Experiencing Confirming Testimony
“As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of Hosts, in the city of our God.”
Nor is it any better with the teachers of false doctrine. As we have heard, so have we not seen. We have sometimes been told that philosophy will civilize a nation–that the spread of education will most certainly cure the human heart and that the bias and propensity to sin will be put down by an increase of mental light. But as we have heard, so have we not seen, for philosophy has thrown many burdens upon men–but it has not touched those burdens to remove them with so much as its little finger! We hear a great deal of what is to be done for society by this scheme and by that, but nothing is done! Theories are propounded–windbags are blown out and brought forth–bubbles are blown, but we do not see much that is solid and valuable, produced! One after another of these eminent theorizers have arisen who were about to revolutionize and reconstruct society! Instead of making the causes of evil in the world to increase, they were to uproot them and turn the desert into the Garden of the Lord! But so it has not been–our eyes have never seen it. Rather has the bad been made worse and the good has been impeded by those who were so pretentious and loud in their professed benevolence! Take any of the false doctrines which are often affiliated to our holy faith and you will find that when you come to examine them and put them to the test, they do not hold water!
How often have we heard about “the dignity of human nature.” How congenial the heart of man is to that which is noble, and to that which is Christ-like! We are told that we have only to hold up Christ and there is such a beauty in Him that all the world will be sure to love Him! But as we have heard, so have we not seen, but we have seen men to be as God saw them–corrupt! There is none that does good, no, not one, and in the perfect light of Calvary, we have seen that even the perfections of Jesus will not be seen by a blind world, nor will they attract a corrupt world. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” will be the verdict of humanity even upon the perfections of the Incarnate God. We have heard a great deal about the power of free will. We have heard sometimes that men come to Christ by themselves. That there is no power of Irresistible Grace which turns them from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto God. Ah, we have heard this, but we have never seen it! To this moment, though we have mingled with all classes of Christians, we did never yet meet with a single Believer who declared that his conversion was the result of his own efforts and that his coming to Christ was entirely through the power of his own free will! We have been told, too, that God forsakes His people, that real saints, after all, turn back and perish! But we bless God that, though we have often heard this, we have never, never seen it–
“If ever it should come to pass,
One of His sheep should fall away!
Would fall a thousand times a day!”
But being kept in safety by another and greater power than our own, and preserved in the midst of appalling temptations, we still hold to it that He does keep His people! We have heard it, and we have seen it, but the other doctrine we have heard, but, thank God, we have never seen! And so there are many other things that pass current in certain sections of Christendom as being true, which, if they were brought to a practical test, might be seen not to be so. We have heard them–heard them delivered with a glowing eloquence that might have convinced us, if we were to be convinced, but we have referred to the Old Book–and the Old Book has been more to us than all the siren-songs that sweetest oratory could raise! We have nailed our colors to the mast and could not take them down! We have found all here in this blessed Bible to be true, but man’s word, when it has come into conflict or even competition with God’s Word, we have found to be light as chaff and as easily consumed as the fat of rams upon the altar’s fire!
Now, just for a little time I thought we would illustrate this general Truth of God that in the things of God, and inthe Church of God,“ as we have heard, so have we seen.” Now, mark–
- IT HAS BEEN SO ALL DOWN THE LINE OF REVELATION.
Could a man have lived a sevenfold Methuselah life and have stood at the gates of Paradise, and listened to the first promise that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. If he could have beheld Noah shut in in the ark and marked the Covenant rainbow when for the first time it spanned the clouds. If he could have lived in Abraham’s day and have seen the father of that seed in which all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Could he have marked all the types and ceremonies which Israel saw in the wilderness, all pointing onwards to a coming Savior. If he could have listened to the prophetic utterances of David in some of those matchless Psalms which are full of the Messiah. Could he have heard the notes of Isaiah when he spoke of Him who was despised and rejected of men, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. Yes, could he have heard every prophecy and beheld every symbol, and listened to every sacred portent–when he came to behold the Person of Christ, to see Him living, dying, rising, ascending and to mark the Pentecost, and to see the history of the Church right down until now–such a grave and revered man–revered and venerable above all other men through the long lapse of years that had passed over his snowy head, would say, “As I heard during the first portion of my life, so have I seen in the latter days thereof–God has always kept His promise–as was the shadow, so was the substance! As the type, so was the antitype! As the word that flowed from prophetic lips, so was the Christ who, in the fullness of time, came into this world to bless and redeem mankind!”
This is not merely a great general Truth of God, but, mark you, it is true in every jot and tittle! We do not expect men, when they speak frequently, so to speak that every particle of what they say may be correct. We admit them to be fallible–we always make some allowance for some slips of the tongue. But all through these thousands of years in which God spoke of Christ and of the Gospel Kingdom, there never was a single trifling word that was not fulfilled!
There have been no slips of the tongue, no drops that blot the page. Everything has been accurately, minutely, precisely–what if I say, microscopically–fulfilled in Christ! As the casket key exactly fits the wards of the lock, so the lifeof Christ and the history of the Church exactly fits all the types and all the prophecies! Sometimes it has been said that if anybody doubts the Inspiration of the four Gospels, it would be a very pretty puzzle for him to try to write a fifth gospel which should have in it some new details that would be congruous to the rest and that would fit in with the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament. That is a task we give to those wits who seem to need something to do in these days, since they are impugning everything that is held sacred by us! Let them attempt that. If this problem could have been put to the wise in all ages–here is the Old Testament and, whether it is true or not, construct the life of a Man who shall fit all that. Use your poetic powers, or whatever other abilities you choose to employ. Imagine a Man that shall fit the lamb, the scapegoat, the Passover, Noah’s ark, the Psalms of David, the prophecies of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel–why the puzzle would have been given up in despair! It would not have been possible for the united abilities of men and angels to have discovered an ideal Messiah that would have exactly met all this! But our Lord did in every jot and in every tittle, so that as we read some parts of the Old Testament, we often say to ourselves, “This looks as if it were written after the event.” We read the 22 nd Psalm and if we did not know that it had been composed many, many years before our Lordcame, we would look at it as history, rather than as prophecy! One can only comprehend this by admitting Inspiration, and by rejoicing in the wondrous truthfulness of God! Even such little points as the casting of lots for the vesture of Christ–things which seem insignificant–God took care should be fulfilled. And though our Lord died, and as yet He had not been pierced as to His heart, at any rate, yet after death there must be a piercing of Him that they “may look on Him whom they have pierced,” and weep and wail because of Him. “As we have heard, so have we seen.” The life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, certainly carry out the prophecies which God had uttered before concerning Him! But now, we shall go on to speak of–
II. THE CHURCH OF GOD–CHRISTWARD AND GODWARD–AS TO OUR OWN EXPERIENCE.
Some of you have thoughts of Christ–but as dead or as far away. We have come to deal with Him as a living Savior. Now the question is, whether in so dealing with Him, we have found all true that we were told concerning Him?
Now, when we first enlisted in the Christian army, we were told from Christ’s own Word that we must count the costand we would have to suffer a degree of persecution. We were warned not to take upon ourselves, hastily, to carry out that for which we should have no power unless we sought it from above. We were warned, “In the world you shall have tribulation.” Have we found it so? “Oh,” says one, “that has been abundantly true to me! From those of my own household I first met with opposition! The Gospel has set those against me that were once my fondest friends.” Just so, but now that it has come to pass, you will see how sincerely He dealt with you, that He would not entrap you into His service as though it would be altogether a thing of pleasure, but He warned you that it was a conflict, that it was a pilgrimage. You have found it so and now that it has come to pass, let this help you to trust Him for the future!
But you were also told that if you trusted Him, you who were burdened with many sins, you would have them all forgiven and that this forgiveness would bring about a solid peace of mind. Have you found it so? Can you not stand up and add your name to the long roll of witnesses who say, “We looked unto Him and were lightened, and our faces were not ashamed! This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and delivered him from all his fears”? I bless the Lord I can say that the joy of the pardoned sinner is a sweeter and a better thing than I ever dreamed it to be. And the peace of conscience, which reflection upon the Atonement always brings, is better and more enduring than one could have fancied have fallen to the lot of so unworthy an one as he whom Christ had called!
Our Lord Jesus told us, too, that if we came and trusted Him, He would give us the victory over our sins. Now, hasHe done that? I know you will sometimes confess that you have not conquered your sins as you would desire.
The battle is still raging–there is still a need for yonder watchtower. But, Brothers and Sisters, if a sin has not been conquered, has that ever been Christ’s fault? Has it not been ours? “They overcame through the blood of the Lamb,” is true of all the saints with regard to their struggles with sin. There is no sin that we cannot pray down and weep down if we live at the foot of the Cross. The worst temper that ever a soul was plagued with is to be controlled and softened if one looks to the griefs of Christ and becomes like He in temper. It matters not how constitutional the sin may be, though you may say, “It is my easily-besetting sin”–you may be delivered from it! Christ Jesus, when He comes into the island of our nature, can drive out all the cruel and deadly reptiles that are there. Or if they remain there, He can give us abundant Grace so that they can make no headway and we shall be kept as “holiness unto the Lord.” Now, you and I have read and heard from the saints of God thatour Lord Jesus, when He is really known and understood, is inexpressible sweetness itself. They have told us, some of them–writing like Rutherford of his wonderful Master–that the joy of Heaven is to be possessed, in a measure, even here below! That in contemplation on and communion with Christ, the heart can be made to dance with eternal joy and full of glory! Now, Brothers and Sisters, have we found it so? Oh, some of us can set to our seal that in this thing the saints of God have been true! He has ravished our souls with His Presence and made our hearts to melt while He spoke into our ears the marvelous story of His love! Perhaps in our unbelief we think that this is fancy, or fanaticism, or some high-strained sentimentalism, but it is not so! It is a sober fact that when a man gets to lean upon the arm of Christ, he laughs at trouble, defies persecution–he passes through temptation all unhurt. He walks here below, but his conversation is in Heaven! He sits down with the sons of men and yet he is “raised up and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” I would say to you saints who have not proceeded far in the College of Christ, who have only just begun to study His precious Character and the Divine Virtues that flow out of Him, never be content until you have! As you have heard from the song of the Canticles. As you have heard from the saints who out of their experience have told you of Christ’s love, so will you find it! Do not harbor the idea that the further you go, the less will you have of enjoyment in religion. Oh, no! It has deep draughts of great bliss! The shallow draughts will sustain, but oh, it is sacred intoxication with the love of Christ which brings the highest joy and the most Divine mirth!
To go in up to the ankles in the sea of Christ’s love is well, but oh, to pass up to the loins and to get still further until you find it “a river to swim in”–this is to know the true delights of godliness!
As you have heard of these things, though they seem to be too high for you and you tremble at them, yet if you will but ask for more Grace that you may press forward, so you shall! There are no exceptions about Christ! He offers nothing in the market that has been proffered to catch the eye, but is not worth the purchase. His diamonds are never trashy paste. His gold is not mere gilt. You may buy bread from Him and put it in the scales and find it ounce for ounce. The water that He gives turns neither stale nor sour–it is always fresh and cool–the further you shall go in the enjoyment of it, the more shall you prize the well of water springing up in your souls unto everlasting life!
Now, I might just turn this same point around in another form and say that, as we have heard of Christ in His lifeupon earth, so have we found it in dealing with Him. When Christ was here on earth, He was all tenderness and love–and so we have found Him. We went to Him covered with the leprosy of our sin and ready to die of our iniquities. But one touch of His hand was freely given and that touch healed us! When He was on earth He was holiness, itself, and so He is now, for He will not walk with us if we fall in love with sin. He is quick to see our faults and He gently chides us till conscience awakens us and we turn from the evil with abhorrence. Christ was in this world as a very faithful friend. Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end. And we have found Him just such until now. There was never an hour in which He left us naked to our enemies. When we have been tempted, His intercession has always been like a bronze wall around us to keep us from being devoured by the foe. When we have been bewildered, He has, like a good shepherd, led us by ways that we knew not, but that He well understood. In the days of famine we have been fed. In the times of need we have been satisfied. We can speak well of His name. If any of His saints have anything to say of Him that is high and comely, that will exalt Him and set Him on high, and we, after our measure, can endorse it all! So far as our experience has gone, He is a better Christ than we thought Him to be! Oh, He is altogether precious, altogether lovely! Up to this day we have never discovered a spot in Him. We have tried Him–oh how, sadly, and our sins have tried Him–oh, how heavily! But He is always true–the same yesterday, today, and forever! We can only bless Him and praise Him, for “as we have heard, so have we seen.”
How my heart desires that some of you who are here would just now, at this very moment, come to my Lord and try Him! Oh, I so remember when I first came to Him. They told me He was ready to pardon and that a look at Him wouldmove the crushing burden from my weary heart. I could not think it true, but–
“I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad.”
And did He disappoint me? Ah, no! I can happily join in with the rest of that verse–
“I found in Him a resting place,
And He has made me glad!”
If any of you think that Christ will cast you out when you come, I wish you would come and try Him. It would be the beginning of a new method with Him–the turning over of a new black leaf. “Him that comes unto Me,” He says, “I will in no wise cast out.” He never did find it in His heart to do so to any sinner that has sought His mercy! And I will not believe it, though all the angels in Heaven swear it, that He ever cast away a soul! I’d call them liars! It cannot be! It never shall be! While the heavens are above the earth and God is true, and Christ is God, no sinner that comes and puts His trust in Him, shall find Him unable or unwilling to save Him! Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! And as you have heard, so shall you see! Now, in the next place, I think–
III. THIS ALL STANDS GOOD WITH REGARD TO THE CHURCH OF GOD ITSELF.
Some have been apt to find fault with the Church and some Christians seem to act on the principle of getting to Heaven, one by one. “Sheep,” God’s people are called, and I suppose one reason is because sheep are gregarious and go in flocks. But there are Christian professors who seem to like the one by one principle. Well now, speaking of the Church of God as we have seen her, she has many faults–many faults–but Jesus Christ loves her and she is His Bride. And I dare not find fault with her! If she is the Princess Royal, if she is His Imperial Highness’s own betrothed one, I would rather see her with His eyes than with my own! And while it may be very striking to rail about ministers and their defects, to sneer at Church members and all sorts of other things–and there may be sometimes good reason for it–yet we may say much on the other side, too. “As we have heard, so have we seen.”
When we first joined the Christian Church, we were told very plainly in the Scripture that there would be taresamong the wheat. That there would be some among us who would go out from us, because they were not of us. Christ taught us that among His 12 disciples, there was one Judas, and if some hypocrites intrude among us, it need not astonish us! We knew it would be so. He forewarned us and admonished us of it. We have heard it and so have we seen–and if the seeing of it has been painful–we can at least say that God was truthful and frank in warning us that so it would be.
Well, there were good things spoken of the Church of God and we have found them true, too. I expected to find inthe Christian Church some holy, prayerful, devout Christian men and women–and I have found them. And I have rejoiced to be among them, to mingle with them, and to be of their company, joining with them in holy worship, the washing in the blood that has washed them! I can truly say that I have found a Peter–many a bold earnest Brother like Peter. Many a loving John! Many a busy Martha and some communing Marys. The Church of God always seems to me, as I have seen it, to be a vast deal too good for me to be a member of it, if I did but judge myself. And, instead of finding fault, I would join with David and say, “You are my Lord: my goodness extends not to You, but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent in whom is all my delight.” I know the world will often find fault and rail and tell us there are no such things as ancient Christians. I have seen as glorious Christianity as even the Apostles saw, and as good works of the Holy Spirit in members of this Church as ever gladdened the eyes of those Apostles! I have seen suffering endured with an astonishing patience, labor done with a perseverance that was most commendable, liberality evinced with a freedom that showed that the love of Christ constrained, prayer kept up with a fervency that marked the indwelling Spirit and souls cared for, sought after and won, too, with an indefatigable love that only the love of Christ could inspire! I know we always think we live in the worst times, but we do not!
There were worse times than these and there will be again. These may not be the best, but they are a long way off from being the worst. I think it was when Dr. Newton died that the good divine who preached the funeral sermon took some such text as this, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof,” and he deplored that now this eminent saint was gone, they had no great divines left like the great preachers of the olden time. That went on very prettily for some time, but it was too much–for an old Methodist woman, who stood in the aisle cried out–“Glory to God, that’s a lie!” And oftentimes when I hear people crying down the times and saying there are no good people left, and that Christianity is at a low ebb, and that there remains no true zeal, I can say from what I, myself, see in the people among whom I dwell, “Glory be to God, that is a lie! It is a slander upon the Church of God!” For as we have heard, so have we seen–we have seen the gracious, fair fruits of the Spirit–and we honor God by testifying to that fact!
I would, however, dear Brothers and Sisters, that we were always conscientiously concerned never to give the lie in any degree to statements made in Scripture concerning the holy living of the saints. Alas, there are some professors who, if you could track them to their business, are so much given to loose trading that as we have heard–so can we cannotsee! If you go into their houses–their maidservants, their children and their wives are obliged to say, “We have heard what Christian fathers, and mothers, and masters ought to be, but as we have heard so, we do not see.” It all ends in talk, in profession. Now, while I stand up for it that there are many that do adorn the Doctrine of God their Savior in all things and so prove that they are God’s true people, yet do we sorrowfully confess that many walk “of whom” we would say with the Apostle, “We have told you often, and now tell you even with weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ.” Though they are professed members of the Church of Christ, their lips honor God, but their inconsistent lives degrade the Church and bring upon it much loss of spiritual power. “As we have heard, so have we seen.”
I think some of us can say that we have heard of the Church’s glorious assemblies. We have heard that they said theywere glad when they went up to the House of the Lord. We have heard that the people of God are happy in their assemblies and that they long for the place where God’s honor dwells. Well, and so have we seen, for our Sabbaths have been our happiest days and we have often said–
“My willing soul would stay,
In such a frame as this,
And sit, and sing herself away
To everlasting bliss.”
It has been so.
We have heard that the preaching of the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation and the great means of comfortand edification to the saints. And “as we have heard, so have we seen,” for oftentimes when the Truth of God has been preached in our hearing, it has been as marrow and fatness–and other times a rebuke has come just as we needed it to quicken us from our spiritual sloth!
We have heard that the ordinances of God’s House have a blessing connected with them. Baptism and the Lord'sSupper–that in the keeping of His commandments there is great reward–and as we have heard, so have we seen. I am sure that the blessed Supper of the Lord, though many of His people come to the Table every week, never seems to grow stale.
There is always a freshness in it. Oh, that blessed ordinance! Some, I know, make a god of it and an idolatrous mystery of it, but because they misuse it, we dare not depreciate it! It is to us none other than the very gate of Heaven full often. “As we have heard, so have we seen.” Let us press on in our Church fellowship and increase in our love and earnestness–and then as we have heard of the Zion that travails and becomes like the mother of children–so shall we see! As we have heard that they who sow in tears shall reap in joy–so shall we see! As we have heard that there is great pleasure connected with the winning of souls for Christ–so shall we see. In a word, all the glorious things that are spoken of Zion, we shall have fulfilled to ourselves!
Brothers and Sisters, before I close, I want to say that there is a dreadful side to this Truth of God. As we have heard, so have we seen. There are some of you here who are not saved. You have hitherto loved your sins and have not repented. You have heard of Christ, but you have put off all thoughts of Him. Now you have heard oftentimes that He that believes not shall be condemned–and from this Book you have heard that condemnation is something terrible and overwhelming, for there are words like these, “Beware, you that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver.” And these, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” And these, “Where their worm dies not, and their fire is not quenched.” Now as you have heard, so will you see! Depend upon it, you shall not find the pit of Hell to be less awful than this Book describes! God sets up no bugbear to frighten souls! They are all realities of which He speaks–and that they are realities, many dying sinners have been made to know before they have been dead, for their horror, their alarmstheir fears have been premonitions of that wrath to which they were drawing near! I have seen some death scenes which I dare not try to picture before you–and the memory of which would unman me if I were to continue to contemplate them–hearers of the Gospel who had neglected Christ and who died conscious of their sins, unable, however, to seek mercy. And while we prayed with them, telling us that our prayers would never be heard, for they were given over and now they were cursing God, even while they were feeling the anguish of lost souls! Yes, and though there are some that become the advocates for evil by trying to make out the punishment of sin to be little–settle it in your souls that as it took the blood of the dying Son of God to wash out the sin of those who were pardoned–it will take an anguish such as no heart can conceive before the sinner shall have suffered for his sin what God will certainly pour upon him! Think not lightly of the doom of the lost, lest you think lightly of sin, and lightly of Christ, for as you have heard and infinitely more than you have heard, shall you see, oh, unhappy spirit, unless you will turn to Christ and believe on Him and live! Oh, that you may do so tonight, for another night may never come to you–but one long, endless night may be your portion.
But there is a bright side to it, too. The saints in Heaven might all say, “As we have heard, so have we seen,” only that I think they would make a great improvement in our text! ‘Tis true, you heard that Heaven was full of joy and mercy and so have you seen. You heard of its pearly gates and its streets of shining gold. You heard of its foundations of jasper and its walls of chrysolite and all manner of precious stones. You heard of its eternal rest and of the Presence of God and the glory of the overflowing bliss–and all you heard you have seen! But I say they would make an improvement upon this, for, like the Queen of Sheba, I think their glorified spirits would say, “The half has not been told.” Yes, Brothers and Sisters, we have heard things, but, “what must it be to be there”–to be there?! The enjoyments transcend description and though the words of Scripture portray the bliss that remains, we, alas, are dull of understanding and cannot find out all the meaning of the golden sentences! But we shall soon be there and once there we shall, as I have said before, declare, “As we have heard, so have we seen, only that the half was not told us of the splendor and the glory of the court of our heavenly Solomon.” May we be there to find all true and join in the everlasting song of, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His blood, unto Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”