Sketches Of Sermons.

The following Sketches of Sermons are copied verbatim from Mr. Craik’s own MSS.

Luke 1:13-17.

“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

I. The answer of prayer, verse 13.

II. The joyful result, verse 14.

III. The character and office of John, verses 15,16,17.

I. These words are fitted to encourage every praying heart. There is every reason to believe that, for a long time back, it had been the prayer of Zacharias that he might have a son. This desire seems to have been almost universal among the godly Israelites; nor do we ever find that the Lord rejected it as sinful. Abraham, Eachel, Hannah, and Mary all received the blessing as from God. But Zacharias had waited so long, that he began to despair of having his request granted (v. 18). He had perhaps, by this time, already ceased to pray for it. Learn hence—

(1.) That though the time at which we expected the fulfilment of our petitions may pass away, yet God, in His own time and mode, w7ill grant us an answer of peace.

(2.) That even although we may forget our prayers, God has not forgotten them. They are as seed buried in the dust, and, to all appearances, dead and unproductive, but destined to spring forth abundantly in God’s season.

(3.) That though God may answer our petitions, even though our faith should fail, yet it is a great sin to doubt of their fulfilment, merely because of difficulties being apparently lying in the way of their accomplishment. Such sin must bring chastisement (v. 20).

II. The joy of Zacharias arose from the answer to his supplication. The desire granted is sweet to the soul in any case, and particularly after the desire has been repeatedly laid before God in prayer. When, through our petitions being heard, we have another evidence that our Father hears us, in the joy of the deliverance we are ready to welcome those circumstances that may again drive us to a throne of mercy, and issue in a renewed manifestation of His willingness to listen to our cry. Has it not often been so with you, believer? Is there anything now upon your heart, and waiting the issue of repeated supplication? Anticipate, by faith, the joyful result, and hear the voice of the angel declaring, “Thy prayer is heard.” How blessed is our lot, if we are daily crying unto God for more grace, and more sensible nearness to Himself. We may not perceive our progress, hut the Lord will one day subdue oar enemies, and feed us with the finest of wheat.

Zacharias, in common with others, and more than others, would rejoice because of the character of his son. A wise son maketh a glad father; and, as John was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb, he was probably, of all that ever lived, the holiest and most obedient child.

He would most of all rejoice that this child was to be the forerunner of Messiah. The Hope of all the saints, the dear desire of all nations, the Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the Glory of Israel, was actually to have His coming heralded by the promised offspring of Zacharias. This was the most blessed of all the sources of this godly man’s delight, and, accordingly, this is the great theme of his song of praise (see verse 68, &c). In this last point particularly, all those that looked for redemption in Israel would participate in the joy.

III. Character and office of John—Great. Not great in the sight of the world. His poverty, his austerity, his apparent enthusiasm were all fitted to render this godly man an object of contempt, rather than respect, in the eyes of the earthly-minded. But God seeth not as man seeth; consequently, there is an utter opposition between His judgment and the judgment of the unrenewed mind. It is of consequence to ask ourselves whether we are ambitious of such greatness as belonged to John, or are seeking after greatness among men. He should derive his energy of spirit, not from natural nourishment, but from being filled with the Holy Ghost. Such a case> therefore, is possible. What has been, may be again. Encouragement is thence derived by parents to persist in prayer for their children. None can limit the Holy One of Israel, or say how soon the power of the Spirit may work effectually in the heart of a child.

(3.) He should be an instrument, in the hands of God, of effecting the conversion of multitudes. Conversion is here and elsewhere in the Scripture briefly described as a turning to the Lord. It implies

(a.) A turning from ignorance to knowledge. By natural estate we are all ignorant of ourselves, of Jehovah, of the worthlessness of present things, of the unspeakable value of things eternal and invisible; and, above all, ignorant of the way of access to present peace with God, and the enjoyment of Him for ever. John, and other successful ministers of Christ, are instrumental in revealing to sinners their own guilt and misery; the character of the true God; the comparative insignificance of the world, and all that it can afford us; the worth of eternity; and the way of peace. Have you been in this way turned to the Lord? Have you been made acquainted with all these things?

(b.) From unbelief to faith. The natural mind is not only ignorant but unbelieving. The truth may be presented again and again, but there is no reception of it into the heart. It is for this reason that men continue ignorant under the preaching of the gospel. Souls in conversion are not only made acquainted with the truth, but enabled to believe it. Faith is a heart-felt assent to the truth of God—an internal, influential conviction, wrought by the Spirit in the heart of the renewed. It is this that gives to the promises and threatenings of the Bible all their practical power over us. Have you got this faith?

(c.) From enmity and disobedience, to love and holiness. By nature, we are at enmity against God, and walk as the children of disobedience. By grace, we are brought to perceive, embrace, love, and obey Christ. Have you been brought to love Him? Then you no longer love the world. Then you love His people. Then you meditate in His statutes. Then you keep His commandments. Some of you are conscious that this mighty work has never yet been performed on you. Oh! my fellow sinners, let the time past of your life suffice to have wrought the will of the flesh. Eternity is at hand. Every step is bringing you nearer your station at the day of judgment. Prepare to meet your God. He is a consuming fire to His enemies. Now is the day of grace. The season of invitation is not yet passed by. The stroke of wrath has not yet descended. The sword of vengeance, that hangs, as by a hair, over your heads, is staid from destroying you, through the forbearance of that very Being whom you continually disobey. Is there one unconverted man that purposes to leave this chapel without resolving to break off his transgressions by repentance? I charge that man to meet me before the throne of judgment, that I may testify, even there, that if he perish my hands are pure from his blood.

1 Chronicles 12:18.

“Then the spirit came upon Amasai, who was chief of the captains, and he said, Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse: peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them and made them captains of the band.”

From these words the following subjects for our meditation naturally arise.

I. Some of the points in which David was a type of Christ.

II. The acknowledgment and profession of our allegiance to the true David.

III. The prayer for the prosperity of His cause.

IV. The encouragement arising from the certainty of success.

David is used, in the language of prophecy, as a name of Christ. Jer. 30:9; Ez. 37:24, &c.

1. The circumstances of his history and position. Tie was anointed of God to be king of Israel; so Christ, &c.

(a.) Chosen of God, and anointed as king.

(b.) Despised by his brethren.

(c.) Opposed and persecuted by Saul.

(d.) A mighty warrior.

(e.) Was cursed, though innocent.

(f.) Ultimately successful over all his enemies.

(g.) A prophet, as well as king.

(h.) The character of his government.

(i.) Betrayed by his friend, &c, &c.

2. The character he displayed.

(1.) Faith and confidence in God producing courage. So Jesus (1 Sam. 17:34, &c).

(2.) Parental reverence and care (22:3). So Jesus committed His mother to John.

(3.) Forgiveness of injuries (Saul). 1 Sam. 24:18.

(4.) Tenderness of heart (Absalom). See also 2 Sam. 3:32.

(5.) Continual reference to the divine will (asking of God).

(6.) Doing good to his enemies (2 Sam. 9:1).

(7.) Confidence of God in the midst of trouble. 1 Sam. 30:6.

(8.) Interested more in the cause of God than in his own concerns (2 Sam. 7:2; 24:14).

(9.) Pleading the Divine promises.

(10.) Recompensing kindness; so a cup of cold water, given in the name of a disciple, &c, &c.

(11.) Love for his children.

(12.) Earnestness in prayer (passion).

II. “Thine are we,” &c.

(1.) By the gift of the Father (John 17:2, and 10:16).

In Isaiah 53 we read the express promise, that the Lord Jesus should see his seed, and this same seed were interested in the promise to Abraham. (Rom. 4, and Gal. 3) Therefore we belonged to Christ before we were acquainted with Him, and our names were in the covenant before we had any personal existence. This serves to comfort us, respecting the security of our salvation, and to fill us with gratitude to the Author of all our blessings.

(2.) By redemption. On this ground the Apostle enjoins holiness of life. (1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23, so 1 Pet. 1:18.)

Reflection on the evidence of the Saviour’s love, in the agonies He endured to purchase our redemption. Our spirits were in captivity to Satan, and our bodies yielded up to obey his will; we were therefore in a state of utter ruin, and we were rightfully the property of Him to whom our recovery is due.

(3.) By self-dedication. None understands the force of this expression who has not been brought to dedicate himself to Christ. My dear friends, you are, most of you, familiar with the doctrines of election and atonement, and, almost all of you, are accustomed to use the expression “our Saviour.” These doctrines are the blessed foundation of all our peace; but do you acknowledge their practical power. If so, a mighty change has taken place in your hearts. You naturally reckon yourselves under your own authority and in your own power; but by grace you renounce all high thoughts of self-confidence, and consider all that you have, and are, and can do, as due to Him who bought you.

III. “On thy side,” &c. This is the natural consequence of the preceding. It implies—

(1.) Separation from the world (2 Cor.6:17), its maxims, principles, practices, society, &c, for the friendship of the world is enmity against God.

(2.) Union with the people of God. (Song Sol. 1:7.) Practice of the Church from the beginning. Acts of the Apostles. Application to those who love the Saviour yet hesitate about church-fellowship.

(3.) Active promotion of His cause.

(a.) By walking circumspectly.

(b.) By redeeming the time.

(c.) By godly conversation.

(d.) By prayers and means, &c.

We are engaged in one common cause, with all who, in whatever way, are seeking the glory of Christ Let all other parties be merged in this.

IV. “Peace, peace.”

In the language of the Old Testament, peace includes every blessing. It denotes prosperity of the highest kind. In this prayer the speaker expresses a desire for the progress and triumph of that cause in which David was engaged, and the same terms are well fitted to the circumstances of the true David. He is engaged in the cause of “truth, and meekness, and righteousness” (Ps. xlv), and every heart in a right frame seeks the prosperity of so blessed a warfare.

Let us pray then that we ourselves, may, more and more, advance in the knowledge of the truth, and that our fellow-saints may, more and more, be delivered from error.

Let us cry unto God to put a stop to the spread of heresy and false doctrine in nominal Protestantism, to dispel the shades of popish superstition, to destroy idolatry, and beat down, in every region, the strong holds of the enemy of souls.

Oppose error on your knees. Pew of us are fitted for controversy, but all of us who have the Spirit are qualified for prayer.

Error should not be met by bitterness, nor with sarcastic wit; it must be met by the love of truth, and the power of holiness. One part of meekness consists in yieldingness of spirit, not contending for one’s rights, not acting as the children of this world—lawsuits, politics, &c.

Righteousness. Fulfilling the various relations of life. Adopting in trade and business the principles of the Gospel.

The latter part of the prayer rebukes all sectarian bitterness. If we can trace enough in any man’s character or conduct to make us look upon him as a helper of Christ, let that be sufficient to secure for him our love, and, so far as possible, our co-operation. Oh when shall all the saints, even in Bristol, be united together to make common cause against the enemy of souls.

May my God make me an instrument of this union. Oh! for wisdom and grace to help it forward. It is impossible to the eye of sense, but all things are possible with God.

V. “Thy God helpeth thee.”

The conflict between Christ and Satan is as old as time. It is even now going on. But the oath of Jehovah hath sworn that Emmanuel shall at last visibly triumph. All His enemies shall be made His footstool. This is our comfort. Our Leader is sure of victory. We are secure of sharing in His triumph.

What desperate madness is their’s who fight against Him. Your success is impossible. God must cease to be God before you can prevail. “Be wise then, kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish by the way.” All good men are against you, the angels are against you, the Mediator is against you, the Father is against you. Pause, think, submit, pray, believe, live, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Prov. 2:1-5.

“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”

These are the directions of wisdom, how we may be guided to attain heavenly knowledge.

I. “If thou wilt receive my words.” Keception. Were we to reason, respecting the reception of a divine revelation in the world, without taking into account the enmity of the human heart, we should arrive at conclusions the very reverse of the actual fact. The ignorance of man in the absence of such a discovery—the character of God—the consequent perfection of His Word—the natural appetite for knowledge—the importance of those objects revealed, &c, would all lead to the conclusion that whatever truth God should be pleased to make known, would be hailed with delight, and received with readiness and joy. The testimony of Scripture, and the experience of every day, concur to prove that such an inference is unsound; and therefore, the first requisite for knowing truth is here, and elsewhere, declared to be a willingness to receive it.

This implies:

(1.) That the mind be brought down into an humbled state, through a sensibility of ignorance.

(2.) That the various strongholds, which oppose the reception of truth, be shaken.

(3.) Especially the opposition of the flesh. Arising from pride, indolence, formality, self-righteousness, ease and indulgence, &c.

II. “And hide my commandments with thee.” Hiding implies:

(1.) Valuing. Men do not lay up sand, and common stores, but gold and diamonds.

(2.) Retaining. Some may, in a sense, receive the truth, yet not retain it (Luke 6:49; Mark 4:15-17, &c). Memory. Repetition. Meditation.

(3.) Use, “that I may not sin against Thee.”

III. Seeking opportunities of improvement.

(1.) Hearing, especially what God says in His Word (Ps. 45:2).

(2.) The words of wisdom, by whomsoever declared. Are you willing to receive instruction, through any medium, from a poor, ignorant child. Try yourselves by this test.

(3.) Departing from hearing foolishness, or falsehood. (See Prov. passim), “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.”

IV. Object sought after in hearing. To obtain reputation among men, to get on in the world, to be able to talk, and display your knowledge—all such motives are barriers to the investigation and discovery of truth. They oppose progress. Apply thy heart. Never be satisfied with knowledge, without getting benefit for the heart. The right end of knowledge is to .fill us with love to God and man; and to enable us to glorify the former, and benefit the latter. All knowledge, that leads not to this, is barren and unprofitable. Knowledge of truth, when not so applied to the heart, fails of attaining the end designed by God.

Apply this test to all your studies, all the objects you are pursuing, and all the means you are employing.

V. Prayer.

(1.) To express entire dependance upon God.

(2.) To be enabled to discern (in what you hear from others) the truth from the falsehood.

(3.) To apprehend the Sacred Scriptures.. Words, of themselves, are only signs of thoughts. God’s thoughts are so far above ours, that man’s words cannot convey them, except the words be accompanied by an internal teaching. God has always employed the most proper terms, still, as the language is human, it cannot, in itself, express the ideas which are in the Divine mind. Still, the internal teaching is ever in accordance with the true meaning of the words; nay, the rules of grammar, and sound criticism, though insufficient to lead unto the truth, do always coincide with the dictates of the Spirit. If any meaning be put upon the words, contrary to that which in themselves they are fitted to express, that is not the true meaning, otherwise God would have employed a faulty medium of communication.

I may find some obscurity in the letter of a friend, but, if I apply to him to explain his meaning, I shall find (provided the letter be correctly written) that his words are capable of expressing the idea meant to be conveyed. So it is with the divine testimonies {a fortiori).

(4.) Another ground of prayer is that thereby they may find entrance into my heart, and draw me sensibly nearer to God.

That is a dry and unsavoury knowledge which has not been obtained, and is not kept up, through intercourse with God. There is a knowledge which puffeth up. Intercourse with God will keep us low before Him, and a conviction of our inability to make any progress without Him, will serve to restrain us from glorifying as though we had not received it.

(5.) By making our knowledge already gained serve as materials for prayer, we increase it. For example, we are taught of God the truth of the atonement;—pray, respecting this, that thereby you may see more of the evil of sin; the love of Emmanuel; the security of our salvation; and the certainty of all other blessings.