For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
I. There is a difference between the people of God and others, which the latter discover; a difference of CHARACTER and condition of which they are aware, and which they are sometimes forced to acknowledge. I do not say that this distinction is visible in all professors of religion. How should it be? It is not real in all. There are those who differ from others only in professing to be different from them. Nor do I say that this distinction is as manifest in all real Christians as it is in some; nor in these equally manifest at all times; but there exists, and sinners see that there exists, a class of persons in the world who, in their spirit, and principles, and consistent acting in accordance with their principles, in their desires, aversions and aims, and in all that goes to constitute character, are different from them and from the generality of mankind; as also in their hopes, consolations, supports, and sources of enjoyment. An intelligent and accomplished young man, on his deathbed, told a clergyman who visited him that he had been an infidel and a profligate, and that in the whole course of his infidelity there was but one thing that disturbed him, and he could answer every argument for Christianity but one, and that was the pious example and prayers of a believing mother. The perception of this difference exerts this power, because sinners discern that in so far as Christians are different from them, they are superior to them, have the decided advantage over them.
I. In point of: CHARACTER, sinners see and admit the superiority of the real Christian. Compare John the Baptist with Herod, or Mary, the sister of Lazarus, with Herodias or her daughter Salome, the dancing girl. Look first at Paul, and then at Festus or even Agrippa. You see what the difference is, and where the superiority lies. Or look at some living Christian and then at yourself, and make a comparison. Look at his spirit and then at your own; his spirit of meekness and yours of resentment; his humility and your pride; his disinterestedness and your selfishness. His aim is to do good, yours to get good. To enrich, gratify, or aggrandise yourself is your object. His is to glorify God and bless mankind. The love of Christ constrains him; but it is not so with you. Now, whose spirit is the more excellent? whose principles of action the more worthy? which character the superior? Do you not feel your own inferiority? Yes, and sinners do often secretly despise themselves for it. Here they see one denying and labouring to subdue his appetites, while they to all theirs are giving the rein; and the time that they spend in vanity, they see others occupying in visits of charity and offices of kindness to the poor and neglected; and they know that they are wrong, and that the others are right. Look at the devotional part of the Christian's character. He consecrates a portion of each day to secret communion with God, to prayer, confession of sin and contrition for it, to the grateful recollections of God's goodness to him, to the serious reading of the Word of God, to meditation and self-examination, and to intercession for you and others. Now, you have no such habits of devotion. You live without God in the world. Here is a difference between you and the Christian. On which side is the superiority? Do you not decide that the conduct of the Christian is the more filial, the more affectionate, grateful, reasonable, and worthy? Look now at the Christian in his family; and recollect then what you are in yours. Hear the expression of thanksgiving and the invocation of blessing, accompanying the reception of the bounties of Divine providence. See night and morning the household assembled to hear the Word of God, and to unite in the offering of prayer and praise. Is not this manner of conducting the affairs of a family preferable to yours?
II. I pass on to THE CONDITION of the Christian. If he is better than his neighbour, so it is better with him.
(1) In regard to safety, is not the condition of the Christian superior? Have not you something to apprehend, but has he any cause for fear, to whom God says, "Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God"? He who has God for him is safer from natural evil than any other; and safer from sin surely is he to whom it is promised, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, My grace is sufficient for you."(2) In regard to peace, I would ask if the Christian has not the advantage of you? If the testimony of God is to be relied on, he has all the advantage implied in the difference between great peace and no peace, for "great peace have they who love Thy law," it is said in one place; and in another, "there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked"; he being justified by faith has peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; and the peace of God that passes understanding keeps his heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Do you know anything of such tranquillity? Is not this far before the philosophic calm? How is it that in seasons of danger, in the hour of apprehended shipwreck, in the sudden invasion of sickness, or in the time of impending pestilence, men fall upon their knees, betake themselves to the Bible, and ask an interest in the prayers of Christians? Do they not thereby testify that the rock of their reliance is not as our Rock?
(3) In point of consolation in affliction, and support under the trials of life, has not the Christian an acknowledged advantage over every other? Underneath him are the everlasting arms. What equal support have you? Have you any, any refuge to run into for shelter when the storms of sorrow beat furiously upon you? Any voice like that, of the Son of Man, to say to you in your desponding moments, "be of good cheer"? Do you think that you are as well prepared to die as he who has committed his soul to the care and keeping of Christ? Do you think that he is as likely to be troubled with dying regrets as you?
(4) Shall we go on one step further? That brings us to the bar of God. In what character, think you, will it be most desirable for you to appear there?
(W. Nairns, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.