GO FORTH UNTO HIM
The first sermon printed in Gospel Tidings Vol. 1 No. 1
by F. L. Rowell, at Evington Chapel, preceding administration
of the ordinance of Believer’s Baptism December 29th, 1964
When administering the ordinance of Believer’s Baptism recently I quoted three verses from the epistle to the Hebrews prior to the baptism. The persistence with which these words have remained with me, and the power that has attended them to my spirit, has given me encouragement to read them again this evening, in hope that the Lord may enable me to make some comment upon them. These words are in the epistle to the Hebrews, chapter thirteen and verses twelve to fourteen, where we read.
`Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the camp. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
In this congregation there are a number of men who have not only been called by the grace of God from the darkness of sin’s ignorance to the light of a vital faith in Christ, but they have also been called, by the same Holy Spirit, to minister the Word of God to people in many towns and villages. I believe I shall speak for them also when I say that if there was a conviction upon my spirit that the ordinance of Believer’s Baptism was other than of Jesus Christ’s command and glorified by His own precious example then, my friends, I could not possibly administer this ordinance this evening. Truly it is an ordinance of the Son of God, Christ Jesus the Lord. I believe there will be, this evening, a true and humble following by faith of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; a
following of Him in the example He has set and in the command He has given. Both in the example and command can be seen, and often has been seen, the love of God Â— the love of God manifest in the gift of His own dear Son Â— the love of God in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who said, when questioned by John concerning His coming to His herald for this administration of baptism, ‘Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.’ In this ordinance also there will be seen the blessed outcome of the constraint of divine love and power in the grace and strength by which our friends would ‘put on Christ’ (Galatians 3.27) by this open confession of their hope in Him.
I would, first of all, stress that the baptism to be administered this evening is the subject of a divine command. Wherever the Lord’s creatures disobey, dishonour or deny the commands of the Lord there is SIN, but where by faith there is a filial obedience to the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is already experienced a great blessing of the Lord, and He has declared that in the keeping of the statutes and commandments of the Lord ‘there is great reward’ Psalm 19.11. Not by this action shall anyone find merit before the Lord, but how many, in this ordinance and under His great grace to them, have known the answer of a good conscience before the Lord. Whilst I was living at Rochdale I heard an account of an elderly man who applied for baptism at Hope Chapel during the pastorate of John Kershaw. After giving an account of the Lord’s gracious dealings with him over many years, he was asked if he thought he would be any ‘better’ as a result of being baptised. When, to the surprise of many present, he replied that he thought he would be, and was questioned as to the reason, he replied that he hoped he would have the answer of a good conscience before the Lord concerning this, which, hitherto, he had not known. I trust that, in the hearts of the three friends who would be baptised this evening, this valuable ‘answer’ may be known in the peace of their heart. Did not John Bunyan express his own heart-felt desire when, describing the experience of one of the characters in his Pilgrim’s Progress, he relates a longing that wherever the footsteps of his Lord might be seen, there he desired to follow. We can never walk too close with the Lord. Cowper’s ‘0 for a closer walk with God’ has been the prayer of many gracious hearts, and in the experience of many this has been one of the `waymarks’ upon the road that has brought them to the Lamb.
In the administration of this ordinance very blessed teaching concerning Jesus Christ is revealed and it is my desire that this may abundantly be seen as we gather around this pool to administer the ordinance of believer’s baptism. I may be permitted a few remarks concerning the application of our friends for baptism and church membership. I know that among the members of the Church here there was a very loving reception of the simple honesty of their account of the Lord’s dealing with them in conviction and liberation, and also of the
two blessed things which brought them to this step; the first of which was the exercise of faith toward the Lord in His Word, and then the constraint of the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost which was given unto them (Romans 5.5). I felt perfectly persuaded that the action was indeed one in which they were led by the Holy Spirit in hope that-their Lord, the Saviour Jesus Christ might be honoured thereby. They came before us as humbled, penitent sinners conscious of their dreadfully lost condition by their sin but also, as sinners, they had been brought, by the same blessed Spirit, to the mercy seat in Christ Jesus, crying for mercy, righteousness and pardon which had been shown to them in Jesus Christ as the only hope for their never-dying souls. I must admit that prior to a Church meeting of such a nature there is a great weight upon my spirit. I desire to be delivered from anything that would be contrary to the Lord’s will. I seek some token from the Lord Himself to my heart; that the action to be taken might receive some witness of the Holy Spirit to my spirit, that it is in accord with the mind of the Lord. Many ministers and members of churches have had the sadness of looking upon courses of backsliding and departure with something of the grief which must have been in the heart of Paul when he was led by the Holy Spirit to write to the churches of Galatia. Who hath bewitched you, 0 foolish Galatians, that ye should not obey the truth Â— Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you’ (Galatians 3.1; 5.7/8). As I have reflected upon this teaching of the Word of God, and have cause to remember such bewitchings and hinderings that have brought such sadness, I have been brought to realise with greater dread than ever before the dangers which attend the confessors of the Lamb. The peril of our friends is very real from the treason of sin within them, the fearful power of the devil’s temptations and the flesh-pleasing but Christ-dishonouring seductions of the world in which they will have to live. I have again to cast myself upon the Lord on their behalf, as well as for my own need, for that grace to be granted to them that they shall not turn back or turn aside, but that their eyes may be kept looking right on and straight before them. With these concerns pressing upon my heart I waited upon the Lord for some ‘Sure token’, and I felt to be truly favoured when the Lord dropped a word into my heart with such strength and power that my heart was at peace. The Scripture thus granted to me was, ‘Go with them, nothing doubting’ and it is in the strength of that word that I can take them by the hand and baptise them believing that it is the Lord’s will that His seeking ones should be baptised; that it is His will that I should baptise these who have sought and to whom the mercy of the Lord has been so graciously made known. When we can move under Divine warrant we can move safely and this we would do in complete dependence upon Him. We know, and our friends have confessed this, that in our own nature we are nothing but
weakness, sin and shame. To our friends has been given some strength of hope that in Christ is found all their hope and salvation, even in the One of whom the ordinance of believer’s baptism does speak to the ear of faith.
Turning this evening to the three verses which we have read I wish to look back for a short time with regard to this matter of baptism, then I would think of our present condition and the Lord’s word concerning this, and, finally, I wish to speak of a great and blessed prospect.
Looking back Paul writes, ‘Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.’ This happened nearly two thousand years ago, and it was the fulfilment of a blessed type of Christ which was ordained of God to Israel to be observed on the great day of Atonement, as recorded in Leviticus 16. After the bullock and the goat had been killed and their blood had been sprinkled before the Lord, their bodies were to be taken ‘without the camp’ and be burned there. As this was dealt with in this particular and peculiar way, we are told by the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that in this action on the great day of atonement; when the sins of Israel were confessed; when a scapegoat was provided; when sacrifices were offered for the High Priest and the people; there was a blessed setting forth in type of the far greater offering of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘Wherefore Jesus also’ that the Scriptures might be fulfilled; that these ordinances of God should be seen in their greater glory, in the glorious and blessed antitype Â— ‘Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.’ Is it not this action of eternal and divine love to the guilty that is shown in the ordinance of baptism?
May there be many here tonight who shall see in this ordinance that which will cause them to sorrow more deeply over the exceeding sinfulness of their sin, and bring to their remembrance the exceeding lovingkindness of the Lord to those who are so guilty. Surely in the ordinance of believer’s baptism these two things are clearly set before us. Here we see in the blessed, yet solemn, exercise of faith the overwhelming sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ; that great grief, that dreadful darkness, loneliness and banishment which was His; all that which was His most grievous experience ‘Without the camp’; which occasioned that solemn cry ere He committed His spirit into the hand of His Father, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ 0, my friends, you have known something of the awful guilt of sin under conviction of the Law’s demands. As the holiness of the Law’s demand has entered powerfully into the conscience, the nature of the guilt of sin and the virulence of its power in opposition to every good thing has been proved in you more powerfully than ever it could have been known before. 0, the sadness of the proof that, the more holy the desire and the greater the longing for God and His salvation, the more powerful the
working of sin in all the powers of our being. Truly nothing, and none less, than a mighty salvation and an almighty Saviour could save and deliver from such guilt and bondage. Yes, truly in this ordinance is set before us the exceeding sinfulness of sin. May I appeal to some of you that are here this evening? Are you mourners before God by reason of this? Did your sin occasion that awful smart to the dear Son of God? Because of the covenant of grace, that everlasting love and the choice of God set upon such wretched guilty creatures as those mourners, was it not necessary that the Lord Jesus Christ should be taken from prison and from judgment, and suffer in His own sacred Person and in His holy soul those dreadful judgments which the holy law of God must have justly laid upon us. The Lord Jesus Christ is the alone atonement and salvation of the guilty.
But I would also proclaim the great love of the Lord which is revealed in the ordinance of believer’s baptism. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ 0, my friends, look upon the nature of love. God so loved. Tremendous arguments have raged about this passage of Scripture, and I am thankful that the Lord has not left me in uncertainty as to the meaning of the truth revealed in John 3.16. But there is one thing in particular that I wish to set before you this evening. It is the love of God revealed in the gift of His Son. How gracious and willing He was to send His own dearly loved Son into this world, that a number of His creatures that no man can number, chosen before time and committed into the hand of the dear eternal Son of God, should be saved with an everlasting salvation. 0, the wonder of God’s love and sovereign grace in this. Never can this blessed truth be fully known nor exhausted. If we are made partakers of a little of this here; if by the visit of His love we find our hearts enlarged in love and desire to Him, we must feel like the small child who stands with his feet in the small waves of the sea and says, ‘I know the feel of the ocean but I do not know or understand the extent or depth of it.’ Some of us would lie if we said that we did not know the blessed ‘feel’ of the love of God communicated to us. The baptism of our friends this evening is the outcome of this, but who can know of the full height and depth, length and breadth of the love of God that passeth knowledge? Where can this be known? Is it not as the Holy Spirit brings us to bow and adore before the throne of grace, to approach the mercy seat, to view a precious Christ there and see the solemn stain of the blood sprinkled thereon, the precious blood of Christ which ever must testify of God’s righteous judgment of sin, but also speaks of pardon, full and free. The great apostle speaks of this blood as speaking better things than that of Abel. The death of any man rightly calls for retribution, but the death of Christ speaks pardon and mercy to the guilty penitent. So in this first verse of the text I have tried to set before you that which the eye of faith and the heart of love will look back to in the offering of the dear Son of God; His willingness to come to live His life of perfect obedience for the righteousness of His people; to suffer for their sins and make atonement for them. The great apostle asserts that the suffering Saviour was ‘delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification’ (Romans 4.25). In His resurrection there is a complete triumph against everything that could oppose the great and glorious purposes of salvation. Christ is indeed the conqueror. His resurrection is the demonstration of complete victory!
What of our present condition? Here we read, ‘Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing his reproach.’ To these Hebrew Christians, distressed and sorely persecuted for their faith in Christ, Paul states his desire for them, that they may do that in which their Lord and Saviour, their blessed Master, has set them so gracious and perfect an example. He could say, ‘I do not ask you to do that which your Lord has not done; He suffered without the gate, Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing his reproach.’ As I was thinking of these words this morning I thought of the many kings of Israel, (and of course Jesus Christ was and is THE GREAT KING of Israel), who when they died had a very honourable burial. Their death was watched over with love and tenderness and honourable and loving hands carried their bodies to burial in the tombs of the kings. I did remember that there were some kings who were not allowed to be buried in the tombs of the kings. Among these was Uzziah who became a leper because of his sin, and Ahaz who was also a notorious sinner. Their bodies were taken to some other place. It was as though the people of Israel said, ‘This man was a leper and he cannot have this honour,’ and `This man has so grievously sinned against God and led Israel astray that we cannot grant him the honour of his fathers’ But here is ONE upon whom there came greater shame. He ‘suffered without the gate’ 0, that we may never forget this. If these words were made known to us in something of the fulness of the truth to our hearts by the Holy Ghost, I am sure we should see something which would be to the breaking of our hearts. How great is the mercy of God revealed in His dear Son. 0 friends, see this blessed One submitting to all the evil that men could conspire against Him, to every dreadful thing that they could imagine against His sacred person. Wonder indeed that sudden and awful judgment did not fall upon these people. The apostle Peter rightly charges the guilt of this to the nation of Israel upon the day of Pentecost saying, ‘Ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain’
Paul could well say to the suffering Hebrew Christians, ‘Are these things anything to you? Is it aught to you that Jesus Christ should suffer without the gate Â— that men should deal with Him in a way in which they have not dealt with their own kings, guilty though they were? Does it mean nothing to you that Christ should be dealt with in a way that even the leper was not treated? Does it mean nothing to you? Are you
ostracised for His sake? Let us go forth unto Him. Troubled as you are
by persecution, to loss of business, family, home and even life itself, let
us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.’
Surely at this time the apostle says to the Hebrew Christians, ‘I must go, love constrains me, I. must go. I cannot remain in the camp of your legality, in the camp of Moses. I cannot remain in the camp of ceremonial laws and observances and put any trust in them. These have all been fulfilled far more gloriously in Jesus Christ. I cannot remain in the camp of worldliness or go with the world in its habits or religion. I cannot mix the world with religion and faith; I must leave the world and the ways of a carnal, flesh-pleasing religion and follow Jesus alone. I must leave the ways of paganism and those who may mention the name of Christ but by whom He is not worshipped and loved. I must leave all these ways.’ So asserts the apostle, not only to the Hebrews but to all to whom he writes under the Holy Spirit’s power and gracious leading. It seems as though the apostle puts the matter before the Church to whom he is writing in this way, ‘And will you come or will you go back? It is my desire and prayer that you may come with me, that you may have grace given you in this hour of your trial to ‘Go forth’ and thus come with me; let us go forth therefore unto him, without the camp, bearing His reproach. 0, that you might leave the hateful ways of sin and be preserved from the temptation to return thereto.’
I am persuaded that there are a number of ministers here this evening who have known such spiritual longing for their congregations, who have been led to ardently plead with them on similar grounds knowing that they are similarly tempted. To their great sadness they have seen in many persons a solemn guilty satisfaction with the mere round of religious observances and their carnal pride in them. They see how others are so wrapped up with the world and its pleasures, and the love of money, which is the root of all evil, has captivated the affections. Do they not see this and have to deeply grieve over it saying, ‘I must go, I MUST GO.’ But how great the longing to see the Lord’s work in others, that these for whom they are so sad might be their companions in true pilgrimage.
Mind you, my friends, outside the camp is a lonely place and it has often been a place of great privation and suffering. During the past few days severe blizzards have been sweeping over some parts of the country. A nurse who was returning from her hospital duty was only three hundred yards away from her home but she lost her way and perished from exposure. She died in the blizzard. Had she been at the hospital or in her own house; had she been ‘in the camp’; she would not have suffered thus. How many, yea, all of the children of the Lord in some measure, as they have left the camp, have suffered privation and distress, ignominy and shame, scandal and slander, even unto death itself. Yes truly, the outside of the camp has its sore loneliness and great grief but there is one thing that the apostle adds to this in two words which is, to me, as the shining of a bright star in the midst of darkness, to the people who sat in darkness a great light hath shone forth. He does not say ONLY that he wishes them to come with him outside the camp, to a place of loneliness and loss, but he tells them of his own gracious intention and his desire for them; that they might, by the powerful constraint of the love of the Lord, go together UNTO Him without the camp bearing His reproach. If you are truly one of the Lord’s own dear children treading the narrow way, a way of distinctive separation and tribulation must be yours, but the way is constantly ‘Unto Him.’ There is the joy, peace and blessedness; there is the true comfort.
My mind goes back over nearly ten years to the time when I was leaving Rochdale, and the Lord told me that I must ‘Go out’ not knowing where I was to go to. At that time the Lord made a passage of Scripture of great power and authority to my spirit (Acts 8.26), which showed me that I should have to go to a place which was ‘desert’. Well do I realise that any place where the Lord does not appear must be such to those whose only true good, health and joy is His presence. I told the Lord that I had been living in a wilderness for such a long time that I did not want to go into a desert. But to the great peace of my soul, and reconciliation of my will to His, the Lord shewed me that He could and would make ‘The desert to rejoice, and blossom as the rose’ Ah, my friends, that is what is happening in this very verse of our text. We see the loneliness, trial of faith and danger of the desert, but these two words, ‘Unto Him,’ show the desert is blossoming as the rose. There is the light, glory and peace of every desolation, ‘Unto Him’. Moses lived fifteen hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ yet, by the sacred instruction of the Holy Spirit and with the exercise of that true faith which Paul describes to these Hebrews, (11.25), he was able to ESTEEM the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. If, by the mercy of the Lord, you have been granted a new heart and will to turn your backs upon the glittering baubles, pleasures and comforts of this world, finding such a deep desire to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved you and gave Himself for you, then there will be one thing that you will seek grace to continue to do. It is to ‘Go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing his reproach’ Nearer, nearer to Him clinging; that is it.
Then, what of the future. Despite the denial of the infidel and the doubts of the agnostic there is a great and blessed future Tor the people of God.’ In the third verse of our text we read, Tor here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.’ I would assure you, my friends, that the first part of this verse is true of everyone, but the latter part is true only of the chosen and redeemed children of God. I wish to make this quite clear. ‘We have no continuing city.’ Bring to mind the parable of the rich fool, of whom Christ spoke, who was so wealthy,
possessed so much, had such a good harvest and a tremendous increase of his capital, and so on, that he says, ‘I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.’ His prosperity was so great that he could well consider the ease and pleasures of retirement. His words were, ‘I will say to my soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.’ Yes, it means retirement and the indulgence, for a few years at least, in the results of labour. What is the nature of the interruption of divine sovereignty? ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided.’ These words of Christ shew the character of the man and of so many today who are like to him. He was not a truly God-fearing man, whatever his `religion’ might have been. He had not the grace of God in his heart; he was bound up with the world, its ways, pleasures and delights. He was going to have what many young and old people today say they are going to have, ‘A GOOD TIME.’ Here have we no continuing city.’ It is the LORD Himself who tells this man that he has no continuing city; that his new barns and all his goods will be in the hands of his executors tomorrow for them to dispose; and there seems to be doubt expressed in the words of the Lord as to the execution of his wishes after death.
With what regularity we go out of our home and see a funeral cortege pass by; ‘We have no continuing city.’ To think that we shall live for ever, to live as though death was never in prospect, that there is no need to give any thought or care for the end of time, for body and soul, and the tremendous issues of eternity Â— such an attitude is most awful folly. It is an awful demonstration of the ruin that sin has brought upon the mind, the mental, intelligent powers of man, that they should be so deluded as to be willing to remain in such darkness and carelessness as to the future. To think that, in the face of such evidence and all that is to the contrary, that death can be delayed indefinitely. ‘Here have we no continuing city’ but what is the worldling seeking? At fifty years of age they know that many persons live to be over sixty. At sixty, they remind themselves of the ‘allotted span’ and think of another ten years. At seventy, they willingly remember the number of persons who live to eighty but think little of the great number, by far the larger proportion of humanity, that never reach that age. Let eighty milestones be passed and still there is the thought of some that reach ninety. Then should a little of life’s powers be preserved to ninety years of age there are still thoughts of the centenarians and Â— not a thought for eternity, NOT A THOUGHT FOR ETERNITY. ‘Here we have no continuing city.’
`BUT WE SEEK ONE TO COME.’ Many clutching hands would have turned ‘Christian’ back to the City of Destruction. Strong and reasoned arguments were used against him in his home and in the city. His wife and children were all arguments against the ‘folly’ of setting out on this unknown journey, the pilgrimage. But this man, wrought upon by the
Spirit of God, and instructed by ‘Evangelist,’ knows that ‘Here we have no continuing city,’ that the fairest city, one day, will be manifest as a city of destruction. Fairest and most prized possessions must one day be left; but to have a hope, a sight by faith of that which is to come, for the true pilgrim, will more than make amends for the opposition and hardness of the way. You remember how Bunyan describes the sight that the pilgrims had through their ‘spyglass’ of the ‘Celestial city’ and what rapture filled them with great encouragement for the rest of the journey. This was not the first time they had heard of the ‘One to come,’ nor was it the first time that they had believed the report. Faith is not the subject of vision, it is not dependent on sight. It is the gift of God, it triumphs against the delusion of fallen reason and does not depend upon the `received findings of philosophy’ for proof of the veracity of hope in divine revelation. Faith believes what Christ has said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you Â— that where I am, there ye may be also.’
Some persons may look upon baptism as though it was the end of things in religion. Have we been convicted of our sin; have we known true repentance; been brought to know the value of Christ in His mediation and proved the blessedness of the mercy of the Lord in pardon; have we known something of the love of God shed abroad in a heart that knows no real joy without this, and been brought by the constraint of that love to ‘put on Christ?’ But, is this the end of the journey, do we not still seek a city yet to come? I speak particularly to those who will be baptised this evening, one of you quite young, others older. If the Lord should extend your life over a good many years, you must certainly prove the way of your pilgrimage to be a hard one, but, though all kinds of adversity and hardship with strong opposition by many an enemy will be known, the end is sure. ‘We seek one TO COME.’ By the Holy Spirit’s manifestation and the sacred increase of faith may there be granted to many here at this service a sight of that city yet to come. Truly it is the One that is there, ‘The Lamb in the midst of the throne’ that hath drawn the affections of our friends and held their soul fast.
`Then shall I see His face.
And never, never sin,
And from the rivers of His grace. Drink endless blessings in.’
Some of our loved ones are there. As I look around I see many with whom I have mourned in their bereavements and they have with me. In many cases we have not mourned as those that have no hope. Those dear ones have but gone on before. The city of which we have said tonight, `We seek one to come,’ is now their blessed eternal habitation. My friends, are we on pilgrimage to that city? Are we?