10/07/2007

Sermon The sinners refuge


Zechariah 9:12 Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope.
The sinners' refuge

God's children have a place of refuge, and the reason why others have not is, they flee from it instead of fleeing to it. The words of our text are a call to souls in distress: they speak the language of our Saviour: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Mt 9:28.

I. Consider the relief provided - a strong hold
II. Consider what is implied in our seeking this relief - Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope
1. It supposes that by nature we are turned another way, having not only an indifference, but a dislike for the true way of salvation.
2. Turning to the strong hold implies a principle of grace implanted in us, by which the mind is renewed and directed to the Saviour.
3. It implies the total renunciation of all other refuges as insufficient and vain.
4. There is now a joining ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant never to be forgotten.
III. Notice the characters addressed - Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope
1. They are considered as prisoners. All sinners by nature are in a lost state, and as such are God's prisoners, deeply indebted to his law and justice, owing him ten thousand talents, and have nothing to pay.
2. They are prisoners of hope. All men are so in some sense, while life continues, and the sentence not executed upon them.

(1) Those who enjoy the means of grace, and to whom the gospel is preached in its power and purity. It is no small privilege to sit under an affectionate and awakening ministry, which warns us of our danger and exhorts us to flee from the wrath to come: this is one of the principal means which God employs for the conversion of souls, and there is more hope of such than of others, who neither hear nor know the joyful sound. Where the blind lead the blind, the case is hopeless and deplorable: but in whatever place the Lord stations a faithful and laborious minister, we may
(2) There is hope of such as have frequent convictions of sin, some desires after God, and whose consciences retain a degree of tenderness, so that they neither neglect private duties, nor are wholly unaffected under tl.e preaching of the word. We sometimes witness the rising sigh, and the falling tear, and are ready to hope that all is not in vain. Like Zaccheus, they seem to be in the Saviour's way ; and who knows but he may look up and say, as he did to that publican, "Come down, for today I must abide at thy house!" They are almost persuaded to be Christians, and we would hope they will become altogether such. Such appearances resemble the little cloud which Elijah's servant saw, and may be the forerunner of a delightful and refreshing shower. reasonably expect that he has some work for him to do. Paul must abide at Corinth, because God had much people in that city : and may it not afford encouragement respecting many of our towns and cities that he hath placed his faithful servants, and planted his gospel in them for a series of years? The dawning of the day is a presage of the rising sun ; and God cannot be said fully to have left any people till the gospel has departed from them.
(3) Those also are prisoners of hope whose chains have been broken, but who through unwatchfulness have been led captive by the enemy. Many have had to lament the power ofindwelling sin, as well as Paul and David; and though it has not had the dominion over them, yet it has frequently brought them into bondage, and they have cried, "O wretched man that I am ; who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death -Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name!" As dead sinners may be quickened, so backsliders may be restored. The cords of iniquity which hold them shall be broken; the power of their enemies shall be restrained, and their mouths be stopped. God's frowns shall be turned into smiles, and their lamentations into joy. Their song shall be like that of David, "Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers : the snare is broken, and we are escaped." Those whose bonds have been loosed may be brought into darkness, and may continue there for a time, but they shall not die in the pit. "Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High; therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses : he brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder - The Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners - For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to loose those that are appointed to death." Pss 49:33, 102: 19, 20, 107:10-14, 124:7, 142:7. Suffer now the word of exhortation. " Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope," O ye distressed sinners, and ye afflicted and deserted saints! Suppress your rising fears and desponding thoughts. An open and effectual door is set before you; a door out of that state of guilt and grief into which you have brought yourselves, into a state of peace and joy. Return then, as Noah's dove to the ark. Come to the strong hold - to the Saviour. Are you weak? He will strengthen you. Turn to him and plead the call in our text. You do not come without an invitation, and shall not be sent away without a blessing. Christ is a free refuge, and a safe one. When your spirit is overwhelmed, lift up your eyes, lift up your voice, lift up your heart to heaven, and cry with the psalmist, "O lead me to the rock that is higher than I!" Beware you do not take up with any rock but that on God hath built his church: let Christ and him crucified be your only hope. If the law should find you out of Christ, it will pour all its curses upon you. If divine justice find you out of Christ, it will deliver you to the tormentors. And if Satan find you out of it, he will seize you as his lawful prey. But if you be found in him, all will be well: the law cannot condemn, Satan cannot injure, and justice will be your friend, the guardian of your rights, and the avenger of your wrongs. Eternal life depends on your being found in Christ; but if you have not believed in him you will not be found in him hereafter. And where will you be ? You are now prisoners of hope: but then you will be prisoners without hope, it will be a covering and a strong hold to all his people in the last day: then, though assaulted, they will not be overcome; though distressed, they shall not be destroyed; for God himself will be their defence, the fury of all their enemies will only be like a storm against a wall. Happy for those who can adopt language of the apostle! "What things were to me, those I counted loss for Christ: yea doubtless and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him!" Phil 3:7-9

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