Difference; or Man’s condition and God’s interposition
“For there is NO DIFFERENCE: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23).
“And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more. But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the Lord doth put A DIFFERENCE between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exodus 11:6-7).
The Psalmist of old said, “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light.” No sinner will get any light from God unless he gets it from the Scriptures, and receives God’s testimony as to his state.
The first Scripture we read, speaks of “no difference;” the second, of “a difference.” Now it is a very great matter when God speaks, for man to put his hand upon his mouth and listen. Let me here warn you of what the devil seeks to do today. When God preaches “A difference,”
the devil preaches
“NO difference;” and when God preaches “NO difference,” the devil preaches “A difference.”
Let me explain further. When God says, “There is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” the devil whispers into the ear of that young man, who does not get drunk, and who regularly attends a place of worship, and is what we call respectable, “Don’t you believe that. There is a very great difference between you and the drunkard; there is a very great difference between you and the man of unclean life;” and that young man believes the devil’s lie, because it is more pleasing to the carnal mind, and fosters his wretched pride.
Then again he goes to that young lady, and says, “There is a great difference between you and the painted harlot; there is a great difference between you and that gay butterfly of the world. Why, you go to church, and say your prayers night and morning, and you certainly try to be a good daughter to your mother, and kind to your relatives;” and the young lady gets angry that she has heard God’s truth. People don’t know very much about the grace of God until they arrive at this fact—they believe themselves to be so bad, that there is no good in them, and that all they deserve is
the lake of fire for ever.
We wonder whether every one of you Christians believe that. You may not, perhaps, deny it; but it is a great matter when the soul embraces God’s truth heartily, and recognises the sovereignty of God’s grace in saving us at all. The best of us deserve hell for ever. There is a difference between man and man, but before God there is absolutely none. Do you believe that? “there is NO DIFFERENCE, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
Now, in the 11th chapter of Exodus, it speaks of “A difference,” and how does this difference come fallout? It is through the blood.
God puts a great difference
between those that are blood-washed and those that are blood-guilty.
But see what the devil does. Look at yonder Church. It is filled with so-called worshippers. There is a sprinkling of true believers in Christ, but the great mass who go to that church are mere professors. Listen to the sermon that falls upon their ears. The devil inspires it. It proclaims that all alike are going to heaven. From the way some modern preachers talk you would think that very few are on the broad road, just the besotted drunkard, the gamester, the blasphemer, the painted harlot, real out-and-out sinners; whilst the pretty decent and respectable, the baptized and sacrament-taking are all on the narrow road; and they would fain make you believe that the narrow road is crowded. There is many a sermon preached with the result that the mere professor believes that there is no difference between himself and that real true child of God sitting beside him, but
there is a mighty difference.
Don’t listen to the devil. It is far wiser to listen to what God says today. If you won’t listen to what God says in this—the day of His grace, He will burn these tremendous facts into your soul throughout eternity in the lake of fire. Take this question of no difference. The lake of fire is a tremendously solemn reality, and it lies at the end of the road travelled by every unconverted man or woman. And, methinks, in the lake of fire there will not only be the besotted drunkard, that low woman, who earns her morsel of bread by sin at the midnight hour, but there will be also the psalm-singing, baptized, sacrament-taking professor, that model, upright, respectable sinner that never trusted Christ—they will all be found in the same lake of fire, and God’s heavy judgment will
write upon their inmost souls
for eternity that “there is NO difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
People now-a-days smile at gospel meetings, and think that what the preacher says is rather too strong, that he goes too far, that he is too plain-spoken, and they laugh it off; but, my hearers, let me tell you this, that the laugh of the careless sinner will give way to the wail of the lost in hell. Take care. Take care how you treat the gospel. This very night may be your last chance of hearing God’s message of salvation—it may be your last opportunity of receiving salvation, and you may lose it for ever.
But we want particularly to speak to you about the way God can bless you. Let us look at this eleventh chapter of Exodus and the beginning of the twelfth. There are the Israelites, slaves under the oppressor in the land of Egypt, and God, in the sovereignty of His grace, is about to deliver them with a high hand from beneath the oppressor’s very eye, and take them to the promised land of Canaan. How is He going to do it? For
God is absolutely righteous
in all His dealings. God is as righteous in filling heaven with repentant sinners as He is in casting the unrepentant into the lake of fire; and He must be as righteous in His dealings with the Israelites as with their oppressors.
God is love, and in this chapter of redemption intends to take this nation of slaves away from the land of Egypt, and place them in the promised land. He wants to bless them. If He is love, and He wants to bless the sinner, how must He do it? There must be righteousness, there must be holiness. The plan of redemption must be worthy of God. He must be just in His mercy. his everlasting throne is founded upon righteousness. How, then, can God do it?
The Israelites are as much sinners as the Egyptians, and, if God is going to take the Israelites out, there must be a plan of redemption. Listen! He instructs them by the lips of Moses to take a lamb, a male of the first year, without blemish, kill it, put the blood in a basin, take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood, and therewith sprinkle the upper door-post and the two side posts of the houses where they were, and God said,
“When I see the blood,
I will pass over you.”
Now the Bible is a remarkable book. The trouble is, people read it so very superficially. Atonement runs right through the book from Genesis to Revelation, and here is an instance of it. The book hangs together. They say that cordage belonging to the British Government is known by a red line of cord running through its entire length. So the Bible has a red line running through it, the line of atonement, the line of blood. From the first day man became a sinner, right through the book, God has made plain by type, and shadow, and illustration, the absolute necessity of the death of Jesus, the absolute necessity of blood being shed, a sacrifice being offered, before He could forgive the sinner and shield him from the judgment.
Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden sinned. God clothed them in the skins of beasts. How could that covering be procured? By sacrifice. For the very first time in the history of the world BLOOD was shed in order that the skins might be procured to form a covering for Adam and Eve. Again, when Abel and Cain approached God, Cain brought of the fruits of the ground—he was the first Unitarian the world ever saw. It is said that Unitarianism originated in this country, in Boston, Massachusetts, but it began just outside the Garden of Eden in the early stages of the history of this world, and Cain was its first exponent. Since that day this world has been divided into two great camps—
Abelites and Cainites.
Abel brought the firstling of the flock, emblematic of the fact that blood must be shed. A sacrifice must be made before God can be approached.
Here we find the same truth again in these eleventh and twelfth chapters of Exodus. God told the children of Israel to take a lamb without blemish, a male of the first year. A type of Jesus, GOD’S LAMB. Century after century blood flows from Jewish altars, passover after passover is celebrated, God emphasises the fact that “without shedding of blood is no remission,” all along the centuries, till the time arrived when God provided Himself a lamb. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him, he exclaimed, “Behold THE LAMB OF GOD, which taketh away the sin of the world.” All the types, and figures, and shadows pointed on with unerring finger to the Lamb of God, that blessed Saviour, the Son of God, who did the mighty work of atonement; and tonight we point you to Jesus, the One who died upon the cross, the One who shed His precious blood, that cleanseth from all sin, and the repentant sinner, trusting in that Saviour, receives the forgiveness of his sins.
To return to our chapter. What character of sacrifice will do for God? “Your lamb shall be without blemish.” You know some people say, you must do the best you can, etc., and then you will get to heaven. God requires
nothing short of absolute perfection
in the sacrifice that will meet your case. It is not a question of your being satisfied, but it is a question of GOD being satisfied, and He says your lamb must be without blemish.
They say that when the Shah of Persia came to England he visited a large publishing establishment. They intended to present him with a very fine book. It was to be velvet covered, set with pearls, with golden clasps. Before presenting it to him they carefully examined the gift, and found one small error, a trifling imperfection, and that costly book was thrown aside as imperfect, unfit to be given to such a great potentate as the Shah of Persia; and yet people think God will receive their best, though it be imperfect and blotted with sin. Impossible.
If you want to approach God, you must have something perfect to offer God as a perfect satisfaction for all your guilty life. How will you find it? If you try to do it by turning over new leaves, you will discover that your whole moral being is poisoned at its very springs, and that you can do nothing by which to merit God’s favour. Listen to the story. God has Himself provided a Lamb—even His own Son, the Lamb of God. If He has Himself provided a Lamb, surely that Lamb is spotless, and holy, and without blemish. I can say tonight, with a full heart, that my Lamb is without blemish, even Jesus, God’s Son, whose precious blood speaks richer things than the blood of bulls and of goats. Thank God, we can tell you of a work that will satisfy God, and that God now delights in virtue of it to bless the believing sinner.
What further? The blood was to be put into a basin. We understand by that, that the blood is what we call get-at-able, it is in
the place of appropriation.
So the blood of Jesus Christ affords God a basis whereby He can offer salvation to all, and whereby all can approach God. The precious blood is in the basin. We can appropriate it. Then they had to take a bunch of hyssop, and sprinkle the lintel and door-posts of the houses where they were. Hyssop signifies repentance. Solomon described the glories of creation, and spoke of the cedar of Lebanon with its stately branches, down to the hyssop, that springeth out of the wall. The cedar is typical of man in his greatness and glory—the hyssop in his lowness, and meanness, and vileness; and it is only when the sinner finds out his sinfulness and vileness, in short, when he repents, that he can know the value of the precious blood of Jesus. He learns God’s holiness, God’s love, the absolute necessity of a sacrifice, his own utter inability to meet God, and his vileness in His holy presence.
One man said very flippantly, “Before I die I shall have time to say, ‘Lord save me.’”
A flippant, careless appeal
to God’s mercy never reaches His ear. Mark, salvation is not so simple as that. Salvation will cost you nothing, that is true, but you will never be saved until you repent. And let me tell you there is no saving value in repentance, but it is that condition of soul which is necessary before the sinner is ready to appropriate the precious blood of Christ to himself or herself. We have told you before, that repentance is something like a man who gets ill. The feeling ill does not make him well, but it makes him send for a doctor; and so repentance of soul is the finding out by a sinner that he is a lost, hell-bound rebel, vile, and worthless, and strengthless, that he cannot move hand nor foot for himself. He learns that God is good, and that he is vile, and sinful, and lost, and that none can save but Christ. That is it. The soul is spiritually ill, and wretched, and sends for the Great Physician, who never loses a patient, and never charges a fee—salvation is without money and without price. “Have I repented enough?” is the sorrowful question of many an anxious sinner. You need just enough repentance to lead you to Christ. Do you feel your need of Him? That is enough.
Let us suppose the night of judgment has come. Imagine a long row of huts, in which the Israelites live. See! the destroying angel has drawn from its sheath
the sword of judgment,
and is about to go through the land of Egypt to execute God’s sentence. In thought let us follow him. In house number one, we know there is a very wicked man living. He has been a terrible drunkard. He has often beaten his wife black and blue in his drunken frenzy. His children are half-starved. Surely the destroying angel will go into that drunkard’s wretched abode and execute judgment! But he passes by. Why? Ponder the answer well. Because the blood has been sprinkled upon the lintel and the door-posts. He stops not to enquire the character of the dweller within. The blood is enough. Nay, he dare not cross the blood-stained threshold, for God has said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Jehovah has pledged His word.
Again we see the destroying angel halt. We exclaim, “Surely he will pass by that house. One of the most religious Israelites in the whole country lives there; he is always reading the Scriptures, always praying and singing psalms; in fact, he is a very religious man.” As we look at his dwelling we see something that attracts our curiosity. There is a long piece of white paper nailed to the door. We go up in the moonlight and examine it. It is a long list of his virtues—he reads his Bible, says his prayers, does the best he can, gives any money he can spare to the poor, etc. He has enumerated a long list of his many virtues, in the hope that his character may persuade the destroying angel to pass by his dwelling, but he does not even glance at the paper. We see the destroying angel pass across that threshold, and the sword of judgment falls upon the house, the first-born is slain. Why is this? Mark well the answer.
The blood was not there.
Oh! sinner, tonight, let me ask you: “Are you sheltered by the precious blood of Jesus?” For, if you are not, God’s wrath is hanging over your head this very moment, and woe be to your hapless soul if that cloud of judgment burst, and sweep you into a lost eternity. ’Tis the blood, the blood alone, that can satisfy God.
Then again, to show you the difference between safety and assurance let me borrow an illustration. Suppose we enter one of these cottages, and find the head of the house eating of the roast lamb inside with his family. They seem to have a bright light in their eyes, and a joy about their whole deportment. We say, “What is it that makes you so happy tonight? Don’t you know that this is the solemn night when God passes through the land in judgment?”
“Yes,” they reply, “we know it, but the blood is sprinkled—our first-born is safe.”
We answer, “Would it not become you better, until the midnight hour of judgment is over, until the destroying angel has passed, to be a little more modest, not so presumptuous about it, not so sure, not so certain?”
The head of the house looks at us, and says, “We have two things, we have the sprinkled blood, and more, we have the sure word of Jehovah; not only has the blood of the lamb without blemish been sprinkled upon the lintel and door-posts, but
God Himself has said,
‘When I see the blood I will pass over you,’ and” he adds, looking us in the face,—“I know God will be righteous and true to His word, and that my dwelling is as safe as if the midnight hour had passed and the sun of another day shone upon us.”
We leave him and go in next door. The head of this house and his family are pale, trembling with fear, and distressed beyond measure. We try to comfort them, and ask, “Why all this perturbation and disquietude?”
The father replies, “Don’t you know this is the night of the judgment of the first-born?”
“Yes, we do know it; but haven’t you sprinkled the blood on the lintel and the door-posts?”
“Very well then, are you not safe?”
He says, “No; I wouldn’t like to be so bold as to say that, I am hoping for the best and waiting until the midnight hour is gone, and when I find my first-born is safe, and the midnight hour is past, I will then begin to breathe more freely.”
We reason with him gently, thus, “Why, you have not only got the sprinkled blood, but also the sure word of God,” but we cannot get him past his doubts and fears. And why? Because he has not full confidence in the word of Jehovah.
Now, dear friends, let me ask you a question. Which of these two houses is the safer, that wherein dwells the family which is in calm peace resting on the word of Jehovah, or that in which they are possessed with fear, and troubled with doubts? You answer, “The house wherein they are calmly resting on the word of Jehovah.” Nay, you are wrong. They are
both equally safe,
because they are BOTH marked with the sprinkled blood. Which is the happier house? That is another question. Why, house number one, where they listen in calm assurance to the spoken word of God. There may be two persons here tonight trusting in the blood of Jesus, one full of confidence and assurance, the other trembling, and doubting, and fearing, hoping for the best. Which is the safer? Both alike are safe. Why? Because their safety does not depend upon their FEELINGS, but upon the PRECIOUS BLOOD. I ask my hearers tonight, “Do you trust in the precious blood of Jesus?”
You reply, “Yes, I do.” That being the case, are you sure about your salvation? You may be if you put your trust in God’s word. What does it say? “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
The blood is for God’s eye,
not for the sinner’s. The blood is underneath God’s eye, it has answered every claim of His holiness, and God is able to shelter the soul that trusts in the sprinkled blood, and is righteous in so doing.
A young fellow, going through college, preparing for the ministry, went to see a dying Christian woman. She too had been to college, but a different kind to his. She had not studied the dead languages, nor a dry theology. Her college consisted of a sick bed. There she had learned many wonderful things of God. She was indeed a doctor of divinity in the school of affliction. The visitor bent over her, and said, “Mother, I suppose you are trusting, at a moment like this, in the mercy of God?”
“No, young man,” she replied, “it’s not His mercy I am trusting in, it’s His justice.”
“You have surely made a mistake,” he answered, “at a moment like this, in the hour of death, that solemn moment when the soul leaves the body and returns to the God who gave it, it surely must be God’s mercy that you are trusting in.” “No, young man,” she said with a firm voice, “it is His justice.”
The young man thought she was wandering, and so she was—wandering in all the greatness of the gospel of God, up and down the length, and breadth, and height, and depth of God’s wondrous gospel. She turned, and read him a right, good lecture on divinity. “If I were to die, and pass down to hell, I should lose my soul, and that would be a great loss to me, but
God would lose His character,
and that would be a greater loss for Him, for He has pledged salvation to the believing sinner. If God were to lose His character, the whole world would crumble into dust, and there would be no God at all.”
Ah! she had got the pith of it. We love to think of it, that we shall go to heaven righteously, as righteously as God’s judgment would condemn us, if unsaved, to an everlasting hell for our many sins. God is “just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Yes; the believer goes to heaven righteously. Thank God.
Another word or two. Besides the sprinkled blood outside, what are they doing inside? Eating of the roast lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It is midnight; and yet they have their staves in their hands, their shoes on their feet, and their loins girded, and they are eating it in haste. We inquire the meaning of this midnight meal and preparedness for travel, and are told that they are going on a journey. They need strength, and they are preparing for it.
When God shelters the soul by the precious blood, that is
only the first step
of the gospel of God. With outstretched hand He was about to take His people from underneath the powerful hand of the oppressor. A little later He was about to cleave a path for them through the Red Sea, and carry them to the other side out of reach of the oppressor’s power, and on till they reached the land flowing with milk and honey. Canaan was God’s purpose for them.
If you trust the precious blood tonight, that is only step number one. God, too, will free you from the devil’s power, and the dominion of sin and death. He will endue you with His own mighty power, even the power of the Holy Spirit, and there will be a journey for you to take. You will leave this world one day, and be landed in God’s Canaan. Even now you are morally called to make that journey in your soul, to be separate from this world, and find your spirit’s home above, where Jesus is. You are destined to form part of the bride of Christ, for His satisfaction and God’s glory. This is the purpose of God.
Within that cottage they are eating the lamb, roast with fire. For you, who are trusting in that precious blood shed at Calvary’s cross, there is a solemn thought typified in the eating of the lamb, roast with fire. Jesus has been exposed for God’s glory and the putting away of your sins, to all the fire of God’s judgment against sin. Mark! they eat it, too, with bitter herbs, typical of the work of repentance deepening in the soul. I believe people repent more after salvation than before—I know I did. I found this eating of the roast lamb a solemn thing in my soul. The Unitarian wants to eat of it raw, to take all
the fire of God’s judgment
from the cross altogether. They say that Christ lived a perfect life, and died a martyr’s death to afford an example to men, to stimulate them to follow in His footsteps. They eat it raw. God will not have it. Unitarianism leads to hell. None pass to glory but those who eat of it roast with fire.
Then there is the kind that would have it sodden with water, that is, they weaken the thought of God’s judgment upon sin. They talk a sickly, sentimental, mawkish nonsense about Jesus dying, of His crown of thorns, the blood trickling from His brow, His hands, and feet, and side, of His dying agonies, how men jeered and mocked Him in His sufferings in a sort of human, sentimental way; but let me tell you, dear friends, when that thick darkness gathered round the cross, when man had done his worst, led on by sin, there was a solemn issue between God and Christ.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, took the sinner’s place, bared His breast to the storm, and God, who measured the distance between Himself and the sinner, put upon the head of Jesus all the full weight of sin, as it affected Him. There that blessed, holy Sufferer endured the storm, drinking the cup of bitterness to the last dark dreg, satisfied forever the claims of justice, and glorified God to the full. The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom by the hand of God Himself, when Jesus exclaimed,
“It is finished.”
It is this that makes salvation such a real thing. And it is the entering into this that answers to eating the lamb roast with fire.
What next? They eat the roast lamb, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. What does unleavened bread signify? Leaven is always in scripture a type of evil working. The action of the leaven in the bread is stopped by the fire of the oven. Eating unleavened bread, then, signifies that evil is put away from the believer practically, that he harbours no iniquity in his ways. It is very common nowadays for people to get a kind of mental salvation. They reason it out, like a problem at School, that, if Christ died for sinners, then He died for them, and therefore they are saved. Many are thus deceiving themselves. They lose it just as quickly and readily as they receive it. It makes no difference in their lives, for they have never been converted.
When the soul really enters into all that is meant by the death of Christ, it makes a mighty difference in the life. You eat of the roast lamb with unleavened bread, that is to say, the sinner—who knows what sin cost his blessed Saviour in His agonies on the cross, in the hiding of God’s face from Him—and his sin part company, there is a desire in his heart for righteousness, there is a turning from his wicked ways. If he were a drunkard before conversion, he will turn sober, there will be no unleavened bread in his mouth, there will be no more drinking—there will be no more tippling, or secret drinking. There is that young lady who used to read novels at the midnight hour, she will say good-bye to them. That pleasure-loving girl, when she is converted, will bid adieu to her parties and balls. That godless young man, now converted, will say good-bye to the football-field, will say good-bye to its swearing, gambling, godless crew. There will be a turning round. The eating of the roast lamb with unleavened bread will show itself in a practical way. Conversion is a real thing, a turning right-about, a turning to God from idols, a serving of the living and true God. That makes up the history of the true Christian, turning, serving, waiting—turning to God, serving the living and true God, waiting for His Son from heaven. Oh! it will make a mighty difference in your life.
Now for our last point. They have shoes on their feet, staves in their hands, their loins are girded, and they are eating it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. Why this midnight meal and this preparation, not for bed, but for a journey? Ah! they are off. They are about to say good-bye to the oppressor. They are God’s redeemed people.
If you were converted tonight it would make a mighty difference in you; instead of drifting with the world and its pleasures; and its ways, you would find yourself taking a different course altogether. You wouldn’t be in Satan’s grip any longer, you would learn how by the death of Jesus all your mighty foes are slain, and that you are now one of God’s people, delivered from the powers of sin and Satan, the dominion of death, and that now that blessed journey lies before you, as guided by the Spirit, which ends in the glory of God, in the accomplishment of His purpose for YOU, May God grant His blessing to His word. Amen.