Their Desired Haven
“So He brings them to their desired haven.”
TAKEN strictly, according to its original context, the text plainly and powerfully reminds us that our Providential mercies ought never be forgotten–and more especially those remarkable mercies which concern the safety of our life in times of great peril.
If there are any of you who have been exposed to storms at sea, or who have in any other way been brought near death’s door, and have then been strikingly rescued, should you not devote your life to Him who has spared and prolonged it? Do you think it was without a design that God brought you into the peril? And is it without a purpose that He has lengthened out your span of life? Oh, I pray you, if you have hitherto been ungrateful, let this tenderness of His in sparing your useless life–(for remember it has been useless to Him)–excite in you a hundredfold tenderness! A tenderness of repentance for the past, and of holy desire for the future. In such an assembly as this I have surely some who have either been restored from a bed of sickness when they were almost given over, or who have been preserved from accidents on land, or have had hairbreadth escapes at sea. Oh, praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works toward you! And at the foot of the Cross of Calvary dedicate your few remaining days to the service of the Preserver of men!
But this evening, while remembering these important Truths of God, we intend to use the text with yet another objective. This natural voyage on the sea may be a very excellent type and picture of the spiritual voyage which all men undertake in their soul’s life. And we should first interpret the text as it concerns the seeking sinner on the sea of soultrouble, brought at length by the gracious Pilot to his desired haven of peace through believing. And then we shall very briefly construe the text with reference to the saint brought through all the troubles of life to the desired haven of theNew Jerusalem, where he shall rest forever free from all future storms and perils.
First, then, let us look at THE SEEKING SINNER AS A SOUL-VOYAGER.
Our first thought suggested here is that with regard to the sinner, there is a haven. The soul of the man or woman isfar out at sea, liable to be wrecked and in such a storm he or she will be wrecked, for no craft can live it out unless itmakes all speed for the haven. And there is a haven for storm-tossed, ship-wrecked souls! There is a harbor of refuge for tempest-driven sinners! That haven is Christ Jesus, received by faith into the soul. I compare Him to a haven because of the peace which those enjoy who once shelter in Him. It is wild, and black, and fierce out there, Sinner, where you are! But there is peace–“the peace of God that passes all understanding”–where the true Believer is. It is not because his ship is different from yours. If he were where you are, as once he was, he would still be in the same peril and suffer the same damage as you. But he is now “in Christ” and you are not. He has changed the hurricane for the haven, the danger for the calm confidence of safety! Oh, if you only knew the peace which faith brings, it would not be long before you cried to God in your trouble and He would bring you to His dear Son and Savior, Jesus Christ!
I also call Jesus a haven because of the safety that there is to every soul that is in Him. Ships are wrecked and brokento pieces out there, on the shoals, on the quicksand, or on the iron-bound coasts–but they escape wreck in the haven. There let the storm-king rage his worst and angriest abroad–they are in perfect peace! Sometimes, not a ripple disturbs the vessel that is in the harbor. My Hearer, you are in great danger tonight! You may soon be in Hell and even now the wrath of God abides on you, for you are “without God” and, consequently, “without hope in the world.” But the Christian is in no such danger! Sin, which is the source of all soul-danger, has been fully forgiven him. He will not need even to fear death, for to him death is but the gate of life! He need have no fears of temporal trouble, for he has left his burdens with the great Burden-Bearer and may cast all his care on Him who cares for him. He has a peace which is founded upon the Immutable Truth of God! It is not a false peace which expects that there will never come a storm, but a true solid peace which knows that though the though the storm will come, he needs not dread it because his vessel is safe in the haven!
I call Christ a haven, again, because when we get into Himwe beginunloading. Oh, what a cargo of black sins we had! Oh, what a store of grief, fears, follies and doubts! But when we come to Jesus Christ we unload them all. We cast overboard even what we once thought precious, counting it but dross and dung that we may win Christ and be found in Him. What a blessed riddance to be free of such foul rubbish as once threatened to founder our souls! Says the hymn–
“I lay my sins on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God!
He bears them all and frees us,
From the accursed load.”
That is what faith is helped to do. It casts all its sins, doubts, fears and cares upon Jesus Christ, the great Sin-Bearer, and so is made free!
I call Him a haven, too, because when a ship gets to the haven, it begins to load again. The haven is as frequently thestarting place for a new voyage, as the goal to the previous one. And emphatically is that so in our soul’s experience.
What fine store does the trustful soul take on board when it comes to Jesus Christ! Of joy, of love, privilege, holiness, delight and fellowship, for we have inexhaustible riches of Grace and blessing in Him. When we come to Him, these unbounded treasures are all ours! God All-Sufficient is revealed to us in the Person of the Man, Christ Jesus. Like the haven of Araby, where the ships take on board their gold and their perfume, so the soul receives its most precious and priceless gifts from the All-Bountiful Redeemer Lord! Oh, you who are still out on the restless, wild sea of sin and dissatisfaction of storm and dread, will you not long to reach the haven that you may be peaceful and safe, happy and secure because you lose your sins and in their place may receive of His fullness, Grace for Grace?
Mariner! I think I hear you say, “I would gladly came to the port, but what about it, Sir? What are the dues there?” Sinner, it is a free port–there is nothing to pay! Of all the keels that ever floated into that haven there was never onethat had anything to bring that was worth receiving. There has been much taken out, but nothing has been brought in that was worth the acceptance. Christ will charge you no custom’s dues, so run to this port, for it is freely open to every sinner that desires to cast anchor there! There is room for you, too. There are many vessels–there is a great fleet, a blessedly peaceful fleet, within, but there is room for you. Do you tell me that there was once a bar before the harbor? Yes, but it has been blasted clean away and is now altogether removed! There is sea-room for the heaviest craft! Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as wool! Though they are red like crimson they shall be whiter than snow! You say that your heavy-laden boat will draw many a foot of Mercy’s water? Ah, but there’s many a foot here! There is room even though your ship is burdened up to the bulwarks. There is no fear of your touching the bottom of God’s bottomless Grace, wisdom and love! There is always room for you to come. Some ports are only open at certain states of the tide, and so when the tide is out and low, the boat that makes for the haven may run upon the rocks, or the Black Middens somewhere–but of this there is no fear for you–
“The blessed gates of Gospel Grace
Stand open night and day!”
Some souls have run for the haven at the very last and, by His mercy, they have got in–while others have run for it, blessed be God, while yet quite young! Oh, may it be your happy lot at the very commencement of life’s voyage, young men and women, to run for this blessed haven and find yourselves strong and secure and serene!
At any rate, let me say to you, however despairing you may be, if God gives you the will to run for this harbor, you may do so and find without doubt that it will be found open to receive you! Christ Jesus, then, is a true haven for the soul–and they who trust in Him are made perfectly secure!
We must not stay longer on this point, however, fair and attractive as it is, but note that the text speaks of “ a desiredhavenhaven to in preaching to such a congregation, even though none of you knew Christ, if you did but truly desire Him! You would then be like tinder to my spark and be like prepared ground. I should only have to sow the Seed and you would be that fruitful soil which receive it–and yield a harvest a hundred-fold! Christ is not desired by some of you and why not? But I think I can easily find out those who desire the haven. They are just these. The sailor desires the haven when he has anunfavorable breeze. Do you feel as if Providence were blowing in your teeth? And are temptations setting in very strong? And does the recollection of your past sin come blowing a hard gale against you? But a little while ago you sailed and were very comfortable, for ‘twas all smooth water with you! The sea was like a millpond! But now the waves roll and break mountains high and the wind is in your teeth. I hope you will come to desire the Savior now. Sick of the world and all its turbulence, may you now be anxious after Him and His peace. The sailor desires to get into harbor, too, when hefinds he is in weather which he is not likely to ride out. "Would God,” says the boatswain, “that we could see the light.” “Oh, that we were now in the haven,” says the master, “for there are threatening, angry breakers ahead.” Do you not see the breakers ahead, Sinner? Are you not afraid of dying and more afraid of living? Do not the storms and trials of life drive you to desire something better than the vain world can give you? And does not the prospect of the afterlife alarm you? Then I hope that to your belabored soul Christ is the desired haven!
But even more, the haven is desired by the sailor whose ship is leaky. “She will soon go down,” he says, “we havekept the pump going, but the water gains upon us.” Do you feel your spirit to be such an unseaworthy craft that you are afraid to go out into or stay out in the depths of the sea with her? Do you begin to feel, or fear, she is sinking? If so, then my Lord Jesus Christ will be to you a “desired haven,” indeed! Ah, no sinner prizes salvation like the sinner who knows he is lost! May our God give you to know that you are!–
“The sinner is a sacred thing,
The Holy Spirit has made him so.”
That is, a really awakened sinner, for his ship he will not take to harbor unless he feels that she must sink unless he does! I pray God that you may get into such a sinking state that you may be compelled to go to Him. And when the sailor himself is sick, it is then he needs the haven. When he feels as if he must die, then he says, “I wish I were safe on shore!” Do you feel sick at heart? Does your very soul turn within you till you reel and stagger like a drunken man? Then you will desire the haven and I bless God you will have it! There is many a sailor who has desired the haven who has yet never reached it but gone down into the depths–but there has never been one upon the sea of life who has desired Christ witha really intense longing and a loving and anxious heart, but he has found Him before long! Oh, Sinner, I have hope for you, for if you desire Christ, Christ even more desires you!
We cannot stop, however, even here, for next we have to talk about the Pilot. How do they get into the haven? Hebrings them therebrings them to their desired haven.“ We know nothing of the navigator of the sea of salvation. To get into the harbor is never effected by human skill nor wisdom. "I am a Christian” said a young woman once. Said the minister, “When did you become a Christian?” “I am sure I don’t know, Sir,” was the reply, “but I supposed it was when I was christened.” A great many people have the same notion. Ah, but “ so” He doesnot bring any to the desired haven, but in quite an altogether different way! It is by the personally coming on board of the soul, of the Great Pilot, the Holy Spirit, that the heart is steered into the safe haven. But she will rot or wreck outside, or founder to the bottom unless God, Himself, shall bring her into the quiet harbor of His glorious Redemption. “So
He brings them.“ Dear Hearer, do you say, "There is a haven, and I desire to make for the land, but the wind is contrary. I would tack and tack about, but the more I try, the farther off from the haven do I seem to be”? Yes, but He who is the Haven is also the Pilot to bring you to the haven! You have no repentance, you say. He gives it! Ask Him for it. You have no faith. He gives it–seek it at His hands. Oh, that you had Grace to trust Him as much as to bring you to Himself, as to bring you to Heaven! You may not get at Him, you toiling boat. You cannot reach Christ who is on the land, but He comes walking on the water to meet you. “It is I,” He says, “be not afraid.”
Despair not, doubt not, you who desire! Put up the signals of distress–fire the guns of prayer again and again–and He will come! The Pilot who has weathered and rescued you from many a storm, before, will bring you safely to harbor. He is a Pilot who knows the sea well–
“He knows what strong temptations mean,
For He has felt the same.”
He has steered many a vessel into port that was in quite as bad a condition as you are now. He is well-skilled! He has got a Divine Certificate from the Trinity House. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; He has anointed Me to do this very work of bringing poor shipwrecked mariners to the Port of Peace.” Commit yourself to His hands! Let Him board your vessel and He will make your ship tack about and bring you soon into the still and quiet waters of the desired haven!
But I come now to the point I want specially to drive at, and that is the passage to the haven. They are brought to thehaven they desire and they are brought there by the Pilot, but how are they brought? The text says, “ So He brings themto their desired haven.” The way into the haven is not always a smooth one. Some are brought to Christ as if they had never known a storm. Do not, of course, desire and seek a storm–but as long as you get safely into the haven it matters not how you get there. If you trust Christ, do not trouble yourselves because you never went through the Slough of Despond. Read the life of John Bunyan and you will find him much troubled and tumbled up and down for years. You may have felt little of this, perhaps, yet if your trust in Christ is sincere and real, it matters not! If the ship reaches the haven and is safely sheltered there, whether she had a stormy passage or a smooth one is of little importance. The great thing is to be “Safe home, safe home in port.” Still, it often happens that we come into the port of Christ’s salvation through a storm. Read the passage and you will see how frequently this occurs. “They mount up to Heaven, they go down again into the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man. They cry unto the Lord in their trouble and He brings them out of their distresses. He makes the storm to be a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they are quite. So He brings them to their desired haven.” They aregreatly troubled, but it drives them to prayer–prayer gets its answer and so they get Christ! I thank God that I was brought into peace by believing. It was many and many a day before I found Christ. It is a strange thing, but as I was talking this afternoon with a dear friend in Christ about spiritual things, we remarked to one another that the most of the men who had been made useful in winning souls had a hard time of it, when they first came to Christ. For the most part a deep and painful experience seems to be absolutely necessary to enable a minister to get a hold and a grip upon the Doctrines of Grace. Still, let us never forget that the tossing is not the haven and the storm is not the port. A sense of sin does not save–and terrors of conscience do not justify. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” That is the great message to us all! Trust in Jesus–this it is that brings you into port. May God bring you there! And we will then sing together, and “praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men.”
I hope to meet full many of you in that other port above. Meanwhile, what a blessing and privilege it is that there are so many of us in the port of Christ here and now, on this sin-afflicted earth! Let us hand out the flags tonight, everyone of them as we try to bless and magnify the King who is, Himself, the Pilot, who made the haven, who Himself bears the storm upon His own bosom, that we may be saved from it and be hidden from all the rolling billows, and find a secure resting place in Him!
And now for only a few minutes let us apply the text to Believers and see–THE SINCERE SAINT AS A SOULVOYAGER. We are accustomed to speak of Heaven as our home and I think we would not strain the point, tonight, if we speak of it as our haven. The Church in the olden times was often pictured in symbols by a ship and, perhaps, no better type of the Church could be found. The ship is out at sea. We are on our journey home. The prow is towards the Promised Land. We hope to reach the Isles of the Happy in the land of the hereafter where the waters are eternally still and the billows roll no more. In yonder haven of our soul there is a peace transcending even the peace which we have learned upon earth though it passes all understanding–a peace that no storm can by any possibility even break–no stormwithin, no tempest without. There shall be no panics there, no losses of money there, no sickening wife, no dying child, no tortured brain, no anguish in the heart–there we shall be free from all the storms that tossed us on the sea of life.
That port is one from which the ship shall never make another voyage–she is home for good–not to be broken up, but to be re-filled after a better fashion! No longer mortal, for this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruption must put on incorruption. She shall make voyages, but still be in the haven, for the eternal haven is wide as infinity and we may sail on and on forever–and it shall always be upon a sea where not a wave of trouble, a breaker of sin or sorrow shall beat on our serene soul! There shall be no more leakage there, no more complaint that the vessel is out of trim. The sin that has pierced us through and through like some of these sea-worms which eat through the staunchest timbers shall be forever done with! Yes, forever and ever!
I love to think often and deeply of that haven, dear Friends! If not to you, I am sure it is to me, a “desired haven.” If you ask me why it is desired, I can only answer that when I see the perils of the way–the storms we have had to face and outride and how little our poor vessel is able to overcome them–we may well long to be forever where such trials and, indeed, all meet there mymany comrades who have gone before.
It has been my lot to serve under the Great Captain now for some few years. There are names that are on the roll of my Master in Heaven which I venerate and men whom I long to see. Rowland Hill once took a journey, we are told, from Cambridge, some ten or twelve miles, to see an old dying saint, and he said to her, “Now, you will be in Heaven before me, but do tell them that poor old Rowland is on the road. And when you get there give my love to the three Johns–John who leaned on the Savior’s bosom, John Calvin and John Bunyan.” Well, we may well wish to see them and the many who shall be there, for we shall have near and intimate communion with them! Let us drink tonight the cup of fellowship and toast the friends that are ahead! We have been long enough out from shore, I think, almost to forget those behind and begin to remember those who are ahead. We are homeward bound and we long to be at home for the sake of the friends who have gone before. Some dear to us in ties of flesh are there–those who were to us as father, mother, wife or child. Your little ones are beckoning some of you to the celestial shore! How much a desired haven it should be to you! I have many spiritual children on the other side of life’s Jordan. Multitudes are now there who learned the Savior’s name from my stammering words–and came to see His transcendent beauties as He was being set forth, lifted up and exhibited here in the midst of this great congregation! I know they will welcome me, their spiritual father, and I long to be with them!
But best of all it is a desired haven, because He is there, who though He was of a human mother born, is yet truly Divine! He, whom though–
“We have not seen His face,
Unceasing we adore!
The Man of Sorrows at the Father’s side,
The Man of Love, the Crucified.”
Blow, blow you winds! Let the sails go to ribbons if they must! Let the vessel rush and fly before the gale, if only she does but get safely into “the desired haven!” We may even think the storm is blest that drives her the more quickly there, for it is, indeed, a desired haven!
Are you now desiring it, my dear Brothers and Sisters? It is not always that we do. We get a trick of loitering along the road or merely cruising on the ocean. What a strange thing that anything here should beguile us!–
“What is there that I should wait,
My hope’s alone in Thee!
When will You open Glory’s gate,
And take me up to Thee?”
Is there anything here that ought to make us stop a moment if there is that prospect beyond of the Savior’s face and the vision of His Glory? I think we can say, some of us, that at times–
“Our thirsty spirit faints
To reach the land we love–
The bright inheritance of saints,
You see I am running over the same heads as we had in the first part–a haven, a desired haven, and then the Pilot.Shall I ever get to the desired haven? I would despair of it in going through so tortuous a channel so thickly set with difficulties and perils, but my Pilot knows the course! My Pilot found the way to Heaven, Himself, and if I trust Him absolutely, giving the vessel entirely to His charge, He will find the way for me, too! Besides this, He has this advantage–He is the Master of the winds and waves! And so I may confidently–
“Leave to His sovereign will
To choose and to command.”
For He will certainly bring me safely home.
But the passage to the haven needs, too, your thought. My Christian Brothers and Sisters, you are now being tossed on the sea. You came here tonight wondering what God was doing with you. You old sailors ought not to be astonished or alarmed at a storm. Did you imagine the sea had turned to dry land? Did you expect to reach yonder distant shore without feeling the heave of the waves? Why the youngsters and novices may expect such things if they will! But you who are seasoned mariners and are getting gray ought to know better! Has it been smooth all the way until now? Why expect it to be sunny and serene now? Master John Bunyan’s ditty has it–
“A Christian is seldom long at ease,
When one trouble’s gone, another does him seize.”
Do you not expect it? If you do not, I would alter my reckoning if I were you! Just turn to the log-book of your memory–how many days together have you generally been in smooth water? Not many, I will guarantee you. You ancient mariners who have lived at sea these many years and have got your sea-legs now, and can stand where others fall, I ask you whether you have not been more accustomed to rolling billows than you have been to the ocean smooth as a millpond? And do you expect to see it alter for you now? Between you and Canaan there are a few more storms. Between here and the everlasting rest there are turmoils yet to encounter, but, “so He brings them to their desired haven.” Perhaps if it were always smooth, they would never get there–the treacherous stream of earthly ease would bear them out to the cataract of everlasting destruction! Perhaps without the wind and without the storm, yes, and without the clouds and the tempest, and the thunder and the lightning, the boat might never reach the haven! The boats upon earth’s seas may reach their haven without the aid of storms, but not so with us, for, to again repeat the words of Cowper, here if not in the other case–
“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.”
And now my last word that I would venture to say is this–“So he brings them to their desired haven.” That doesnot mean you, young man, for Christ is not on board your heart and life–you do not desire the haven and you will never be brought there against your will! Who are they, then, that are brought there? The text and its context tells us. They are those who “cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saves them out of their distress.” Are you a crying soul? Pleading, entreating His rescue and deliverance? That word, “cry,” is a very appropriate and suggestive one. That is the true way to pray. As God inspires, cry to Him! A girl who had been converted was asked what was the difference between her prayers now and before she was converted. She answered, “Sir, first I prayed as my mother taught me, but now I pray as God prompts and teaches me.” That is a blessed and vital difference! You have seen and heard your children cry. Well, how is it done? Some of them seem to cry all over. When they want something very badly, they not only cry with their throats, but they cry also with their legs and hands and eyes! And, indeed, they cry with all their nature. And that, too, is the right way to prayHehears the desires of the humble."
A man once in great trouble, a poor Hottentot, went to his Dutch master and said he felt a great weight and he needed to pray–would he tell him how? The Dutchman did not know and could not tell him. But when the Hottentot went to the place at Cape Town where he heard the Bible read, he listened to the story of the Pharisee. And as he heard it he said, “Dat man a good man. I can’t pray like him. Dat prayer not suit me. I can’t pray dat.” Presently the preacher went on reading the publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” The man said, “Dat man a bad man. God not hear dat prayer.” But when he came to, “That man went down to his house justified rather than the other,” he said, “Den I’ll pray dat bad man’s prayer. God hear him, God hear me,” and not long after he was heard to say, “Rocks, hills, rivers, trees, tell God my soul so happy, for He has heard my prayer and put my sins away!”
Now, you who want to cry to God but do not know how, I recommend to you the publican’s prayer, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Breathe that out before the Throne of God and you shall one day be among the company of whom it is said, “So He brings them to their desired haven,” and you shall rest in Jesus–
“Forever with the Lord.”