether and who could not go any further in sin if they were to try to do so–the Lord still has sons and daughters whom, in due time, He intends to bring to Himself and to save! It is a great joy to us, when we think of the fallen masses of London, to know that many a daughter of our Lord shall be washed and cleansed though now impure, unhallowed, and vile. It is a comfort to us to think that many a son of God shall yet be redeemed by power, having already been redeemed by price, and shall be brought to Jesus' feet, though now a slave to sin and an ardent lover of everything that is evil! Oh, yes, the Lord has a chosen people whom He means to fetch out of the worst dens and kennels of London–a people whom He intends to allure away from the frivolities of fashion, the blasphemies of infidelity and the degradations of superstition! He will effectually call them out from all their old associations, for He has chosen them and Christ has redeemed them–and He will, in this sense, bring His sons from far and His daughters from the ends of the earth!
There are some who are far off in another sense. It is not so much character that puts them far off from God, as their not being in the way of hearing the Gospel. The Kingdom of God has come near to most of you. You, dear Friends, who constantly occupy your seats here, or who attend other places of worship where Christ is preached, are not far off in this sense–you are near. Alas, that some of you should be so near the Kingdom of God and yet should not enter it! “You are not far from the Kingdom of God,” said Christ to one of the scribes, yet we do not know that that man ever crossed the border line and entered the Kingdom! It is a mournful fact that so many are willing to go down into the bottomless Pit with Gospel invitations and exhortations ringing in their ears. Bitter, indeed, shall be that man’s cup who deliberately puts from him the cup of Everlasting Life–and bitter shall be the bread that he shall eat forever who refuses to take the Bread of Life, even though it is set before him and pressed upon his acceptance every Sabbath! But there are great numbers of persons, even in our own land, who are not in the way of hearing the Gospel. They have been brought up under some form of religion which they believe to be right, but, as long as they adhere to the faith of their fathers, they never hear the doctrine of free and full salvation by the Grace of God! They are content with what they hear, but there is little likelihood of their ever being converted, for the Gospel, by which men are converted, is not allowed to have access to them. Yet, notwithstanding this, it is our firm conviction that there are many among them who are the sons and daughters of God and who shall yet be brought near to Him.
It happens, sometimes, that the more unlikely ones are the first to be converted. You probably remember the story of the man who went to hear George Whitefield preach and who had filled his pocket with stones to throw at God’s servant. But, as Whitefield preached the Gospel, the man dropped one stone after another until, at last, all the stones were gone out of his pocket and, better still, God had taken the stony heart out of his flesh and given him a heart of flesh! There have been others who have never heard the Gospel, yet who are opposed to it–but, in some remarkable way they hear it for the first time and all their opposition is overcome! It is love at first sight with them, but it is true love! They lay hold on Christ by faith and are saved! When Lady Erskine was riding, one day, near where Rowland Hill was preaching in the open air, she paused and listened to him and he put the Word of Life so clearly before her that she accepted Christ then and there, and became one of the greatest helpers of the Methodist Reformation of the time!
The Lord may work in a similar fashion in other cases–those who seemed as if no one could get at them shall be reached by the Gospel and be converted. The Lord does bring in His chosen ones! As I look round in this audience, I can joyfully remember some of you who seemed as little likely ever to be brought to accept Christ as any people on the face of the earth–yet here you are, happy in the Lord and rejoicing in His Divine Grace! I am sure that with many of you, your own experience must make you feel that the Lord has other sons to bring from far, and daughters to come unto Him from the ends of the earth. If you will walk down any of our streets and chalk upon the door of a house in which you think it is most unlikely that anybody will ever be converted, I should feel almost certain that someone will be brought to Christ, by Divine Grace, out of that very house! The Grace of God often comes into the most unlikely hearts.
Once again, the Lord Jesus Christ saves by His Grace some who are far off in their own apprehension. It is not reallytrue that they have been more sinful than others, but they think they have. It is not because they do not hear the Gospel that they are not converted, for they do hear it and, generally, they are among the most attentive hearers, but they consider that theirs is a case which the Gospel cannot touch. They imagine that they are excluded from all participation in the mercies of God. To hear them talk, you would suppose that they had read the roll which contains the names of those for whom the Divine act of amnesty and oblivion has been passed and had discovered that their names were not written there. Well now, dear Friends, though you are far off through your own fear and apprehension, I want to comfort you with the assurance that the Lord has many sons and daughters who are in a similar condition to yourself! I can speak from experience upon this point, for I was long in that sad condition. I judged that the salvation of my brother, sisters and friends was possible, but not my own. I came to the conclusion that all other young men might be saved, but–I did not quite know why–yet I nevertheless felt that I never could be saved. I imagined that I had sinned away my day of Grace, or something of that sort equally absurd–yet I lived to prove that it was not so, for the Lord brought His son from far. And you, also, dear Friend, may bow at the feet of Jesus! And He is here to say to you that however far off you may be in your own apprehension of your case, His Word still applies to you, “Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out.” Even if you feel that you cannot come to Him, look up to Him, for He has said, “Look unto Me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth.” Who will say that He cannot look? A babe may look! A person with little education may look! One who is dying may look! A half-blind man may look! So, look unto Christ and be you saved, even though you are at the very ends of the earth!
So you see that the Lord has children who are far off from Him in several senses. Have you ever known what it is to have a child of yours far off from you? Thank God, some of us have never had the sorrow of having our children far off from us in character, or in love. They have always been true to us and worthy to be held dear by us, yet we know, from our observation of others, something of what it must be to have a son a long way off. What does a father or a mother do when the son is a long way off? Why, they like to hear all they can about him–especially they love to hear from him–to get a letter or a message from their boy. Well, now, our Heavenly Father watches over all His poor wandering children. Many of them have forgotten Him, but He has not forgotten them. He exercises a wonderful care over them long before they are converted and checks them in a thousand ways. There are some of you who would have laid violent hands on yourselves, before you were converted, if it had not been for God’s restraining mercy! And some of you had so grossly sinned that you might have sinned the sin that is unto death if God had not held you back in the nick of time! Long before regenerating Grace is manifest, there is a prevalent Grace which watches over the heirs of mercy who know not that they are heirs of mercy–and keeps them from going down into the Pit because the Lord has found a Ransom. You who have been brought to Christ, though you were far from Him, can tell this story as no others can!
II. Now we pass on to the second point which is that THE LORD IS BRINGING HOME SOME OF THESE FAROFF ONES. In our text He gives this command, “Bring My sons from far.”
To whom is this command spoken? I think we shall be right if we say that it is spoken much in the same way in which the Lord said, “Let there be light,” “and there was light.” His fiat did the deed. So God says, “Bring My sons from far,” and, therefore, we may be sure that they will be brought to Him!
First, Providence obeys this command. Everything that happens in the mysterious movements of Providence is operating, under the controlling power of God, for the bringing in of His chosen. I like to read the newspaper somewhat in John Newton’s fashion–with the view of knowing what is my Heavenly Father’s next move–watching to see where next He means to turn His hand. I am not a great believer in the wisdom of our rulers, nor of any rulers whatever, but I rejoice that “the Lord reigns” and that He is just as certainly effecting His eternal purposes by the folly of man as by the wisdom of man! To me, the one thought concerning all the kingdoms of the earth is this–how is the Gospel advancing in Turkey, or in Afghanistan, or in other lands? I care for this world only for the sake of God’s own people in it. The world is all scaffolding–the Church of Christ is the true building. The ultimate purpose of God is the gathering out of the world as many as He has given unto His Son, Jesus Christ, that they may have eternal life in Him and glorify Him forever. As you see those awful wheels of Providence revolve, those wheels that are full of eyes–and as they grind on in their ever-widening circles, you stand aghast and are awed and terrified by them–yet you may know that they are always revolving with this purpose–the fulfillment of the everlasting counsel of God and the giving unto Christ to see of the travail of His soul that He may be satisfied. God is saying to the North, “Give up,” and to the South, “Keep not back.” His voice in Providence is saying to all the powers that be, “Bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.”
The same is true on a small scale. All manner of afflictions that come to men are sent to touch their conscience and to bring them back to God. Many are brought to God by the loss of infants, by their own sickness, or by falling into poverty, who, speaking after the manner of men, would never come to God if it were not for these trying experiences. Many are my Master’s black dogs with which He fetches His sheep into the fold! And when they won’t come at the call of the Gospel, He often says, “Fever, fetch him in. Death, bring him to Me.” There is a mother who will not come to Christ in any other way, so He sends the black dog of bereavement to her–her child is carried to the cemetery and in the day of her distress she seeks the Lord! This is frequently God’s way of working, but, by one means or another, He will bring His sons from far and His daughters from the ends of the earth. All the dispensations of His Providence shall work to that end.
This seems to me to be a charge given to all God’s people, as well as to Providence, “Bring My sons from far.” Youknow Me. You love Me, so, look after My wandering children.“ There is a well known proverb, "Love me, love my dog,” but God could give us a better one, “Love Me, love My children–love poor sinners. Go and find them and bring them back to Me.” Do not be satisfied till you have brought them in. Make this your life work–let it be the one thing you live for–to bring God’s children from far. Are there some whom you know who are very near to the Kingdom? Try and bring them, but do you also know some others who are a long way off? Then, single them out! Pray more for them than for other people! Be most diligent to bring in those who are the worst and the least likely to come to Christ. “Bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.” Be sure not to neglect them. Whatever else you do, mind that you preach to the Jerusalem sinners, the biggest and blackest sinners whom you can find anywhere. This is God’s command to us who have ourselves been already brought to Him.
But this command would be of no force unless my text were, as I have already said it is, a fiat. In consistency with this command, the Holy Spirit goes forth, in ways known to Himself, and He brings God’s sons from far and His daughtersfrom the ends of the earth. You remember the story of Thorpe and the other members of the Hell Fire Club who met together for profane purposes on the Sabbath? It was decided that Mr. Thorpe should imitate Whitefield, so he went to hear that mighty preacher of the Gospel, got the sermon well memorized, preached it to his infidel companions and, by God’s Grace, became converted while doing so! He left the Hell Fire Club to become a heavenly fire preacher all the rest of his life! O Sovereign Grace, what is there that you cannot do? When God says, “Bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth,” they are sure to be brought and laid at His feet–and added to His Church–to the praise of the glory of His Grace!
III. Now I am going to conclude with my third point which is that THIS IS SAID FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF GOD’S CHURCH.
This command has a very intimate connection with Christ’s Church. Our text says, “Bring My sons and My daughters.” But the 5 th verse says, “I will bring your seed.” Then, saved souls are the seed of the Church as well as the sons anddaughters of God! God puts a wonderful honor upon human instrumentality. Paul represents himself as being, spiritually, both father and mother to souls that were born to God. He wrote to Philemon, “I beseech you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds.” And to the Galatians he wrote, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ is formed in you.” Thus, great honor was put upon instrumentality–and the Lord is pleased to consider converts as the children of His Church as well as His own children!
Now then, Beloved, you who are members of the Church of the living God, will you not take a deep interest in the bringing home of the far-off ones who are your own children–the children of the Church–as well as the children of God? I trust that some of you will find them to be, literally, your own children–your own flesh and blood! May they all be converted and may your word be blessed to their conversion so that they may become your own spiritual children! The whole Church of God ought to think, with the deepest sympathy, of all those who are hopeful, those who are impressed, those who are coming to Christ and never to rest satisfied until they are all brought safely home! We should never be content till we get them to confess their faith in Christ and know that they are, indeed, saved in the Lord with His everlasting salvation!
Many of you know that I am expecting my son home from Australia. One feels inclined to run down to Plymouth to meet the ship and I would like to send some of you down to meet those who are coming where they first touch the land–that is, where they begin to believe in Jesus. Do you not feel that you want to go as far as you can to meet the sinner who is coming to Christ, to try to take away his last fear, to smooth the last wrinkle from his face and to tell him that he is fully and freely forgiven through the precious blood of Jesus? I hope, dear Christian friends, that you will all have deep sympathy with our Heavenly Father, so that you will say, “If He is bringing His sons from far, let us go meet them and do the utmost that we can to show them that they shall have a hearty welcome, not only to their Father’s house, but also to our hearts.”
I have known professing Christians whose children have grown up to be their sorrow and their curse. I said to a Sister who brought the last of her children to join the Church, “You are a favored woman, for I know some who, I hope, are Christians, yet their children are turning out very badly.” She said, “Have you noticed, Sir, whether they have family prayer or not?” That was a wise question, for, where there is no family prayer, we cannot expect to see the children grow up in the fear of God. There may be a public profession of religion, but, if there is no practice of religion at home–if itstrue position is not distinctly recognized every day–we cannot wonder if the young people do not go in the right way. Neglect anywhere is sure to bring evil consequences, but in keeping God’s commandments there is always a great reward. I have seen many of God’s faithful servants who began their Christian life early and took their stand for Christ and, in taking that stand, had to bear opposition, persecution and loss–yet they soon got over all that and God greatly prospered them! They brought up their children in the fear of the Lord and it cost them many a pang to speak severely to them, or to use the rod when it was needed–but they did what God would have them do and He blessed them. And now you can see the venerable patriarch with his children and his grandchildren around him, prospered in his business, happy in his own person, blessed himself and made a blessing to others! Many a time I have seen this cheering sight and I have learned that even in this life, in keeping God’s commandments there is great reward!
The Church of Christ has a further interest in these far-off sons and daughters from the fact that not only are they her seed, but they are coming home to her. All those who are God’s spiritual children shall certainly come into His Church.They may not join our portion of His Church, but they will help to strengthen the true Church of God. But some of these far-off ones will come to us–so should we not be getting ready to welcome them? Let us have no surly tempers in our midst, no cold hearts and no divisions, because when these young converts come among us, they will be frightened if they find us full of evil passions and with little or no love to Christ. I like to see a Church keep herself in such a state that she is always ready to welcome “the little stranger”–the new-born child of God–whenever it comes into her midst. Whatever quarrels there may be in the streets, we must always have peace at home for the sake of these little ones. I would like, sometimes, to say to those who have noisy church meetings, or who display a party spirit, “Hush! Be quiet for the sake of these newcomers. Do not let them be hurt in their feelings and injured in their minds.”
And to you older Christians I would affectionately say, “Always keep your hearts young, warm and cheerful, that you may be a help to those who have just come into the Church for, if they see a crabby looking face, or if they hear harsh and unkind words, they are very likely to say, "This is not the place for us! This cannot be our Father’s house.” Or else they will think, perhaps, that they have met an elder brother like the one in the parable–and it is very likely that they have–and it is always a pity if the poor prodigal, when coming back, meets his elder brother before he meets his father! It was a great mercy for the prodigal that he met his father first, for his loving welcome enabled him afterwards to endure very different treatment from his unbrotherly elder brother! Do not let any of us play the elder brother in that fashion,but let us be glad to receive the wanderers whenever they come and unite with us!
For, remember that these who are coming–these outsiders who are going to be brought in–these far-off ones who are being brought home–will greatly help us when they do come. Read the 7th verse–“Even everyone who is called byMy name: for I have created him for My glory.” That is the kind of converts and members that we want–those who are created for God’s Glory! Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are living for God’s Glory, are we not? Is not that the great end and objective of our being? Well, here come some recruits to join our ranks and some of them are the best recruits that can be found anywhere! A number of young Christians constantly coming into a church is a great blessing to that church. It tends to keep all the members alive and full of earnestness and vigor.
“But,” say some of the older friends, “these young converts are so imprudent.” Bless them! The Lord increase their imprudence, for that is one of the grandest things in the world when it is sanctified! It was most imprudent, on the part of the Apostle Paul, to go into those cities where he was stoned, dragged out and left for dead!. It was most imprudent of him, was it not, to lose his reputation and his standing among men simply that he might preach Jesus Christ and Him Crucified? May our young converts always maintain such grand imprudence as that!
“But, Sir,” say the objectors, “these young people who are coming into the church do not know much.” For that matter, Brothers and Sisters, we do not know much either, so we cannot keep them out on that ground! “But they have zeal without knowledge.” Yes, Brother, and it is quite possible to have knowledge without zeal. Both of those things are bad when alone, but, my Brother, if you have the knowledge and they bring the zeal, you have only to trade with them a little in the way of barter, to your mutual benefit. You can give them some of your knowledge, which will not be to their loss, and they can give you some of their zeal, which will be very much to your gain–so fetch them in as speedily as you can!
I remember the case of a godly man who prayed very fervently for the conversion of his children, yet he never saw one of them saved until he was the means of bringing to Christ a very desperate sinner–and when that great sinner was converted, he became the means of the conversion of that good man’s children! The Lord has many ways of working out Hiseternal purposes. There are some people for whom you are praying, yet, possibly, you will never bring them to Christ by merely praying for them. While others for whom you have never yet specially prayed, if you will talk to them faithfully and earnestly, you may bring them in by God’s great Grace, and then they may be the means of bringing in others. You must never imagine that you are to pick and choose who is to be saved! That is not a matter that is left to you–the Lord’s choice may be very different from your choice. The way for you to ascertain God’s choice is to talk about Christ to everybody you meet–try to bring everyone to Christ. The Lord will do the sorting far better than you can–He nevermakes a mistake. Your part is to cast the net into the sea and to enclose all the fish if you can get them in–and then haul them ashore if it is possible. There will not be one more really in the Gospel net beside those whom God has ordained to bless and save. Therefore do not be afraid to cast the net in again and again. Especially, dear Friends, let all of us look after the far-off ones who are coming home and be ready to welcome them!
God grant that they may not be wrecked in the last part of their voyage! May all go safely, even if roughly, with them and may they come to land praising redeeming Grace and dying love in which song you and I will join both now and forever and ever! Amen.