"Submit yourselves therefore to God."James 4:7.
This advice should not need much pressing. "Submit yourselves unto God"is it not right upon the very face of it? Is it not wise? Does not conscience tell us that we ought to submit? Does not reason bear witness that it must be best to do so? "Submit yourselves unto God." Should not the creature be submissive to the Creator, to whom it owes its existence, without whom it had never been, and without whose continuous good pleasure it would at once cease to be? Our Creator is infinitely good, and his will is love: to submit to one who is "too wise to err, too good to be unkind," should not be hard. If he were a tyrant it might be courageous to resist, but since he is a Father it is ungrateful to rebel. He cannot do anything which is not perfectly just, nor will he do aught which is inconsistent with the best interests of our race; therefore to resist him is to contend against one's own advantage, and, like the untamed bullock, to kick against the pricks to our own hurt. "Submit yourselves unto God"it is what angels do, what kings and prophets have done, what the best of men delight inthere is therefore no dishonor nor sorrow in so doing. All nature is submissive to his laws; suns and stars yield to his behests, we shall but be in harmony with the universe in willingly bowing to his sway. "Submit yourselves unto God"you must do it whether you are willing to do so or not. Who can stand out against the Almighty? For puny man to oppose the Lord is for the chaff to set itself in battle array with the wind, or for the tow to make war with the flame. As well might man attempt to turn back the tide of ocean, or check the march of the hosts of heaven as dream of overcoming the Omnipotent. The Eternal God is irresistible, and any rebellion against his government must soon end in total defeat. By the mouth of his servant Isaiah the Lord challenges his enemies, saying, "Who would set the briars and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together." God will be sure to overthrow his adversaries: he may in his infinite patience permit the rebel to continue for a while in his revolt, but as surely as the Lord liveth he will compel every knee to bow before him, and every tongue to confess that he is the living God. "Submit yourselves unto God." Who would do otherwise, since not to submit is injurious now, and will be fatal in the end? If we oppose the Most High, our opposition must lead on to defeat and destruction, for the adversaries of the Lord shall be as the fat of rams, into smoke shall they consume away. For the man who strives with his Maker there remains a fearful looking for of judgment and the dread reward of everlasting punishment. Who will be so foolhardy as to provoke such a result?
"Submit yourselves unto God" is a precept which to thoughtful men is a plain dictate of reason, and it needs few arguments to support it. Yet because of our foolishness the text enforces it by a "Therefore," which "Therefore" is to be found in the previous verse,"He resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God." His wrath and his mercy both argue for submission. We are both driven and drawn to it. The Romans were wont to say of their empire that its motto was to spare the vanquished, but to war continually against the proud. This saying aptly sets forth the procedure of the Most High. He aims all his arrows at the lofty, and turns the edge of his sword against the stubborn; but the moment he sees signs of submission his pity comes to the front, and through the merits of his Son his abounding mercy forgives the fault. Is not this an excellent reason for submission? Who can refuse to be vanquished by love? Who will not say as our hymn puts it
I am thankful to God that there should be even the faintest wish of the kind. May it grow at once into an impetuous longing; yea, may that longing be fulfilled this very morning, and may you go out of this house saved. You tell me that you have been anxious about your soul for some time, but have made no headway. You have been putting forth great efforts, you have been very diligent in attending the means of grace, in searching the Scriptures, and in private prayer, but you cannot get on. It is very possible, my dear friend, that the reason is this, that you have not submitted yourself to God; you are trying to do when the best thing would be to cease from yourself, and drop into the hand of the Savior who is able to save you though you cannot save yourself: For a proud heart the very hardest thing is to submit. Do you find it so? "No surrender" is the stubborn sinner's motto. I have known men who would give their bodies to be burned sooner than yield to God. Their high stomach has stood out long against the Most High, and they have been little Pharaohs till the Lord has brought them to their senses. "Must I yield, must I bow at his feet?"they could not brook such humiliation. If the gospel had tolerated their pride and given them a little credit they would have rejoiced in it; but to be tumbled in the dust, and made to confess their own nothingness they could not bear. "Submit" is wormwood and gall to haughty sinners, yet must they drink the cup or die. Hear then, ye stout-hearted, you can never be saved unless you submit, and when you are saved one of the main points in your salvation will be that you have submitted. I desire to whisper one little truth in your ear, and I pray that it may startle you: You are submitting even now. You say, "Not I; am lord of myself." I know you think so, but all the while you are submitting to the devil. The verse before us hints at this. "Submit yourselves unto God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." If you do not submit to God you never will resist the devil, and you will remain constantly under his tyrannical power. Which shall be your master, God or devil, for one of these must? No man is without a master: some power or other is paramount within us, either good or evil is supreme in our hearts; and if we will not be mastered by the good, the evil has already gained the sway.
"How then am I to submit?" says one: "To what shall I submit, and in what respects?" Well, first, submit thyself, if thou wouldest be saved, to the Word of God. Believe it to be true. Believing it to be true, yield thyself to its force. Does it accuse thee? Confess the accusation. Does it condemn thee? Plead guilty. Does it hold out hope to thee? Grasp it. Does it command thee? Obey it Does it guide thee? Follow it. Does it cheer thee? Believe it. Submit thyself to him who in this blessed page proclaims himself the Savior of all such as will throw down the weapons of their rebellion and end their futile war by relying upon his power to save them.
Yield thyself, next, to thy conscience. Thou hast quarelled with thy conscience, and thy conscience with thee. It persists in speaking, and thou desirest it to be quiet. After dissipation, in the lull which comes after a storm of evil pleasure, a voice is heard saying, "Is this right? Is this safe? Will this last? What will the end of this be? Would it not be better to seek some better and nobler thing than this?" God speaks often to men through the still small voice of conscience. Open thine ear, then, and listen. Thy conscience can do thee no hurt; it may disturb thee, but it is well to be disturbed when peace leads on to death. He was a fool who killed the watch dog because it alarmed him when thieves were breaking into his house. If conscience upbraid thee, feel its upbraiding and heed its rebuke. It is thy best friend; faithful are its friendly wounds, but the kisses of a flattering enemy are deceitful.
God also sends many messengers. To some of you he has sent the tenderest of monitors. Hearken to their admonitions and regard their kind warnings, for they mean good to thy souls. Is it hard, O son, is it hard to submit when the message comes by a mother's loving lips, when her tears bedew each word she speaks? It must have been difficult for some of you in your young days to stand out against a mother's entreaties when she not only pointed you to heaven, but led the way; not only spoke of Jesus, but reflected his love in her daily walk and conversation. You have a sister, young man, whom you love and respect: you could hardly tell how much an object of admiration she is to you. Now, that letter of hers, which you turned into a joke; you did feel it, after all. Yield to its pathetic pleadings, yield to its tender entreaties. Remember, God has other messengers whom he will send if these loving ones do not suffice. He will soon send thee a sterner summons. If thou listen not to the gentle word, the still, small voice, he can send to thee by the rougher messengers of disease and death. Be not so foolish as to provoke him so to do.
Moreover, submit yourselves to God, since he has, perhaps, already sent his messengers in sterner shapes to you. It was but a few days ago that you lost your old friend. Many a merry day you have spent together, and many a jovial night too; he was in as good health as yourself, apparently, but he was struck down, and you have followed him to the tomb. Is there no voice from that new made grave to you? Methinks your friend in his sudden end was a warning to you to be ready for the like departure! You have also yourself suffered from premonitory symptoms of sickness; perhaps you have actually been sick, and been made to lie where your only prospect was eternity; a dread eternity, how surely yours. You trembled to gaze into it, but the very tones of the surgeon's voice compelled you to do so. You feared that you would have to leave this body, and you could not help saying to yourself, "Whither shall I fly? My naked spirit, whither must it go when once it leaves the warm precincts of this house of clay?" It is not my business one-tenth as much as it is yoursbut I charge you, hear the voice of these providences, listen to these solemn calls. The angel of death has stood at your bedside and pointed to you and said, "Young man, it is the fever this time and you may recover, but the next time you will never rise from the bed on which you lie: or, you have been rescued now from a dreadful accident, but the next time there will be no escape for you. Because I will do this, prepare to meet thy God."
Above all, I pray you submit yourselves, if you are conscious of such things, to the whispers of God's Holy Spirit. God's Holy Spirit does not strive with every man alike. Some have so grieved him that he has ceased to strive with them, or does so very occasionally and then they so resist his strivings that they are never very long continued. The worst man that lives has his better moments, the most careless has some serious thoughts; there are lucid intervals in the madness of carnal pleasure. At such times men hear what they call "their better selves." It is hardly so. I prefer to call it the general reprovings of God's Spirit in their souls. He says to them, Is this right? Is this wise? This trifling, this time-killing, this depraving of the soul by allowing the bodily appetites to rule, this lowering of the man to the level of the brute, can this be right? Is there no eternity? Is there no immortality, no God, no judgment to come?" The Holy Spirit sometimes opens the man's eyes as he did the eyes of Balaam, and makes him see the certainty of the judgment day and the nearness of its approach. The man is led to anticipate the trumpet's sound which heralds the assize, the coming of the Judge upon his great white throne, the gathering of the multitudes of quick and dead, the opening of the books, the dividing of the throng, the driving away of the goats to their everlasting punishment, and the reception of the righteous to their everlasting joy. Oh, when you are made to feel all this, I pray you submit yourself to it. It costs some men a great deal of trouble to be damned. Many a man who blasphemes and talks infidelity, merely does so to conceal his inward struggles. Like the boy who whistles as he goes through the churchyard to keep his courage up, they talk blasphemy to divert their mind from its own fears. He who is most fierce in the utterance of his disbelief is not the greatest disbeliever. When the heathen offered children to Moloch they beat their drums to drown the cries of the victims, and even so these men make a great noise to drown the voice of conscience. The man knows better, and I charge him to let that better knowledge come to the front and lead him to his God and Father. It will be a blessed thing for him if it shall be so even this day. "Submit yourselves to God."
If you ask me again, "In what respect am I to submit myself?" I answer as briefly as I can, first submit yourself by confessing your sin. Cry peccavi. Do not brazen it out and say "I have not sinned." You will never be pardoned while that is the case. "He that confesseth his sin shall find mercy." Sinner, choose between one of two things; judge yourself, or be judged of God. If you will judge yourself and put in a plea of guilty, then will the Great Judge grant you forgiveness, but not else. Condemn yourself and you shall not be condemned. Confess the indictment to be true, for true it is, and to deny it is to seal your doom.
Next, honor the law which condemns you. Do not persevere in picking holes in it and saying that it is too severe, and requires too much of a poor fallible creature. The law is holy, and just, and good. Put thy lips down and kiss it, though it condemn thee, and say, "though it charges me with guilt and convicts me of deadly sin, yet it is a good law, and ought not to be altered, even to save me."
Next, own the justice of the penalty. Thy sins condemn thee to hell: do not say "God is too severe; this is a punishment disproportionate to the offense." Thou wilt never be pardoned if thou thinkest so, but God will be justified in thy condemnation: the pride of thy heart will be a swift witness against thee. Confess with thy heart, "If my soul were sent to hell it is no more than I deserve." When thou hast confessed the guilt, and honored the law, and acknowledged the justice of the penalty, then thou art nearing the position in which God can be merciful to thee.
Submit yourself, sinnerI pray you do it nowsubmit yourself to God as your king. Throw down your weapons; lower your crest and cast away those robes of pride. Surrender unconditionally and say, "Lord God, I own thee now to be king, no longer like stout-hearted Pharaoh will I ask, 'Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?' but like one brought to his senses I yield as reason and grace suggest." It will go well with you when you make a full capitulation, an unconditional surrender. Fling wide the gates of the city of Mansoul, and admit the prince Emanuel to rule as sole sovereign in every street in the city. Dispute no longer his sovereignty, but pray to be made a loyal subject, obedient in all things. Thou shalt find grace in the sight of the Lord if thou wilt do this.
Furthermore, submit yourself to God's way of saving you. Now God's way of saving you is by his grace, not by your merits; by the blood of Jesus, not by your tears and sufferings. He will justify you by your simply trusting Jesus now. Your proud heart does not admire the Lord's way of salvation; you stand up and say, "How is this consistent with morality?" As if you were the guardian of morality, as if the King of Heaven and earth could not take care of the moralities without assistance from you. Who are you to be all of a sudden the champion of morality? How dare you dream that the thrice holy God will not take care of that? He bids you trust his Son Jesus; will you do so or not? If you will not, there is no hope for you; if you will, you are saved the moment that you believe,saved from the guilt of sin by trusting Jesus.
You must also surrender yourself at discretion to his method of operating upon you. One says, "I would believe in Jesus, sir, if I felt the horror and terror which some have experienced on account of sin." What do you demand of God that he should drag you through horrors and terrors before you will believe? Submit yourself to be saved in a gentler way. "But I read of one," says another, "who had a dream: I would believe if I saw a vision too." Must God give thee dreams? Must he play lackey to thee, and save thee in thy way? He tells thee plainly, "If thou believest on the Lord Jesus Christ thou shalt be saved." Wilt thou believe or no? For if thou dost not, neither dreams, nor visions, nor terrors, nor anything else can save thee. There is God's way, sinner: I ask thee, and perhaps thy answer will settle thy fate for ever, wilt thou follow that way or not? If thou wilt not, thou hast chosen thine own destruction; but if thou wilt have it, and wilt submit thyself to be saved by believing in Jesus Christ, it is well with thee. I know there are some in this place who feel ready to burst, for their broken hearts are saying, "I yield at once. Oh, if he would but save me." How glad I am to hear you say so, for "he giveth grace unto the humble." I recollect the time when I have stood and cried to God, "O God, if I must lie on a sick bed till I die, I care not if thou wilt but have mercy on me; if thou wilt but conquer my proud will, and make a new man of me, thou mayst do whatever thou pleasest with me; only save me from the guilt, the power of sin." It was when the Lord brought me down there that he enabled me to see life and salvation in Jesus Christ; and if he has brought you down to that point, sinner, then you have nothing to do but simply trust the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are assuredly saved.
When he brings you to submit he has given you his grace. Submission to his divine will is the essence of salvation. Now, who will yield? Who will yield at once? The Master has come among us, the King himself is here, your Maker, your Redeemer: see the marks of his wounds, see the scars in his hands and feet and side! He asks of you, "Will you yield to me? Will you throw down your weapons? Will you end the war? Will you surrender at discretion?" If so, he gives you his hand and says, "Go in peace; there is peace between me and thee." Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, while his wrath is kindled but a little. I prayed the Lord to give me many souls, and I believe I shall have them this morning. I feel sure of it. Grant me this favor: if you submit yourselves to Christ let me hear of it, and do not delay to unite yourselves with those who rejoice to be led in triumph as the captives of his grace.
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