"O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory."Psalm 98:1.
There must be new songs on new occasions of triumph. It would have been absurd for Miriam with her timbrel to conduct the music of the daughters of Israel to some old sonnet that they had learned in Egypt. Nay, an old song could not have spoken out the feelings of that generation, much less could it have served to utter a voice, the jubilant notes of which distant posterity should echo. They must have a new song while they cry the one unto the other, "Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." The like had never been known before, but henceforth father to son must show forth its fame. In after times, when Deborah and Barak had routed the hosts of Sisera, they did not borrow Miriam's song; but they had a new psalm for the new event. They said, "Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam." In after years, at the building of the temple, or on the solemn feast days, it was ever the wont of the inspired poets of the age to cry, "O come, let us sing unto the Lord a new song." Thus the grateful notes of praise have gathered volume and augmented their compass as the ages have rolled onwards; and these as it were only the rehearsals for a grand oratorio. What then, shall be the marvellous novelty and the matchless glory of that song which shall be sung at the last upon Mount Zion, when ten thousand times ten thousand of the warriors of God shall surround Jesus the conqueror, when we shall hear a voice from heaven as the voice of many waters, and like great thunders, when shall be heard the voice of harpers, harping with their harps; what shall be, I say, the strange novelty of that new song which they shall sing before the throne, when the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures shall fall before God upon their faces, and worship him for ever and ever? Would that our ears could anticipate that tremendous burst of "Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah! the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth."
I want to carry your minds, if I can, to-night, for a little season to that last and grandest, because the decisive victory, which shall tell out the name and fame of Jehovah in all his mighty attributes, and in all his majestic deeds, when the battle shall be over for ever, and the banner shall be furled and the sword shall be sheathed, because the last foe shall be destroyed, and placed beneath the feet of the Almighty victor; "His right hand, and his holy arm, hath him the victory." My text seems, however suitable it may be to other occasions, to be most fitting to that last and most splendid triumph.
Three things there are in it: victory transcendent; Deity conspicuous; holiness glorified.
I. First in our text we perceive very clearly VICTORY TRANSCENDENT.
What shall we say of that victory? The shouts thereof already greet our ears, and the anthem that celebrates it is already prepared, when all the principalities and powers of this world shall be laid low, the pride of earth shall burst like a bubble, the great globe itself shall dissolve, and the things that are seen shall be folded up like a vesture, worn out, and crumbled with decay, that victory will be transcendent; there shall be none comparable to it; it shall stand matchless and unrivalled in all the wars of God, of angels, or men.
Well, we must say of that victory, there shall be none to dispute the claim of God the Most High. The most splendid victories of one army have frequently been claimed by the opposite partisans. If you stand beneath the triumphal arch in Paris, you will see the names of some battles which you simple-minded Englishmen always thought had been won by British soldiers; but you discover that our history was all a mistake, and that the Frenchmen really retired victorious from the plain. I suppose in America it is always difficult to ascertain who has been the conqueror; and where there are no generals, and the whole affair seems to be which shall kill the most and wade through the most blood, there naturally must be difficulty in ascertaining who has won the day. But in this case there shall be no dispute whatever. The dragon's head shall be so completely broken, that he can do nothing but bite his iron bonds and growl out his confession that God is stronger than he. The hosts of hell shall have been so utterly routed, that the deep groans of dismay and shrieks of terror shall be the confession that Omnipotence rules their terrible doom. As for Death, when he shall see his captives all loosed before his eyes; as for the grave, when the key shall be rent from her grip, and all her treasures plucked from her graspdeath and the grave shall both acknowledge that their victory is gone for ever; Christ has been the conqueror, the Son of God who in our nature has already taken away the sting. There may be to-day some who write their names down as Atheists; there may be others who openly avow that they are the adversaries of God; and throughout the universe there are never wanting those who are hopeful that the issue will turn out as they wishthey are hopeful that wrong will master right; that evil shall drive out good, and darkness extinguish light. But there shall not be one such being left on that great day of victory; it shall be acknowledged even by the lip of despair that the Lord God, "with his own right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory." Blazoned across the sky in lightnings such as the eye of terror has never beheld before; thundered out with trumpet louder than even that which startled the sleeping dead, every tongue in earth and hell shall confess, because every ear hath heard, that the Lord reigneth, and is king for ever and ever.
But further, as this victory will be certainly beyond all dispute, let me remind you it will be transcendent, because there shall be nothing that can occur to mar it. When the last shock of the dread artillery shall have been endured by the hosts of God's elect; when the last charge shall have driven the foes before them as thin clouds fly before a Biscay gale; then, as the heroes sit down to read the story of the war, they shall discover that there is nothing to mar the splendor of that glory, for it has been a victory throughout. Of all other victories we read, at one time the balance trembledsometimes the host on this side wavered; perhaps for the first half day it seemed not only doubtful which would win, but it appeared as though the adversary at length defeated would certainly be the conqueror. But, beloved, when we shall read history in the light of heaven, we shall discover that God was never conqueredthat never did the ranks reel; we shall see that even the most disastrous strokes of Providence, even the most dire calamities that ever occurred to the Church, were only the on-march, the tramp of victories yet to come. I am certain that those things we most deplore to-day will even become the subjects of the most marvellous gratitude to-morrow. We look to-day upon the black side of the question, and say, "Ah! here, indeed, goodness was foiled;" but when we look at the whole matter through, we shall see that every dark and bending line meets in the center of the divine plan, and that which seemed the most incongruous and out of place with its fellow, was the most fitting and the most necessary of the whole programme. Satan at the last shall not be able to put his finger upon any spot of the battle-field and say, "Here my hosts routed the troops of Emmanuel." Everywhere it shall be seen that, from the dawning day, when first he struck the blow at Eve and made her sin, to the very last, when Christ shall drag him up the everlasting hills, led captive at his chariot wheels, from the first to the last, the Lord's "right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory."
Remember, too, that this is a victory all along the line. The general's cautious eye marks that there the left wing has driven the adversary back, but for that right wing bring up the reserves, let not the ranks be broken. Stern liners, let your chivalry be seen yonder for that wing reels. Generally in the battle some part must fail, while in this portion or the other there shall be success. Ah! but at the last when Christ shall stand, and bare his brow in heaven's sunlight, and all his angels shall be with him, it shall be seen that they were everywhere triumphant. The blood on Madagascar's rocks shall not defeat the on-march of God's armies. Saints may be burned, may be sawn in sunder, may wander about in sheep skins and goat skins, but they shall be victorious everywhere. Spain may shut her gates against the gospel, and the inquisition may make that place its stronghold, but as sure as there is a God in heaven, Christ shall be conqueror there. Tyrants may pass edicts to exterminate Christians, conclaves may make decrees to drive out the religion of Jesus, but in every place, in every land, where ever foot of man has trodden this green earth, shall there be victory; from the north to the south, from the east to the west, everywhere shall be triumphChina and Japan, Brazil and Chili, the islands of the south, the frozen regions of the north, even Africa with her sable sons, the dwellers in the wilderness shall bow before him and lick the dust at his feet. There shall be victory all along the line. Not from one place merely, but from all, shall be heard the tune"His own right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory."
And it shall be a victory Sustained by the news of the morrow. Not so among the embattled hosts of men. How hard to brook the morrow! Then the general's brow is dark, and his eye is heavy, for the list of the dead and wounded is brought in for inspection. "Another victory like this," says one, "and I am defeated for ever. It is dearly purchased," saith he, "with the blood of these mothers' sons. My comrades and companions in arms must bite the ground to let the country live." But in that last great battle of God the muster-roll shall be found without one missing in it; as they call their names they shall all answer, there shall not be one left dead upon the field. "How so? How so?" saith unbelief, "are they not dead and buried now? Have not their bodies lain to bleach upon the side of the Alps? Have they not been burned in the fire and scattered as ashes to the four winds? Do not the saints sleep to-day in our cemeteries, and in our grave-yards, and doth not the deep engulf full many a body that was a temple of the Holy Ghost?" I answer, yes, but they shall come again. Refrain thine eyes from weeping, O daughter of Jerusalem; refrain thine heart from sorrow, for they shall come again from the land of their captivity. We that are alive and remain shall not have the preference beyond them that sleep, "For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed; so when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." "His right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory."
And sometimes, on the morrow, the general feels the glory of the victory is marred, for there are many prisoners; they are not dead, their corpses lie not on the field, but they have been taken off by the opposite parties, and they are a prey; and who knoweth what may become of them; what dungeons may contain them; to what tortures they may be put. But in this last victory of God, there shall be no prisoners, no prisoners left in the hand of his enemy. I know there are some who say that we may be children of God, and yet fall from grace and perish. My brethren, it is a foul slander upon the faithfulness and power of the Redeemer. I know that all he undertakes to save he will save, and he will bring the troops off from the battle field, every brow crowned with laurel, not one slain, not one a prisoner; the gates of hell shall never enclose the ransomed of the Lord; amongst the groans of the lost there shall never be heard a sigh from one that was once a saint before God. There are no prisoners. March out your prisoners, Prince of Hell, bring forth, if you can, one soul that Jesus bought with blood, one soul that the Spirit quickened, one soul that the Eternal Father gave to the hands of the Great Surety to keep for everbring him forth. Ah! ye have none. "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?" Thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, "My ransomed shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads;" then shall it be said, "His right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory."
But, beloved, after the battle is over, the conqueror wipes his brow and says, "Ah, but the scattered hosts may rally, and they who were driven to-day like chaff before the wind, may rise again, and long may be the campaign, and fierce the struggle, before we have stamped out the sparks of war. "Sleep on your arms," saith he, "you may be attacked to-morrow, be ready for the cry of 'boot and saddle,' for there may be a charge again ere many hours are spent." But not so in this case: the victory is crushing, total, final; it is once for ever with evil, with darkness, with hell; they shall never again be able to tempt the righteous, or to cast them down, or to pale their cheeks with fear; they shall never be able again to win the world to their dominion, they are routed, routed, routed for ever. Hosts of evil, it is not your heel that is bruisedyour head is broken; the Lord hath used his people as his battle-axe and his weapons of war, and he hath cleft ye and left ye without might or strength for ever and for ever. So, dear friends, this is our joy and comfort, that once the battle over, the whole campaign is ended; there shall be no further onslaughts; we rest eternally; we triumph everlastingly; no more fights to risk, no more conflicts in which to tug and strive. This shall be the note that shall ring throughout the arches of eternity"The Lord's right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory for ever and for ever."
I think these are two good reasons why I should say this victory is transcendentthere is none to dispute it, and there is nothing to mar it.
But yet further we will venture to enlarge upon this victory by shewing its particulars. The ultimate triumph and victory of God in all his purposes will lie in several things. How glorious the fact that all whom he ordained to save are saved! Calling was the first work which he wrought in them; they were called every one of them, but like the rest of mankind they would not come; their wills were so desperate that they resisted long; the minister preached at them; their mother wept over them; their father entreated them; providence came and hewed them; afflictions broke them in pieces, and they were unsaved still; but not in one case where God ordains to call has the calling failed. In every case where his electing love hath set its purpose, the will is turned round, the affections yield, the judgment gives way, the man is subduedhe is called, he is quickened. There may be some such here to-night, who think, "Well, I never would be saved upon such terms as acknowledging the sovereign grace of God, even if he wills to do it." Thy will must give way before the crushing force of the will of God. He hath mysterious ways of finding an entrance into the most reluctant heart, and taking up his throne there for ever.
How clearly is this victory seen in the subjugation of the lusts and passions of the called sinner! He may have been a drunkard, he thought he could not give it up, but the rod of iron "dashes in pieces the potter's vessel." He may have loved the pleasures of the flesh, they were dear to him as his right eye, but grace overcame the most darling lust, and threw to the earth the most pampered sin.
Not less conspicuously will it appear in the perseverance of every saint. Not a stone will have been left unturned by the adversary to prevent the saints holding on; the caverns of hell will be emptied against God's redeemed; Satan and his myrmidons will do their utmost to cast them down to destruction, but they shall hold on their way, they shall wax stronger and stronger, and when at last the gates of heaven shall be fast closed, because there are no more to enter, it shall be proclaimed, while devils bite their iron bands in shame, that not a soul who was written in the Book of Life was lost, not one whom Jesus bought with blood has been unredeemed, not one quickened by grace suffered to die, not one who truly began the heavenly race turned aside from it, not one concerning whom it was said, "These are mine, and in the day when I make up my jewels they shall be mine;" not one of these is lost, but all saved, saved eternally. Oh! that will be a splendid victory! What can be greater? You that know the conflict through which the child of God has to pass will bear me witness that if you get to heaven, you will sing with all your might the conqueror's hymn. And I think we all should do the same. I remember saying once that if ever I got to heaven I would sing the loudest there, for I owed the most to sovereign grace. But when I came down stairs, one said to me, "You made a mistake, I shall sing more loudly than you, for I owe more than you do." And I found that was the general opinion, that each brother and each sister thought that he owed most to divine grace. Now, if we are all to sing loudest what a shout of triumph there will be! And I suppose the verse in our hymn is quite true to the apprehension of each of us
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