William Nicholson, 1862
"Come, and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul!" Psalm 66:16
Religion is not a formal gloomy thing. "The kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."
The lost sinner views religion through a false medium, a corrupt and distorted mind — a mind enraptured and carried away by the pleasures of of this poor world. The sinner, by his hatred of spiritual things, and by willful unbelief, knows nothing about the transforming and gladdening influence of Divine grace. Alas! if he would declare . . .
his passions, so corrupt,
his thoughts, so wicked,
his accusations, so alarming,
his malice and anger,
all the workings of his inbred depravity
— the declaration would be dreadful, and cause us to say: "Are you a man, or a demon?"
But while "the heart of a sinner is little worth," Proverbs 10:20, the heart of the Christian can utter abundantly the memory of God's great goodness. "Come, and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for my soul!"
I. The Nature of Experimental Religion.It consists in knowing what God has done for the soul.
In the context the Psalmist refers to some benefits which God had conferred on him and the Church, namely:
Deliverance from enemies, verse 5, 6.
Preserving power, verse 9.
Beneficial affliction, verse 10, 11.
The answering of prayer, verse 19, 20.
And what are the dealings of God with his people now?
What can the believer "declare?"
1. That God has made me the subject of his grace. For me he devised the plan of redemption — and sent his Son to execute it. He loved me — and gave himself for me. He convinced me of sin — and of my need of the Savior. He wrought in me repentance and faith. He enables me to rest my imperishable soul on the finished work of Christ, and in consequence I now have,
(1.) Freedom from guilt.
(2.) Freedom from all law-charges.
(3.) Peace with God. Romans 5:1.
Christ is my Prophet, and he has effectually taught me saving truth.
Christ is my Priest, and he has died and atoned for me. He ever lives to make intercession for me.
Christ is my Physician, and he has healed my sin-sick soul.
Christ is my King, and he has subjugated my heart. He rules me with the scepter of his grace, and delivers me from the domination of sin and the Wicked One.
2. That God has done for my soul that which neither I, nor any one else could do. Can the dead raise themselves to life? "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." Jeremiah 13:23. Salvation is all of grace, Ephesians 2:4-10. "Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, be the glory!"
3. That God has regenerated my soul and adopted me into his family. I have a name better than the great of this poor world, for I am a child of God, Galatians 4:4-7. I am allied to the saints on earth, and to perfected spirits in glory. I am allied to angels. I am a participant in all Divine privileges — blessed with all spiritual blessings, etc., etc.
4. That God has chastened me. From necessity . . .
to purge me from the dross of sin;
to wean me from the world;
to draw me to himself.
He has chastened me wisely. At first I thought it hard and severe, but the effect proves his wisdom.
He has chastened me in love — very tenderly. At first I thought he was becoming my enemy — but now I find that the rod was wielded by the hand of Divine love. Hebrews 12:5-11.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." "I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me!" Psalm 119:67, 71, 75.
5. That God has comforted me. By delivering me from dangers and snares; by preventing me from falling, and preserving me from the state of the wicked. He has comforted me at his throne, in his house, and by his word and Spirit.
Sometimes God signally and extraordinarily blesses and delivers his people. Such instances ought to be declared. How often has he appeared in extreme temporal suffering — in times of persecution! etc., etc.
6. That God has prepared Heaven for me, as my everlasting home, and he is preparing me for it. "In my Father's house are many rooms. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am!" John 14:2-3
II. Experimental Religion Will Be Manifest and Declared."I will declare what he has done for my soul!"
It is natural to the soul to tell its joys. The Christian life is a hidden one with respect to its principles and spring — but visible by its fruits and effects. Those who truly receive the Gospel, "hold forth the word of life," as living "epistles, known and read of all men." Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth is compelled to speak!
That which God has done for the soul,
1. Will be declared in prayer. Then the believer acknowledges to the Father of mercies, in the presence of his brethren, what he has done for his soul. He praises him for pardoning mercy, for deliverance, for strength, for Divine interpositions, etc., etc.
2. Will be declared in conversation. "Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name!" Malachi 3:16.
This is a duty sadly neglected. When professors of religion come together, how seldom is Christ allowed to be with them! And yet nothing should be more natural and pleasant, than to talk of what God has done for the soul.
Travelers, voyagers, frequently speak together about their journey or voyage; its trials, difficulties, termination, etc. Just so, should the Christian.
3. Will be declared socially. Times and places should be appointed for prayer and the relation of Christian experience. Such declarations should be made sincerely, they should be in language prompted by real experience — without hypocrisy, imposture — with the greatest humility.
III. The Declaration of Christian Experience is Interesting.And if so, it ought to be respected and regarded.
Hence the Biography of the Bible, and of Martyrs, Christians, Ministers, and Missionaries, is so interesting. Their Christian experience is recorded, and they, being dead — yet speak, saying, "Come, and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul!"
There is a universal sympathy between all who love God — the happiness of one, is the gratification of all. They who have been delivered from the wrath to come, are glad to hear others declare that they too are delivered by the same grace. It is a declaration which makes even angels rejoice, Luke 15:10.
1. That the declaration of Christian experience can only be interesting to those who "fear God," Malachi 3:16. Not to the mere formal professor.
2. That this declaration proclaims the Divine goodness. "O come taste and see that the Lord is good!"
3. This declaration honors God — and abases man.
4. This declaration encourages the weak and feeble saint.
5. This declaration shows the gladdening, elevating, and vital nature of religion.
6. The declaration of Christian experience will be a grand employment of the Church triumphant!
1. Humility. How little have we to say about the operations of grace in our hearts and lives! How barren and unfruitful we are! "When for the time we ought to have been teachers," etc. How few have we gladdened by our "declaring what God has done for our souls."
2. Reproof. Instead of talking about spiritual matters, have we not preferred other subjects — trade, politics, sports, mere news, mere twaddle, tales, etc.?
3. Repentance. It is high time to awake out of sleep. Eternity is at hand. Shall soon be done with the trifles of earth. Go to the cross! Become God's workmanship there; then go and tell what a Savior you have found!