Dan_5:27. Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
THE words before us were uttered in reference to a single individual, Belshazzar, king of Babylon, whose open acts most fully attested the truth of the allegation contained in them. But God discerns the heart, and weighs every man in his unerring balance; and, though he do not now declare the result of his examination, as he then did, by a written testimony that shall be seen of men, he records it in the book of his remembrance, and will make it known, concerning every one of us, in the last day. Now, as upon this testimony our eternal happiness will depend, it becomes us to ascertain beforehand what the state of our souls really is. And this we may do, if we weigh ourselves in the balances to which we have access. Let me then shew you,
In what balances we should weigh ourselves—
Certainly we must not take the scales by which the world forms its estimate of men and things. They are so deceitful, that we can never by them attain any just knowledge of ourselves. They are so constructed, that sin, unless it be of a very enormous character, scarcely affects them at all: and virtue, of however low a character it be, produces a vast preponderance in the scale of merit. Those which I would recommend for your use, are,
The balance of God’s perfect law—
[The law of God requires that we love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and that we love our neighbour, even every child of man, altogether as ourselves. It admits of no departure from this; no, not so much as in thought. Any thing short of the obedience of Christ himself is a violation of it, and renders us obnoxious to its curse.
Now, if we try ourselves by this standard, who amongst us will not be found wanting? or rather I should say, who amongst us has ever, for one single moment, come up to it? The light of a glow-worm actually approaches nearer to the splendour of the sun in the firmament, than our obedience has done to that which is required of us. To say that “we are found wanting,” is to say nothing. Verily, if weighed in this balance, the best man upon the face of the whole earth will be found “lighter than vanity itself.” To us it may appear, that in this respect there is at least a great difference between the states of different men: but, if viewed aright, the goodness of any natural man would really be found to weigh as little before God as the dust upon the balance; so grievously wanting are we all, insomuch that “every mouth must be alike stopped, and all the world become guilty before God [Note: Rom_3:19.].”]
The balance of his blessed Gospel—
[Persons greatly mistake respecting the nature of the Gospel: they suppose it to be a kind of remedial law, lowered to the standard of human infirmity. But this is a fatal error. The Gospel does not dispense with any one duty that was enjoined by the Law, or lower it in any respect. To suppose that it did, would be to imagine that God at first required more of us than was necessary, or that now he requires less than is necessary; or that some change has taken place in the relation that subsists between him and his creatures; so that that which was necessary in the first instance, is now no longer necessary. The Gospel makes no change whatever in the law: but it prescribes duties, of which the law gave no intimation, and could take no cognizance. It prescribes repentance. For this the law made no provision t but the Gospel commands “all men everywhere to repent:” its language is, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness: humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up [Note: Jam_4:9-10.].” In addition to this, it enjoins faith; even faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the appointed Saviour of the world. Of this the law spake nothing: it knew not of a Saviour for fallen man: it simply said, “Do this, and live.” But the Gospel reveals a Saviour, who is “able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him;” and preaches through him the forgiveness of sins, assuring us, that “all who believe shall be justified from all things [Note: Act_13:39.].” Once more, the Gospel calls us to obedience; even to such an obedience as a poor fallen sinner, when aided by the Holy Spirit, is able to render. Such obedience as this the law could not accept: hut the Gospel declares, that it shall be accepted of God through Jesus Christ [Note: 1Pe_2:5.] If only we serve God with a willing mind, he will “not be extreme to mark what is done amiss;” but will be “well pleased with our sacrifices,” notwithstanding the imperfection of them, and will vouchsafe to confer upon us a recompence of reward [Note: Heb_13:15-16.].
Now, then, let us inquire how far we comply with the gracious terms of the Gospel. What know we of repentance, even of “that broken and contrite heart which God will not despise?” Have we not still found “a heart of stone” within us, even whilst we have desired “an heart of flesh?” — — — And how have we exercised faith? Have our souls gone forth to the Saviour, to lay hold on him, and trust in him, and glory in him? Have we not found a most astonishing backwardness towards this holy exercise, insomuch that we seem to have accounted the Gospel a cunningly-devised fable, rather than a divine reality? — — — Then, as to the surrender of ourselves to God, how has it been with us? Has there been that entire devotion of our souls to him, which his love and mercy have so justly demanded? Have we not rather been amazed at our own insensibility and ingratitude, so far exceeding all that we could ever have conceived?
If, then, we weigh ourselves in this balance, what shall we find, but sad occasion for grief and shame? — — —]
The balance even of our own conscience—
[This, I must confess, is a very inadequate mode of estimating our real character. Conscience is blind. Its views of duty are very imperfect: its observation of our conduct also is extremely partial; and its judgment very erroneous. Yet even in this balance, unduly favourable as it is, we shall be found sadly wanting. We all know that God ought to be loved and served: that the Lord Jesus Christ also ought to be precious to our souls. We know that sin should be mortified; and that holiness of heart and life should be cultivated. We know, that, as immortal beings, we should rise superior to the things of time and sense, and seek chiefly the happiness and glory of eternity. Now, then, how far have we corresponded even with our own standard of duty? Are we not sensible that the interests of the soul, and the concerns of eternity, have not been of such paramount value in our estimation, as their real importance has required? Defective as our own standard of duty has been, have we not fallen greatly and shamefully below it? — — —]
Let me. then, proceed to shew you,
What lessons we should learn from our defects—
There is no reason for us to despond: on the contrary, the more sensible we are of our defects, the more hopeful is our state before God. Let us then search out our defects to the uttermost; and then learn from them,
To be thankful for the Gospel—
[O! what glad tidings does the Gospel proclaim! Salvation! Salvation for sinners, even the chief! Salvation for those who have broken the law! yes, and have despised the Gospel also! and have lived hitherto only for themselves!—What thanks can we render to God, that we are permitted to hear this joyful sound, ere the curses of the broken law come down upon us, and we are shut up in that place of torment, where the voice of mercy never sounds, nor one ray of hope can ever enter! Verily, Brethren, if you will not now bless your God, “the very stones will cry out against you.” What, if king Belshazzar could have a proclamation of mercy to his soul, what feelings would it excite in him? But it is observable, that no call to repentance was given to him; for his day of grace was past. This, however, is not your state: to you the Saviour says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth!” “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden! and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Rejoice then, and leap for joy; for in Christ you have your every defect cancelled, and your every want supplied.]
To walk humbly before God—
[Be it so, that your iniquities are pardoned, and your sins are covered:” still, how can you do otherwise than lothe and abhor yourselves, when you contemplate your daily walk before God? What might not be expected of one who has been redeemed from death by the blood of God’s only dear Son? What admiration, and love, and gratitude would you suppose must fill the soul of one who has been bought with such a price, and, from a child of Satan, been made a child of God, from an heir of wrath, an heir of everlasting glory? You would naturally suppose that he would not have so much as a thought but how to praise and glorify his Benefactor. But, alas! not even the wonders of redeeming love can produce upon us all the effect that might be wished. We still are in a great measure carnal, looking too much to the things which are visible and temporal, and too little to the things which are invisible and eternal. In truth, our very best services furnish us with but too just occasion for penitence; our very tears needing to be washed in the blood of Christ, and our repentances to be repented of. Let this lesson then be learned; To walk softly before God, in the remembrance of your sins; and, when you have done all that is commanded, still to say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done that only which it was our duty to do.”]
To be preparing daily for the scrutiny that awaits you at the last-day—
[God will come shortly to judge the world; and will call every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or evil. Then will innumerable defects, which here you overlooked, be brought to light; and every counsel of the heart, whether good or evil, be made manifest. Should you not, then, be preparing for that day? Should you not get every evil of your heart mortified, and every good thing matured within you? Belshazzar, when he received his warning, had but a few hours to live: for that very night was his soul required of him. And may it not be so with you also? And if it should, in what a pitiable state will you be, as unprepared for your great account! Yet, go you must, and be weighed also in the balance of God’s sanctuary; and, if found wanting, like light or reprobate silver, be cast away. Think, I pray you, of the representations given of that period by our blessed Lord: some, as wheat, will be treasured up in the granary of heaven; but others, as chaff, be cast into the fire of hell, even the fire that never shall be quenched. “The net, at present, drags to land both good fish and refuse: but then the good will be gathered into vessels, and the bad be cast away.” Well, thanks be to God! there is yet time to prepare for that day; and time to have every defect of your souls supplied. The Lord Jesus Christ is both able and willing to accomplish in you his good work: and if you truly and unfeignedly commit yourselves to him, he will “perfect in you the work he has begun,” and “preserve you blameless unto his heavenly kingdom.”]