Page images


“ Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the

chief corner-stone."

APRIL, 1863.


“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.”—Psalm xlii. 2. Tais whole psalm reads like the sob of a wounded heart. We can see that the writer of it is shut out from the temple of his God, from the blessed soil of his pative land. One can see him' sitting solitary yonder in the lonely wilderness (for the geographical details that occur in one part of the psalm point to his situation as being on the other side of the Jordan, in the mountains of Moab)can see him sitting there, with long wistful gaze yearning across the narrow valley and the deep stream that lay between him and the land of God's chosen people, and his eye resting perhaps on the mountain-top that looked down upon Jerusalem. We need not wonder, I think, that he felt shut out from the presence of God. We need not suppose that he believed all the rest of the world was profane and God-forsaken, except only the temple. Nor need we wonder, on the other hand, that his faith did cling to forms, and that he thought the sparrows beneath the caves of the temple blessed birds! He was depressed, because he was shut out from the tokens of God's presence; and because he was depressed, he shut himself out from the reality of the presence. And so he cried with a cry which never is in vain, “ My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.

Taken, then, in its primary and original sense, the words of our text apply only to that strange phenomenon which we call religious depression. But I have ventured to take them in a wider sense than that. It is not only Christian men who are cast down whose souls “ thirst for God.” It is not only men upon earth wbose souls thirst for God. All men, everywhere, may take this text for theirs. Every human heart may breathe it out, if it understands itself. The longing for “the living God” belongs to all men. Thwarted, stifled, it still survives. Unconscious, it is our deepest misery. Recognised, yielded to, accepted, it is the foundation of our highest blessings. Filled to the full, it still survives unsatiated and expectant. For all men upon earth, Christian or not Christian for Christians here below, whether in times of depression or in times of gladness, and for the blessed and calm spirits that in ecstasy of longing, full of fruition, stand around God's throne-it is equally true, their “souls thirst for God, for the living God.” Only with this difference, that to some the desire is misery and death, and to some the desire is life and perfect blessedness. So that the first thought I would suggest to you is, that there is AN UNCONSCIOUS AND UNSATISFIED LONGING AFTER GOD, WHICH IS WHAT WE CALL THE STATE OF NATURE; secondly, that there is AN IMPERFECT LONGING AFTER GOD, FULLY SATISFIED, WHICH IS WHAT WE CALL THE STATE OF GRACE; and lastly, that there is A PERFECT LONGING, PERFECTLY SATISFIED, WHICH IS WHAT WE CALL THE STATE OF GLORY. Nature ; religion upon earth ; blessedness in heaven: my text is the expression, in divers senses, for them all.

In the first place, then, there is in every man AN UNCONSCIOUS AND UNSATISFIED LONGING AFTER GOD; AND THAT IS THE STATE OF NATURE. Experience is the test of that principle. And the most superficial examination of the facts of daily life, as well as the questioning of our own souls, will tell us that this is the leading feature of them-a state of unrest. What is it that one of those Deistic poets of our own land says, about “ Man never is, but always to be blest"? What is the meaning of the fact that all round about us, and we partaking of it, there is ceaseless, gigantic activity going on? The very fact that men work, the very fact of activity in the mind and life, noble as it is, and root of all that is good and beautiful as it is, is still the testimony of nature to this : “I by my self am full of passionate Jongings, of earnest desires, of unsupplied wants." “I thirst,” is the voice of the whole world.

No man is made to be satisfied from himself: we need, for the stilling of our own hearts, for the satisfying of our nature, for the strengthening and joy of our being, we need to go beyond ourselves, and to fix upon sometbing ex. ternal to ourselves. We are not independent. None of us can stand by himself. No man carries within him the fountain from which he can draw. If & heart is to be blessed, it must go out of the narrow circle of its own individu. ality; and if a man's life is to be strong and happy, he must get the foundation of his strength somewhere else than in his own soul. And, my friends, especially you young men, all that modern doctrine of self-reliance, though it may have a true side to it, has also a frightfully false side. Though it may be quite true that a man ought to be, in one sense, sufficient for himself, and that there is no real blessedness of which the root does not lie within the nature and heart of the man ; though all that be quite true, yet, if the doctrine means (25 on the lips of many a modern, eloquent, and powerful teacher of it, it does mean) that a man can do without God, that he may be self-reliant, and selfsufficient, and proudly neglectful of all the Divine forces that come down into life to brighten and gladden it-I say it is a lie, false and fatal; and of all the falsehoods that are going about this world at present, I know not one that is varnished over with more apparent truth, that is smeared over with more of the honey that catches young, ardent, ingenuous hearts, than that half-truth, and therefore most deceptive error, which preaches independence and self-reliance, and which means, à man's soul does not "thirst for the living God." Take care of it!

And now let me say again, we are made not to be independent; we are made, next, to peed, not things, but living beings. “My soul thirsteth "_for what? An abstraction, a possession, riches, a thing P NO : “my soul thirsteth (and look at the emphasis of it] for God, for the living God," Yes; hearts want hearts. The converge of Christ's saying is equally true. He said, “ God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit ;” and man has a spirit, and man must have a Spirit to lean upon, to live by, to draw water with joy from, or all will be inefficient and unsatisfactory. Oh lay this to heart, my brother: no things can satisfy a living soul; no accumulation of dead matter can become the life of an immortal being. The two classes are separated by the whole diameter of the universe-matter and spirit, thing and person--and i you cannot feed yourself upon the dead husks that lie there round about you, wealth, riches, position, honour. Books, thoughts, though they are nobler than these other, are still insufficient. Principles, “causes,” emotions springing from i truth-these are not enough. I want more than that: I want something to love, i something to lay a band upon that shall return the grasp of the hand. A living man must have a living God, or his soul will perish in the midst of plenty, and will thirst and die whilst the water is running all around him. We are made to need persons, not things!

Then, again, we need öne Being who shall be all-sufficient. There is no such,

misery as that which may ensue from the attempt to satisfy our souls by the accumulation of objects, each of them imperfect and finite, which yet we fancy, woven together, will make an adequate whole. When a heart is diverted from its one central purpose, when a life is split up in a hundred different directions and into a hundred different emotions, it is like a beam of light passed through some broken surface where it is all refracted and cast in different directions : there is no clear vision; there is no perfect light. If a man is to be blessed, he must have one source-one source where he can go. The merchantman that seeks for many “goodly pearls," may find the many; but until he has bartered them all for the one, there is something lacking. Not only the understanding requires to pass through the manifold up and up in ever higher generalizations, till it reaches the One from which they all come, but the beart requires to flutter up-if it would be at rest-through all the diverse regions where its love may legitimately be expanded and dwell, until it reaches the sole and central throne of the universe; and there it may cease its flight, and fold its weary wings, and sleep like a bird within its nest. We want a being, and we want one Being in whom shall be sphered all perfection, in whom shall abide all power and blessedness, beyond whom thought cannot pass, out of whose infinite circum, ference love does not need to wander, besides whose boundless treasures no other riches can be required; who is light for the understanding, power for the will, authority for the practical life, purpose for the efforts, motive for the doings, end and object for the feelings, home of the affections, light of our seeing, life of our life, the love of our heart, the one living God, infinite in wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth; who is all in all, and without whom every. thing else is misery. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.”

Brother, let me ask you the question, before I pass on, Do you know what that Father is ? I know this much, that every heart answers an Amen (if it will be honest) to what I have been saying. Unrest; yearning, panting, long. ing, desperate thirst, undeceiving itself as to where it shall go, slaking itself (as our great poet says) “ at the gilded puddles that the beasts would cough at," instead of coming to the water of life !—that is the state of man without God. That is nature. That is irreligion. The condition in which every man is that is not trusting to God in Jesus Christ, is this : thirsting for God, and not know, ing whom he is thirsting for, nor getting the supply that he wants.

Secondly, there is A CONSCIOUS LONGING, IMPERFECT, THOUGH FULLY BUP, PLIED; AND THAT IS THE STATE OF GRACE--the beginning of religion in a man's soul. If it be true that there are, as part of the universal human experience, however overlaid and stifled, these necessities of which I have been speaking, the very existence of the necessities affords a presumption, before all evidence, that somehow and somewhere they shall be supplied. There can be no deeper truth-none, I think, that ought to have more power in shaping some parts of our Christian creed—than this: God is a faithful Creator, and where he makes men with longings, it is a prophecy that those longings are going to be supplied. The game ground which avails to defend doctrines that cannot be defended by any other logical process—the same ground which says there is an immortality, because men long for it and believe in it; there is a God, because men cannot get rid of the instinctive conviction that there is ; there is a retribution, because men's consciences do ask for it and cry out for it-the very same process which may be applied to the buttressing and defending of all the grandest truths of the Gospel, applies also in this practical matter. If I, made by God who knew what he was doing when he made me, am formed with these deep necessities, with these passionate longings, then it cannot but be that it is intended that they should be to me a means of leading me to him, and that there they should be satisfied. For he is “the faithful Creator,” and he remembers the conditions under which his making of us has placed us : "hę kroweth our frame," and he

remembereth what he has implanted within us. And the presumption is, of course, turned into an actual certainty, when we let in the light of the Gospel upon the thing. Then we can say to every man that thus is yearning after a goodness dimly perceived, and does not know what it is that he wants-We can say to him, “ Brother, betake yourself to the cross of Christ ; go with those wants of yours to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world :' he will interpret them to you. He will explain to you, as you do not now know, what they mean; and, better than that, he will supply them all!” Your souls are thirsting; and you look about, here and there and everywhere, for springs of water. There is the fountain: go to Christ. Your souls are thirsting for God. The unfathomed ocean of the Godhead lies far beyond my lip; but here is the stream through which there flows that river of water of life; here is the manifested God; here is the granted God; bere is the Godhead coming into connection and union with man, his wants and his sing--the “living God," and his living Son, and his everlasting Word. He that believeth upon him shall never hunger, and he that cometh unto him shall never thirst. God is the Divine and unfathom. able ocean. Christ the Son is the stream that brings salvation to every man's lips. All wants are supplied there. Take it as a piece of the simplest prose, my friend-no rhetorical exaggeration about it-Christ is everything, everything that a man can want. If you want teaching, you will get it there. Men are made to require, and to be restless until they possess, absolute, perfect truth: there it is! We are made to want, and to be restless until we get, perfect, infinite, unchangeable love : there it is! We must have, or the burden of our own self-will will be a misery to us, a hand laid upon the springs of our conduct, authoritative and purifying, and have the blessedness of somebody to say to us, “ Thou shalt, and there's an end :" there it is! We must have rest, peace, purity, hope, gladness, life in our souls: there they all are! Whatever form of human nature and character be yours, my brother—whatever exigencies of life you may be lying under the pressure of-man or woman, adult or child, father or son, man of business or man of thought, struggling with diffi. culties or bright with joy-whatever be your character, oh, believe us, the perfecting of that character must be got in the Lamb of God, and without him it never can be possessed. Christ is everything, and “out of his fulness all we receive grace for grace."

But then, one more thing I must say before I pass on, and that is, not only in Christ there is the perfect supply of all these necessities, but also that that fulness becomes ours on the simple condition of desiring it. The thirst for the living God in a man who has faith in Christ Jesus, is not a thirst which amounts to pain, or arises from a sense of non-possession. But in this Divine region the principle of the giving is this : to desire is to have ; to long is to possess. There is no long interval between the sense of thirst and the trickling of the stream over the parched lip; but ever it is flowing, flowing past us, and the desire is but the opening of the lips to receive the limpid and life-giving watera. No man, to put it into plainer words—no man ever desired the grace of God, really and truly desired it, but just in proportion as he desired it he got it, just in propor. tion as he thirsted he was satisfied. Therefore we have to preach that grand Gospel, faith, simple longing, simple conscious longing, turned to Christ, avails to bring down the full and perfect supply. But you reply, “Ab, I wish it were so! What was that you were saying at the beginning of your sermon, about men having religious depression, about Christian people longing and not possessing ?” Well, I have only this to say about that matter: wherever in a heart that really believes in God in Christ, there is a thirst that amounts to pain, and that has with it a sense of non-possession, that is not because Christ's fulness has become shrunken ; that is not because there is a change in God's law, that the measure of the desire is the measure of the reception ; but it is only because, for some reason or other that belongs to the man alone, the desire is not perfect, deep, genuine, simple, but is troubled and darkened. What we ask, we get. If I am a Christian, however feeble, the feebleness of my faith and the feebleness of my desire may make my supplies of grace feeble; but if I am a Christian, there is no such thing as an earnest longing unsatisfied, no such thing as a thirst accompanied with a pain and sense of want, except in consequence of my own transgression. And therefore there is a longing imperfect in this life, but fully supplied according to the measure of its intensity-a longing after “the living God;" and that is the state of a Christian man. And oh, my friend ! that is a widely different desire from the one that I have been speaking about. It is blessed to say, “My soul thirsteth for my God.” It is blessed to feel the passionate wish for more light, more grace, more peace, more wisdom, more of God. That is joy, that is peace! Is that your experience in this present life?

Lastly, there is A PERFECT LONGING PERFECTLY SATISFIED; AND THAT IS HEAVEN. We shall not there be independent, of course, of constant supplies from the great central fulness, any more than we are here. One may see in one aspect, that just as the Christian life here on earth is in a very true sense a state of never thirsting any more, because we have Christ, and yet in another sense is a state of continual longing and desire, so the Christian and glorified life in heaven, in one view of it, is the abrogation of all that thirst which marked the condition of man upon earth, and in another is the perfecting of all those aspirations and desires. Thirst, as longing, is eternal; thirst, as aspiration after God, is the glory of heaven; thirst, as desire for more of him, is the very condition of the celestial world, and the life-spring of all its blessedness; but thenmark the distinction—that future life gives us two elements, an infinite God and an indefinitely expansible human spirit; an infinite God to fill, and a soul to be filled, the measure and the capacity of which has no limit set to it that we can see. What will be the consequence of the contact of these two? Why this, for the first thing, that always, at every moment of that blessed life, there shall be a perpetual fruition, a perpetual satisfaction, a deep and full fountain filling the whole soul with the refreshment of its waves and the music of its bubbling. And yet, and yet-though at every moment in heaven a man shall be satisfied, filled full of God, full to overflowing in all his powers-yet the very fact that the God who dwells in him, and fills his whole nature with unsullied and perfect blessedness, is an infinite God, and that he in whom the infinite Father dwells is a man with a soul that can grow, and can grow for ever, will result in this, that at every moment the capacity for larger gifts and glories will expand; that at every moment, therefore, the desire will grow and spring afresh; that at every moment God will be seen unveiling undreamed of beauties, and revealing hitherto unknown heights of blessedness before us; and that the sight of that transcendent, unapproached, unapproachable, and yet attracting and transforming glory, will draw us onward as by an impulse from above, and the possession of it will bear us upward as by a power from within ; and so, on eagle's wings, nearer, nearer, ever nearer to the throne of light, the centre of blessedness, the growing, and glorifying, and greatening soul of the perfectly blessed man shall rise and soar. Heaven is an endless longing, accompanied with an endless fruition-a longing which is blessedness, a longing which is life!

My friend, my brother, let me put one word in contrast with that. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God," that is the blessedness of heaven. There is another thirst: “Father Abraham, dip the tip of thy finger in water, that I may cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” There be two thirsts : one, which fits for and brings with it its own satisfaction, and that is blessedness in heaven; one, the passionate, desperate, everlasting longing for one drop of rest, peace, love, solace, to drop upon the parched tongue, and to cool the

« PreviousContinue »