TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Richard Cameron.
"And ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life."John 5.40.
IT is a work above the reach of men or angels to persuade a soul to come to Christ. There is nothing so difficult or perplexing to flesh and blood as to close with Christ. There is nothing that corrupt nature has such a reluctancy to and prejudice against as this. It requires the mighty power of God to bring folk to subjection to Him, and to bring down the strongholds of sin within them and every vain thought. When Christ asked Peter, "Whom do ye say that I am?" he answered, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." Well, no thanks unto Peter for that; for says Christ, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee." Now what sort of answer resolve ye to give our Lord this day? Alas! alas! I fear He will have that to say unto this land which He said unto the Jews, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Indeed, Scotland is His own peculiar inheritance. He married Scotland, but not all the people in it. However, it is His covenanted land. We may say, Will ye not be prevailed upon to close with Him? Perhaps ye may never get the like offer again. He is in your offer to-day, and it is such a day as we cannot promise you the like to morrow. Now there are these two things to persuade you to come unto Christ:
First, If ye will not receive Him, there is nothing but perdition for you. "Thou hast destroyed all them that go a-whoring from thee. But surely it is good for me, to draw near to God." I say, those that go away from God go to perdition. Now choose ye, for this day salvation and damnation are set before you. As Moses said unto the people of Israel, this day I have "set before you life and death, blessings and cursings." Ye have been living long at a great distance from God. And this day the devil is standing, and inviting you to come unto him as fast as our Lord is. He will be telling you, then, if ye close with Christ ye will be now cast out of your house by the Laird; and the Council will cast you out. But I will tell you that the highest of them and you both, must next day bow yourselves before Him when He comes to judge the quick and the dead; and then they shall be made sit upon their knees as malefactors, to receive the sentence in that day, when kings, princes, earls, counsellors, prelates, curates, and all persecutors together, shall be made come before Him. "Unto thee shall all flesh come." Would ye come unto Him before death; then come. Many would have it put off till after death, and then they must come. But says He, "Ye would not come to me before death, now depart, and go away unto these devils, and you and they dwell together through the endless ages of eternity."
The second motive in the text is, "that ye might have life;" that is, "Come unto me, and ye shall have life." If ye saw yourselves as you are in a state of nature ye would think yourselves worse than the brute creation that perish. "But come unto me and ye shall have life and immortal happiness." And from this we observe,
I. For the first of these, by life here is meant Christ Himself. Come unto Christ and ye shall get Himself, even Him who is the "image of his father, and the brightness of his glory," the life of the higher house. But oh, who can describe Him, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot! Tongue cannot express; all the mathematicians cannot calculate, all the rhetoric in the world cannot investigate what He really is. There is no spot in Him at all, and the poorest man or woman here may have their souls washed and saved by Him. He describes Himself: "I am the way, the truth, and the life," that is, I am the way, the light, and the life of My people.
- That ye shall get Christ who is the life of His people.
- I shall show you in what respects Christ is their life.
- What Christ hath purchased for them.
II. I must tell you in what respects Christ is the life of His people. He is in these three respects:1st, He is the meritorious cause of this life. 2ndly, The giver of it unto them. "My peace I leave with you; and my peace I give unto you." 3rdly, He is the maintainer of this life. He gives life, and He maintains it in His people.
First, Our Lord is the physician, and likewise the physical cause of this life, so He may be called with much propriety their life. Know ye not that Adam in eating of the forbidden fruit forfeited life for himself and all his posterity? What way is that life restored again, but by the coming of the second Adam? "I am come that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more abundantly." It is not your duties that procure this life unto you. There are people called Socinians and Arminians in England and upon the Borders of Scotland, that maintain that folk may obtain favour with God, union, communion and fellowship with Him, through their own duties. The Quakers hold the same error. Oh, how derogatory is this to the sufferings of Christ and His declarative glory in the world!
Secondly, Christ may be called the life of the soul, because He gives or infuses life into it by His word and Spirit freely.
Thirdly, He is the maintainer of this life. He calls Himself "the bread of life," and you know bread is the staff or support of life. So He is the maintainer of the life of the soul. Take heed; I trow, I may be speaking in a strange language to you rather than plain Scots. They think such a man cannot err; he is in a state of grace, but the truly godly cannot act or stir when they sit down upon this bottom. At one time they get liberty to pour out their hearts in prayer before God for themselves, for the Church and their friends; at another time they cannot get one word to say; they cannot get their heart to go along with them, but it turns aside like a deceitful bow. It quickly turns aside, and not a word can they get but sinful questioning with Satan. And what is the reason of all this? Why, Christ is away, who is their life. Oh, it is wonderful, when He comes to a soul, then the poor creature can put forth acts of faith, love and tenderness! Another time it can do no more (comparatively speaking) than a beast. Christ, their life, is away. But if ye will come to Him, He will put life into your souls and maintain it in you. Says David, "He restoreth my soul," that is my life. And how is it that the soul becomes dead and lifeless? It is when Christ is absent, but when He comes again, He restores life and comfort unto the soul.
III. What Christ hath purchased. He hath purchased life for His people. Indeed, it were a great task for men and angels to reckon up all that Christ hath purchased for them that have come to Him. It would take all this night, this week, yea, this year, and more time than I could calculate all my life. Ye would think him a rich man that had as many dollars as would cover all this mountain; but the man that comes to Christ hath more riches than all the parishes of Douglas, Muirkirk, Crawford-John, and Auchinleck, although they were accumulated to the sky. Oh, there is life in Him! and if ye knew what this life was your hearts would leap for joy. "Come to me, that ye may have life." By life here is only meant Jesus Christ and a right to Him and all His fullness. "But eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, what he hath laid up for them that love (or come to) him." "Ye are dead," says the apostle Paul, "and your life is hid with Christ in God." But what He hath purchased we shall sum up briefly in these four particulars:
1. He hath purchased faith, love, and all other graces unto His people; yea, all the graces of the Spirit. There is still somewhat a-wanting to the poor creature. But when Christ comes into the soul He fills up all, and the soul is satisfied abundantly. There is still a doubt how to get grace, but come to Christ, and in Him all the treasures of wisdom dwell, and all the graces of the Spirit. Indeed, upon coming to Him, if ye be drunkards, ye must leave your cups; if swearers, you must reform your language; and if voluptuous, ye must be reformed, or rather mortified to those
things to which ye were addicted. However they may be loved all must go when the poor sinner comes to Christ. But the man that hath his eye upon Christ cries for grace and more grace, for still the more grace he hath the more he desires and expects. Now if ye come unto Christ ye shall get grace, for it is the way to watch at wisdom's gates; and ye might blame yourselves if your souls be empty of the grace of God, for He hath the fullness of all the graces of the Godhead. And for what end hath He them, but even that He may let out and communicate them unto all His members, and so enrich all that come unto Him by faith
2. By life is understood peace itself; and if ye would communicate or partake of His peace, then come to Him and ye shall have peace. This is a second piece of Christ's purchase that He hath procured for them that come unto Him. Many think that if they come unto Christ there is nothing but war, and fire, and sword for them. "Well," says Christ, "I came not for peace, but for a sword. I came to set fire on earth; and what if it be already kindled? I am come to set the husband and the wife, the sister and brother at variance one with another. Nay, I am come to set grace and corruption by the ears." With sin and Satan make war. But come to Christ and ye shall have peace, but no peace with them. Many now are for taking the king's and council's peace; but may ye not as well take the devil's peace? And because they are what they are I would not take up their peace at my foot. Ye cannot have peace with God if ye make peace with the devil's vicegerents. Ye cannot have peace with both at once, "for what concord hath Christ with Belial?" Our persecutors have not the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, but if ye knew what was in our Lord's hands ye would think them all fools and frantic that would not quit all other things for Him; for that peace they have in Him is a lasting peace, for the Prince of Peace hath created it in their souls. They have trouble and tribulation while here; but in the multitude of their thoughts within them, "His comforts delight their souls." Ye shall have tribulation in the world, but in Him ye shall be compassed with a well-grounded peace.
3. In the third place, I tell you ye shall get a right unto all the good things of this life. They think they are free of danger, and sure of their life that are at peace with the king, "but he that seeks to save his life shall lose it." I trow, ye are surer of your life than they are; for they cannot take your life from you. We have a surer charter than either king, duke, earl, or marquis; for if they leave their land, ye will not see them have a bit of bread to eat, nor a sip of water to drink, Nebuchadnezzar was richer than any of them; and "yet he was driven from men to beasts: and did eat grass with oxen." As for those that have taken the bond, paid the cess, kept up the indulgence, if we were to live long, perhaps we should see them begging, coming about and crouching for a piece of bread and a bit of money; yea, and at last a gallows may be set up to hang some of them upon, or every one of them may sheathe his sword in another's side. But this people may come kindly and boldly unto Him, and say, "Lord, give us bread to eat." "Yea," says He, "ye shall not want that; and if I take much away, I shall make a little suffice you;" whereas your enemies shall never have enough. They can never be satisfied. They take away your lands, but they can never take away the right of your lands. It is true, religion does not take away the civil law; but ye know that the land was given away unto the Lord. This was included in the covenants, and they became the charters of all the lands in Scotland. Ye may say, he hath a great estate or lordship, but be what he will, he is a persecutor. Poor men have lost their estates and their lives; and the king hath lost his right to the crown; when he caused the covenants to be burned, he was no longer justly a king, but a degenerate plant, and hath now become a tyrant. These persecutors have lost a right to their lands; yea, they have lost a right to their life, and the time will come when there will not be one of them living. The Lord will raise up magistrates that will do execution upon them.2 But ye that are come to Christ, your life is secured. They may behead or hang you, but the right remains to your children, and your young ones shall possess the land. But it will not be so with persecutors. Their children shall be vagabonds and die begging their bread. The
4. Or last thing that He hath purchased for them is glory. "He will give them grace and glory, and will withhold no good thing from them that walk uprightly." It is but a small thing that ye can lose for Him but there is glory abiding the believer. And is not that good news, and what would ye have more? He hath promised this, and He will not be slack concerning His promise. But as for them that prove false to their word, we have no skill of them. The king hath dealt treacherously, hath falsified his word, and proved as great a liar as in the nation. But come unto this King, and ye will ever find Him true to His word. Fear not them that can only take away the natural life. They cannot take away your right, your peace, and your glory, even that "fullness of joy and pleasures, that are at his right hand for evermore. Your life is hid with Christ in God." There are some who are hiding their means, and when they have gathered them together into some secret place, the enemy may come and take all by the lump. But come to our Lord and ye shall have your peace in God secured. Ye hide your means from them, but come unto our Lord and ye shall have them all kept. Ye may have bad neighbours, and they may tell the enemy where anything ye have is. But I say, Come to Christ, and ye shall have your treasure and peace secured. I wonder whether ye be more taken up with this present, life than with the life of glory. It is said by Satan, "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." But a man that hath got his spiritual life is willing to forego the natural life to keep this. It is said, men may have grace yet not in exercise. True; but ye that have it not in exercise, ye shall go to hell with it; for what end do your graces serve if they be not made use of now? Oh, what ways the devil contrives for men to save the natural life! but if ye have this life ye will do what ye can to preserve it. What signifies ever so much gold and money if ye want meat and drink and cannot have it! The man that hath this life must have the word because it is the bread of life, and the food of the soul. The man that hath this life may better want dinner and supper than the food of the soul. Yes, he had better want all other things than want the word. It is true, he may be hunted up and down in the wild muirs, but the word will come in by the way. How sweet it is and how sweetly will it suit the poor man's case and condition! Well then, ye that can eat and drink, and never mind God, your souls are in a most dreadful case and situation. When ye shall be tormented in hell, it will then be a dear bought life unto you. For both soul and body must "be cast into hell," and lie there to all eternity. Such are the woeful effects thereof. But
(1.) If ye knew anything of this life ye would not want the word from the time of washing your hands. For ye cannot walk one step aright if the Lord be not acknowledged every moment, which is a token or mark of a life still growing in the knowledge of God and of His Son Jesus Christ. A
(2.) Mark, or evidence of a man that hath this life is, that he will quit all for it. When it comes in competition with the loss of the other life, he will let it go, though it were ten lives, before this spiritual life be in hazard of perishing by shipwreck. A
(3.) Evidence of the man that hath this life is, that it will be his great study to get it fed and clothed. It exercises him to get it fed with the Spirit, and clothed with the righteousness of Christ. He cares not what becomes of him provided he be found in Christ, having on His righteousness. This is his great study. He delights in spiritual company. But I trow, your ministers delight in and can frequent the malignant's company, and the company of swearers, drunkards, Sabbath-breakers, persecutors, more than the company of serious Christians. Ye can sit down and take the sacrament with them; but away with such ministers! And ye that are professors, ye lie in the burying-place of the dead, as a woman that will not be with her husband, though she loved him never so well, when once dead. The dead ministers, the formal professors that have the life of godliness; and there is no company so loathsome as the ministers and professors that have nothing of the power of religion or godliness among them.
And I shall conclude with this word: Know ye anything of the power of His resurrection? Ye can talk of it, but ye should be studying and endeavouring to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness. Above all study to live near Christ. Keep closely with Him in "this hour and power of darkness." But what can we say, but what hath been said, that there is a great unwillingness to come unto Christ? "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life." And they that come shall have life. The Lord help us to come. Amen.
1. An afternoon's sermon.
2. Although this was not fully executed upon these persecutors at the Revolution, as it ought to have been, according to the law of the Lord, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," it may, however, be accomplished upon the successors of them who let these enemies go out of their hands, as the Lord said to Ahab concerning the king of Syria, or Jehu concerning Baal's priests, "Because thou hast let go out of thy hand, a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people."