Taken and adapted from the “Gospel Standard”
The following was a sermon preached March 10, 1867, at the Pavilion Chapel, Brighton,
by William Brown
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” —Jude 24-25.
This epistle contains a most awful and solemn description of false professors…
…which is a proof that even in the first ages of the Christian church there were hypocrites, who crept in and deceived the apostles and disciples. God’s people are simple; they are easily deceived. Simon Magus was not discovered by the apostle till after he had been baptized, and circumstances made him manifest as being still in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. What a convincing proof the account of Simon Magus is that it is water baptism spoken of; for who will dare to say that this deceiver and hypocrite was baptized by the Holy Ghost? It is said, “Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now, when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands he may receive the Holy Ghost.’ But Peter said unto him, ‘Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.’”
How different this is to the people of God. Bad as they feel themselves to be, money is not the great object with them. If earthly possessions come into competition with Christ, they must all go; and they are sure that the gifts of God can never be purchased with filthy lucre. These hypocrites that Jude speaks of put on the sheep’s clothing; and God’s people, as I said just now, are simple; they suspect themselves sooner than they suspect others. At the last supper, when their dear Lord and Savior warned them of what was about to take place, and said one of them should betray him, each suspected himself. They did not say, “Lord, is it James? Or is it Thomas?” but, ” Lord, is it I?” How like the feelings of our own hearts in the present day. Do not we fear ourselves, and are we not ready to cry out, “Lord, is it I?” But Judas also said, “Master, is it I?” You see he could imitate their language, though he knew he was the guilty one; but he said, “Master,” not “Lord.” He was the bond slave, not the child.
Can we wonder if there are hypocrites and false professors still in the church of God? Those of us who have been some time in the way have seen the awful end of some great professors. We have perhaps heard them preach or pray, and we have trembled and felt our own nothingness when compared with their gifts, and, as we thought, their great grace; but we have seen the leaves fall off, and the tree wither away, and the lamp without the oil put out, according to the word: “The candle of the wicked shall be put out.” And how the weak and fearful tremble at these things! And perhaps we hear them say, “I too shall fall. What will become of me? The enemy will be too strong for me; I fear my end will be like theirs.” No, poor dear child of God, you will stand. Your religion will outride every storm. You are like Reuben. It is said, “In the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.” These are the bleatings of the flock. “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.” I would not give much for that religion which is not tossed about: “0 thou afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and thy foundations with sapphires, and all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.”
All God’s children are taught their inability to stand alone, though it is true that there is a time when some of them are ready to boast, when they feel strong, and they say, like Peter, “I will lay down my life for thy sake.” 0! I well remember when I longed for the fires of Smithfield to be rekindled that I might prove my love to my dear Lord. This was Peter in his ignorance; it was Peter before he knew his weakness, before he had learnt that lesson, “Without me ye can do nothing.” But the Lord teaches his children what they are, shows them that they cannot stand a moment, and makes them cry out, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” It is those who are young who boast, like the young soldier who has never been in a battle, and does not know what it is to face the enemy, or to lie all night on the frozen ground, to work half-starved in the frozen trenches, or to stand sentinel with the balls whistling around. Paul knew something of these things when he exhorted Timothy to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Now let us look at this word in our text, “Him that is able to keep you from falling.” There is a twofold preservation of the church of God. Every one of that mystical body is preserved before being called, and preserved afterwards. Preserved in the days of unregeneracy, and preserved after the call by grace, even to the blessed moment when each one is presented with exceeding joy. They were given to Christ, and how precious they are to him, even whilst they are wandering from him as far as sheep can run. He looks after his blood-bought bride whilst in the ruins of the fall. Every step is marked, and watched, and followed, till the moment comes when the Spirit of God begins the work of regeneration.
What histories many of God’s dear people could tell! How many snatched from the borders of the grave, or kept from some sin which would have embittered the rest of their lives! O! How well do I remember being twice saved when I was, as it were, on the verge of eternity, thinking I should soon be in hell, and that there was no hope for me. But my blessed Savior was watching over me all the time, and just at the last moment snatched me from a watery grave. And you, my dear friends, I know many of you have had wonderful deliverances; and shall we not praise and bless him throughout eternity?
“When God’s time comes, all the barriers are broken down, and the soul is made willing to be saved in the day of his power. That passage is brought against this doctrine: “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.” I grant that we may resist, but not overcome; like a little child that may resist being washed; but its kind and good mother knows it would not do to let it have its own way, and therefore she gently, but firmly, overcomes its little efforts at resistance. So Christ, by his blessed Spirit, bears down all our opposition, and the very will is subdued; as it is said, “My people shall be willing in the day of my power.”
And does not Christ watch over his dear people after they are called? O yes! If when they were hating him he yet watched over them, surely after he has put his fear into their hearts he will keep them from all fatal evil; he will preserve them every step they go, and keep them night and day. “Ah!” say some, “it is we that must persevere.” It is blasphemous to say so. It is God must persevere with us. He holds his people in his hand; he carries them in his bosom, and none, including devils, shall pluck them thence. It is only he himself that is “able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”
And what an unspeakable mercy it is that he is able. How unable we are to keep ourselves, or in any way to take care of ourselves. Every figure used in the Bible to set forth the child of God shows helplessness and weakness. A woman, a sheep, a dove, a vine,—all these figures describe the individual feelings of the mystical members of the body of Christ. How God holds them up, and how graciously he says to them, “Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God;” and the more we feel our helplessness, the more do we prize his power and grace. Like the bride coming up out of the wilderness, leaning with all her weight upon her Beloved; like a wife going through a crowd, how she does cling to her husband, and how afraid she is lest they should be separated for an instant. O this clinging and hanging upon Christ our spiritual husband! Is it not a sweet and blessed state?
How much there is in the word power. It implies ability. And is he not “able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him?” The poor creature with the leprosy cried out, “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean.” He caught hold of the power,—he can, but will he? The Lord honored this by the gracious answer, “I will; be thou clean.” Whatever ground you have to rest upon, plead it with the Lord. Any promise that has ever been sweet to you, tell the Lord, and plead it with him again and again. “Remember the word unto thy servant upon which thou hast caused him to hope.” How different we feel at different times! Sometimes our cry is, “My heart is so hard.” Well! Go with your hard heart to the Lord. He can melt it. He says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Sometimes our cry is, “I shall fall.” Well, then, the prayer is ready for you: “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” That prayer was put up hundreds of years ago, and it is just the very one that suits us now. Sometimes our cry is, “Lord, let me not be a stumbling block to any; I have no power to keep myself, no might, no strength; Lord, do thou keep me.” What is the answer? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts;” and “he is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” Yes; not only able to keep you from falling, to preserve you in all your wanderings up and down this wilderness, but to present you faultless, clothed in his righteousness.
Faultless.’ Think of it! Dwell upon it! Christ not only your Surety, paying all your debts to law and justice, but Christ your righteousness! And his very name put upon you: “This is the name whereby she” (she, the church; she, the poor sinner) “shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” Just like a woman taking the name of her husband; looked upon by God himself as spotless, as Christ is spotless: “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.”
Faultless! How unlike what we now are…
…and what we feel ourselves to be, our tempers so unlike what we would have them; but all this will be done away when he shall present us before the presence of his glory. Then we shall be like him. No bad tempers then; no pride, no contentions then. No! We shall be faultless! Now we groan, “0 wretched man that I am!” “When I would do good, evil is present with me;” “0 when will this blessed word be fulfilled: ‘We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is?'” The dear children of God pant for this, and often look with longing eyes to that time when they shall have done with sin.
But eternity. –That vast, that long eternity! Do they not shrink at the thought? Does it not bring gloom and terror to their minds? Yes, sometimes it does; for they are subject to bondage through the fear of death, and they think of it perhaps as an unseen, unknown world. But here is a word to comfort you, poor dear child of God. He is able not only to present you faultless, but with exceeding joy. Think of that! Not only joy, but exceeding joy. What language can be stronger—exceeding joy? No power of the enemy then, ho tormenting devil suffered to come near you then, and no more pain; but joy unspeakable and full of glory. We cannot even imagine the blessedness. It is a faithful God who has promised it, and he will do it, and he shall have all the glory.
How often we think that God’s dealings with us are not only dark but trying; but the “all-wise God” knows what is the very best for each of us. Each one has his cross; not all the same, but each has some cross to carry. In our right mind we shall submit, and say with Jude, “To the only wise God be dominion and power.” At the last we shall see “he hath done all things well.” 0 that he may rule and reign in our hearts more and more. If he has once taken possession of them, they are his— his forever. The devil has no claim to us. The devil is not omnipotent. He is only a creature. He dared not enter even into the herd of swine without Christ’s permission.
The weakest believer is standing sure in Christ, and shall win the day. He is our dear Lord and master, and his power will hold us up and keep us on. It is his covenant with his people, to keep them even unto the end, to water his vineyard, and to keep it night and day, that no enemy shall destroy it, and at last to present it a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, at that great and glorious day.
O! Children of God! you are His! How much is contained in those words: “You are his jewels.” If you had jewels, would you not take care of them, would you not guard them, and often look at them to see if they were safe? And you are his children. And does not the mother look after her babes; and if there were a fire, would not her first thought be the babe? Would she leave it to be consumed? 0 no! And would the husband leave his dear wife to perish? If there were danger would he forget her? O no! And you are the Lord’s jewels; and he says, “They shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels.” And you are his children; and he says,” Behold I and the children whom thou hast given me are for signs,” Ate., and he carries the lambs in his bosom. And this glorious Christ and Husband of the church says to her, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee;” and John in vision saw the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
O yes! God looks upon his people as his own dear ones, as his jewels, as his darlings; and he will present them faultless, clothed in his righteousness; not only pardoned, but justified and completely perfect. O wonderful grace and love!
“And now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
And may God bless these few words. Amen.
[I understand that when Mr. Brown reached home, and sat by the fire, he was quite overwhelmed with the sweetness of the subject. With tears in his eyes, he exclaimed, “O! It is wonderful! It seems too much to be true! I, who am so full of faults,—to think of being presented without fault and with exceeding joy,—faultless and with Exceeding Joy!” It was evident he felt the sweetness, the power, and the glory of the subject in a very remarkable way that night. And if you feel what I felt upon reading this sermon, you will not wonder at it.]