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"When thou passest through the rivers I will be with thee.” This proves to a demonstration that you need not depart.
You will encounter many difficulties between here and heaven. Those who paint the road to glory in rose-colour have never trodden it. Many are the hills and dales between this Jericho and the city of the Great King. Let who will be without trials, Christians will have their full share of them ; but there shall come no difficulty of any kind between here and paradise which shall necessitate the soul's going anywhere but to her gracious Lord, for guidance, for consolation, for strength, or for aught besides. Little know we of the walls to be leaped or the troops to be overcome, but we know full well that never need we part from the Captain of our salvation, or call in other helpers. Death will probably befall us, but we need not depart from Jesus in the hour of our departure out of this world. On the contrary, when the death-dew lies cold on our brow we will sing, “ If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now :" “ For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Straight on into eternity, and on, and on for ever, that word * Depart” never need cross our path. As never in eternity will the great Judge pronounce the sentence, “ Depart, ye cursed,” upon his saints, so never in his providence, nor in the severest trial, will he render it necessary that the saints should in any sense depart from
Never, 0 time, in thy darkest hour
Shall I need depart from him,
And both sun and moon grow dim.
My soul to her Lord above;
Shall drive me to rest in his love. There is no necessity, then, in the present, and there will be none in the future, for departing from communion with the Lord.
III. Thirdly, " They need not depart;" that is to say, NO FORCE CAN COMPEL THE CHRISTIAN TO DEPART FROM JESUS.
The world can tempt us to depart, and alas ! too successfully does it seduce with its fascinating blandishments. Its frowns alarm the cowardly, and its smiles delude the unwary, but none need depart. If we have grace enough to play the man, Madam Bubble cannot lead us astray. “Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird.” We need not be taken in the world's traps, there is one who can deliver us from the snare of the fowler. We are not ignorant of the devices of Satan and the temptations of the world ; we are not compelled to fall from our steadfastness ; and if we do so, it is our wilful fault. There is no necessity for it. Many live above the world—many in as difficult circumstances as ours. There are those in heaven who have found as hard hand-to-hand fighting in the spiritual life as we do ; yet they were nor vanquished, nor need we be; for the same strength which was given to them is reserved for us also. But saith one, “ You do not know where I live." Perhaps not. “You do not know what I have to endure,” cries another. Most true ; but I know where my Lord lived, and I have heard that he endured much contradiction of sinners against himself, but he did not depart from holiness, nor from love to you. You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. Perseverance to the end is possible to every believer; nay, it is promised him, and he may have it for the seeking. You need not depart, young friend, the world cannot drag you from Jesus, though it may entice you. Yield uot, and you shall stand ; for there has no temptation happened to you but such as is common to men.
Satan is a very cunning tempter of the souls of men, but though he would fain constrain you to depart from your Lord, you need not follow his bidding. Satan is strong, but Christ is stronger. His temptations are insinuating, but you are no longer in darkness that you should be deceived by him. You need not depart. Even though surprising temptation should assault you at unawares, it ought not to find you sleeping. Has not Christ said, “ What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch”? You will not be surprised, if holy anxiety stands sentinel to your soul. Prayer and watchfulness will warn you of the enemy's approach, and therefore you need not be driven to forsake your Lord.
Ay, but, perhaps, it may be that in addition to the world and to Satan, you are very conscious of the terrible depravity of your own heart, and, indeed, that is the chief ground of fear. The heart is deceitful, prone to wander, and ready enough to depart from the living God. But you need not depart from the Master because of that. The new-born nature takes up arms against the body of sin and death, the Holy Spirit also dwells within to conquer indwelling sin. Shall not the life which is from above subdue the natural death? Shall not the Spirit purge out the old leaven? You need not depart from Jesus. It is true you have a fiery temper, but it must not prevail; there is a cure for that plague. Perhaps we are inclined to levity, but we need not let our frivolous nature reign; grace can overcome it, and will, Where sin abounded, grace doth yet more abound. There is no unconquerable sin; there is no Dagon that shall not be broken in the presence of the ark of God, there is no temple of the Philistines which shall not fall beneath the might of our greater Samson. We need not, as the result of temperament, or because of any sin that doth so easily beset us, depart from Jesus, for grace is equal to all emergencies.
Do you call to mind that there may be another force employed beside that of the world, or of Satan, or the corruption within, namely, the lamentable coldness of the Christian church? Truly it is to be feared that more have departed from close walking with Christ through the chilliness of professors than from almost any other cause. Newborn children of God too often feel the atmosphere of the church to be as freezing as that of an ice-well; their holy warmth of zeal is frozen, and their limbs are stiffened into a rigour of inactivity, so that it is a marvel that they do not die—die they would were not the spiritual life immortal and eternal. But, brethren, even in the midst of the coldest church we need not depart from a near and elevated fellowship with the Lord. The church of Rome is a church defiled with error and debased with superstition, but was there ever a nobler Christian
woman in this world than Madame de la Mothe Guyon ? She did not depart from Christ, though in the midst of a pestilent atmosphere. Remember, too, the names of Jansenius, and Arnold, and Pascal, and Fénélon, which are an honour to the universal church of Christ; who walked in closer communion with Jesus than those holy men ? In the midst of the darkest ages there have shone forth fairest stars. There are a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments. Often am I told by some brother in a country village, where the minister seems to have gone to sleep twenty years ago and has never awakened since, that he finds it very hard to rejoice in the Lord, for his Sabbaths are a burden instead of a joy. My dear brother, you want more grace, if this is your case. You must have more vitality within if you see so much death without. You need not depart; on the contrary, by becoming an example of living near to Christ yourself, you may quicken others; for, thank God, grace is contagious as well as sin. At any rate, it is certain that though many influences may seduce us, no force can compel us to depart from Jesus.
No power in earth or hell
Can force me to depart;
He fortifies my heart.
And none shall drive me thence;
Of Love's omnipotence.
IV. Regarded from another point, our text may teach us that THERE IS NO IMPOSSIBILITY IN KEEPING CLOSE TO THE BELOVED.
Many believers think that if they have fellowship every now and then with Jesus, with long intervals between, they are quite as much advanced as need be, and have probably reached as far as human nature is ever likely to go. An affectation of superfine godliness is suspicious, but, at the same time, a higher standard of religion can be maintained, and ought to be maintained than is commonly seen among professors at this time. We ought to attain to such a walk with God, to so calm and serene a frame, that the light which shines upon our pathway shall be constant and clear. Enoch walked with God for hundreds of years, and cannot a man walk with God for twenty years ? Enoch lived in the dark age of the world comparatively; cannot we who live under the gospel continuously walk with God ? Enoch begat sons and daughters, and so had all the cares of a household, and yet he walked with God; cannot we, who have the like cares, yet still, by divine grace, be enabled to maintain unbroken communion ? I know the place is high where they stand who consciously abide with Christ, but will you not strive to climb there and bathe your foreheads in the everlasting sunlight of Jehovah's face? I know it would require most jealous walking, but you serve a jealous God, and he demands holy jealousy from you. Oh, the joy of living in the embrace of Jesus, and never departing from it! Oh, the bliss of sitting always at his feet, abiding with the Bridegroom, and listening to his voice ! Surely the gain is worth the exertion, and the prize is worthy of the struggle. Let us not, since the attainment is not impossible, murmur at the difficulty, but rather by faith let us ask that we may begin to-night to achieve the result and continue to achieve it, till we come to see the face of Christ in heaven. Others have done so; why should not we?
Brethren, the way to maintain fellowship with Christ is simple. If you desire to retain in your mouth all day the flavour of the wines on the lees well refined, take care that you drink deep by morning devotion. Do not waste those few moments which you allot to morning prayer. Lay a text on your tongue, and like a wafer made with honey, it shall sweeten your soul till nightfall. During the day, when you can do so, think about your Redeemer, his person, his work. Seek to him, pray to him, ask him to speak to you. All the day long, lean on the Beloved. During the day serve him, say, “Lord, how can I serve thee in my calling ?” Consecrate the kitchen, consecrate the market-room; make every place holy, by glorifying the Lord there. Converse much with him, and it will not be impossible for you to abide in him from the year's beginning to its close. You need not depart. There is no mental or spiritual impossibility in the maintenance of unbroken communion, if the Holy Spirit be your helper.
'Tis not too high for grace,
Though nature fail to climb;
In fellowship sublime.
To hold a life-long stay ;
But rest therein for aye.
V. Once more. We need not depart ; that is to say, THERE IS NO REASON THAT CAN BE IMAGINED WHICH WOULD RENDER IT A WISE, AND PROPER, AND GOOD THING FOR A CHRISTIAN TO DEPART FROM CHRIST.
Suppose that the search after happiness be the great drift of our life, as the old philosophers assert, then we need not depart from Jesus to win it, for he is heaven below. You desire pleasure, forget not that the pleasures of God which are in Christ, his joy, the joy that fills his great heart, these are more than enough to fill your heart. I sometimes hear people cay, as an excuse for professors going to doubtful places of amusement, “You know they must have some recreation.” Yes, I know, but the re-creation which the Christian experienced when he was born again, has so completely made all things new to him, that the vile rubbish called recreation by the world is so vapid to him, that he might as well try to fill himself with fog as to satisfy his soul with such utter vanity. No; the Christian finds happiness in Christ Jesus, and when he wants pleasure, he does not depart from Jesus.
Perhaps it is said that we require a little excitement now and then, for excitement gives a little fillip to life, and is as useful to it as stirring is to a fire. I know it, and I trust you may have excitement, for the medicinal power of a measure of exhilaration and excitement is great, but you need not depart from Christ to get it, for there is such a thing as the soul's dancing at the sound of his name, while all the sanctified passions are lifted up in the ways of the Lord. Holy mirth will sometimes so bubble up, and overflow in the soul, that the man will say, " Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell, God knoweth.” Joy in Christ can rise to ecstasy and soar aloft to bliss. If you desire to wear the highest crown of joy, you need not depart from Christ.
But it is said, “ We require food for our intellect; a man needs to develop his intellectual faculties, he must needs learn that which will enlarge and expand his mind.” Certainly, by all manner of means. But, О beloved brother, you need not depart from Christ to get this, for the science of Christ crucified is the most excellent, comprehensive and sublime of all the sciences. It is the only infallible science in the circle of knowledge. Moreover, by all true science you will find Christ honoured, and not dishonoured, and your learning, if it be true learning, will not make you depart from Christ, but lead you to see more of his creating and ruling wisdom. The profoundest astronomer admires the Sun of Righteousness; the best-taught geologist has no quarrel with the Rock of Ages; the greatest adept in mathematics marvels at him who is the sum total of the universe; he who knows the most of the physical, if he knows aright, loves the spiritual and reverences God in Christ Jesus. To imagine that to be wise one needs forsake the Incarnate Wisdom, is insanity. No, to reach the highest degree of attainment in true learning, there is no reason for departing from Christ.
“We must have friends and acquaintances,” says one. You need not depart from Christ to get them. We admit that a young woman does well to enter the marriage state; a young man is safer and betier for having a wife; but my dear young friends, you need not break Christ's law, and depart from him in order to find a good husband or a good wife. His rule is that you should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; it is a wise and kind rule, and is an assistance rather than a hindrance to a fit marriage. “ But,” says one, “I do not intend to depart from Christ, though I am about to marry an unconverted person.” Rest assured that you are departing from Jesus by that act. I have never yet met with a single case in which marriages of this kind have been blessed of God. I know that young women say, “Do not be too severe, sir, I shall bring him round.” You will certainly fail. You are sinning in marrying under that idea. If you break Christ's law, you cannot expect Christ's blessing. To be happy in future life with a suitable partner you need not depart from Jesus. There is nothing in life you can want that is truly desirable, nothing that can promote your welfare, nothing that is really good for you, that can ever make it necessary for you to depart from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, if this be true, do not some of us feel very guilty? I could weep to think that I have so often departed from close fellowship with my Lord and Master, when I need not have done it. I am cast down and weary and cumbered with much serving occasionally. I know my faith is in Christ; but I have not the calm, unstaggering faith I desire to have. But I know that with a thousand cares (and I have ten thousand), I need not for a moment lose serenity and peace of mind, if I can reach the place which by God's grace I will reach yet. Do you not feel ashamed that your family troubles, and perhaps your family joys, have taken you off from your Saviour ? Some of you have a great deal of leisure, and yet you slide away from Christ. Let us be ashamed