THE LORD SAVES MEN THAT DO NOT SEEK HIM
If any man be saved, he is saved by Divine grace, and BY DIVINE GRACE ALONE; and the reason of his salvation is NOT TO BE FOUND IN HIM, BUT IN GOD.
We are not saved as the result of anything that WE DO or that we will; but we will and do as the result of God’s good pleasure, and the work of His grace in our hearts. No sinner can prevent God; that is, he cannot go before Him, cannot anticipate Him; GOD IS ALWAYS FIRST IN THE MATTER OF SALVATION. He is before our convictions, before our desires, before our fears, before our hopes. All that is good or ever will be good in us, is preceded by the grace of God, and is the effect of a Divine cause within.
Now in speaking of God’s gracious acts of salvation, this morning, I notice first, that they are entirely UNMERITED. You will see that the people here mentioned certainly did not merit God’s grace. They found him, BUT THEY NEVER SOUGHT FOR HIM; he was made manifest to them, but THEY NEVER ASKED FOR HIM.
THERE NEVER WAS A MAN SAVED YET WHO MERITED IT.
Ask all the saints of God, and they will tell you that their former life was spent in the lusts of the flesh; that in the days of their ignorance, they revolted against God and turned back from his ways, that when they were invited to come to Him THEY DESPISED THE INVITATION, AND, WHEN WARNED, CAST THE WARNING BEHIND THEIR BACK. They will tell you that their being drawn by God, was not the result of any merit before conversion; for some of them, so far from having any merit, WERE THE VERY VILEST OF THE VILE: they plunged into the very kennel of sin; they were not ashamed of all the things of which it would be a shame for us to speak; they were RINGLEADERS IN CRIME, very princes in the ranks of the enemy; and YET sovereign grace came to them, and they were brought to know the Lord.
They will tell you that it was not the result of ANYTHING GOOD IN THEIR DISPOSITION, for although they trust that there is now something excellent implanted in them, yet in the days of their flesh they could see no one quality which was not perverted to the service of Satan. Ask them whether they think they were chosen of God because of their courage; they will tell you, no; if they had courage it was defaced, for they were COURAGEOUS TO DO EVIL. Question them whether they were chosen of God because of their talent; they will tell you, no; they had that talent, but THEY PROSTITUTED IT TO THE SERVICE OF SATAN. Question them whether they were chosen because of the openness and generosity of their disposition; they will tell you that that very openness of temper, and that very generosity of disposition, led them to plunge deeper into the depths of sin, than they otherwise would have done, for they were “hail fellow, well met,” with every evil man, and ready to drink and join every jovial party which should come in their way. There was in them NO REASON WHATEVER why God should have mercy upon them, and THE WONDER TO THEM IS THAT HE DID NOT CUT THEM DOWN IN THE MIDST OF THEIR SINS, BLOT OUT THEIR NAMES FROM THE BOOK OF LIFE, AND SWEEP THEM INTO THE GULF WHERE THE FIRE BURNETH. THAT SHALL DEVOUR THE WICKED.
But some have said that God chooses His people because He foresees that after he chooses them, they will do this, that, and the other, which shall be meritorious and excellent. Refer again to the people of God, and they will tell you that since their conversion they have had much to weep over. Although they can rejoice that God has begun the good work in them, THEY OFTEN TREMBLE LEST IT SHOULD NOT BE GOD’S WORK AT ALL. They will tell you that if they are abundant in faith yet THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THEY ARE SUPERABUNDANT IN UNBELIEF; that if sometimes they are full of works of holiness, yet there are times when they weep many tears to think that those very acts of holiness were stained with sin. The Christian will tell you that he weeps over his very tears; he feels that THERE IS FILTH EVEN IN THE BEST OF DESIRES; THAT HE HAS TO PRAY TO GOD TO FORGIVE HIS PRAYERS, FOR THERE IS SIN IN THE MIDST OF HIS SUPPLICATIONS, and that he has to sprinkle even his best offerings with the atoning blood, for he never else can bring an offering without spot or blemish.
You shall appeal to the brightest saint, to the man whose presence in the midst of society is like the presence of an angel, and he will tell you that he is still ashamed of himself. “Ah!” he will say, “you may praise me, but I cannot praise myself, you speak well of me, you applaud me, but if you knew my heart you would see abundant reason to think of me as a poor sinner saved by grace, who hath nothing whereof to glory, and must bow his head and confess his iniquities in the sight of God.”
GRACE, THEN IS ENTIRELY UNMERITED.
Again, the grace of God is SOVEREIGN. By that word we mean that God has an absolute right to GIVE THAT GRACE WHERE HE CHOOSES, and to WITHHOLD IT WHEN HE PLEASES. HE IS NOT BOUND TO GIVE IT TO ANY MAN, MUCH LESS TO ALL MEN; and if He chooses to give it to one man and not to another, His answer is, “Is thine eye evil because mine eye is good? Can I not do as I will with mine own? I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Now, I want you to notice the sovereignty of Divine grace as illustrated in the text: “I was found of them that sought Me not, I was made manifest to them that asked not after Me.” You would imagine that if God gave His grace to any He would wait until he found them earnestly seeking Him. You would imagine that God in the highest heavens would say, “I have mercies, but I will leave men alone, and when they feel their need of these mercies and seek Me diligently with their whole heart, day and night, with tears, and vows, and supplications, then will I bless them, but not before.”
But, beloved, God saith no such thing. It is true He doth bless them that cry unto Him, but He blesses them before they cry, for their cries are not their OWN CRIES, BUT CRIES WHICH HE HAS PUT INTO THEIR LIPS; their desires are not of their own growth, but desires which He has cast like good seed into the soil of their hearts.
GOD SAVES THE MEN THAT DO NOT SEEK HIM.
Oh, wonder of wonders! It is mercy indeed when God saves a seeker; but how much greater mercy when He seeks the lost himself! Mark the parable of Jesus Christ concerning the lost sheep; it does not run thus: “A certain man had a hundred sheep, and one of them did go astray. And he tarried at home, and lo, the sheep came back, and he received it joyfully and said to his friends, rejoice, for the sheep that I have lost is come back.” NO; he WENT AFTER the sheep: it never would have come after Him; it would have wandered farther and farther away. He went after it; over hills of difficulty, down valleys of despondency He pursued its wandering feet, and at last He laid hold of it; He did not drive it before him, He did not lead it, but He carried it himself all the way, and when He brought it home He did not say, THE SHEEP IS COME BACK,” BUT, “I HAVE FOUND THE SHEEP WHICH WAS LOST.“
MEN DO NOT SEEK GOD FIRST; GOD SEEKS THEM FIRST; AND IF ANY OF YOU ARE SEEKING HIM TO-DAY IT IS BECAUSE HE HAS FIRST SOUGHT YOU.
If you are desiring him He desired you first, and your good desires and earnest seeking will not be the CAUSE of your salvation, but the EFFECTS of previous grace given to you. “Well,” says another, “I should have thought that although the Saviour might not require an earnest seeking and sighing and groaning, and a continuous searching, after Him, yet certainly He would have desired and demanded that every man, before he had grace, should ask for it.” That, indeed, beloved, seems natural, and God will give grace to them that ask for it; but mark, the text says that he was manifested “to them that asked not for Him.” That is to say, BEFORE we ask, God gives us grace.
THE ONLY REASON WHY ANY MAN EVER BEGINS TO PRAY IS BECAUSE GOD HAS PUT PREVIOUS GRACE IN HIS HEART WHICH LEADS HIM TO PRAY.
I remember, when I was converted to God, I WAS AN ARMINIAN THOROUGHLY. I thought I had begun the good work myself, and I used sometimes to sit down and think, “Well, I sought the Lord four years before I found him,” and I think I began to compliment myself upon the fact that I had perseveringly entreated of Him in the midst of much discouragement. But one day the thought struck me, “How was it you came to seek God?” and in an instant the answer came from my soul, “Why, because He led me to do it; He must first have shown me my need of Him, or else I should never have sought Him; He must have shown me His preciousness, or I never should have thought Him worth seeking;” and AT ONCE I SAW THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE AS CLEAR AS POSSIBLE.
GOD MUST BEGIN. Nature can never rise above itself. You put water into a reservoir, and it will rise as high as that, but no higher if let alone. Now, IT IS NOT IN HUMAN NATURE TO SEEK THE LORD. HUMAN NATURE IS DEPRAVED, and therefore, there must be the extraordinary pressure of the Holy Spirit put upon the heart to lead us first to ask for mercy. But mark, we do not know any thing about that, while the Spirit is operating; we find that out AFTERWARDS. We ask as much as if we were asking all of ourselves. Our business is to seek the Lord as if there were no Holy Spirit at all. But although we do not know it, there must always be a previous motion of the Spirit in our heart, before there will be a motion of our heart towards Him.