THE GOSPEL REFUGE.
|We have a strong consolation who have fled for Refuge.| -- HEB. vi.18.
And now, my young friends, we have finished the survey of our picture-gallery. We have wandered among these six cities in the old land of promise. I shall repeat their names once more, that you may remember them.
What a complete Saviour! In Him |all fullness dwells.| In the case of some of these Hebrew cities, |not one stone has been left upon another that has not been thrown down.| Owls are screaming amid their ruins, and jackals prowling for their prey. But not so with HIM of whom they were types. Jesus ever lives! He never changes. Time and decay cannot crumble the walls of the Gospel Refuge. He is |the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.|
I want, in this last chapter, to say one or two additional things to you about the Cities of Refuge. Let me ask you to give me your earnest attention.
The first thing I wish you to remember is, that all the preciousness of that NAME of Jesus, and all the security of the Gospel REFUGE, is derived from the merits of His death for you upon the cross.
This is the truth of all truths, and one, too, strikingly taught in these olden types. If you read the Bible account, you will find that the manslayer had his liberty restored to him upon the death of the High Priest. When the tidings of the decease of this great Head of the Jewish nation reached these refuge towns, I daresay many of their citizens would be heard, with wailing cry, mourning the loss of God's faithful servant. But the intelligence was very different to the captive Hebrew. It brought him joyful news! For that event enabled him to go forth from his banishment, and to terminate years of painful separation from all he loved on earth. The avenger could no longer injure him. He could return, happy and secure, to the comforts of his long-lost home.
So, dear reader, it is the death of your great High Priest that has purchased your release from spiritual captivity. The law can no longer hold you. Justice can no longer threaten you. You can go forth with the glorious liberty of a child of God, saying, |Who is he that condemneth? -- It is Christ that died.|
You can picture to yourselves, on the death of the Jewish High Priest, the Hebrew captive going forth from the city, within whose gloomy walls he had long been enclosed. You can picture him, with merry heart, making the valleys through which he hurried to his native dwelling, echo with songs of joy! And shall not you, with happier heart and voice, sing this song as you journey on to your heavenly home, and see it gleaming in the distance, on the other side of Jordan --
|When from the dust of death I rise,
To take my mansion in the skies,
This all my hope -- this all my plea,
That Jesus lived and died for me!|
The second thing I want to say to you is, that God has made the gospel City of Refuge easy of access, and has filled it with rich provision.
He made the way as plain as possible to the manslayer of old. The cities themselves were generally on a height, so as to be seen at a far distance. The roads leading to them were carefully kept. They were broader than others in Palestine, (sixteen yards wide.) The Jewish magistrates and judges went once every year to inspect them, and to order repairs. Where streams occurred, there were bridges thrown across. Where there were angles or by-roads, posts with |Refuge| on them were set up; and as there were no bridges across Jordan, three of the cities were placed, as I have already mentioned, on one side of the river, and three on the other; so that all might easily get at them, and none might have any excuse for not fleeing. The nearest city could always be reached by the manslayer in half a day. Moreover, we are informed there were ample stores of provisions laid up in them. They were supplied with wells of water, and Levites were placed in turn as porters or gatekeepers, to be ready to welcome every fugitive into these homes of safety.
So God has done everything for you, to make the Gospel Refuge accessible. Your parents and ministers -- your Bibles and churches and good books -- are all, just like these refuge signals, pointing away from the cross-roads and by-roads of human reason, and human error, and self-righteousness, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and saying, |Flee! flee! flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before you!| Jesus, too, the true Gospel Refuge, is full of rich provision. |Ye are complete in Him.| He, as the true Joseph, gives forth out of the storehouses in His |treasure-cities,| to all His needy people. What are some of these provisions? There is pardon -- peace -- justification -- adoption -- sanctification, -- strength for the hour of weakness, -- grace for the hour of temptation, -- and the good hope of everlasting life for the hour of death. No wonder that he says to every poor sinner seeking admission within these gates, |I am the bread of life: he that cometh unto me shall never hunger.|
As in the cities of Canaan, so in this glorious Gospel-City of which they were types, there is a Well of living water. What is this? It is the Holy Spirit. He is often in Scripture compared to water. |If any man thirst,| said Jesus, |let him come unto me, and drink. This spake he of the Spirit.| This all-glorious well-spring, moreover, is not like those of the Palestine cities, which were sometimes dried up in seasons of drought, but |springing up unto everlasting life.| Angels, too, are the porters, -- the blessed warders that keep the gates of this Gospel-City. |Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who are heirs of salvation?| They love to watch by these gates, and to welcome every wanderer. How gladly they give the word, |Open ye the gates, that the righteous (those made righteous through the righteousness of Jesus) may enter in!|
It is delightful, moreover, to think, that just as the Jewish cities were easily got at from all parts of Palestine, so from all parts of the world, may people go to the Greater and more Glorious Gospel Refuge. Poor Pagan of the far East! cast away your idols; the gates of the Gospel-City stand ready to welcome you. Indian of the far West! cast aside your warrior spear and your offerings of blood, and flee to the portals of mercy and to the blood which cleanseth from all sin. Laplander of the far North, amid your polar snows! Negro of Africa, amid your burning sands! rush to the provided shelter. There is salvation there for you. |The same Lord is rich to ALL that call upon Him.| Happy prospect! -- the time will come when the whole world will be found singing together the same song and uttering the same prayer, |Open unto us the gates of righteousness, that we may enter into them, and praise the Lord!|
Will none of my young friends rejoice if they are able, by aiding the cause of missions abroad, to help putting this |new song| into the lips of those who are still |wandering in the wilderness in a solitary way, and have NO CITY to dwell in?|
* * * * *
The third thing I want to say to you is, that no OTHER Refuge will do but JESUS.
I would like you to take as your motto the simple and beautiful words which a Sabbath scholar, I knew well about, lately gone to glory, wrote to his minister. |I am sure I may be very thankful to God for His great mercy toward me.... I must just keep in mind that there is one Refuge to flee to, and that is Jesus.|
There are many other refuges people try to take shelter in. They think they will be as safe in them as in the ONE of God's providing; but these will never stand in that day which will try every refuge of what sort it is.
I have seen some making their own goodness their refuge-city. They imagined they were not so bad as others. They trusted in the falling Siloam-tower of their own righteousness!
I have seen some making God's goodness their refuge-city. They said to themselves, |God is kind. He surely will not deal hardly with sinners at last. Justice, the avenger, will not surely always pursue with her flaming sword. The love of God will surely get the better of his justice.|
Don't let Satan deceive you. There are many of his refuges which appear to be safe enough, but on which God has written |Refuges of lies.|
There were many other towns in Canaan of old which appeared to be as good and as safe as those I have been speaking of. But no city could afford shelter to the manslayer, excepting one of the six God had specially appointed.
What would have happened if the fugitive of old, in fleeing from the avenger, had said to himself, |What is the use of my going so far away as to Hebron or Golan? I would rather flee to a nearer place. I will go to Jericho, the old city of palm-trees; or to Bethlehem, in the hills of Judah; or, better still, I will go to Jerusalem, the capital of the nation, where the temple of Zion is, and the palace of the King. Surely I shall be safer far within its lofty walls and bulwarks than in one of these little cities of the Levites. Is it not said that 'God is known in all her Palaces for a Refuge?'|
If he had done so, he would undoubtedly have perished. Neither King nor Priest, nor Golden gate nor Beautiful gate, nor wall nor bulwark, could have saved him from the avenger's sword. The refuge-towns appointed in the olden time may have been |the least amid the cities of Judah.| But they were God's selection, God's ordering, and that was enough. In them, and in them only, was the manslayer safe from the avenger of blood.
And so it is with our Gospel Refuge. |Neither is there salvation in any other.| Rejecting Jesus, we are lost for ever. All other refuges, however good or great or strong they may appear to be, will prove only Babel-towers, that will fall on the poor builders, and crush them in their ruins.
When God told the children of Israel to sprinkle their lintels and door-posts with blood, they might have been foolish enough to say, |No; we shall do better. We shall not be content with doing so trifling a thing; we shall rather build up great walls around our houses, so that the destroying angel may not get in.| Do you think, if they had done so, their first-born would have been saved? No; there would have been death in every such household; these high walls would have proved useless. Nothing but the red mark on the doorway of the dwelling would be of any avail in warding off the fell stroke.
So it is with the sinner. All the walls which pride, and self-righteousness, and good works can rear, will do nothing to keep out the sword of avenging Justice. But the sprinkled blood of covenant mercy will; for |the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth (and alone cleanseth) from ALL SIN!|
I remember, many years ago, attending the deathbed of a young man in E -- -- . He told me, one day, he had dreamt of being in a shop in -- -- Street, which seemed to be hung round with armour and coats of mail. A number of people in the shop were girding these on; while a man was standing with a drawn sword in his hand outside the door, ready to slay them as they passed into the open street. One after another he cut down; -- the armour was no protection to them -- their bodies were lying dead and wounded on the pavement. In great fear and terror, the young man said, his turn seemed at last to come, when he, too, must try to cover himself with the same armour, and rush out by the fatal door. He knew not what to do. In looking around him, he observed, in the uppermost shelf, something resembling a web of coarse linen, lying apparently neglected. He resolved to take it down, and wrap himself in a portion of it, instead of the unavailing sheaths of iron and steal. Covering his head and body, he darted out, following the footsteps of the others. The sword descended; but it bounded back again. It was unable to pierce the linen covering. He alone was safe in that crowd of dead and dying.
Beautifully did this youthful dreamer apply his own |vision of the night.| It was: -- How vain are all the boasted sheathings of the armour of self-righteousness; and how safe and glorious is that |white linen| covering of the righteousness of Jesus! To the eye of reason, the panoply of iron and steel seems the best, and strongest, and securest. Many will not |submit themselves to the righteousness of God,| and persist in using the others. But they will be a poor protection against the sword of God's avenging justice. Happy are those who have been led to look above for another righteousness, and who have listened to the Divine injunction, |Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ!|
Reader, let me ask, is this your case? Don't think, because you are young, and have committed few sins, that you are safer than those who have committed many, and that you have not the same urgent need to flee to Jesus for refuge. In Canaan of old, the manslayer was in danger of his life, whether he had killed one or several. One single life, like one single sin, exposed him to the fury of the avenger.
Nay, more. The Hebrew fugitive might elude his avenger! He might manage, for days, or weeks, or years, to screen himself from his wrath. He might go, as David did to avoid Saul, to some cave of Adullam; he might hide in the gloomy recesses of some forest; -- amid the oaks of Bashan, or the rocky gorges of the Jordan, or amid the cedar-heights of Lebanon; -- in the words of Ezekiel, |dwelling safely in the wilderness, and sleeping in the woods.| But it is different with the sinner and his Avenger: -- |Vengeance is mine; and I WILL repay, saith the Lord.| Who can escape His glance? Who can hide from His all-seeing eye?
|If I should find some cave unknown,
Where human foot had never trod,
Even there I could not be alone --
On every side there would be GOD.
|He smiles in heaven, He frowns in hell,
He fills the air, the earth, the sea;
I must within His presence dwell,
I cannot from His anger flee.|
The fourth thing I want to say to you is: -- That many young and old HAVE fled to Jesus, the Gospel City of Refuge, and have found themselves safe and happy there.
How delightful it is, year by year, to trace the footsteps of those, whether young or old, rich or poor, who have repaired to that blessed shelter! I shall close this little volume by telling you of two such, now inhabitants of the better celestial City. Very different they were in years, in country, in outward position. But they were alike in this, -- that they fled in life to the gates of the Gospel Refuge; and to both the NAME of JESUS was specially precious.
The one was C -- -- T -- -- , a little girl thirteen years old -- the age, I daresay, of some whose eyes are falling on these pages. I saw her when she was bright and happy in her adopted home in England -- a sweet spot in the county of Kent, on one of those wooded heights or uplands which command an extensive prospect of the Thames, as he winds along, hearing on his lordly bosom the commerce of the world. Little did any then dream, that that little life, so full of promise, was to be early taken -- her sun going down before it was |yet day!| So, however, the will of God was; her summons came suddenly, unexpectedly. Her disconsolate parents saw |the desire of their eyes taken away by a stroke.| The dear child herself was naturally of a timid, reserved disposition; she felt more than she said. Her kind, unselfish heart delighted in devising plans of usefulness and carrying them out. The entire of her pocket-money was latterly spent in the purchase of little books for the infant-school children -- all of whom loved her much -- or in publications for loan among the elder Sunday class. She won the affections of old as well as young. |The little lady who used to speak so prettily to us,| was the description given, with full eyes, by more than one of the villagers who had known her loving ways, and heard her loving voice. In another neighbourhood still more familiar to her, she used to go to the cottages with her Bible, and offer to read to the inmates who most needed it; always putting her little hands together first, to ask for God's blessing, and then making some simple remarks she thought might be of use. Those whose hearts most sorely mourned her, had the fullest assurance that the grace of God had been early poured into their dear child's heart. But on thinking, too, on the past, they began at times to wonder whether these pleasing traits of character and efforts to do good, were really prompted by love to Jesus, or whether they might be rather the effect of habit and the imitation of others. They anxiously searched among her little books and desk-treasures to see if they could find anything to confirm their fondest thoughts regarding this. I believe it was even made the subject of earnest prayer to God, that some such precious testimony might be found. After all her other books had been examined in vain, imagine what were the feelings of delight and thankfulness, when, as one day she who loved her best was taking the cover off her Bible, the two following letters dropped from it on the ground: --
|B. PARSONAGE, August.
|MY DEAREST PAPA AND MAMMA, -- I am going to write this in case I should go to that happy land where sorrow is not known, suddenly; and that you may have no fears about my soul. I know my state, and that my precious Saviour has called me, and I humbly accept this glorious invitation as a poor WRETCHED sinner. I strive not to expect redemption by my own poor merits. I have no comparative fear of death, but as a passage from a wicked world to a happy, happy home. Though I am by nature very wicked, it is all washed away by my Saviour's blood. The Holy Spirit has taught me what to pray for, and how to pray. I hope all my dear friends will forgive me if I have been angry when they have spoken to me about my faults. I should like, dearest parents, whatever little money and things I have, to be given to the Church Missionary Society and the Bible Society. My dear Saviour has forgiven me all my INNUMERABLE sins, and so, dear parents, you need not fear about my soul. I believe my Saviour will not forsake me if I trust in Him, and I know that all my righteousness is as filthy rags. -- I remain, dearest parents,| &c., &c., &c.,
|C. M. T.|
The other paper that was found, was probably intended for her brothers and sisters. It is as follows: --
|When you are in trouble, go to God and tell Him all about it. The Saviour who called little children to come to Him will listen to you, no matter what the subjects be, if you be but in earnest and need His help. If you have a difficult lesson to learn, a hasty spirit to subdue, an unkind word to bear, a proud spirit to humble -- whatever your difficulty, take it to God in the name of Jesus, and He will help you. If even we, who see so little beneath the surface, are not pleased with outward appearances without good qualities within, how much less is the great God who searches the inmost recesses of the heart? 'The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.' What we require is a new heart cleansed by the Holy Spirit, full of all the graces mentioned in St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, (chap. v.22.) Oh! go then to JESUS and ask of Him in earnest prayer to pardon your sins, and to confer upon you the blessed gift of a new heart.|
My young friends, have you fled like C -- -- T -- -- to an all-gracious Saviour? Is the |name of Jesus,| so sweet to her, equally precious to you? Does it |soothe your sorrows,| |heal your wounds,| and drive your tears and fears all away? Can you say, in the spirit of her beautiful and comforting letter, --
|Till then I shall His love proclaim
With every fleeting breath;
And may the music of His NAME
Refresh my soul in death.|
Having told you of one recently |fallen asleep in Jesus,| who had early repaired to the shelter of the Gospel Refuge, I shall now tell you of an aged servant of Jesus who has, more recently still, entered on her glorious rest.
She was a former parishioner of mine. Her home was a lowly cottage in one of the loveliest villages of Scotland. Poor in this world, and an almost constant sufferer, she was rich in faith, -- one of |Christ's jewels;| -- her life was |hid with Christ in God.| If I could venture to name two peculiarities in her spiritual being which distinguished her more than others, it would be these: Love for the NAME of JESUS, and a Life of PRAYER. |His name,| to her, was |like ointment poured forth.| Often have I delighted to sit with her in her cottage, with her Bible on her knee, and hear her speak of |the name which is above every name;| walking about these six Refuge-Cities, |telling all the towers, marking the bulwarks, and considering the palaces.| She had herself long before, in early life, fled to the Gospel stronghold. I think her favourite city would have been GOLAN, |Joy.| Her heart seemed ever to be filled with |peace and joy in believing.|
Doubtless much of this calm serenity and joy she derived from her life of prayer. It is no small matter for the writer of these pages to know, that there was not a day for upwards of sixteen years in which he was not personally and specially remembered by this lowly saint at a throne of grace.
One forenoon during this past year, she had entered her cottage, carrying a pitcher of water down from the well in her garden. It was the last time she crossed her threshold. When her door was opened, she was found alone on her knees; BUT her spirit had fled! PRAYER, as it had been her ever fond delight in life, had been her solace and comfort in death. Her last act was drawing water out of the better |wells of salvation.| She began with prayer, but ended in praise! She began her prayer on earth, and |finished it with the angels!|
Reader! when you come to die, could you be equally happy, equally safe? Would you be able thus to rejoice and triumph in the name of Jesus? Could you declare, with either of these two glorified spirits, before God |took| them, |We HAVE a strong city; salvation hath God appointed for walls and for bulwarks?| Has the Holy Spirit taught you, as it taught them, that you are sinners by nature, and in a state of condemnation? Have you heard God's voice behind you, declaring that |He can by no means clear the guilty?| And are you able now joyfully to say, |I heard Thy voice, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself?|
Are you, like them, really |hid| within the gates? The manslayer of old required to be within the refuge-city. Even if he were but one footstep without, the avenger of blood could cut him down. It did not matter how near he was, if he was not inside the portals!
And so it will avail you nothing to know about Christ, and hear about Christ; -- to survey the strength of the city's walls, the glory of its battlements, and the beauty of its palaces. It is |the righteous who RUNNETH into it,| who alone is |safe.|
What more, in closing, have I to say, but to repeat the solemn word, |Haste thee, flee for thy life!| Every hour you put off, the time is shorter; the avenger is nearer; the chances of escape are fewer. There is no time for delay. I say this to the very youngest. I say more. As young feet can run fastest, so it is with young souls. You will never go to Jesus so easily as now. Let nothing keep you back. It is said that on digging up the ruins of Herculaneum, (the city that was buried under the lava of Mount Vesuvius,) the body of a man was found in an upright posture, in the act of running out of the door of his house to escape destruction. He had a bag of gold in his hand. Others had escaped in safety. But this miser loved his gold more than his life. He had returned to fetch it, thinking he would have time enough to escape the terrible doom; but the burning stream overtook him. He was encased in a living sepulchre.
It was one, too, of the saddest incidents connected with these Cities of Refuge of old, when some poor, breathless, panting fugitive -- just when he was in sight of the city -- when he had almost reached the gate, sank exhausted. Or perhaps the case of some other who had lain down weary to sleep, but who had been startled by the avenger at his side, and the drawn sword gleaming before his eyes; -- years after, the pile of stones marking the spot where his blood had been shed.
But, oh, sadder, sadder far, for any, young or old, to perish within sight of Christ! To suffer the love of sin, or the love of pleasure, or the love of the world, to make them |too late!| To be almost, but not altogether saved! To be cut down by the sword of wrath, or overtaken by the fiery stream, with heaven in view!
God grant that this may not be the case with any one of you!
I shall conclude with a happier picture: -- The citizens in these Refuge-cities of old, were sometimes seen clustered on the top of the walls, watching the approach of the manslayer, and cheering him on when faint and exhausted. So, think of the happy citizens of the New Jerusalem: Patriarchs, prophets, saints, departed friends, who are now safe within its gates, watching you from these glorious heights, beckoning to you not to tarry, but to be |followers of them who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.| |Verily I say unto you, There is joy in heaven among the angels of God over every sinner that repenteth.|
We have been speaking of the |name of JESUS.|
Read the motto over the gateway of all these six cities. Read the motto over the door of the Gospel Refuge: -- |Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other NAME given under heaven among men by which the sinner can be saved, but the NAME of JESUS.|
Jesus, my Refuge! look on me:
When weak and weary, worn, opprest:
I cast my every care on Thee --
Thou art my Rest.
Jesus my Refuge! guide my way,
Dispel the gloomy shades of night,
Oh, shine Thou forth with cheering ray! --
Thou art my Light.
Jesus, my Refuge! storms may rise,
Affliction sweep with tempest-shock,
My spirit to Thy shelter flies,
Thou art my Rock.
Jesus my Refuge! legion-foes
May seek to drive me from the field,
But in Thy strength I shell repose --
Thou art my Shield.
Jesus, my Refuge! Thou in store
Hast happiness without alloy,
Pleasures unmingled, evermore --
Thou art my Joy.
Jesus, my Refuge! on the brink
Of Jordan, in my latest strife,
Thou wilt not suffer me to sink --
Thou art my Life.
Jesus, my Refuge! oh, supply
My every want, whate'er befall;
Through life, in death, eternally,
Thou art my ALL!