The Unfailing Help
“And the King said, If the Lord does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?”
2 Kings 6:27
I READ in your hearing the very horrible incident connected with the siege of Samaria. I do not wonder that when the poor woman applied to the king he should have been horrified. He felt that her case, and the case of all about him was a desperate one, so he said, “If Jehovah does not interpose, what can I do?” The winepress is dry and the threshing floor is empty–there is nothing left to alleviate the horrors of famine. “If the Lord does not help you, where can I find help for you?”
- Now the CASE OF EVERY UNSAVED MAN IS A VERY TERRIBLE ONE. He is not in dread of immediatedeath by famine, but if he is at all awakened to know his true condition, he will labor under a fear of something worse than death, and worse than the need of bread. There is many a sinner that I have met with (and I know the feeling myself) who would be glad if death could end it and if that were all. But “there is the dread of something after death”–that wrath to come of which the Word of God speaks in such solemn tones–that fire that never shall be quenched, that worm that dies not–it is that which haunts the sinner’s conscience when he is once awakened to know his condition! And horrible as the story was in Samaria, it is not worse than the horrible fate that awaits every man who lives and dies unsaved!
Now it is no wonder at all, that when a man is awakened to see his great danger, standing as he does upon the edge of a precipice with a frightful gulf beneath him, he begins to appeal to anybody and everybody and to cry for help. So, tonight, I am going to begin by saying that in the case of the sinner, it is vain to look to man, for every honest man will have to say to such an one, “ If the Lord does not help you, how can I help you?” You feel that you are in dreadful dangerand you want to be saved–I beseech you, do not look to any of us, or to any of your fellow creatures for help, for we are quite powerless in the matter! God must save you! He must give you Christ or else you must die. We have no power to forgive your sins. There are some pretenders who surely ought to feel themselves out of place in this age, like owls in daylight, who still profess that they can pardon sin. It is a strange country, this. If a poor woman in a red cloak passes a farm and for sixpence tells a servant girl her fortune, she is put in prison. And I will not say but what she deserves it–yet a gentleman may stand up before his thousands and pretend to turn bread and wine into the flesh and blood of God, and to have power to pardon sin, and I have never heard of any punishment for so gross an imposition! It is infinitely more gross than anything the poor ignorant witch has ever practiced! It is not in us to pardon sin. If you had offended us, we might pardon your offenses against ourselves, but offenses against God must be forgiven by God, Himself.
“Does not the power which rested in the Apostles to forgive sin still rest in the Church?” I think it does, but no Apostle ever had the power to pardon an impenitent soul! No Apostle ever had the power to pardon one who did not believe in Jesus. All that an Apostle could do was to say that he was pardoned when he saw that he believed and repented–and that same power belongs to us to this day–to declare, in God’s name, that HE THAT BELIEVES IN HIM IS NOT CONDEMNED and that he that confesses his sin to God and forsakes it, shall find mercy–but with this exception (and it is no exception, at all) all power in the matter of pardoning sin rests with the eternal God and with Him, alone. It is certainly not in the power of any man to renew your nature! You cannot enter Heaven except you are bornagain. Unconverted man, you must be made a new creature in Christ Jesus, but there is no man under Heaven that cancreate in you a new heart or a right spirit! Let a man first create as much as a fly and send it winging its way in the summer’s air and then let him talk about regenerating a soul. It is a stupendous work–a work to which only the Deity is equal! God alone creates or re-creates the soul of man! You look in vain, then, to any–even though they call themselves priests or bishops or Doctors of Divinity! Your fellow men cannot help you in the matter! You must be born-again from above, and the Spirit of God must do it, or your case is hopeless.
But it is said, “Can we not pray for sinners?” Yes, blessed be God, we can, and THE PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN AVAILS MUCH. During this week I have had very many requests for prayers, and some of them from some of you now present. Such prayers as mine, indeed have gone up to Heaven for you, that you might find peace. But I charge you before God, put no superstitious confidence in my prayers or in the prayers of anybody! What could your mother’s prayers do for you? Nothing at all unless you pray for yourself. If the Apostle Paul were here and pleading to God, what would be the use of his prayers? Just nothing unless the Lord moved you to make a personal confession of your sin and to believe personally in Jesus and personally to pray to Him! Now there is a great value in prayer. I value the prayer of alittle child. The poorest Christian has power with God in supplication. We do not undervalue that, but still, if the Lord does not help you in answer to those prayers and if it does not become a personal pray,you will be guilty of a superstitious reliance upon the prayers of others–having made a god of them–and God will be grieved with you for having done so. No prayers of all the saints on earth could save a single soul unless that soul fled for refuge to the hope set before it in the Gospel in the Person of Jesus Christ.
But perhaps there may be some persons here who will say, “Cannot you help me by giving me the ordinances of the Christian religion? Will not they help me?” Ah, Beloved Friends, if you are continually here in this place, I am sure you are not under that delusion! There is no ordinance in the Christian religion that belongs to unconverted people. Can you not be baptized? you ask. No, you have nothing to do with Baptism until you are a Believer in Jesus Christ! Perhaps there is no Popish error which has done more mischief to the Christian Church than that of giving baptism to unconverted persons–to persons who have no faith in Jesus–under the notion that it does something, for if it does nothing atall of any good! Why is it given? And to the extent to which it is believed that there can be any efficacy in it–to that extent it is mere Popery and Sacramentarianism and ought to be abandoned by the true Believer in Jesus Christ! I believe we should increase sin by that view, but certainly not wash it away, for you would have been guilty of having dared to take to yourself an ordinance which belongs to none except to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart. “But may we not come to the Communion Table?” No, NO, NO! And if we dared to permit you–if we said, “Unconverted man, you may come to the Table,” we would certainly be doing you no service whatever. On the contrary, we would be doing certain injury. Remember that dreadful text–“He that eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks damnation to himself”–“condemnation” it ought to be, for that is the real word there! The other is too forcible and I do but give the correct rendering. But I would not ask you to come and eat and drink condemnation to yourself, “Not discerning the Lord’s body.” Why I know unconverted people who seldom go to a place of worship all the year round and yet will go and take what they call, “the Sacrament,” on Good Friday–choosing that day which they receive as the memorial of Christ’s death in which especially to insult the Savior, for He never asked them to come to His Table living in sin, living in constant neglect of all religion and then to do Him this piece of impertinence–to go and intrude themselves into that sacred feast to which they are not bidden and to which they have no right to come!
Oh, believe me, if you rely on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, you might as well rely upon the incantations of a witch or upon the spell of a Hottentot! There is nothing in a sacrament that can, in itself, save a soul! When you are saved, then these outward emblems remind you of Truths of God and help your memory and stir your minds. But until you are saved, to partake is profane! You must not touch these things! They are for the children, not for you–for those who are saved and not for you who are unreconciled to God! We may say, therefore, when you talk to us about coming to what are called sacraments–“We cannot help you. If the Lord does not help you, we cannot help you there.”
But there are some who will say, “But may we not join the Church of God?” I hope none of you, my brethren, are under the idea that if you are unconverted and join a church, that will help you. Oh, how I have wasted my labor here if I have led any of you to believe that! I charge you, if you are not a friend of Christ, not to come among his friends or declare yourself to be one by a lying profession! It is “a superfluity of naughtiness,” for there can be NO EXCUSE FOR A MAN TO BE SERVING THE DEVIL AND THEN TO MAKE PRETENCE OF BEING A SERVANT OF CHRIST. A man may be damned fast enough without being a hypocrite! What need of that? Join yourselves to God’s people when you have joined yourselves to Christ–but not till then.
I fear there are some of you that make a profession and ought not to have done so. We labor with all our might to keep the Church pure, but what can we do? There was a Judas among the Master’s twelve and we have Judases here and some whose lives are inconsistent–and glaringly inconsistent, I do not doubt–and yet they profess to be the people of God! O, dead professors, I would warn you! I desire to speak most solemnly and earnestly to you. Of all those who perish,it must go hardest with those of you who had a name to live and were dead, who said you were the servants of Christ while you were the enemies of the Cross of Christ! Be what you profess to be, or else give up your profession. Don’t cry unto the Lord and insult His gracious name by making professions which you afterwards, by your life, deny. No, we cannot help you by receiving you into the Church. There is nothing we can do for you. And I venture to say this, unconverted man or woman–if we were, all of us who love the Savior, concerned about your soul–if we were to summon all the saints on earth to one general conclave and they were all at once to pray for you, (and God knows your soul is worth all that, for if all the Church labored but for one soul, it would be well repaid by winning that one soul), yet if the Lord does not help you, all His people cannot! It is not in the angels in Heaven, nor the white-robed hosts above, nor the saints below to do anything for a soul unless God, Himself, shall interpose to blot out that sinner’s sin, to renew that sinner’s nature and to lead the sinner personally to pray for himself! There is the case then.
II. That leads me, secondly, to call every unconverted person’s attention to the fact that he lies in the hands of God. “If the Lord does not help you, where can I find help for you?” You lie in the hands of God. Let us take you by the hand,now, and speak to you earnestly, my brother, my sister, whose conversion I anxiously desire, but whose conversion I cannot work, for God alone must do it.
I remind you that you are in the hands of One whom you have offended. You have grieved God. From your youth up, perhaps, you have been indifferent to Him. You have used His name, perhaps, to curse with. His day has been the one above all others which you have chosen for the pleasures of the world. You have offended God and He is angry. This is not my word–it is written here–“He is angry with the wicked every day. If he turns not, He will whet His sword. He has bent His bow and made it ready.” You are in the hands of the God whom you have offended! Just as a moth is beneath your finger and you can crush it or not, as you will, so are you absolutely in the hands of God–and in the next moment He can send you to Hell–and who would be able to say to Him, “What are You doing?” Or who would say that He was unjust?
Remember next, that you have no claims whatever upon this God. He made you and as a creature, you might claimthat He should treat you justly. I would not advise you to urge that claim, however, for JUSTICE IN YOUR CASE WILL MEAN DESTRUCTION. There is nothing due from God to you except anger. You deserve nothing at His hands. You are altogether in His hands, then–in the hands of an angry God and in the hands of One on whom you have no claim.
And I should like you to feel the next thing I am going to say. Oh, if you were to feel it, it were enough to make you spring from your seat! THAT GOD IS LOOKING AT YOU NOW AND IS NEAR YOU NOW. Your elbow touches the next person in your seat, but that person is not so near to you as God is! In Him you live and move and have your being. It is not a case of God’s coming to be with you. He is here–reading that thought that flitted through your mind justnow and knowing the thoughts that you have before they are your own–thinking of you as if you were the only being in the world and He gave all His attention to you. Well now, such is the Omniscience of God, that He sees you as though you were His only creature and He had nothing else to do but to note your follies and faults. But, oh, while I thus speak, let me remind every man who thus feels that he is in the hands of God–you could not be in better hands–for God is very merciful and full of compassion! It will be no delight to Him to crush you. Sinner, it will give your God no joy to curse you! “As I live, says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, but had rather that he turn unto Me and live.” That is God’s heart speaking out to you! You are in His hands and those are the hands of mercy.
And let me remind you that He can save you though no man can. At this very moment HE CAN FORGIVE YOUR SINS and supply to you the new nature which you need–and everything that can make that new nature perfect and fit to dwell in Heaven! You have not gone too far in sin for His power. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. “All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” “Though your sins are as scarlet they shall be as wool.” “Though they are red like crimson they shall be as snow.” And everything is provided in order to this. Since God could not be unjust, it was necessary, if He pardoned sin in your case, that He should somehow or other vindicate His Law–and He has done so by giving His own Son to bleed and die on the Cross of Calvary! Jesus Christ has made it right with the Law of God! The Justice of God is magnified and the Mercy of God is now unfettered! And God can deal with sinners and blot out their sins like a cloud and their transgressions like a thick cloud.
Let me call your minds back to Samaria. There was a poor woman whom the king could not help, but God could help her, for the very next morning after she met the king, there was such plenty in Samaria that they were selling fine flour dirt-cheap! It seemed as if God had literally pulled up the windows of Heaven and rained down plenty for them to eat, there was such plenty there! And so, poor starving dying Sinner, it is in God’s power in a moment to fill you with the bread of Heaven, to give you such abundance of mercies, such a store of Grace and love, that you shall feel as if the windows of Heaven were opened on your account! Yes, God will give you what He never gave the people of Samaria–give you His own Son to be your soul’s continuing, everlasting bread–and you shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness! GOD CAN DO IT. You are in His hands I say. He can leave you to perish, but, on the other hand, He is a gracious God and He has given His Son to die for you–and He is able to save!
Now I think if God the Spirit is blessing the Word this moment, some of you are saying, “Then I will ask Him to have mercy upon me.” Do so, dear Friend–do so! “I will wait till I get home.” No, don’t! Breathe the prayer now. Letit drop as a liquid prayer, if it will, from your eyes into the pew. God has a bottle for such tears. Ask Him now. Say, “Lord I am in Your hands. I know I cannot save myself. My fellow men cannot save me, but You can. I hear You have given Your dear Son to bleed for helpless, lost and ruined sinners. O, God, have pity upon me! If You do, I will bless You for it as long as I live! It is a poor thing to say, but yet it is all I can do. I do not deserve it, Lord. If You cast me forever from Your Presence, You will be just when You judge and just when You condemn. But save me, Lord, for Your sweet mercy and let me live and not die!” O, Souls, you shall not cry in vain! From the ends of the earth shall such a prayer be heard! You shall yet say like Jonah, “Out of the belly of Hell cried I and You heard me.” God grant you Grace so to cry!
III. Now my last point will help more fully to open up the way of salvation. There is one thing–this is the lastpoint–there is only one thing which will prove fatal to all hope of God’s saving you. There was one man in the city of Samaria that was not the better for flour being sold at so cheap a price. That poor woman who had complained to the king went and got her share of the meal. The poorest beggars in the darkest lanes of Samaria went swarming out and satisfied their hunger. And even lepers whom men would not touch–defiled and filthy–went into the tents and feasted to the full! There was only one man in all the city to whom that day, instead of being a blessing and a festival, became afuneral–one man–and that one man’s story we read just now. He was a lord, so that it is not always the poor who are lost. I am afraid that there is a larger proportion of the lords lost than any other class. He was a lord. But it was not his being a lord that destroyed him–it was his being an unbelieving lord. He mocked the promise. He said it could not be.He jeered, jested, insulted–“If Jehovah should open windows in Heaven, might such a thing be?” But no one else. I do not find that anybody else was permitted to die or starve that day except that unbelieving man–and he was trampled to death in the gates of the city.
Now I come here tonight to say, Beloved, guilty as we are and deserving God’s wrath, yet the MERCY OF GOD IS EVER MORE ABUNDANT THAN THE MEAL WAS IN SAMARIA’S GATE. Every soul here that believes in Jesus shall have a share in it and the only man who shall not have a share in it is the man who will not believe, for, “He that believes not shall be damned.” If you believe not, you shall not be established. To believe means to trust in Jesus. And none shall perish but those who refuse to trust Him. As many as shall rely on the Lord Jesus shall have their needs supplied even to the fullest.
Now remember, I pray you, and very solemnly lay it to heart, that this man who died saw the provisions of mercy with his eyes and yet never tasted of them. Oh, I cannot bear to contemplate it–that I should have some here who have heard for many and many a Sabbath all about the Savior and His wounds and griefs and death for sinners–and should never have a share in the atoning Sacrifice! That they should hear about the Spirit of God and His regenerating and quickening influences and should never, themselves, be born-again–should hear about the pardon of sin and yet die unforgiven–should hear about the justifying righteousness of Christ which is the most glorious of robes and should perish in their nakedness of their sins! It is a dreadful case to starve with bread within sight. The punishment of Tantalus waswell conceived by the old heathen poets when they wanted to describe an unbearable torture. The water came up to his lips, but when he tried to drink, it receded. The bread was close against his mouth and fruit hung from boughs above his head, but the moment he lifted his hand to grasp it, the windswept the boughs away and he remained in perpetual hunger and thirst!
Oh, it will be a shocking thing for us to live in that state! “You shall see it with your eyes, but shall not eat thereof.” You shall hear of Jesus but not have Him because you would not believe! You shall die–a Savior’s name being whispered in your dying ears and yet no comfort shall come to your conscience in that Savior because you rejected Him. You shall wake up in another world and see Him on His Throne, but only to be condemned by Him! You shall look up from the bottomless pit and see the saints–only see them–but not partake of their bliss! God grant this may not be a prophetic declaration of what your future doom will be. May you not be unbelieving! Remember this man–he kept the gate and they rushed out, poor hungry starving souls, to get bread. They poured out like a mighty torrent so they could get food to eat, but there he stood, meager and gaunt, until he was trampled down and died! And to live in a revival, unmoved, seems to me to be the climax of misery–to hear, one after another, that people have come to Jesus and not to have come yourself! As I look round upon these seats, I bless God and thank Him that so many of you are putting your trust in Jesus for salvation. Yet if I kept on putting my finger along, I would have to stop here and there and say, “Ah, there is one that has not believed!” And there has been a rush to Christ in this Church–a mighty rush to Christ of poor sinners–yet some have not come! Truly, they might well say–
“Lord, I hear of showers of blessing
You are scattering full and free,
Showers the thirsty land refreshing.
Let some droppings fall on me!”
“Even me.” I hope they will pray that prayer tonight–“Even me.” It would be a sad thing to see others saved while they are lost!
One thing more and that is–remember that this man kept the gate. He was nearest to the outside of the city, but itwas an unfortunate honor that the king should appoint him to keep the gate. I am always thankful when pew-openers are converted, and people who have to do with the management of a congregation. I am sure if they are not before they take office, they will not be afterwards. They have so much to do with thinking about other people and where to put them, that they cannot so well enjoy the service–and if they have not got a grip of the Gospel before they undertake such an office–I am often afraid they never will! And yet, surely, to be employed about the House of God, to be always there and to be helpful–to keep the gate and not get food ourselves seems a dreadful thing! I daresay you have often thought of what became of Noah’s carpenters. They helped Noah to build the ark. He paid them wages, I do not doubt, and they built it–stout and trim vessel as it was. Very likely some of them, when the rains descended and the floods came, as they were sinking in the waters, could say, “I helped to build that ark, yet I am lost. I helped to caulk her and to tar her. I helped, when the beasts were coming in, to take fodder into the ark–and now I am lost.” You subscribed to the building of a House of Prayer and never pray? You help to support the ministry, yet have no share in the good Truth of God? Oh, you will die–I am sure some of you will die with this upon your hearts–that you were made helpful outwardly, but inasmuch as you have never given your souls to Jesus and been led to trust in Him, you will perish as Noah’s workmen did, having no part nor lot in this matter!
Oh, when I see you all gathered together here, Sunday night after Sunday night, I call myself to account and ask, HOW LONG, HOW LONG WILL THESE PEOPLE REMAIN WITHOUT CHRIST, without God, without hope? Is there any part of the Gospel I leave out? Is there any flaw in my ministry that prevents their coming to Christ? Do I consult my own repute and try to make my words fine and polished? Now I think I can say before the Lord–if I knew any other style of preaching likely to bless you–whether it were the most refined, if I could reach it–I would try it! And if it were the most vulgar, I would not be ashamed of it though all the old reproach and rebuke should come upon me again–if I might but win your souls! Why will you die!? Young man yonder, why are you doing that in London which you would not have dared to do at home? Young woman yonder, why are you shaking off all serious thought and casting the reins on the neck of folly to run after destruction? Gray-headed man yonder, if you have not made peace with God, how can you delay? You have not many days to live, yet you are lost!
Oh, all of you, what shall it profit you if you gain the world and lose your soul? The sun has gone down–let it notrise again until you have sought the Savior! This is all you have to do–to confess your fault into the great Father’s bosom and say, “I have sinned against Heaven and before You.” And then to stand and look to Jesus bleeding and dying AND TRUST HIM WITH YOUR SOULS. God help you to do this for Jesus' sake. Amen and Amen!