Till He Come
Communion Meditations And Addresses
(Not published in The Metropolitan
First Published 1896.
or many years, whether at home or abroad, it was Mr. Spurgeon's constant custom to observe the ordinance of the Lord's supper every Sabbath-day, unless illness prevented. This he believed to be in accordance with apostolic precedent; and it was his oft-repeated testimony that the more frequently he obeyed his Lord's command, "This do in remembrance of Me," the more precious did his Saviour become to him, while the memorial celebration itself proved increasingly helpful and instructive as the years rolled by.
Several of the discourses here published were delivered to thousands of communicants in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, while others were addressed to the little companies of Christians,of different denominations, and of various nationalities,who gathered around the communion table in Mr. Spurgeon's sitting-room at Mentone. The addresses cover a wide range of subjects; but all of them speak more or less fully of the great atoning sacrifice of which the broken bread and the filled cup are the simple yet significant symbols.
MR. SPURGEON had intended to publish a selection of his Communion Addresses; so this volume may be regarded as another of the precious literary legacies bequeathed by him to his brethren and sisters in Christ who have yet to tarry a while here below. It is hoped that these sermonettes will be the means of deepening the spiritual life of many believers, and that they will suggest suitable themes for meditation and discourse to those who have the privilege and responsibility of presiding at the ordinance.
AN ADDRESS TO A LITTLE COMPANY AT THE
COMMUNION TABLE AT MENTONE.
"Thou hast visited me in the night."Psalm 18:3.
T is a theme for wonder that the glorious God should visit sinful man. "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" A divine visit is a joy to be treasured whenever we are favoured with it. David speaks of it with great solemnity. The Psalmist was not content barely to speak of it; but he wrote it down in plain terms, that it might be known throughout all generations: "Thou hast visited me in the night." Beloved, if God has ever visited you, you also will marvel at it, will carry it in your memory, will speak of it to your friends, and will record it in your diary as one of the notable events of your life. Above all, you will speak of it to God Himself, and say with adoring gratitude, "Thou hast visited me in the night." It should be a solemn part of worship to remember and make known the condescension of the Lord, and say, both in lowly prayer and in joyful psalm, "Thou hast visited me."
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And help'd to nail Him there."
This is the sight which breeds repentance: "They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him." When the Lord visits us, He humbles us, removes all hardness from our hearts, and leads us to the Saviour's feet.
When the Lord first visited us in the night it was very much with us as with John, when the Lord visited him in the isle that is called Patmos. He tells us, "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead." Yes, even when we begin to see that He has put away our sin, and removed our guilt by His death, we feel as if we could never look up again, because we have been so cruel to our best Friend. It is no wonder if we then say, "It is true that He has forgiven me; but I never can forgive myself. He makes me live, and I live in Him; but at the thought of His goodness I fall at His feet as dead. Boasting is dead, self is dead, and all desire for anything beyond my Lord is dead also." Well does Cowper sing of
And cut up all my follies by the root."
The process of destroying follies is more hopefully performed at Jesus' feet than anywhere else. Oh, that the Lord would come again to us as at the first, and like a consuming fire discover and destroy the dross which now alloys our gold! The word visit brings to us who travel the remembrance of the government officer who searches our baggage; thus doth the Lord seek out our secret things. But it also reminds us of the visits of the physician, who not only finds out our maladies, but also removes them. Thus did the Lord Jesus visit us at the first.
Since those early days, I hope that you and I have had many visits from our Lord. Those first visits were, as I said, sharply searching; but the later ones have been sweetly solacing. Some of us have had them, especially in the night, when we have been compelled to count the sleepless hours. "Heaven's gate opens when this world's is shut." The night is still; everybody is away; work is done; care is forgotten, and then the Lord Himself draws near. Possibly there may be pain to be endured, the head may be aching, and the heart may be throbbing; but if Jesus comes to visit us, our bed of languishing becomes a throne of glory. Though it is true "He giveth His beloved sleep," yet at such times He gives them something better than sleep, namely; His own presence, and the fulness of joy which comes with it. By night upon our bed we have seen the unseen. I have tried sometimes not to sleep under an excess of joy, when the company of Christ has been sweetly mine.
"Thou hast visited me in the night." Believe me, there are such things as personal visits from Jesus to His people. He has not left us utterly. Though He be not seen with the bodily eye by bush or brook, nor on the mount, nor by the sea, yet doth He come and go, observed only by the spirit, felt only by the heart. Still he standeth behind our wall, He showeth Himself through the lattices.
That radiant form of Thine!
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine!
"I see Thee not, I hear Thee not,
"Like some bright dream that comes unsought,
"Yet though I have not seen, and still
Do you ask me to describe these manifestations of the Lord? It were hard to tell you in words: you must know them for yourselves. If you had never tasted sweetness, no man living could give you an idea of honey. Yet if the honey be there, you can "taste and see." To a man born blind, sight must be a thing past imagination; and to one who has never known the Lord, His visits are quite as much beyond conception.
For our Lord to visit us is something more than for us to have the assurance of our salvation, though that is very delightful, and none of us should rest satisfied unless we possess it. To know that Jesus loves me, is one thing; but to be visited by Him in love, is more.
Nor is it simply a close contemplation of Christ; for we can picture Him as exceedingly fair and majestic, and yet not have Him consciously near us. Delightful and instructive as it is to behold the likeness of Christ by meditation, yet the enjoyment of His actual presence is something more. I may wear my friend's portrait about my person, and yet may not be able to say, "Thou hast visited me."
It is the actual, though spiritual, coming of Christ which we so much desire. The Romish church says much about the real presence; meaning thereby, the corporeal presence of the Lord Jesus. The priest who celebrates mass tells us that he believes in the real presence, but we reply, "Nay, you believe in knowing Christ after the flesh, and in that sense the only real presence is in heaven; but we firmly believe in the real presence of Christ which is spiritual, and yet certain." By spiritual we do not mean unreal; in fact, the spiritual takes the lead in real-ness to spiritual men. I believe in the true and real presence of Jesus with His people: such presence has been real to my spirit. Lord Jesus, Thou Thyself hast visited me. As surely as the Lord Jesus came really as to His flesh to Bethlehem and Calvary, so surely does He come really by His Spirit to His people in the hours of their communion with Him. We are as conscious of that presence as of our own existence.
When the Lord visits us in the night, what is the effect upon us? When hearts meet hearts in fellowship of love, communion brings first peace, then rest, and then joy of soul. I am speaking of no emotional excitement rising into fanatical rapture; but I speak of sober fact, when I say that the Lord's great heart touches ours, and our heart rises into sympathy with Him.
First, we experience peace. All war is over, and a blessed peace is proclaimed; the peace of God keeps our heart and mind by Christ Jesus.
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
"Peace! perfect peace! with sorrows surging round?
At such a time there is a delightful sense of rest; we have no ambitions, no desires. A divine serenity and security envelop us. We have no thought of foes, or fears, or afflictions, or doubts. There is a joyous laying aside of our own will. We are nothing, and we will nothing: Christ is everything, and His will is the pulse of our soul. We are perfectly content either to be ill or to be well, to be rich or to be poor, to be slandered or to be honoured, so that we may but abide in the love of Christ. Jesus fills the horizon of our being.
At such a time a flood of great joy will fill our minds. We shall half wish that the morning may never break again, for fear its light should banish the superior light of Christ's presence. We shall wish that we could glide away with our Beloved to the place where He feedeth among the lilies. We long to hear the voices of the white-robed armies, that we may follow their glorious Leader whithersoever He goeth. I am persuaded that there is no great actual distance between earth and heaven: the distance lies in our dull minds. When the Beloved visits us in the night, He makes our chambers to be the vestibule of His palace-halls. Earth rises to heaven when heaven comes down to earth.
Now, beloved friends, you may be saying to yourselves, "We have not enjoyed such visits as these." You may do so. If the Father loves you even as He loves His Son, then you are on visiting terms with Him. If, then, He has not called upon you, you will be wise to call on Him. Breathe a sigh to Him, and say,
Oh come, my Lord most dear!
Come near, come nearer, nearer still,
I'm blest when Thou art near.
"When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
"When wilt Thou come unto me, Lord?
"As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God!" If you long for Him, He much more longs for you. Never was there a sinner that was half so eager for Christ as Christ is eager for the sinner; nor a saint one-tenth so anxious to behold his Lord as his Lord is to behold him. If thou art running to Christ, He is already near thee. If thou dost sigh for His presence, that sigh is the evidence that He is with thee. He is with thee now: therefore be calmly glad.
UNDER HIS SHADOW.
A BRIEF SACRAMENTAL DISCOURSE DELIVERED AT MENTONE
TO ABOUT A SCORE BRETHREN.
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."Psalm 91:1.
MUST confess of my short discourse, as the man did of the axe which fell into the stream, that it is borrowed. The outline of it is taken from one who will never complain of me, for to the great loss of the Church she has left these lower choirs to sing above. Miss Havergal, last and loveliest of our modern poets, when her tones were most mellow, and her language most sublime, has been caught up to swell the music of heaven. Her last poems are published with the title, "Under His Shadow," and the preface gives the reason for the name. She said, "I should like the title to be, 'Under His Shadow.' I seem to see four pictures suggested by that: under the shadow of a rock, in a weary plain; under the shadow of a tree; closer still, under the shadow of His wing; nearest and closest, in the shadow of His hand. Surely that hand must be the pierced hand, that may oftentimes press us sorely, and yet evermore encircling, upholding, and shadowing. "
Beat heavy on their head,
To Christ their mighty Rock they run,
And find a pleasing shade."
There is, however, something of awe about this great shadow. A rock is often so high as to be terrible, and we tremble in presence of its greatness. The idea of littleness hiding behind massive greatness is well set forth; but there is no tender thought of fellowship, or gentleness: even so, at the first, we view the Lord Jesus as our shelter from the consuming heat of well-deserved punishment, and we know little more. It is most pleasant to remember that this is only one panel of the four-fold picture. Inexpressibly dear to my soul is the deep cool rock-shade of my blessed Lord, as I stand in Him a sinner saved; yet is there more.
II. Our second picture, that of THE TREE, is to be found in the Song of Solomon 2:3:"As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste."
Here we have not so much refuge from trouble as special rest in times of joy. The spouse is happily wandering through a wood, glancing at many trees, and rejoicing in the music of the birds. One tree specially charms her: the citron with its golden fruit wins her admiration, and she sits under its shadow with great delight; such was her Beloved to her, the best among the good, the fairest of the fair, the joy of her joy, the light of her delight. Such is Jesus to the believing soul.
The sweet influences of Christ are intended to give us a happy rest, and we ought to avail ourselves of them; "I sat down under His shadow." This was Mary's better part, which Martha well-nigh missed by being cumbered. That is the good old way wherein we are to walk, the way in which we find rest unto our souls. Papists and papistical persons, whose religion is all ceremonies, or all working, or all groaning, or all feeling, have never come to an end. We may say of their religion as of the law, that it made nothing perfect; but under the gospel there is something finished, and that something is the sum and substance of our salvation, and therefore there is rest for us, and we ought to sing, "I sat down."
Dear friends, is Christ to each one of us a place of sitting down? I do not mean a rest of idleness and self-content,God deliver us from that; but there is rest in a conscious grasp of Christ, a rest of contentment with Him as our all in all. God give us to know more of this! This shadow is also meant to yield perpetual solace, for the spouse did not merely come under it, but there she sat down as one who meant to stay. Continuance of repose and joy is purchased for us by our Lord's perfected work. Under the shadow she found food; she had no need to leave it to find a single needful thing, for the tree which shaded also yielded fruit; nor did she need even to rise from her rest, but sitting still she feasted on the delicious fruit. You who know the Lord Jesus know also what this meaneth.
The spouse never wished to go beyond her Lord. She knew no higher life than that of sitting under the Well-beloved's shadow. She passed the cedar, and oak, and every other goodly tree, but the apple-tree held her, and there she sat down. "Many there be that say, who will show us any good? But as for us, O Lord, our heart is fixed, our heart is fixed, resting on Thee. We will go no further, for Thou art our dwelling-place, we feel at home with Thee, and sit down beneath Thy shadow." Some Christians cultivate reverence at the expense of childlike love; they kneel down, but they dare not sit down. Our Divine Friend and Lover wills not that it should be so; He would not have us stand on ceremony with Him, but come boldly unto Him.
Not backward, stiff or cold,
As though our Bethlehem could be
What Sina was of old."
Let us use His sacred name as a common word, as a household word, and run to Him as to a dear familiar friend. Under His shadow we are to feel that we are at home, and then He will make Himself at home to us by becoming food unto our souls, and giving spiritual refreshment to us while we rest. The spouse does not here say that she reached up to the tree to gather its fruit, but she sat down on the ground in intense delight, and the fruit came to her where she sat. It is wonderful how Christ will come down to souls that sit beneath His shadow; if we can but be at home with Christ, He will sweetly commune with us. Has He not said, "Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart"?
In this second form of the sacred shadow, the sense of awe gives place to that of restful delight in Christ. Have you ever figured in such a scene as the sitter beneath the grateful shade of the fruitful tree? Have you not only possessed security, but experienced delight in Christ? Have you sung,
Sat down with great delight;
His fruit was sweet unto my taste,
And pleasant to my sight"?
This is as necessary an experience as it is joyful: necessary for many uses. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and it is when we delight ourselves in the Lord that we have assurance of power in prayer. Here faith develops, and hope grows bright, while love sheds abroad all the fragrance of her sweet spices. Oh! get you to the apple-tree, and find out who is the fairest among the fair. Make the Light of heaven the delight of your heart, and then be filled with heart's-ease, and revel in complete content.
III. The third view of the one subject is,THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS,a precious word. I think the best specimen of it, for it occurs several times, is in that blessed Psalm, the sixty-third, verse seven:
"Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice."
Does not this set forth our Lord as our trust in hours of depression? In the Psalm now open before us, David was banished from the means of grace to a dry and thirsty land, where no water was. What is much worse, he was in a measure away from all conscious enjoyment of God. He says, "Early will I seek Thee. My soul thirsteth for Thee." He sings rather of memories than of present communion with God. We also have come into this condition, and have been unable to find any present comfort. "Thou hast been my help," has been the highest note we could strike, and we have been glad to reach to that. At such times, the light of God's face has been withdrawn, but our faith has taught us to rejoice under the shadow of His wings. Light there was none; we were altogether in the shade, but it was a warm shade. We felt that God who had been near must be near us still, and therefore we were quieted. Our God cannot change, and therefore as He was our help He must still be our help, our help even though He casts a shadow over us, for it must be the shadow of His own eternal wings. The metaphor is, of course, derived from the nestling of little birds under the shadow of their mother's wings, and the picture is singularly touching and comforting. The little bird is not yet able to take care of itself, so it cowers down under the mother, and is there happy and safe. Disturb a hen for a moment, and you will see all the little chickens huddling together, and by their chirps making a kind of song. Then they push their heads into her feathers, and seem happy beyond measure in their warm abode. When we are very sick and sore depressed, when we are worried with the care of pining children, and the troubles of a needy household, and the temptations of Satan, how comforting it is to run to our God,like the little chicks run to the hen,and hide away near His heart, beneath His Wings. Oh, tried ones, press closely to the loving heart of your Lord, hide yourselves entirely beneath His wings! Here awe has disappeared, and rest itself is enhanced by the idea of loving trust. The little birds are safe in their mother's love, and we, too, are beyond measure secure and happy in the loving favour of the Lord.
IV. The last form of the shadow is that of THE HAND, and this, it seems to me, points to power and position in service. Turn to Isaiah 49:2:
"And He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He kid me, and made me a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He hid me."
This undoubtedly refers to the Saviour, for the passage proceeds:"And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God. And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength. And He said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth." Our Lord Jesus Christ was hidden away in the hand of Jehovah, to be used by Him as a polished shaft for the overthrow of His enemies, and the victory of His people. Yet, inasmuch as it is Christ, it is also all Christ's servants, since as He is so are we also in this world; and to make quite sure of it, we have the same expression in the sixteenth verse of the fifty-first chapter, where, speaking of His people, He says, "I have covered thee in the shadow of Mine hand." Is not this an excellent minister's text? Every one of you who will speak a word for Jesus shall have a share in it. This is where those who are workers for Christ should long to be,"in the shadow of His hand," to achieve His eternal purpose. What are any of God's servants without their Lord but weapons out of the warrior's hand, having no power to do anything? We ought to be as the arrows of the Lord which He shoots at His enemies; and so great is His hand of power, and so little are we as His instruments, that He hides us away in the hollow of His hand, unseen until He darts us forth. As workers, we are to be hidden away in the hand of God, or to quote the other figure, "in His quiver hath He hid me:" we are to be unseen till He uses us. It is impossible for us not to be known somewhat if the Lord uses us, but we may not aim at being noticed, but, on the contrary, if we be as much used as the very chief of the apostles, we must truthfully add, "though I be nothing." Our desire should be that Christ should be glorified, and that self should be concealed. Alas! there is a way of always showing self in what we do, and we are all too ready to fall into it. You can visit the poor in such a way that they will feel that his lordship or her ladyship has condescended to call upon poor Betsy; but there is another way of doing the same thing so that the tried child of God shall know that a brother beloved or a dear sister in Christ has shown a fellow-feeling for her, and has talked to her heart. There is a way of preaching, in which a great divine has evidently displayed his vast learning and talent; and there is another way of preaching, in which a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, depending upon his Lord, has spoken in his Master's name, and left a rich unction behind. Within the hand of God is the place of acceptance, and safety; and for service it is the place of power, as well as of concealment. God only works with those who are in His hand; and the more we lie hidden there, the more surely will He use us ere long. May the Lord do unto us according to His word, "I have put My words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of My hand." In this case we shall feel all the former emotions combined: awe that the Lord should condescend to take us into His hand, rest and delight that He should deign to use us, trust that out of weakness we shall now be made strong, and to this will be added an absolute assurance that the end of our being must be answered, for that which is urged onward by the Almighty hand cannot miss its mark.
These are mere surface thoughts. The subject deserves a series of discourses. Your best course, my beloved friends, will be to enlarge upon these hints by a long personal experience of abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. May God the Holy Ghost lead you into it, and keep you there, for Jesus' sake!
UNDER THE APPLE TREE.
"I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste."Solomon's Song 2:3.
hrist known should be Christ used. The spouse knew her Beloved to be like a fruit-bearing tree, and at once she sat under His shadow, and fed upon His fruit. It is a pity that we know so much about Christ, and yet enjoy Him so little. May our experience keep pace with our knowledge, and may that experience be composed of a practical using of our Lord! Jesus casts a shadow, let us sit under it: Jesus yields fruit, let us taste the sweetness of it. Depend upon it that the way to learn more is to use what you know; and, moreover, the way to learn a truth thoroughly is to learn it experimentally. You know a doctrine beyond all fear of contradiction when you have proved it for yourself by personal test and trial. The bride in the song as good as says, "I am certain that my Beloved casts a shadow, for I have sat under it, and I am persuaded that He bears sweet fruit, for I have tasted of it." The best way of demonstrating the power of Christ to save is to trust in Him and be saved yourself; and of all those who are sure of the divinity of our holy faith, there are none so certain as those who feel its divine power upon themselves. You may reason yourself into a belief of the gospel, and you may by further reasoning keep yourself orthodox; but a personal trial, and an inward knowing of the truth, are incomparably the best evidences. If Jesus be as an apple tree among the trees of the wood, do not keep away from Him, but sit under His shadow, and taste His fruit. He is a Saviour; do not believe the fact and yet remain unsaved. As far as Christ is known to you, so far make use of Him. Is not this sound common-sense?
But Jesus Christ is my all in all."
Those who knew him were astonished at his constant composure. They had a world of doubts and fears, and so they asked him why he never doubted. "Well," said he, "I can't doubt but what I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all, for I know that, and feel it every day. And why should I doubt that Jesus Christ is my all in all? for He says He is." "Oh!" said his questioner, "I have my ups and downs." "I don't," says Jack; "I can never go up, for I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all; and I cannot go down, for Jesus Christ is my all in all." He wanted to join the church, and they said he must tell his experience. He said, "All my experience is that I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all, and Jesus Christ is my all in all." "Well," they said, "when you come before the church-meeting, the minister may ask you questions." "I can't help it," said Jack, "all I know I will tell you; and that is all I know,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.'"
He was admitted into the church, and continued with the brethren, walking in holiness; but that was still all his experience, and you could not get him beyond it. "Why," said one brother, "I sometimes feel so full of grace, I feel so advanced in sanctification, that I begin to be very happy." "I never do," said Jack; "I am a poor sinner, and nothing at all." "But then," said the other, "I go down again, and think I am not saved, because I am not as sanctified as I used to be." "But I never doubt my salvation," said Jack, "because Jesus Christ is my all in all, and He never alters." That simple story is grandly instructive, for it sets forth a plain man's faith in a plain salvation; it is the likeness of a soul under the apple tree, resting in the shade, and feasting on the fruit.
Now, at this time I want you to think of Jesus, not as a Prince, but as an apple tree; and when this is done, I pray you to sit down under His shadow. It is not much to do. Any child, when it is hot, can sit down in a shadow. I want you next to feed on Jesus: any simpleton can eat apples when they are ripe upon the tree. Come and take Christ, then. You who never came before, come now. Come and welcome. You who have come often, and have entered into the palace, and are reclining at the banqueting table, you lords and peers of Christianity, come to the common wood and to the common apple tree where poor saints are shaded and fed. You had better come under the apple tree, like poor sinners such as I am, and be once more shaded with boughs and comforted with apples, for else you may faint beneath the palace glories. The best of saints are never better than when they eat their first fare, and are comforted with the apples which were their first gospel feast.
The Lord Himself bring forth His own sweet fruit to you! Amen.
OVER THE MOUNTAINS.
"My Beloved is mine, and I am His: He feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether."Solomon's Song 2:16-17.
T may be that there are saints who are always at their best, and are happy enough never to lose the light of their Father's countenance. I am not sure that there are such persons, for those believers with whom I have been most intimate have had a varied experience; and those whom I have known, who have boasted of their constant perfectness, have not been the most reliable of individuals. I hope there is a spiritual region attainable where there are no clouds to hide the Sun of our soul; but I cannot speak with positiveness, for I have not traversed that happy land. Every year of my life has had a winter as well as a summer, and every day its night. I have hitherto seen clear shinings and heavy rains, and felt warm breezes and fierce winds. Speaking for the many of my brethren, I confess that though the substance be in us, as in the teil-tree and the oak, yet we do lose our leaves, and the sap within us does not flow with equal vigour at all seasons. We have our downs as well as our ups, our valleys as well as our hills. We are not always rejoicing; we are sometimes in heaviness through manifold trials. Alas! we are grieved to confess that our fellowship with the Well-beloved is not always that of rapturous delight; but we have at times to seek Him, and cry, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!" This appears to me to have been in a measure the condition of the spouse when she cried, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved."
That I should leave Thee so!
Where will those vile affections roll
That let my Saviour go?"
When communion with Christ is broken, in all true hearts there is a strong desire to win it back again. The man who has known the joy of communion with Christ, if he loses it, will never be content until it is restored. Hast thou ever entertained the Prince Emmanuel? Is He gone elsewhere? Thy chamber will be dreary till He comes back again. "Give me Christ or else I die," is the cry of every spirit that has lost, the dear companionship of Jesus. We do not part with such heavenly delights without many a pang. It is not with us a matter of "maybe He will return, and we hope He will;" but it must be, or we faint and die. We cannot live without Him; and this is a cheering sign; for the soul that cannot live without Him shall not live without Him: He comes speedily where life and death hang on His coming. If you must have Christ you shall have Him. This is just how the matter stands: we must drink of this well or die of thirst; we must feed upon Jesus or our spirit will famish.
II. We will now advance a step, and say that when communion with Christ is broken, THERE ARE GREAT DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF ITS RENEWAL. It is much easier to go down hill than to climb to the same height again. It is far easier to lose joy in God than to find the lost jewel. The spouse speaks of "mountains" dividing her from her Beloved: she means that the difficulties were great. They were not little hills, but mountains, that closed up her way. Mountains of remembered sin, Alps of backsliding, dread ranges of forgetfulness, ingratitude, worldliness, coldness in prayer, frivolity, pride, unbelief. Ah me, I cannot teach you all the dark geography of this sad experience! Giant walls rose before her like the towering steeps of Lebanon. How could she come at her Beloved?
The dividing difficulties were many as well as great. She does not speak of "a mountain", but of "mountains": Alps rose on Alps, wall after wall. She was distressed to think that in so short a time so much could come between her and Him of whom she sang just now, "His left hand is under my head, and His right hand doth embrace me." Alas, we multiply these mountains of Bether with a sad rapidity! Our Lord is jealous, and we give Him far too much reason, for hiding His face. A fault, which seemed so small at the time we committed it, is seen in the light of its own consequences, and then it grows and swells till it towers aloft, and hides the face of the Beloved. Then has our sun gone down, and fear whispers, "Will His light ever return? Will it ever be daybreak? Will the shadows ever flee away?" It is easy to grieve away the heavenly sunlight, but ah, how hard to clear the skies, and regain the unclouded brightness!
Perhaps the worst thought of all to the spouse was the dread that the dividing barrier might be permanent. It was high, but it might dissolve; the walls were many, but they might fall; but, alas, they were mountains, and these stand fast for ages! She felt like the Psalmist, when he cried, "My sin is ever before me." The pain of our Lord's absence becomes : intolerable when we fear that we are hopelessly shut out from Him. A night one can bear, hoping for the morning; but what if the day should never break? And you and I, if we have wandered away from Christ, and feel that there are ranges of immovable mountains between Him and us, will feel sick at heart. We try to pray, but devotion dies on our lips. We attempt to approach the Lord at the communion table, but we feel more like Judas than John. At such times we have felt that we would give our eyes once more to behold the Bridegroom's face, and to know that He delights in us as in happier days. Still there stand the awful mountains, black, threatening, impassable; and in the far-off land the Life of our life is away, and grieved.
So the spouse seems to have come to the conclusion that the difficulties in her way were insurmountable by her own power. She does not even think of herself going over the mountains to her Beloved, but she cries, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether." She will not try to climb the mountains, she knows she cannot: if they had been less high, she might have attempted it; but their summits reach to heaven. If they had been less craggy or difficult, she might have tried to scale them; but these mountains are terrible, and no foot may stand upon their lone crags. Oh, the mercy of utter self-despair! I love to see a soul driven into that close corner, and forced therefore to look to God alone. The end of the creature is the beginning of the Creator. Where the sinner ends the Saviour begins. If the mountains can be climbed, we shall have to climb them; but if they are quite impassable, then the soul cries out with the prophet, "Oh, that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence. As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence. When Thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, Thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at Thy presence." Our souls are lame, they cannot move to Christ, and we turn our strong desires to Him, and fix our hopes alone upon Him; will He not remember us in love, and fly to us as He did to His servant of old when He rode upon a cherub, and did fly, yea, He did fly upon the wings of the wind?
III. Here arises THAT PRAYER OF THE TEXT WHICH FULLY MEETS THE CASE. "Turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of division." Jesus can come to us when we cannot go to Him. The roe and the young hart, or, as you may read it, the gazelle and the ibex, live among the crags of the mountains, and leap across the abyss with amazing agility. For swiftness and sure-footedness they are unrivalled. The sacred poet said, "He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places," alluding to the feet of those creatures which are so fitted to stand securely on the mountain's side. Our blessed Lord is called, in the title of the twenty-second Psalm, "the Hind of the morning "; and the spouse in this golden Canticle sings, "My Beloved is like a roe or a young hart; behold He cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills."
Here I would remind you that this prayer is one that we may fairly offer, because it is the way of Christ to come to us when our coming to Him is out of the question. "How?" say you. I answer that of old He did this; for we remember "His great love wherewith He loved us even when we were dead in trespasses and in sins." His first coming into the world in human form, was it not because man could never come to God until God had come to him? I hear of no tears, or prayers, or entreaties after God on the part of our first parents; but the offended Lord spontaneously gave the promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. Our Lord's coming into the world was unbought, unsought, unthought of; he came altogether of His own free will, delighting to redeem.
Beheld our helpless grief;
He saw, and (oh, amazing love!)
He ran to our relief."
His incarnation was a type of the way in which He comes to us by His Spirit. He saw us cast out, polluted, shameful, perishing; and as He passed by, His tender lips said, "Live!" In us is fulfilled that word, "I am found of them that sought Me not." We were too averse to holiness, too much in bondage to sin, ever to have returned to Him if He had not turned to us. What think you? Did He come to us when we were enemies, and will He not visit us now that we are friends? Did He come to us when we were dead sinners, and will He not hear us now that we are weeping saints? If Christ's coming to the earth was after this manner, and if His coming to each one of us was after this style, we may well hope that now He will come to us in like fashion, like the dew which refreshes the grass, and waiteth not for man, neither tarrieth for the sons of men. Besides, He is coming again in person, in the latter-day, and mountains of sin, and error, and idolatry, and superstition, and oppression stand in the way of His kingdom; but He will surely come and overturn, and overturn, till He shall reign over all. He will come in the latter-days, I say, though He shall leap the hills to do it, and because of that I am sure we may comfortably conclude that He will draw near to us who mourn His absence so bitterly. Then let us bow our heads a moment, and silently present to His most excellent Majesty the petition of our text: "Turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of division."
Our text gives us sweet assurance that our Lord is at home with those difficulties which are quite insurmountable by us. Just as the roe or the young hart knows the passes of the mountains, and the stepping-places among the rugged rocks, and is void of all fear among the ravines and the precipices, so does our Lord know the heights and depths, the torrents and the caverns of our sin and sorrow. He carried the whole of our transgr ession, and so became aware of the tremendous load of our guilt. He is quite at home with the infirmities of our nature; He knew temptation in the wilderness, heart-break in the garden, desertion on the cross. He is quite at home with pain and weakness, for "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." He is at home with despondency, for He was "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." He is at home even with death, for He gave up the ghost, and passed through the sepulchre to resurrection. O yawning gulfs and frowning steeps of woe, our Beloved, like hind or hart, has traversed your glooms! O my Lord, Thou knowest all that divides me from Thee; and Thou knowest also that I am far too feeble to climb these dividing mountains, so that I may come at Thee; therefore, I pray Thee, come Thou over the mountains to meet my longing spirit! Thou knowest each yawning gulf and slippery steep, but none of these can stay Thee; haste Thou to me, Thy servant, Thy beloved, and let me again live by Thy presence.
It is easy, too, for Christ to come over the mountains for our relief . It is easy for the gazelle to cross the mountains, it is made for that end; so is it easy for Jesus, for to this purpose was He ordained from of old that He might come to man in his worst estate, and bring with Him the Father's love. What is it that separates us from Christ? Is it a sense of sin? You have been pardoned once, and Jesus can renew most vividly a sense of full forgiveness. But you say, "Alas! I have sinned again: fresh gu ilt alarms me." He can remove it in an instant, for the fountain appointed for that purpose is opened, and is still full. It is easy for the dear lips of redeeming love to put away the child's offences, since He has already obtained pardon for the criminal's iniquities. If with His heart's blood He won our pardon from our Judge, he can easily enough bring us the forgiveness of our Father. Oh, yes, it is easy enough for Christ to say again, "Thy sins be forgiven"! "But I feel so unfit, so unable to enjoy communion." He that healed all manner of bodily diseases can heal with a word your spiritual infirmities. Remember the man whose ankle-bones received strength, so that he ran and leaped; and her who was sick of a fever, and was healed at once, and arose, and ministered unto her Lord. "My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness." "But I have such afflictions, such troubles, such sorrows, that I am weighted down, and cannot rise into joyful fellowship." Yes, but Jesus can make every burden light, and cause each yoke to be easy. Your trials can be made to aid your heavenward course instead of hindering it. I know all about those heavy weights, and I perceive that you cannot lift them; but skilful engineers can adapt ropes and pulleys in such a way that heavy weights lift other weights. The Lord Jesus is great at gracious machinery, and He has the art of causing a weight of tribulation to lift from us a load of spiritual deadness, so that we ascend by that which, like a millstone, threatened to sink us down.
What else doth hinder? I am sure that, if it were a sheer impossibility, the Lord Jesus could remove it, for things impossible with men are possible with God. But someone objects, "I am so unworthy of Christ. I can understand eminent saints and beloved disciples being greatly indulged, but I am a worm, and no man; utterly below such condescension." Say you so? Know you not that the worthiness of Christ covers your unworthiness, and He is made of God unto you wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption? In Christ, the Father thinks not so meanly of you as you think of yourself; you are not worthy to be called His child, but He does call you so, and reckons you to be among His jewels. Listen, and you shall hear Him say, "Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee. I gave Egypt for thy ransom; Ethiopia and Seba for thee. "Thus, then, there remains nothing which Jesus cannot overleap if He resolves to come to you, and re-establish your broken fellowship.
To conclude, our Lord can do all this directly. As in the twinkling of an eye the dead shall be raised incorruptible, so in a moment can our dead affections rise to fulness of delight. He can say to this mountain, "Be thou removed hence, and be thou cast into the midst of the sea," and it shall be done. In the sacred emblems now upon this supper table, Jesus is already among us. Faith cries, "He has come!" Like John the Baptist, she gazes intently on Him, and cries, "Behold the Lamb of God!" At this table Jesus feeds us with His body and His blood. His corporeal presence we have not, but His real spiritual presence we perceive. We are like the disciples when none of them durst ask Him, "Who art Thou?" knowing that it was the Lord. He is come. He looketh forth at these windows,I mean this bread and wine; showing Himself through the lattices of this instructive and endearing ordinance. He speaks. He saith, "The winter is past, the rain is over and gone." And so it is; we feel it to be so: a heavenly springtide warms our frozen hearts. Like the spouse, we wonderingly cry, "Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib." Now in happy fellowship we see the Beloved, and hear His voice; our heart burns; our affections glow; we are happy, restful, brimming over with delight. The King has brought us into his banqueting-house, and His banner over us is love. It is good to be here!
Friends, we must now go our ways. A voice saith, "Arise, let us go hence." O Thou Lord of our hearts, go with us! Home will not be home without Thee. Life will not be life without Thee. Heaven itself would not be heaven if Thou wert absent. Abide with us. The world grows dark, the gloaming of time draws on. Abide with us, for it is toward evening. Our years increase, and we near the night when dews fall cold and chill. A great future is all about us, the splendours of the last age are coming down; and while we wait in solemn, awe-struck expectation, our heart continually cries within herself, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be Thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of division."
Come in glory and in power;
Still Thy foes are unsubdued;
Nature sighs to be renew'd.
Time has nearly reach'd its sum,
All things with Thy bride say 'Come;'
Jesus, whom all worlds adore,
Come and reign for evermore!"
FRAGRANT SPICES FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF MYRRH.
"Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee."Solomon's Song 4:7.
OW marvellous are these words! "Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee." The glorious Bridegroom is charmed with His spouse, and sings soft canticles of admiration. When the bride extols her Lord there is no wonder, for He deserves it well, and in Him there is room for praise without possibility of flattery. But does He who is wiser than Solomon condescend to praise this sunburnt Shulamite? 'Tis even so, for these are His own words, and were uttered by His own sweet lips. Nay, doubt not, O young believer, for we have more wonders to reveal! There are greater depths in heavenly things than thou hast at present dared to hope. The Church not only is all fair in the eyes of her Beloved, but in one sense she always was so.
All beauteous in His eyes she stood,
Presented by Th' eternal name,
Betroth'd in love, and free from blame.
"Not as she stood in Adam's fall,
He delighted in her before she had either a natural or a spiritual being, and from the beginning could He say, "My delights were with the sons of men." (Prov. 8:31.) Having covenanted to be the Surety of the elect, and having determined to fulfil every stipulation of that covenant, He from all eternity delighted to survey the purchase of His blood, and rejoiced to view His Church, in the purpose and decree, as already by Him delivered from sin, and exalted to glory and happiness.
Too great for angel-mind to scan,
Our thoughts are lost, our numbers fail;
All hail, redeeming love, all hail!"
Now with joy and gladness let us approach the subject of Christ's delight in His Church, as declared by Him whom the Spirit has sealed in our hearts as the faithful and true Witness.
Our first bundle of myrrh lies in the open hand of the text.
I. CHRIST HAS A HIGH ESTEEM FOR HIS CHURCH. He does not blindly admire her faults, or even conceal them from Himself. He is acquainted with her sin, in all its heinousness of guilt, and desert of punishment. That sin He does not shun to reprove. His own words are, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." (Rev. 3:19.) He abhors sin in her as much as in the ungodly world, nay even more, for He sees in her an evil which is not to be found in the transgressions of others,sin against love and grace. She is black in her own sight, how much more so in the eyes of her Omniscient Lord! Yet there it stands, written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and flowing from the lips of the Bridegroom, "Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee." How then is this? Is it a mere exaggeration of love, an enthusiastic canticle, which the sober hand of truth must strip of its glowing fables? Oh, no! The King is full of love, but He is not so overcome with it as to forget His reason. The words are true, and He means us to understand them as the honest expression of His unbiassed judgment, after having patiently examined her in every part. He would not have us diminish aught, but estimate the gold of His opinions by the bright glittering of His expressions; and, therefore, in order that there may be no mistake, He states it positively: "Thou art all fair, My love," and confirms it by a negative: "there is no spot in thee."
When He speaks positively, how complete is His admiration! She is "fair", but that is not a full description; He styles her "all fair." He views her in Himself, washed in His sin-atoning blood, and clothed in His meritorious righteousness, and He considers her to be full of comeliness and beauty. No wonder that such is the case, since it is but His own perfect excellences that He admires, seeing that the holiness, glory, and perfection of His Church are His own garments on the back of His own well-beloved spouse, and she is "bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh." She is not simply pure, or well-proportioned; she is positively lovely and fair! She has actual merit! Her deformities of sin are removed; but more, she has through her Lord obtained a meritorious righteousness by which an actual beauty is conferred upon her. Believers have a positive righteousness given to them when they become "accepted in the Beloved." (Eph. 1:6.)
Nor is the Church barely lovely, she is superlatively so. Her Lord styles her, "Thou fairest among women." (Sol. Song 1:8.) She has a real worth and excellence which cannot be rivalled by all the nobility and royalty of the world. If Jesus could exchange His elect bride for all the queens and empresses of earth, or even for the angels in heaven, He would not, for He puts her first and foremost,"fairest among women." Nor is this an opinion which He is ashamed of, for He invites all men to hear it. He puts a "behold" before it, a special note of exclamation, inviting and arresting attention. "Behold, thou art fair, My love; behold, thou art fair." (Sol. Song 4:1.) His opinion He publishes abroad even now, and one day from the throne of His glory He will avow the truth of it before the assembled universe. "Come, ye blessed of My Father" (Matt. 25:34), will be His solemn affirmation of the loveliness of His elect.
Let us mark well the repeated sentences of His approbation.
Twice fair thou art, I say;
My righteousness and graces are
Thy double bright array.
"But since thy faith can hardly own
He turns again to the subject, a second time looks into those doves' eyes of hers, and listens to her honey-dropping lips. It is not enough to say, "Behold, thou art fair, My love;" He rings that golden bell again, and sings again, and again, "Behold, thou art fair."
After having surveyed her whole person with rapturous delight, He cannot be satisfied until He takes a second gaze, and afresh recounts her beauties. Making but little difference between His first description and the last, he adds extraordinary expressions of love to manifest His increased delight. "Thou art beautiful, O My love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners. Turn away thine eyes from Me, for they have overcome Me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead. Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them. As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks. . . . My dove, My undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her." (Sol. Song 5:4-7, 9.)
The beauty which He admires is universal, He is as much enchanted with her temples as with her breasts. All her offices, all her pure devotions, all her earnest labours, all her constant sufferings, are precious to His heart. She is "all fair." Her ministry, her psalmody, her intercessions, her alms, her watching, all are admirable to Him, when performed in the Spirit. Her faith, her love, her patience, her zeal, are alike in His esteem as "rows of jewels" and "chains of gold." (Sol. Song 1:10.) He loves and admires her everywhere. In the house of bondage, or in the land of Canaan, she is ever fair. On the top of Lebanon His heart is ravished with one of her eyes, and in the fields and villages He joyfully receives her loves. He values her above gold and silver in the days of His gracious manifestations, but He has an equal appreciation of her when He withdraws Himself, for it is immediately after He had said, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get Me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense," (Sol. Song 4:6,) that He exclaims, in the words of our text, "Thou art all fair, My love." At all seasons believers are very near the heart of the Lord Jesus, they are always as the apple of His eye, and the jewel of His crown. Our name is still on His breastplate, and our persons are still in His gracious remembrance. He never thinks lightly of His people; and certainly in all the compass of His Word there is not one syllable which looks like contempt of them. They are the choice treasure and peculiar portion of the Lord of hosts; and what king will undervalue his own inheritance? What loving husband will despise his own wife? Let others call the Church what they may, Jesus does not waver in His love to her, and does not differ in His judgment of her, for He still exclaims, "How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!" (Sol. Song 7:6.)
Let us remember that He who pronounces the Church and each individual believer to be "all fair" is none other than the glorious Son of God, who is "very God of very God." Hence His declaration is decisive, since infallibility has uttered it. There can be no mistake where the all-seeing Jehovah is the Judge. If He has pronounced her to be incomparably fair, she is so, beyond a doubt; and though hard for our poor puny faith to receive, it is nevertheless as divine a verity as any of the undoubted doctrines of revelation.
Having thus pronounced her positively full of beauty, He now confirms His praise by a precious negative: "There is no spot in thee. "As if the thought occurred to the Bridegroom that the carping world would insinuate that He had only mentioned her comely parts, and had purposely omitted those features which were deformed or defiled, He sums all up by declaring her universally and entirely fair, and utterly devoid of stain. A spot may soon be removed, and is the very least thing that can disfigure beauty, but even from this little blemish the Church is delivered in her Lord's sight. If He had said there is no hideous scar, no horrible deformity, no filthy ulcer, we might even then have marvelled; but when He testifies that she is free from the slightest spot, all these things are included, and the depth of wonder is increased. If He had but promised to remove all spots, we should have had eternal reason for joy; but when He Speaks of it as already done, who can restrain the most intense emotions of satisfaction and delight? O my soul, here is marrow and fatness for thee; eat thy full, and be abundantly glad therein!
Christ Jesus has no quarrel with His spouse. She often wanders from Him, and grieves His Holy Spirit, but He does not allow her faults to affect His love. He sometimes chides, but it is always in the tenderest manner, with the kindest intentions;it is "My love" even then. There is no remembrance of our follies, He does not cherish ill thoughts of us, but He pardons, and loves as well after the offence as before it. It is well for us it is so, for if Jesus were as mindful of injuries as we are, how could He commune with us? Many a time a believer will put himself out of humour with the Lord for some slight turn in providence, but our precious Husband knows our silly hearts too well to take any offence at our ill manners.
If He were as easily provoked as we are, who among us could hope for a comfortable look or a kind salutation? but He is "ready to pardon, . . . slow to anger." (Neh. 9:17.) He is like Noah's sons, He goes backward, and throws a cloak over our nakedness; or we may compare Him to Apelles, who, when he painted Alexander, put his finger over the scar on the cheek, that it might not be seen in the picture. "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel" (Num. 23:21); and hence He is able to commune with the erring sons of men.
But the question returns,How is this? Can it be explained, so as not to clash with the most evident fact that sin remaineth even in the hearts of the regenerate? Can our own daily bewailings of sin allow of anything like perfection as a present attainment? The Lord Jesus saith it, and therefore it must be true; but in what sense is it to be understood? How are we "all fair" though we ourselves feel that we are black, because the sun hath looked upon us? (Sol. Song 1:6.) The answer is ready, if we consider the analogy of faith.
1. In the matter of justification, the saints are complete and without sin. As Durham says, these words are spoken "in respect of the imputation of Christ's righteousness wherewith they are adorned, and which they have put on, which makes them very glorious and lovely, so that they are beautiful beyond all others, through His comeliness put upon them."
And Dr. Gill excellently expresses the same idea, when he writes, "though all sin is seen by God, in articulo providentiae, in the matter of providence, wherein nothing escapes His all-seeing eye; yet in articula iustificationis, in the matter of justification, He sees no sin in His people, so as to reckon it to them, or condemn them for it; for they all stand 'holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.'" (Col. 1:22.) The blood of Jesus removes all stain, and His righteousness confers perfect beauty; and, therefore, in the Beloved, the true believer is at this hour as much accepted and approved, in the sight of God, as He will be when He stands before the throne in heaven. The beauty of justification is at its fulness the moment a soul is by faith received into the Lord Jesus. This is righteousness so transcendent that no one can exaggerate its glorious merit. Since this righteousness is that of Jesus, the Son of God, it is therefore divine, and is, indeed, the holiness of God; and, hence, Kent was not too daring when, in a bold flight of rapture, he sang,
His dear hands were pierced for thee;
With His spotless vesture on,
Holy as the Holy One.
"Oh, the heights and depths of grace,
Shining with meridian blaze;
Here the sacred records show
Sinners black, but comely too!"
2. But perhaps it is best to understand this as relating to the design of Christ concerning them. It is His purpose to present them without "spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." (Eph. 5:27.) They shall be holy and unblameable and unreproveable in the sight of the Omniscient God. In prospect of this, the Church is viewed as being virtually what she is soon to be actually. Nor is this a frivolous antedating of her excellence; for be it ever remembered that the Representative, in whom she is accepted, is actually complete in all perfections and glories at this very moment. As the Head of the body is already without sin, being none other than the Lord from heaven, it is but in keeping that the whole body should be pronounced comely and fair through the glory of the Head. The fact of her future perfection is so certain that it is spoken of as if it were already accomplished, and indeed it is so in the mind of Him to whom a thousand years are but as one day. "Christ often expounds an honest believer, from His own heart, purpose and design; in which respect they get many titles, otherwise unsuitable to their present condition. (Durham.) Let us magnify the name of our Jesus, who loves us so well that He will overleap the dividing years of our pilgrimage, that He may give us even now the praise which seems to be only fitted for the perfection of Paradise. As Erskine sings,
Yet such thy beauties be,
I spoke but half thy comely form;
Thou'rt wholly fair to Me.
"Whole justified, in perfect dress;
"Yea, sanctified in ev'ry part,
"Fair love, by grace complete in Me,
II. OUR LORD'S ADMIRATION IS SWEETENED BY LOVE. He addresses the spouse as "My love." The virgins called her "the fairest among women "; they saw and admired, but it was reserved for her Lord to love her. Who can fully tell the excellence of His love? Oh, how His heart goeth forth after His redeemed! As for the love of David and Jonathan, it is far exceeded in Christ. No tender husband was ever so fond as He. No figures can completely set forth His heart's affection, for it surpasses all the love that man or woman hath heard or thought of. Our blessed Lord, Himself, when He would declare the greatness of it, was compelled to compare one inco nceivable thing with another, in order to express His own thoughts. "As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you." (John 15:9.) All the eternity, fervency, immutability, and infinity which are to be found in the love of Jehovah the Father, towards Jehovah-Jesus the Son, are copied to the letter in the love of the Lord Jesus towards His chosen ones. Before the foundation of the world He loved His people, in all their wanderings He loved them, and unto the end He will abide in His love. (John 13:1.) He has given them the best proof of His affection, in that He gave Himself to die for their sins, and hath revealed to them complete pardon as the result of His death. The willing manner of His death is further confirmation of His boundless love. How Christ did delight in the work of our redemption! "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God." (Psalm 40:7-8.) When He came into the world to sacrifice His life for us, it was a freewill offering. "I have a baptism to be baptized with." (Luke 12:50.) Christ was to be, as it were, baptized in His own blood, and how did He thirst for that time! "How am I straitened till it be accomplished." There was no hesitation, no desire to be quit of His engagement. He went to His crucifixion without once halting by the way to deliberate whether He should complete His sacrifice. The stupendous mass of our fearful debt He paid at once, asking neither delay nor diminution. From the moment when He said, "Not My will, but Thine, be done" (Luke 22:42), His course was swift and unswerving; as if He had been hastening to a crown rather than to a cross. The fulness of time was His only remembrancer; He was not driven by bailiffs to discharge the obligations of His Church, but joyously, even when full of sorrow, He met the law, answered its demands, and cried, "It is finished."
How hard it is to talk of love so as to convey out meaning with it! How often have our eyes been full of tears when we have realized the thought that Jesus loves us! How has our spirit been melted within us at the assurance that He thinks of us and bears us on His heart! But we cannot kindle the like emotion in others, nor can we give, by word of mouth, so much as a faint idea of the bliss which coucheth in that exclamation, "Oh, how He loves!" Come, reader, canst thou say of thyself, "He loved me"? (Gal. 2:20.) Then look down into this sea of love, and endeavour to guess its depth. Doth it not stagger thy faith, that He should love thee? Or, if thou hast strong confidence, say, does it not enfold thy spirit in a flame of admiring and adoring gratitude? O ye angels, such love as this ye never knew! Jesus doth not bear your names upon His hands, or call you His bride. No! this highest fellowship he reserves for worms whose only return is tearful, hearty thanksgiving and love.
III. LET US NOTE THAT CHRIST DELIGHTS TO THINK UPON HIS CHURCH, AND TO LOOK UPON HER BEAUTY. As the bird returneth often to its nest, and as the wayfarer hastens to his home, so doth the mind continually pursue the object of its choice. We cannot look too often upon that face which we love; we desire always to have our precious things in our sight. It is even so with our Lord Jesus. From all eternity, "His delights were with the sons of men;" His thoughts rolled onward to the time when His elect should be born into the world; He viewed them in the mirror of His fore-knowledge. "In thy book," He says, "all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." (Ps. 139:16.) When the world was set upon its pillars, He was there, and He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. Many a time, before His incarnation, He descended to this earth in the similitude of a man; on the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18), by the brook of Jabbok (Gen. 32:24-30), beneath the walls of Jericho (Josh. 5:13), and in the fiery furnace of Babylon (Dan. 3:19-25), the Son of man did visit His people. Because His soul delighted in them, He could not rest away from them, for His heart longed after them. Never were they absent from His heart, for He had written their names upon His hands, and graven them upon His heart. As the breast-plate containing the names of the tribes of Israel was the most brilliant ornament worn by the high priest, so the names of Christ's elect were His most precious Jewels, which He ever hung nearest His heart. We may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. He cares not one half so much for any of His most glorious works as He does for His children. Although His eye seeth everything that hath beauty and excellence in it, He never fixes His gaze anywhere with that admiration and delight which He spends upon His purchased ones. He charges His angels concerning them, and calls upon those holy beings to rejoice with Him over His lost sheep. (Luke 15:4-7.) He talked of them to Himself, and even on the tree of doom He did not cease to soliloquize concerning them. He saw of the travail of His soul, and He was abundantly satisfied.
Was, notwithstanding, in a perfect sense,
'The day of His heart's gladness,' for the joy
That His redeem'd should be brought home at last
(Made ready as in robes of bridal white),
Was set before Him vividly,He look'd;
And for that happiness anticipate,
Endurance of all torture, all disgrace,
Seem'd light infliction to His heart of love."
Like a fond mother, Christ Jesus, our thrice-blessed Lord, sees every dawning of excellence, and every bud of goodness in us, making much of our litties, and rejoicing over the beginnings of our graces. As He is to be our endless song, so we are His perpetual prayer. When He is absent He thinks of us, and in the black darkness He has a window through which He looks upon us. When the sun sets in one part of the earth, he rises in another place beyond our visible horizon; and even so Jesus, our Sun of Righteousness, is only pouring light upon His people in a different way, when to our apprehension He seems to have set in darkness. His eye is ever upon the vineyard, which is His Church: "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." (Isa. 27:3.) He will not trust to His angels to do it, for it is His delight to do all with His own hands. Zion is in the centre of His heart, and He cannot forget her, for every day His thoughts are set upon her. When the bride by her neglect of Him hath hidden herself from His sight, He cannot be quiet until again He looks upon her. He calls her forth with the most wooing words, "O My dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let Me see thy countenance; let Me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely." (Sol. Song 2:14.) She thinks herself unmeet to keep company with such a Prince, but He entices her from her lurking-place, and inasmuch as she comes forth trembling, and bashfully hides her face with her veil, He bids her uncover her face, and let her Husband gaze upon her. She is ashamed to do so, for she is black in her own esteem, and therefore He urges that she is comely to Him.
Nor is He content with looking, He must feed His ears as well as His eyes, and therefore He commends her speech, and intreats her to let Him hear her voice. See how truly our Lord rejoiceth in us. Is not this unparalleled love! We have heard of princes who have been smitten by the beauty of a peasant's daughter, but what of that? Here is the Son of God doting upon a worm, looking with eyes of admiration upon a poor child of Adam, and listening with joy to the lispings of poor flesh and blood. Ought we not to be exceedingly charmed by such matchless condescension? And should not our hearts as much delight in Him as He doth in us? O surprising truth! Christ Jesus rejoices over His poor, tempted, tried, and erring people.
IV. IT IS NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN THAT SOMETIMES THE LORD JESUS TELLS HIS PEOPLE HIS LOVE THOUGHTS. "He does not think it enough behind her back to tell it, but in her very presence, He says, 'Thou art all fair, My love.' It is true, this is not His ordinary method; He is a wise lover, that knows when to keep back the intimation of love, and when to let it out; but there are times when He will make no secret of it; times when He will put it beyond all dispute in the souls of His people."
The Holy Spirit is often pleased in a most gracious manner to witness with our spirits of the love of Jesus. He takes of the things of Christ, and reveals them unto us. No voice is heard from the clouds, and no vision is seen in the night, but we have a testimony more sure than either of these. If an angel should fly from heaven, and inform the saint personally of the Saviour's love to him, the evidence would not be one whir more satisfactory than that which is borne in the heart by the Holy Ghost. Ask those of the Lord's people who have lived the nearest to the gates of heaven, and they will tell you that they have had seasons when the love of Christ towards them has been a fact so clear and sure, that they could no more doubt it than they could question their own existence.
Yes, beloved believer, you and I have had times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and then our faith has mounted to the topmost heights of assurance. We have had confidence to lean our heads upon the bosom of our Lord, and we have had no more question about our Master's affection than John had when in that blessed posture, nay, nor so much; for the dark question, "Lord, is it I that shall betray Thee?" has been put far from us. He has kissed us with the kisses of His love, and killed our doubts by the closeness of His embrace. His love has been sweeter than wine to our souls. We felt that we could sing, "His left hand is under my head, and His right hand doth embrace me." (Sol. Song 8:3.) Then all earthly troubles were light as the chaff of the threshing-floor, and the pleasures of the world as tasteless as the white of an egg. We would have welcomed death as the messenger who would introduce us to our Lord to whom we were in haste to be gone; for His love had stirred us to desire more of Him, even His immediate and glorious presence. I have, sometimes, when the Lord has assured me of His love, felt as if I could not contain more joy and delight. My eyes ran down with tears of gratitude. I fell upon my knees to bless Him, but rose again in haste, feeling as if I had nothing more to ask for, but must stand up and praise Him; then have I lifted my hands to heaven, longing to fill my arms with Him; panting to talk with Him, as a man talketh with his friend, and to see Him in His own person, that I might tell Him how happy He had made His unworthy servant, and might fall on my face, and kiss His feet in unutterable thankfulness and love. Such a banquet have I had upon one word of my Beloved,"thou art Mine,"that I wished, like Peter, to build tabernacles in that mount, and dwell for ever. But, alas, we have not, all of us, yet learned how to preserve that blessed assurance. We stir up our Beloved and awake Him, then He leaves our unquiet chamber, and we grope after Him, and make many a weary journey trying to find Him.
If we were wiser and more careful, we might preserve the fragrance of Christ's words far longer; for they are not like the ordinary manna which soon rotted, but are comparable to that omer of it which was put in the golden pot, and preserved for many generations. The sweet Lord Jesus has been known to write his love-thoughts on the heart of His people in so clear and deep a manner, that they have for months, and even for years, enjoyed an abiding sense of His affection. A few doubts have flitted across their minds like thin clouds before a summer's sun, but the warmth of their assurance has remained the same for many a gladsome day. Their path has been a smooth one, they have fed in the green pastures beside the still waters, for His rod and staff have comforted them, and His right hand hath led them. I am inclined to think that there is more of this in the Church than some men would allow. We have a goodly number who dwell upon the hills, and behold the light of the sun. There are giants in these days, though the times are not such as to allow them room to display their gigantic strength; in many a humble cot, in many a crowded workshop, in many a village manse there are to be found men of the house of David, men after God's own heart, anointed with the holy oil. It is, however, a mournful truth, that whole ranks in the army of our Lord are composed of dwarfish Littlefaiths. The men of fearful mind and desponding heart are everywhere to be seen. Why is this? Is it the Master's fault, or ours? Surely He cannot be blamed. Is it not then a matter of enquiry in our own souls, Can I not grow stronger? Must I be a m ourner all my days? How can I get rid of my doubts? The answer must be: yes, you can be comforted, but only the mouth of the Lord can do it, for anything less than this will be unsatisfactory.
I doubt not that there are means, by the use of which those who are now weak and trembling may attain unto boldness in faith and confidence in hope; but I see not how this can be done unless the Lord Jesus Christ manifest His love to them, and tell them of their union to Him. This He will do, if we seek it of Him. The importunate pleader shall not lack his reward. Haste thee to Him, O timid one, and tell Him that nothing will content thee but a smile from His own face, and a word from His own lips! Speak to Him, and say, "O my Lord Jesus, I cannot rest unless I know that Thou lovest me! I desire to have proof of Thy love under Thine own hand and seal. I cannot live upon guesses and surmises; nothing but certainty will satisfy my trembling heart. Lord, look upon me, if, indeed, Thou lovest me, and though I be less than the least of all saints, say unto my soul, 'I am thy salvation.'" When this prayer is heard, the castle of despair must totter; there is not one stone of it which can remain upon another, if Christ whispers forth His love. Even Despondency and Much-afraid will dance, and Ready-to-Halt leap upon his crutches.
Oh, for more of these Bethel visits, more frequent visitations from the God of Israel! Oh, how sweet to hear Him say to us, as He did to Abraham, "Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." (Gen. 15:1.) To be addressed as Daniel was of old, "O man greatly beloved" (Dan. 10:19), is worth a thousand ages of this world's joy. What more can a creature want this side of heaven to make him peaceful and happy than a plain avowal of love from his Lord's own lips? Let me ever hear Thee, speak in mercy to my soul, and, O my Lord, I ask no more while here I dwell in the land of my pilgrimage!
Brethren, let us labour to obtain a confident assurance of the Lord's delight in us, for this, as it enables Him to commune with us, will be one of the readiest ways to produce a like feeling in our hearts towards Him. Christ is well pleased with us; let us approach Him with holy familiarity; let us unbosom our thoughts to Him, for His delight in us will secure us an audience. The child may stay away from the father, when he is conscious that he has aroused his father's displeasure, but why should we keep at a distance when Christ Jesus is smiling upon us? No! since His smiles attract us, let us enter into His courts, and touch His golden sceptre. O Holy Spirit, help us to live in happy fellowship with Him whose soul is knit unto us!
On Thy transporting name. * * *
Let me be wholly Thine from this blest hour.
Let me be wholly Thine from this blest hour.
A COMMUNION ADDRESS AT MENTONE.
"Yea, He is altogether lovely."Solomon's Song 5:16.
HE soul that is familiar with the Lord worships Him in the outer court of nature, wherein it admires His works, and is charmed by every thought of what He must be who made them all. When that soul enters the nearer circle of inspiration, and reads the wonderful words of God, it is still more enraptured, and its admiration is heightened. In revelation, we see the same all-glorious Lord as in creation, but the vision is more clear, and the consequent love is more intense.
All His love and loveliness;
But I lisp, and falter forth
Broken words, not half His worth.
"Vex'd, I try and try again,
Still my efforts all are vain:
Living tongues are dumb at best,
We must die to speak of Christ."
"He is altogether lovely." Do we not feel an inexpressible admiration for Him? There is none like unto Thee, O Son of God!
Still, our paramount emotion is not admiration, but affection. "He is altogether"not beautiful, nor admirable,but "lovely." All His beauties are loving beauties towards us, and beauties which draw our hearts towards Him in humble love. He charms us, not by a cold comeliness, but by a living loveliness, which wins our hearts. His is an approachable beauty, which not only overpowers us with its glory, but holds us captive by its charms. We love Him: we cannot do otherwise, for "He is altogether lovely." He has within Himself and unquenchable flame of love, which sets our soul on fire. He is all love, and all the love in the world is less than His. Put together all the loves of husband wives, parents, children, brothers, sisters, and they only make a drop compared with His great deeps of love, unexplored and unexplorable. This love of His has a wonderful power to beget love in unlovely hearts, and to nourish it into a mighty force. "It is a torrent which sweeps all before it when its founts break forth within the soul. It is a Gulf Stream in which all icebergs melt. When our heart is full of love to Jesus, His loveliness becomes the passion of the soul, and sin and self are swept away. May we feel it now!
There He stands: we know Him by the thorn-crown, and the wounds, and the visage more marred than that of any man! He suffered all this for us. O Son of man! O Son of God! With the spouse, we feel, in the inmost depths of our soul, that Thou art "altogether lovely."
II. Now would I lift the veil a second time, with deep solemnity, not so much to suggest emotions as to secure your intelligent assurance of the fact that "He is altogether lovely." We say this WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. The spouse places a "Yea" before her enthusiastic declaration, because she is sure of it. She sees her Beloved, and sees Him to be altogether lovely. This is no fiction, no dream, no freak of imagination, no outburst of partiality. The highest love to Christ does not make us speak more than the truth; we are as reasonable when we are filled with love to Him as ever we were in our lives; nay, never are we more reasonable than when we are carried clean away by a clear perception of His superlative excellence.
Let us meditate upon the proof of our assertion. "He is altogether lovely" in His person. He is God. The glory of Godhead I must leave in lowly silence. Yet is our Jesus also man, more emphatically man than any one here present this afternoon, for we are English, American, French, German, Dutch, Russian; but Christ is man, the second Adam, the Head of the race: as truly as He is very God of very God, so is He man, of the substance of His mother. What a marvellous union! The miracle of miracles! In his incomparible personality He is altogether lovely; for in Him we see how God comes down to man in condescension, and how man goes up to God in close relationship. There is no other such as He, in all respects, even in heaven itself: in His personality He must ever stand alone, in the eyes of both God and man, "altogether lovely."
As for His character, time would fail us to enter upon that vast subject; but the more we know of the character of our Lord, and the more we grow like Him, the more lovely will it appear to us. In all aspects, it is lovely; in all its minutiae and details, it is perfect; and as a whole, it is perfection's model. Take any one action of His, look into its mode, its spirit, its motive, and all else that can be revealed by a microscopic examination, and it is "altogether lovely." Consider his life, as a whole, in reference to God, to man, to His friends, to His foes, to those around Him, and to the ages yet to be, and you shall find it absolutely perfect. More than that: there is such a thing as a cold perfection, with which one can find no fault, and yet it commands no love; but in Christ, our Well-beloved, every part of His character attracts. To a true heart, the life of Christ is as much an object of love as of reverence: "He is altogether lovely." We must love that which we see in Him: admiration is not the word. When cold critics commend Him, their praise is half an insult: what know these frozen hearts of our Beloved? As for a word against Him, it wounds us to the soul. Even an omission of His praise is a torture to us. If we hear a sermon which has no Christ in it, we weary of it. If we read a book that contains a slighting syllable of Him, we abhor it. He, Himself, has become everything to us now, and only in the atmosphere of fervent love to Him can we feel at home.
Passing from His character to His sacrifice; there especially "He is altogether lovely." You may have read "Rutherford's Letters "; I hope you have. How wondrously he writes, when he describes his Lord in garments red from His sweat of blood, and with hands bejewelled with His wounds! When we view His body taken down from the cross, all pale and deathly, and wrapped in the cerements of the grave, we see a strange beauty in Him. He is to us never more lovely than when we read in our Beloved's white and red that His Sacrifice is accomplished, and He has been obedient unto death for us. In Him, as the sacrifice once offered, we see our pardon, our life, our heaven, our all. So lovely is Christ in His sacrifice, that He is for ever most pleasing to the great Judge of all, ay, so lovely to His Father, that He makes us also lovely to God the Father, and we are "accepted in the Beloved." His sacrifice has such merit and beauty in the sight of heaven, that in Him God is well pleased, and guilty men become in Him pleasant unto the Lord. Is not His sacrifice most sweet to us? Here our guilty conscience finds peace; here we see ourselves made comely in His comeliness. We cannot stand at Calvary, and see the Saviour die, and hear Him cry, "It is finished," without feeling that "He is altogether lovely." Forgive me that I speak so coolly! I dare not enter fully into a theme which would pull up the sluices of my heart.
Remember what He was when He rose from the grave on the third day. Oh, to have seen Him in the freshness of His resurrection beauty! And what will He be in His glory, when He comes again the second time, and all His holy angels with Him, when He shall sit upon the throne of His glory, and heaven and earth shall flee away before His face? To His people He will then be "altogether lovely." Angels will adore Him, saints made perfect will fall on their faces before Him; and we ourselves shall feel that, at last, our heaven is complete. We shall see Him, and being like Him, we shall be satisfied.
Every feature of our Lord is lovely. You cannot think of anything that has to do with Him which is unworthy of our praise. All over glorious is our Lord. The spouse speaks of His head, His locks, His eyes, His cheeks, His lips, His hands, His legs, His countenance, His mouth; and when she has mentioned them all, she sums up with reference to all by saying, "Yea, He is altogether lovely."
There is nothing unlovely about Him. Certain persons would be beautiful were it not for a wound or a bruise, but our Beloved is all the more lovely for His wounds; the marring of His countenance has enhanced its charms. His scars are, for glory and for beauty, the jewels of our King. To us He is lovely even from that side which others dread: His very frown has comfort in it to His saints, since He only frowns on evil. Even His feet, which are "like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace," are lovely to us for His sake; these are His poor saints, who are sorely tried, but are able to endure the fire. Everything of Christ, everything that partakes of Christ, everything that hath a flavour or savour of Christ, is lovely to us.
There is nothing lacking about His loveliness. Some would be very lovely were there a brightness in their eyes, or a colour in their countenances: but something is away. The absence of a tooth or of an eyebrow may spoil a countenance, but in Christ Jesus there is no omission of excellence. Everything that should be in Him is in Him; everything that is conceivable in perfection is present to perfection in Him.
In Him is nothing excessive. Many a face has one feature in it which is overdone; but in our Lord's character everything is balanced and proportionate. You never find His kindness lessening His holiness, nor His holiness eclipsing His wisdom, nor His wisdom abating His courage, nor His courage injuring His meekness. Everything is in our Lord that should be there, and everything in due measure. Like rare spices, mixed after the manner of the apothecary, our Lord's whole person, and character, and sacrifice, are as incense sweet unto the Lord.
Neither is there anything in our Lord which is incongruous with the rest . In each one of us there is, at least, a little that is out of place. We could not be fully described without the use of a "but." If we could all look within, and see ourselves as God sees us, we should note a thousand matters, which we now permit, which we should never allow again. But in the Well-beloved all is of a piece, all is lovely; and when the sum of the whole is added up, it comes to an absolute perfection of loveliness: "Yea, He is altogether lovely."
We are sure that the Lord Jesus must be Himself exceedingly lovely, since He gives loveliness to His people. Many saints are lovely in their lives; one reads biographies of good men and women which make us wish to grow like them; yet all the loveliness of all the most holy among men has come from Jesus their Lord, and is a copy of His perfect beauty. Those who write well do so because He sets the copy.
What is stranger and more wonderful still, our Lord Jesus makes sinners lovely. In their natural state, men are deformed and hideous to the eye of God; and as they have no love to God, so He has no delight in them. He is weary of them, and is grieved that He made men upon the earth. The Lord is angry with the wicked every day. Yet, when our Lord Jesus comes in, and covers these sinful ones with His righteousness, and, at the same time, infuses into them His life, the Lord is well pleased with them for His Son's sake. Even in heaven, the infinite Jehovah sees nothing which pleases Him like His Son. The Father from eternity loved His Only-begotten, and again and again He hath said of Him, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." What higher encomium can be passed upon Him?
If we had time to think over this subject, we should say of our Lord that He is lovely in every office. He is the most admirable Priest, and King, and Prophet that ever yet exercised the office. He is a lovely Shepherd of a chosen flock, a lovely Friend, lovely Husband, a lovely Brother: He is admirable in every position that He occupies for our sakes.
Our Lord's loveliness appears in every condition: in the manger, or in the temple; by the well, or on the sea; in the garden, or on the cross; in the tomb, or in the resurrection; in His first, or in His second coming. He is not as the herb, which flowers only at one season; or as the tree, which loses its leaves in winter; or as the moon, which waxes and wanes; or as the sea, which ebbs and flows. In every condition, and at every time, "He is altogether lovely."
He is lovely, whichever way we look at Him. If we view Him as in the past, entering into a covenant of peace on our behalf; or, in the present, yielding Himself to us as Intercessor, Representative, and Forerunner; or, in the future, coming, reigning, and glorifying His people; "He is altogether lovely." Behold Him from heaven, view Him from the gates of hell, regard Him as he goes before, look up to Him as He sits above; He is as beautiful from one point of view as from another; "Yea, He is altogether lovely." Wherever we may be, He is the same in His perfection. How lovely He was to my eyes when I was sinking in despair! To see Him suffering for my sin upon the tree, was as the opening of the gates of the morning to my darkened soul. How lovely He is to us when we are sick, and the hours of night seem lengthened into days! "He giveth songs in the night." How lovely has He been to us when the world has frowned, and friends have forsaken, and worldly goods have been scant! To see "the King in His beauty" is a sight sufficient, even if we never saw another ray of comfort. How blessed, when we lie dying, to hear Him say, "I am the resurrection and the life"! Mark that word; He says not, "I will give you resurrection and life," but, "I am the resurrection and the life." Blessed are the eyes which can see that in Jesus which is really in Him. When we think of seeing Him as He is, and being like Him, how heaven approaches us! We shall soon behold the beatific vision, of which He will be the centre and the sun. At the thought thereof our soul takes wing, and our imagination soars aloft, while our faith, with eagle eye, beholds the glory. As we think of that glad period, when we shall be with our Beloved for ever, we are ready to swoon away with delight. It is near, far nearer than we think.
III. The little time which we can give to this meditation has run out, and therefore I hasten to a close. I have bidden you look at our Lord as "altogether lovely" with reverent emotions, and with absolute certainty. Now, to conclude, think of Him WITH PRACTICAL RESULTS. "He is altogether lovely." What shall we do for this chief among ten thousand?
First, we will tell others of Him. For that cause was our text spoken. The daughters of Jerusalem asked the spouse, "What is thy Beloved more than another beloved?" Her answer is here: "He is altogether lovely." It is a great joy to praise our Lord to enquiring minds. We, who are preachers, have a glorious time of it when we extol our Lord. If we had nothing to do but to preach Christ, and had no discipline to administer, no sin to battle with, no doubts to drive away, we should have a heavenly service. For my part, I wish I could be bound over to play only upon this one string. Paul did well when he turned ignoramus, and determined to know nothing among the Corinthians save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. As the harp of Anacreon would resound love alone, so would I have but one sole subject for my ministry,the love and loveliness of my Lord. Then to speak would be its own reward; and to study and prepare discourses would be only a phase of rest. Fain would I make my whole ministry to speak of Christ and His surpassing loveliness.
You who are not preachers cannot do better than speak much of Jesus, as opportunity offers. Make Him the theme of conversation. People talk about ministers; but we beg you to talk of our Master. Our undecided neighbours are always talking of hypocrites and inconsistent professors; but we would say to them, "Never mind about His followers: talk about the Master Himself." His followers, by themselves considered, never were worth your words; but what a theme is this,"He is altogether lovely "! Our Lord's people are far worthier than the world thinks them to be; for my part, I rejoice in the many gracious and beautiful characters with which I meet, but even if all the ill reports we hear were true, this would not detract from the loveliness of our Lord, who is infinitely beyond all praise.
The next practical result of viewing the loveliness of our blessed Lord is, that we appropriate Him to ourselves, grasping Him with our two hands of faith and love, and making the rest of the verse to be our own: "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem!" Since He is so amiable, He must be "my Beloved"; my heart clings to Him. Since He is admirable, I rejoice that He is "my Friend"; my soul trusts in Him. The heart that most appreciates Jesus is the most eager to appropriate Him. He who beholds Jesus as "altogether lovely "will never rest till he is altogether sure that Jesus is altogether his own. I think I may also add that appreciation is in great measure the seal of appropriation, for the soul that values Christ most is the soul that hath most surely taken possession of Christ. Sometimes a heart prizes the Lord very highly, and tremblingly longs for Him; but it is my conviction that the very fact of prizing Him argues a measure of possession of Him. Jesus never wins a heart to which He refuses His love. If thou lovest Him, He loves thee: be sure of that. No soul ever cries, "Yea, He is altogether lovely," without sooner or later adding, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend."
Rest not, any one of you, till you know of a surety that Jesus is yours. Do not be content with a hope, struggle after the full assurance of faith. This is to be had, and you ought not to be content without it. It may be your lifelong song, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His." You need not pine in the shade: the sun is shining, "walk in the light." Away with the idea that we cannot know whether we are condemned or forgiven, in Christ or out of Him! We may know, we must know; and, as we appreciate our Lord, we shall know. Either Jesus is ours, or He is not. If He is, let us rejoice in the priceless possession. If He is not ours, let us at once lay hold upon Him by faith; for, the moment we trust Him, He is ours. The enjoyment of religion lies in assurance: a mere hope is scant diet.
Once more, it is a fair fruit of our delight in our Lord that our valuation of Him becomes a bond of union between us and others. The spouse cries, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem!" and they reply, "Whither is thy Beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither is thy Beloved turned aside, that we may seek Him with thee?" Thus, you see, they institute a companionship through the Well-beloved. Few of us, in this room, would ever have known each other, had it not been for our common admiration of the Lord Jesus. We should have gone on walking past each other by the sea to this day, and we should have missed much cheering fellowship. Our Lord has become our centre; we meet in Him, and feel that in Him we are partakers of one life. We seek our Well-beloved together, and around His table we find Him together; and finding Him, we have found one another, and the lost jewel of Christian love glitters on every bosom. We have differing views on certain parts of divine truth; and I do not know that it is wrong for us to differ where the Holy Spirit has left truth without rigidly defining it. We are bound each one devoutly to use his judgment in the interpretation of the Sacred Word; but we all agree in this one clear judgment: "Yea, He is altogether lovely. "This is the point of union. Those who enthusiastically love the same person are on the way to loving each other. This is growingly our case; and it is the same with all spiritual people. Professors quarrel, but possessors are at one. We hear much discourse upon "the Unity of the Church" as a thing to be desired, and we may heartily agree with it; but it would be well also to remember that in the true Church of Christ real union already exists. Our Lord prayed for those whom the Father had given Him, that they might be one, and the Father granted the prayer: the Lord's own people are one. In this room we have an example of how closely we are united in Christ. Some of you are more at home in this assembly, taken out of all churches, than you are in the churches to which you nominally belong. Our union in one body as Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, or Independents, is not the thing which our Lord prayed for; but our union in Himself. That union we do at this moment enjoy; and therefore do we eat of one bread, and drink of one cup, and are baptized into one Spirit, at His feet who is to each one of us, and so to all of us, ALTOGETHER LOVELY.
All His heavenly beauties shine;
Nature can't produce an object,
Nor so glorious, so divine;
He hath wholly
Won my soul to realms above.
"Farewell, all ye meaner creatures,
THE SPICED WINE OF MY POMEGRANATE;
OR, THE COMMUNION OF COMMUNICATION.
I would cause Thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate. "Solomon's Song 8:2.
HE immovable basis of communion having been laid of old in the eternal union which subsisted between Christ and His elect, it only needed a fitting occasion to manifest itself in active development. The Lord Jesus had for ever delighted Himself with the sons of men, and he ever stood prepared to reveal and communicate that delight to His people; but they were incapable of returning His affection or enjoying His fellowship, having fallen into a state so base and degraded, that they were dead to Him, and careless concerning Him. It was therefore needful that something should be done for them, and in them, before they could hold converse with Jesus, or feel concord with Him. This preparation being a work of grace and a result of previous union, Jesus determined that, even in the preparation for communio n, there should be communion. If they must be washed before they could fully converse with Him, He would commune with them in the washing; and if they must be enriched by gifts before they could have full access to Him, He would commune with them in the giving. He has therefore established a fellowship in imparting His grace, and in partaking of it.
More greedy by fruition; what I get
Serves but to set
An edge upon my appetite;
And all Thy gifts invite
My pray'rs for more."
Cry out to the Lord Jesus to fill the dry beds of thy rivers until they overflow, and then empty thou the channels which have hitherto been filled with thine own self-sufficiency, and beseech Him to fill these also with His superabundant grace. If thy heavy trials sink thee deeper in the flood of His consolations, be glad of them; and if thy vessel shall be sunken up to its very bulwarks, be not afraid. I would be glad to feel the mast-head of my soul twenty fathoms beneath the surface of such an ocean; for, as Rutherford said, "Oh, to be over the ears in this well! I would not have Christ's love entering into me, but I would enter into it, and be swallowed up of that love." Cultivate an insatiable hunger and a quenchless thirst for this communion with Jesus through His communications. Let thine heart cry for ever, "Give, give," until it is filled in Paradise.
Brought into fellowship with Him and His,
And feasting with Him in His house of wine,
I'm sick of love,and yet I pant for more
Communications from my loving Lord.
Stay me with flagons full of choicest wine,
Press'd from His heart upon Mount Calvary,
To cheer and comfort my love-conquer'd soul.
* * *Thyself I crave!
Thy presence is my life, my joy, my heav'n,
And all, without Thyself, is dead to me.
Stay me with flagons, Saviour, hear my cry,
Let promises, like apples, comfort me;
Apply atoning blood, and cov'nant love,
Until I see Thy face among the guests
Who in Thy Father's kingdom feast."
(Nymphas, by JOSEPH IRONS.)
This is the only covetousness which is allowable: but this is not merely beyond rebuke, it is worthy of commendation. O saints, be not straitened in your own bowels, but enlarge your desires, and so receive more of your Saviour's measureless fulness! I charge thee, my soul, thus to hold continual fellowship with thy Lord, since He invites and commands thee thus to partake of His riches.
Rejoice thyself in benefits received. Let the satisfaction of thy spirit overflow in streams of joy. When the believer reposes all his confidence in Christ, and delights himself in Him, there is an exercise of communion. If he forgetteth his psalm-book, and instead of singing is found lamenting, the mercies of the day will bring no communion. Awake, O music! stir up thyself, O my soul, be glad in the Lord, and exceedingly rejoice! Behold His favours, rich, free, and continual; shall they be buried in unthankfulness? Shall they be covered with a winding-sheet of ingratitude? No! I will praise Him. I must extol Him. Sweet Lord Jesus, let me kiss the dust of Thy feet, let me lose myself in thankfulness, for Thy thoughts unto me are precious, how great is the sum of them! Lo, I embrace Thee in the arms of joy and gratitude, and herein I find my soul drawn unto Thee!
This is a blessed method of fellowship. It is kissing the divine lip of benediction with the sanctified lip of affection. Oh, for more rejoicing grace, more of the songs of the heart, more of the melody of the soul!
Seek to recognize the source of thy mercies as lying alone in Him who is our Head. Imitate the chicken, which, every time it drinketh of the brook, lifts up its head to heaven, as if it would return thanks for every drop. If we have anything that is commendable and gracious, it must come from the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is first bestowed on Jesus, and then through Him on us. The oil was first poured on the head of Aaron, and thence it ran down upon his garments. Look on the drops of grace, and remember that they distil from the Head, Christ Jesus. All thy rays are begotten by this Sun of Righteousness, all thy showers are poured from this heaven, all thy fountains spring from this great and immeasurable depth. Oh, for grace to see the hand of Jesus on every favour! So will communion be constantly and firmly in exercise. May the great Teacher perpetually direct us to Jesus by making the mercies of the covenant the handposts on the road which leadeth to Him. Happy is the believer who knows how to find the secret abode of his Beloved by tracking the footsteps of His loving providence: herein is wisdom which the casual observer of mere second causes can never reach. Labour, O Christian, to follow up every clue which thy Master's grace affords thee!
Labour to maintain a sense of thine entire dependence upon His good will and pleasure for the continuance of thy richest enjoyments. Never try to live on the old manna, nor seek to find help in Egypt. All must come from Jesus, or thou art undone for ever. Old anointings will not suffice to impart unction to our spirit; thine head must have fresh oil poured upon it from the golden horn of the sanctuary, or it will cease from its glory. To-day thou mayest be upon the summit of the mount of God; but He who has put thee there must keep thee there, or thou wilt sink far more speedily than thou dreamest. Thy mountain only stands firm when He settles it in its place; if He hide His face, thou wilt soon be troubled. If the Saviour should see fit, there is not a window through which thou seest the light of heaven which he could not darken in an instant. Joshua bade the sun stand still, but Jesus can shroud it in total darkness. He can withdraw the joy of thine heart, the light of thine eyes, and the strength of thy life; in His hand thy comforts lie, and at His will they can depart from thee. Oh! how rich the grace which supplies us so continually, and doth not refrain itself because of our ingratitude! O Lord Jesus, we would bow at Thy feet, conscious of our utter inability to do aught without Thee, and in every favour which we are privileged to receive, we would adore Thy blessed name, and acknowledge Thine unexhausted love!
When thou hast received much, admire the all-sufficiency which still remaineth undiminished, thus shall you commune with Christ, not only in what you obtain from Him, but also in the superabundance which remains treasured up in Him. Let us ever remember that giving does not impoverish our Lord. When the clouds, those wandering cisterns of the skies, have poured floods upon the dry ground, there remains an abundance in the storehouse of the rain: so in Christ there is ever an unbounded supply, though the most liberal showers of grace have fallen ever since the foundation of the earth. The sun is as bright as ever after all his shining, and the sea is quite as full after all the clouds have been drawn from it: so is our Lord Jesus ever the same overflowing fountain of fulness. All this is ours, and we may make it the subject of rejoicing fellowship. Come, believer, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for as far as the eye can reach, the land is thine, and far beyond the utmost range of thine observation it is thine also, the gracious gift of thy gracious Redeemer and Friend. Is there not ample space for fellowship here?
Regard every spiritual mercy as an assurance of the Lord's communion with thee. When the young man gives jewels to the virgin to whom he is affianced, she regards them as tokens of his delight in her. Believer, do the same with the precious presents of thy Lord. The common bounties of providence are shared in by all men, for the good Householder provides water for His swine as well as for His children: such things, therefore, are no proof of divine complacency. But thou hast richer food to eat; "the children's bread" is in thy wallet, and the heritage of the righteous is reserved for thee. Look, then, on every motion of grace in thine heart as a pledge and sign of the moving of thy Saviour's heart towards thee. There is His whole heart in the bowels of every mercy which He sends thee. He has impressed a kiss of love upon each gift, and He would have thee believe that every jewel of mercy is a token of His boundless love. Look on thine adoption, justification, and preservation, as sweet enticements to fellowship. Let every note of the promise sound in thine ears like the ringing of the bells of the house of thy Lord, inviting thee to come to the banquets of His love. Joseph sent to his father asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and good old Jacob doubtless regarded them as pledges of the love of his son's heart: be sure not to think less of the kindnesses of Jesus.
Study to know the value of His favours. They are no ordinary things, no paste jewels, no mosaic gold: they are every one of them so costly, that, had all heaven been drained of treasure, apart from the precious offering of the Redeemer, it could not have purchased so much as the least of His benefits. When thou seest thy pardon, consider how great a boon is contained in it! Bethink thee that hell had been thine eternal portion unless Christ had plucked thee from the burning! When thou art enabled to see thyself as clothed in the imputed righteousness of Jesus, admire the profusion of preci ous things of which thy robe is made. Think how many times the Man of sorrows wearied Himself at that loom of obedience in which He wove that matchless garment; and reckon, if thou canst, how many worlds of merit were cast into the fabric at every throw of the shuttle! Remember that all the angels in heaven could not have afforded Him a single thread which would have been rich enough to weave into the texture of His perfect righteousness. Consider the cost of thy maintenance for an hour; remember that thy wants are so large, that all the granaries of grace that all the saints could fill, could not feed thee for a moment.
What an expensive dependent thou art! King Solomon made marvellous provision for his household (1 Kings 4:22), but all his beeves and fine flour would be as the drop of the bucket compared with thy daily wants. Rivers of oil, and ten thousand rams or fed beasts, would not provide enough to supply the necessities of thy hungering soul. Thy least spiritual want demands infinity to satisfy it, and what must be the amazing aggregate of thy perpetually repeated draughts upon thy Lord! Arise, then, and bless thy loving Immanuel for the invaluable riches with which He has endowed thee. See what a dowry thy Bridegroom has brought to His poor, penniless spouse. He knows the value of the blessings which He brings thee, for He has paid for them out of His heart's richest blood; be not thou so ungenerous as to pass them over as if they were but of little worth. Poor men know more of the value of money than those who have always revelled in abundance of wealth. Ought not thy former poverty to teach thee the preciousness of the grace which Jesus gives thee? For remember, there was a time when thou wouldst have given a thousand worlds, if they had been thine, in order to procure the very least of His abundant mercies.
Remember how impossible it would have been for thee to receive a single spiritual blessing unless thou hadst been in Jesus. On none of Adam's race can the love of God be fixed, unless they are seen to be in union with His Son. No exception has ever been made to the universal curse on those of the first Adam's seed who have no interest in the second Adam. Christ is the only Zoar in which God's Lots can find a shelter from the destruction of Sodom. Out of Him, the withering blast of the fiery furnace of God's wrath consumes every green herb, and it is only in Him that the soul can live. As when the prairie is on fire, men see the heavens wrapped in sheets of flame, and in hot haste they fly before the devouring element. They have but one hope. There is in the distance a lake of water. They reach it, they plunge into it, and are safe. Although the skies are molten with the heat, the sun darkened with the smoke, and the earth utterly consumed in the fire, they know that they are secure while the cooling flood embraces them. Christ Jesus is the only escape for a sinner pursued by the fiery wrath of God, and we would have the believer remember this. Our own works could never shelter us, for they have proved but refuges of lies. Had they been a thousand times more and better, they would have been but as the spider's web, too flail to hang eternal interests upon. There was but one name, one sacrifice, one blood, by which we could escape. All other attempts at salvation were a grievous failure. For, "though a man could scourge out of his body rivers of blood, and in neglect of himself could outlast Moses or Elias; though he could wear out his knees with prayer, and had his eyes nailed on heaven; though he could build hospitals for all the poor on earth, and exhaust the mines of India in alms; though he could walk like an angel of light, and with the glittering of an outward holiness dazzle the eyes of all beholders; nay (if it were possible to be conceived) though he should live for a thousand years in a perfect and perpetual observation of the whole law of God, if the only exception to his perfection were the very least deviation from the law, yet such a man as this could no more appear before the tribunal of God's justice, than stubble before a consuming fire." How, then, with thine innumerable sins, couldst thou escape the damnation of hell, much less become the recipient of bounties so rich and large? Blessed window of heaven, sweet Lord Jesus, let Thy Church for ever adore Thee, as the only channel by which mercies can flow to her. My soul, give Him continual praise, for without Him thou hadst been poorer than a beggar. Be thou mindful, O heir of heaven, that thou couldst not have had one ray of hope, or one word of comfort, if thou hadst not been in union with Christ Jesus! The crumbs which fall from thy table are more than grace itself would have given thee, hadst thou not been in Jesus beloved and approved.
All thou hast, thou hast in Him: in Him chosen, in Him redeemed, in Him justified, in Him accepted. Thou art risen in Him, but without Him thou hadst died the second death. Thou art in Him raised up to the heavenly places, but out of Him thou wouldst have been damned eternally. Bless Him, then. Ask the angels to bless Him. Rouse all ages to a harmony of praise for His condescending love in taking poor guilty nothings into oneness with His all-adorable person. This is a blessed means of promoting communion, if the sacred Comforter is pleased to take of the things of Christ, and reveal them to us as ours, but only ours as we are in Him. Thrice-blessed Jesus, let us never forget that we are members of Thy mystical body, and that it is for this reason that we are blessed and preserved.
Meditate upon thee gracious acts which procured thy blessings. Consider the ponderous labours which thy Lord endured for thee, and the stupendous sufferings by which He purchased the mercies which He bestows. What human tongue can speak forth the unutterable misery of His heart, or describe so much as one of the agonies which crowded upon His soul? How much less shall any finite comprehension arrive at an idea of the vast total of His woe! But all His sorrows were necessary for thy benefit, and without them not one of thine unnumbered mercies could have been bestowed. Be not unmindful that
But cost His heart a groan."
Look upon the frozen ground of Gethsemane, and behold the bloody sweat which stained the soil! Turn to the hall of Gabbatha, and see the victim of justice pursued by His clamorous foes! Enter the guard-room of the Praetorians, and view the spitting, and the plucking of the hair! and then conclude your review upon Golgotha, the mount of doom, where death consummated His tortures; and if, by divine assistance thou art enabled to enter, in some humble measure, into the depths of thy Lord's sufferings, thou wilt be the better prepared to hold fellowship with Him when next thou receivest His priceless gifts. In proportion to thy sense of their costliness will be thy capacity for enjoying the love which is centred in them.
Above all, and chief of all, never forget that Christ is thine. Amid the profusion of His gifts, never forget that the chief gift is Himself, and do not forget that, after all, His gifts are but Himself. He clothes thee, but it is with Himself, with His own spotless righteousness and character. He washes thee, but His innermost self, His own heart's blood, is the stream with which the fountain overflows. He feeds thee with the bread of heaven, but be not unmindful that the bread is Himself, His own body which He gives to be the food of souls. Never be satisfied with a less communication than a whole Christ. A wife will not be put off with maintenance, jewels, and a ttire, all these will be nothing to her unless she can call her husband's heart and person her own. It was the Paschal lamb upon which the ancient Israelite did feast on that night that was never to be forgotten. So do thou feast on Jesus, and on nothing less than Jesus, for less than this will be food too light for thy soul's satisfaction. Oh, be careful to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and so receive Him into thyself in a real and spiritual manner, for nothing short of this will be an evidence of eternal life in thy soul!
What more shall we add to the rules which we have here delivered? There remains but one great exhortation, which must not be omitted. Seek the abundant assistance of the Holy Spirit to enable you to put into practice the things which we have said, for without His aid, all that we have spoken will but be tantalizing the lame with rules to walk, or the dying with regulations for the preservation of health. O thou Divine Spirit, while we enjoy the grace of Jesus, lead us into the secret abode of our Lord, that we may sup with Him, and He with us, and grant unto us hourly grace that we may continue in the company of our Lord from the rising to the setting of the sun! Amen.
THE WELL-BELOVED'S VINEYARD.
AN ADDRESS TO A LITTLE COMPANY OF BELIEVERS,
IN MR. SPURGEON'S OWN ROOM AT MENTONE.
"My Well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill."Isaiah 5:1.
E recognize at once that Jesus is here. Who but He can be meant by "My Well-beloved"? Here is a word of possession and a word of affection,He is mine, and my Well-beloved. He is loveliness itself, the most loving and lovable of beings; and we personally love Him with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength: He is ours, our Beloved, our Well- beloved, we can say no less.
Our raptured eyes and souls employs,
Here we could sit, and gaze away
A long, an everlasting day.
"Well, we shall quickly pass the night,
"There shall we drink full draughts of bliss,
REDEEMED SOULS FREED FROM FEAR.
A TALK WITH A FEW FRIENDS AT MENTONE.
"Fear not: for I have redeemed thee."Isaiah 43:1.
WAS lamenting this morning my unfitness for my work, and especially for the warfare to which I am called. A sense of heaviness came over me, but relief came very speedily, for which I thank the Lord. Indeed, I was greatly burdened, but the Lord succoured me. The first verse read at the Sabbath morning service exactly met my case. It is in Isaiah 43:1: "But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not." I said to myself, "I am what God created me, and I am what He formed me, and therefore I must, after all, be the right man for the place wherein He has put me." We may not blame our Creator, nor suspect that He has missed His mark in forming an instrument for His work. Thus new comfort comes to us. Not only do the operations of grace in the spiritual world yield us consolation, but we are even comforted by what the Lord has done in creation. We are told to cease from our fears; and we do so, since we perceive that it is the Lord that made us, and not we ourselves, and He will justify His own creating skill by accomplishing through us the purposes of His love. Pray, I beseech you, for me, the weakest of my Lord's servants, that I may be equal to the overwhelming task imposed upon me.
Let us think for a few minutes of the wonderful depth of consolation which lies in this fact. We have been redeemed by the Lord Himself, and this is a grand reason why we should never again be subject to fear. Oh, that the logic of this fact could be turned into practice, so that we henceforth rejoiced, or at least felt the peace of God!
These words may be spoken, first of all, of those frequent occasions in which the Lord has redeemed His people out of trouble. Many a time and oft might our Lord say to each one of us, "I have redeemed thee." Out of six, yea, six thousand trials He has brought us forth by the right hand of His power. He has released us from our afflictions, and brought us forth into a wealthy place. In the remembrance of all these redemptions the Lord seems to say to us, "What I have done before, I will do again. I have redeemed thee, and I will still redeem thee. I have brought thee from under the hand of the oppressor; I have delivered thee from the tongue of the slanderer; I have borne thee up under the load of poverty, and sustained thee under the pains of sickness; and I am able still to do the same: wherefore, then, dost thou fear? Why shouldst thou be afraid, since already I have again and again redeemed thee? Take heart, and be confident; for even to old age and to death itself I will continue to be thy strong Redeemer."
I suppose there would be a reference here to the great redemption out of Egypt. This word is addressed to the people of God under captivity in Babylon, and we know that the Lord referred to the Egyptian redemption; for He says in the third verse, "I gave Egypt for thy ransom." Egypt was a great country, and a rich country, for we read of "all the treasures of Egypt", but God gave them for His chosen: He would give all the nations of the earth for His Israel. This was a wonderful stay to the people of God: they constantly referred to Egypt and the Red Sea, and made their national song out of it. In all Israel's times of disaster, and calamity, and trial, they joyfully remembered that the Lord had redeemed them when they were a company of slaves, helpless and hopeless, under a tyrant who cast their firstborn children into the Nile, a tyrant whose power was so tremendous that all the armies of the world could not have wrought their deliverance from his iron hand. The very nod of Pharaoh seemed to the inhabitants of Egypt to be omnipotent; he was a builder of pyramids, a master of all the sciences of peace and the arts of war. What could the Israelites have done against him? Jehovah came to their relief in their dire extremity. His plagues followed each other in quick succession. The dread volleys of the Lord's artillery confounded His foes. At last He smote all the firstborn of Egypt, the chief of all their strength. Then was Egypt glad that Israel departed, and the Lord brought forth His people with silver and gold. All the chivalry of Egypt was overthrown and destroyed at the Red Sea, and the timbrels of the daughters of Israel sounded joyously upon its shores. This redemption out of Egypt is so remarkable that it is remembered even in heaven. The Old Testament song is woven into that of the New Covenant; for there they "sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb." The first redeemption was so wonderful a type and prophecy of the other that it is no alloy to the golden hymn of eternal glory, but readily melts into the same celestial chant. Other types may cease to be remembered, but this was so much a fact as well as a type that it shall be had in memory for ever and ever. Every Israelite ought to have had confidence in God after what He had done for the people in redeeming them out of Egypt. To every one of the seed of Jacob it was a grand argument to enforce the precept, "Fear not."
But I take it that the chief reference of these words are to that redemption which has been wrought out for us by Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins by His own blood. Let us think of it for a minute or two before we break the bread and drink of the cup of communion.
The remembrance of this transcendent redemption ought to comfort us in all times of perplexity. When we cannot see our way, or cannot make out what to do, we need not be at all troubled concerning it; for the Lord Jehovah can see a way out of every intricacy. There never was a problem so hard to solve as that which is answered in redemption. Herein was the tremendous difficultyHow can God be just, and yet the Saviour of sinners? How can He fulfil His threatenings, and yet forgive sin? If that problem been left to angels and men, they could never worked it out throughout eternity; but God has solved it through freely delivering up His own Son. In the glorious sacrifice of Jesus we see the justice of God magnified; for He laid sin on the blessed Lord, who had become one with His chosen. Jesus iden tified Himself with His people, and therefore their sin was laid upon Him, and the sword of the Lord awoke against Him. He was not taken arbitrarily to be a victim, but He was a voluntary Sufferer. His relationship amounted to covenant oneness with His people, and "it behoved Christ to suffer." Herein is a wisdom which must be more than equal to all minor perplexities. Hear this, then, O poor soul in suspense! The Lord says, "I have redeemed thee. I have already brought thee out of the labyrinth in which thou wast lost by sin, and therefore I will take thee out of the meshes of the net of temptation, and lead thee through the maze of trial; I will bring the blind by a way that they know not, and lead them in paths which they have not known. I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring up My people from the depths of the sea." Let us commit our way unto the Lord. Mine is a peculiarly difficult one, but I know that my Redeemer liveth, and He will lead me by a right way. He will be our Guide even unto death; and after death He will guide us through those tracks unknown of the mysterious region, and cause us to rest with Him for ever.
So also, if at any time we are in great poverty, or in great straitness of means for the Lord's work, and we are, therefore, afraid that we shall never get our needs supplied, let us cast off such fears as we listen to the music of these words: "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee." God Himself looked down from heaven, and saw that there was no man who could give to Him a ransom for his brother, and each man on his own part was hopelessly bankrupt; and then, despite our spiritual beggary, He found the means of our redemption. What then? Let us hear the use which the Holy Spirit makes of this fact: "He that spared not His own Son, but de livered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" We cannot have a want which the Lord will not supply. Since God has given us Jesus, He will give us, not some things, but "all things." Indeed, all things are ours in Christ Jesus. No necessity of his life can for a single moment be compared to that dread necessity which the Lord has already supplied. The infinite gift of God's own Son is a far greater one than all that can be included in the term "all things" : wherefore, it is a grand argument to the poor and needy, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee." Perplexity and poverty are thus effectually met.
We are at times troubled by a sense of our personal insignificance. It seems too much to hope that God's infinite mind should enter into our mean affairs. Though David said, "I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me," we are not always quite prepared to say the same. We make our sorrows great under the vain idea that they are too small for the Lord to notice. I believe that our greatest miseries spring from those little worries which we hesitate to bring to our heavenly Father. Our gracious God puts an end to all such thoughts as these by saying "Fear not for I have redeemed thee." You are not of such small account as you suppose. The Lord would never be wasteful of His sacred expenditure. He bought you with a price, and therefore He sets great store by you. Listen to what the Lord says: "Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life." It is amazing that the Lord should think so much of us as to give Jesus for us. "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?" Yet God's mind is filled with thoughts of love towards man. Know ye not that His only-begotten Son entered this world, and became a man? The man Christ Jesus has a name at which every knee shall bow, and He is so dear to the Father that, for His sake, His chosen ones are accepted, and are made to enjoy the freest access to Him. We sing truly,
Nearer we cannot be,
For in the person of His Son
We are as near as He."
And now the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and the least burden we may roll upon the Lord. Those cares which we ought not to have may well cease, for "He careth for us." He that redeemed us never forgets us: His wounds have graven us upon the palms of His hands, and written our names deep in His side. Jesus stoops to our level, for He stooped to bear the cross to redeem us. Do not, therefore, be again afraid because of your insignificance. "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength." The Lord's memory is toward the little in Israel. He carrieth the lambs in His bosom.
We are liable to fret a little when we think of our changeableness. If you are at all like me, you are very far from being always alike; I am sometimes lifted up to the very heavens, and then I go down to the deeps; I am at one time bright with joy and confidence, and at another time dark as midnight with doubts and fears. Even Elijah, who was so brave, had his fainting fits. We are to be blamed for this, and yet the fact remains: our experience is as an April day, when shower and sunshine take their turns. Amid our mournful changes we rejoice to hear the Lord's own voice, saying, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee." Everything is not changeful wave; there is rock somewhere. Redemption is a fact accomplished.
The price is paid, the ransom accepted. This is done, and can never be undone. Jesus says, "I have redeemed thee." Change of feeling within does not alter the fact that the believer has been bought with a price, and made the Lord's own by the precious blood of Jesus. The Lord God has already done so much for us that our salvation is sure in Christ Jesus. Will He begin to build, and fail to finish? Will He lay the foundation in the everlasting covenant? Will He dedicate the walls with the infinite sacrifice of the Lamb of God? Will He give up the choicest treasure He ever had, the chosen of God and precious, to be the corner-stone, and then not finish the work He has begun? It is impossible. If He has redeemed us, He has, in that act, given us the pledge of all things.
See how the gifts of God are bound to this redemption. "I have redeemed thee. I have called thee." "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified." Here is a chain in which each link is joined to all the rest, so that it cannot be separated. If God had only gone so far as to make a promise, He would not have drawn back from it; if God had gone as far as to swear an oath by Himself, He would not have failed to keep it; but when He went beyond promise and oath, and in very deed the sacrifice was slain, and the covenant was ratified: why, then it would be blasphemous to imagine that He would afterwards disannul it, and turn from His solemn pledge. There is no going back on the part of God, and consequently His redemption will redeem, and in redeeming it will secure us all things. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" With the blood-mark upon us we may well cease to fear. How can we perish? How can we be deserted in the hour of need? We have been bought with too great a price for our Redeemer to let us slip. Therefore, let us march on with confidence, hearing our Redeemer say to us, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Concerning His redeemed, the Lord will say to the enemy, "Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm." The stars in their courses fight for the ransomed of the Lord. If their eyes were opened, they would see the mountain full of horses of fire and chariots of fire round about them. Oh, how my weary heart prizes redeeming love! If it were not for this, I would lay me down, and die. Friends forsake me, foes surround me, I am filled with contempt, and tortured with the subtlety which I cannot baffle; but as the Lord of all brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, so by the blood of His covenant doth He loose His prisoners, and sustain the hearts of those who tremble at His Word. "O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength," for the Lord hath said unto thee, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee."
JESUS, THE GREAT OBJECT OF ASTONISHMENT.
A COMMUNION ADDRESS AT MENTONE.
"Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at Him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider."Isaiah 52:13-15.
UR Lord Jesus Christ bore from of old the name of "Wonderful", and the word seems all too poor to set forth His marvellous person and character. He says of Himself, in the language of the prophet," Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given Me are for signs and for wonders." He is a fountain of astonishment to all who know Him, and the more they know of Him, the more are they "astonied" at Him. It is an astonishing thing that there should have been a Christ at all: the Incarnation is the miracle of miracles; that He who is the Infinite should become an infant, that He who made the worlds should be wrapt in swaddling-bands, remains a fact out of which, as from a hive, new wonders continually fly forth. In His complex nature He is so mysterious, and yet so manifest, that doubtless all the angels of heaven were and are astonished at Him. O Son of God, and Son of man, when Thou, the Word, wast made flesh, and dwelt among us, and Thy saints beheld Thy glory, it was but natural that many should be astonished at Thee!
With grief and pain weigh'd down,
How scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale art Thou with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish,
Which once was bright as morn!"
The second astonishment to us must be that he could be so marred who had nothing in His character to mar His countenance. Sin is a sad disfigurement to faces which in early childhood were surpassingly attractive. Passion, if it be indulged in, soon sets a seal of deformity upon the countenance. Men that plunge into vice bear upon their features the traces of their hearts' volcanic fires. We most of us know some withered beings, whose beauty has been burned up by the fierce fires of excess, till they are a horror to look upon, as if the mark of Cain were set upon them. Every sin makes its line on a fair face. But there was no sin in the blessed Jesus, no evil thought to mar His natural perfectness. No redness of eyes ever came to Him by tarrying long at the wine; no unhallowed anger ever flushed His cheek; no covetousness gave to His eye a wolfish glance; no selfish care lent to His features a sharp and anxious cast. Such an unselfish, holy life as His ought to have rendered Him, if it had been possible, more beautiful every day. Indulging such benevolence, abiding in such communion with God, surely the face of Christ must, in the natural order of things, have more and more astonished all sympathetic observers with its transcendent charms. But sorrow came to engrave her name where sin had never made a stroke, and she did her work so effectually that His visage was more marred than that of any man, although the God of mercy knows there have been other visages that have been worn with pain and anguish past all recognition. I need not repeat even one of the many stories of human woe: that of our Lord surpasses all.
Remember that the face of our Well-beloved, as well as all His form, must have been an accurate index of His soul. Physiognomy is a science with much truth in it when it deals with men of truth. Men weaned from simplicity know how to control their countenances; the crafty will appear to be honest, the hardened will seem to sympathize with the distressed, the revengeful will mimic good-will. There are some who continually use their countenance as they do their speech, to conceal their feelings; and it is almost a point of politeness with them never to show themselves, but always to go masked among their fellows.
But the Christ had learned no such arts. He was so sincere, so transparent, so child-like and true, that whatever stirred within Him was apparent to those about Him, so far as they were capable of understanding His great soul. We read of Him that He was "moved with compassion." The Greek word means that He experienced a wonderful emotion of His whole nature, He was thrilled with it, and His disciples saw how deeply He felt for the people, who were as sheep without a shepherd. Though He did not commit Himself to men, He did not conceal Himself, but wore His heart upon His sleeve, and all could see what He was, and knew that He was full of grace and truth. We are, therefore, not surprised, when we devoutly consider our Lord's character, that His visage and form should indicate the inward agonies of His tender spirit; it could not be that His face should be untrue to His heart. The ploughers made deep furrows upon His soul as well as upon His back, and His heart was rent with inward convulsions, which could not but affect His whole appearance. Those eyes saw what those around Him could not see; those shoulders bore a constant burden which others could not know; and, therefore, His countenance and form betrayed the fact. O dear, dear Saviour, when we think of Thee, and of Thy majesty and purity, we are again astonished that woes should come upon Thee so grievously as to mar Thy visage and Thy form!
Now think, dear friends, what were the causes of this marring. It was not old age that had wrinkled His brow, for He was still in the prime of life, neither was it a personal sickness which had caused decay; much less was it any congenital weakness and disease, which at length betrayed itself, for in His flesh there was no possibility of impurity, which would, in death, have led to corruption. It was occasioned, first, by His constant sympathy with the suffering. There was a heavy wear and tear occasioned by the extraordinary compassion of His soul. In three years it had told upon Him most manifestly, till His visage was marred more than that of any other man. To Him there was a kind of sucking up into Himself of all the suffering of those whom He blessed. He always bore upon Him the burden of mortal woe. We read of Christ healing all that were sick, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." Yes, He took those infirmities and sicknesses in some mystical way to Himself, just as I have heard of certain trees, which scatter health, because they themselves imbibe the miasma, and draw up into themselves those noxious vapours which otherwise would poison mankind. Thus, without being themselves polluted, they disinfect the atmosphere around them. This, our Saviour did, but the cost was great to Him. You can imagine, living as He did in the midst of one vast hospital, how constantly He must have seen sights that grieved and pained Him. Moreover, with a nature so pure and loving, He must have been daily tortured with the sin, and hypocrisy, and oppression which so abounded in His day. In a certain sense, He was always laying down His life for men, for He was spent in their service, tortured by their sin, and oppressed with their sorrow. The more we look into that marred visage, the more shall we be astonished at the anguish which it indicated.
Do not wonder that He was more marred than any man, for He was more sensitive than other men. No part of Him was callous, He had no seared conscience, no blunted sensibility, no drugged and deadened nerve. His manhood was in its glory, in the perfection in which Adam was when God made him in His own image, and therefore He was ill-housed in such a fallen world. We read of Christ that He was "grieved for the hardness of their hearts," "He marvelled because of their unbelief," "He sighed deeply in His spirit," "He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled." This, however, was only the beginning of the marring.
His deepest griefs and most grievous marring came of His substitutionary work, while bearing the penalty of our sin. One word recalls much of His woe: it is, "Gethsemane." Betrayed by Judas, His trusted friend, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "He that eateth bread with Me hath lifted up his heel against Me;" deserted even by John, for all the disciples forsook Him and fled; not one of all the loved ones with Him: He was left alone. He had washed their feet, but they could not watch with Him one hour; and in that garden He wrestled with our deadly foe, till His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, and as Hart puts it, He
With strength enough, but none to spare."
I do verily believe that verse to be true. Herein you see what marred His countenance, and His form, even while in life. The whole of His manhood felt that dreadful shock, when He and the prince of darkness, in awful duel, fought it out amidst the gloom of the olives on that cold midnight when our redemption began to be fully accomplished.
The whole of His passion marred His countenance and His form with its unknown sufferings. I restrain myself, lest this meditation should grow too painful. They bound Him, they scourged Him, they mocked Him, they plucked off the hair from His face, they spat upon Him, and at last they nailed Him to the tree, and there He hung. His physical pain alone must have been very great, but all the while there was within His soul an inward torment which added immeasurably to His sufferings. His God forsook Him. "Eloi, Eloi, lama, sabachthani?" is a voice enough to rend the rocks, and assuredly it makes us all astonished when, in the returning light, we look upon His visage, and are sure that never face of any man was so marred before, and never form of any son of man so grievously disfigured. Weeping and wondering, astonied and adoring, we leave the griefs of our own dear Lord, and with loving interest turn to the brighter portion of His unrivalled story.
Through the silvery sprays of the olive tree,
No star-gemmed sceptre or crown it reveals,
In the solemn shade of Gethsemane.
Only a form of prostrate grief,
Fallen, crushed, like a broken leaf!
Oh, think of His sorrow, that we may know
The depth of love in the depth of woe!
"Behold your King, with His sorrow crowned,
Alone, alone in the valley is He!
The shadows of death are gathering round,
And the cross must follow Gethsemane.
Darker and darker the gloom must fall,
Filled is the cup, He must drink it all!
Oh, think of His sorrow, that we may know
His wondrous love in His wondrous woe!"
II. There is AN EQUAL ASTONISHMENT AT HIS GLORIES. I doubt not, if we could see Him now, as He appeared to John in Patmos, we should feel that we must do exactly as the beloved disciple did, for He deliberately wrote, "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead." His astonishment was so great that he could not endure the sight. He had doubtless longed often to behold that glorified face and form, but the privilege was too much for him. While we are encumbered with these frail bodies, it is not fit for us to behold our Lord, for we should die with excess of delight if we were suddenly to behold that vision of splendour. Oh, for those glorious days when we shall lie for ever at His feet, and see our exalted Lord!
"Behold, My servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high." Observe the three words, "exalted and extolled, and be very high;" language pants for expression. Our Lord is now exalted in being lifted up from the grave, lifted up above all angels, and principalities, and powers. The Man Christ Jesus is the nearest to the eternal throne, ay, the Lamb is before the throne. "And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain." He is in His own state and person exalted, and then by the praise rendered Him he is extolled, for he is worshipped and adored by the whole universe. All praise goes up before Him now, so that men extol Him, while "God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name, which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Deep were His sorrows, but as high are His joys. It is said that, around many of the lochs in Scotland, the mountains are as high as the water is deep; and so our Lord's glories are as immeasurable as were His woes. What a meditation is furnished by these two-fold and incalculable heights and depths! Our text says that He shall "be very high. "It cannot tell us how high. It is inconceivable how great and glorious in all respects the Lord Jesus Christ is at this moment. Oh, that He may be very high in our esteem! He is not yet exalted and extolled in any of our hearts as He deserves to be. I would we loved Him a thousand times as much as we do, but our whole heart goeth after Him, does it not? Would we not die for Him? Would we not set Him on a throne as high as seven heavens, and then think that we had not done enough for Him, who is now our all in all, and more than all?
You notice what is said, concerning the Christ, as the most astonishing thing of all: "So shall He sprinkle many nations." Now is it the glory of our risen Lord, at this moment, that His precious blood is to save many nations. Before the throne, men of all nations shall sing, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us unto God by Thy blood." Not the English nation alone shall be purified by His atoning blood, but many nations shall He sprinkle with His reconciling blood, even as Israel of old was sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice. We read in the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, at the twenty-second verse, of "having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience," and this is effected by that precious blood by which we have been once purged so effectually that we have no more consciousness of sins, but enter into perfect peace. The blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, and much more doth the blood of Christ purge our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God.
The sprinkling of the blood was meant also to confirm the covenant: thus Moses "sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you." Our Lord Himself said, "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." But is it not a wonderful thing that He should die as a malefactor on the tree, amid scorn and ridicule, and yet that He is this day bringing nations into covenant with God? Once so despised, and now: so mighty! God has given Him "for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles." Many nations shall by Him be joined in covenant with the God of the whole earth. Do not fall into the erroneous idea that this world is like a great ship-wrecked vessel, soon to go to pieces on an iron-bound coast; but rather let us expect the conversion of the world to the Lord Jesus. As a reward for the travail of His soul, He shall cause many nations to "exult with joy", for so some read the passage; the peoples of the earth shall not only be astonished at His griefs, but they shall admire His glories, adore His perfections, and be filled with an amazement of joy at His coming and kingdom. I can conceive nothing in the future too great and glorious to result from the passion and death of our Divine Lord.
Listen to this, "Kings shall shut their mouths at Him." They shall see such a King as they themselves have never been; they speak freely to their brother-kings, but they shall not dare to speak to Him, and as for speaking against Him, that will be altogether out of the question.
And gold and incense bring."
"For that which had not been told them shall they see." Kings are often out of the reach of the gospel, they do not hear it, it is not told to them. They would despise the lowly preacher, and little gatherings of believers meeting together for worship; they would only listen to stately discourses, which do not touch the heart and conscience. The great ones of the earth are usually the least likely to know the things of God, for while the poor have the gospel preached unto them, princes are more likely to hear soft flatteries and fair speeches. The time shall come, however, when Caesar shall bow before a real Imperator, and monarchs shall behold the Prince of the kings of the earth. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." They shall see His majesty, of which they had not even been told.
"That which they had not heard shall they consider." They shall be obliged, even on their thrones, to think about the kingdom of the King of kings, and they shall retire to their closets to confess their sins, and to put on sackcloth and ashes, and to give heed to the words of wisdom. "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth." To-day, the humble listen to Christ, but by-and-by the mightiest of the mighty shall turn all their thoughts towards Him. He shall gather sheaves of sceptres beneath His arm, and crowns shall be strewn at His feet; and "He shall reign for ever and ever," and "of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end." If we were astonished at the marring of His face, we shall be much more astonished at the magnificence of His glory. Upon His throne none shall question His supremacy, none shall doubt His loveliness; but His enemies shall weep and wail because of Him whom they pierced; while He shall be admired in all them that believe. Adorable Lord, we long for Thy glorious appearing! We beseech Thee tarry not!
Of everlasting peace;
Come, take the kingdom to Thyself,
Great King of Righteousness!"
BANDS OF LOVE; OR, UNION TO CHRIST.
"I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them. "Hosea 11:4.
YSTEMATIC theologians have usually regarded union to Christ under three aspects, natural, mystical and federal, and it may be that these three terms are comprehensive enough to embrace the whole subject, but as our aim is simplicity, let us be pardoned if we appear diffuse when we follow a less concise method.
Then chose our souls in Christ, our Head."
The same Book which contains the names of the heirs of life contains the name of their Redeemer. He could not be a Redeemer unless souls had been given Him to redeem, nor could they have been called the ransomed of the Lord, if He had not engaged to purchase them. Redemption, when determined upon by the God of heaven, included in it both Christ and His people; and hence, in the decree which fixed it, they were brought into a near and intimate alliance.
The foresight of the Fall led the divine mind to provide for the catastrophe in which the elect would have perished, had not their ruin been prevented by gracious interposition. Hence followed as part of the divine arrangement other forms of union, which, besides their immediate object in salvation, had doubtless a further design of illustrating the condescending alliance which Jesus had formed with His chosen. The next and following points are of this character.
3. Jesus is one with His elect federally. As every heir of flesh and blood has a personal interest in Adam, because he is the covenant head and representative of the race as considered under the law of works; so, under the law of grace, every redeemed soul is one with the Lord from heaven, since He is the Second Adam, the Sponsor and Substitute of the elect in the new covenant of love. The apostle Paul declares that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him: it is equally true that the believer was in the loins of Jesus Christ, the Mediator, when in old eternity the covenant settlements of grace were decreed, ratified, and made sure for ever. Thus, whatever Christ hath done, He hath wrought for the whole body of His Church. We were crucified in Him, and buried with Him (read Col. 2:10-13), and to make it still more wonderful, we are risen with Him, and have even ascended with Him to the seats on high (Eph. 2:6). It is thus that the Church has fulfilled the law, and is "accepted in the Beloved ." It is thus that she is regarded with complacency by the just Jehovah, for He views her in Jesus, and does not look upon her as separate from her covenant Head. As the anointed Redeemer of Israel, Christ Jesus has nothing distinct from His Church, but all that He has He holds for her. Adam's righteousness was ours as long as he maintained it, and his sin was ours the moment that he committed it; and, in the same manner, all that the Second Adam is, or does, is ours as well as His, seeing that He is our Representative. Here is the foundation of the covenant of grace. This gracious system of representation and substitution, which moved Justin Martyr to cry out, "O blessed change! O sweet permutation!" this, I say, is the very groundwork of the gospel of our salvation, and is to be received with strong faith and rapturous joy. In every place the saints are perfectly one with Jesus.
One when He triumph'd o'er His foes,
One when in heaven He took His seat,
While seraphs sang all hell's defeat.
"This sacred tie forbids their fears,
4. For the accomplishment of the great works of atonement and perfect obedience, it was needful that the Lord Jesus should take upon Him "the likeness of sinful flesh." Thus, He became one with us in our nature , for in Holy Scripture all partakers of flesh and blood are regarded as of one family. By the fact of common descent from Adam, all men are of one race, seeing that "God hath made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the earth." Hence, in the Bible, man is spoken of universally as "thy brother" (Lev. 19:17; Job 22:6; Matt. 5:23-24; Luke 17:3; Rom. 14:10, &c., &c.); and "thy neighbour" (Exod. 20:16; Lev. 19:13-18; Matt. 5:43; Rom. 13:9; James 2:8); to whom, on account of nature and descent, we are required to render kindness and goodwill. Now, although our great Melchizedek in His divinity is without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, and is both in essence and rank at an infinite remove from fallen manhood; yet as to His manhood He is to be reckoned as one of ourselves. He was born of a woman, He hung upon her breasts, and was dandled upon her knee; He grew from infancy to youth and thence to manhood, and in every stage He was a true and real partaker of our humanity. He is as certainly of the race of Adam as He is divine. He is God without fiction or metaphor, and He is man beyond doubt or dispute. The Godhead was not humanized, and so diluted; and the manhood was not transformed into divinity, and so rendered more than human. Never was any man more a portion of His kind than was the Son of man, the Man of sorrows and the Acquaintance of grief. He is man's Brother, for He bore the whole nature of man. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." He who was very God of very God made Himself a little lower than the angels, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
This was done with the most excellent design with regard to our redemption, inasmuch as it was necessary that, as man had sinned, man should suffer; but doubtless it had a further motive, the honouring of the Church, and the enabling of her Lord to sympathize with her. The apostle most sweetly remarks, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:14-15); and again, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Thus, in ties of blood, Jesus, the Son of man, is one with all the heirs of heaven: "For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11). What reason we have here for the strongest consolation and delight, seeing that, "Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." We can say of our Lord as poor Naomi said of bounteous Boaz, "The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen." Overwhelmed by the liberality of our blessed Lord, we are often led to cry with Ruth, "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" and are we not ready to die with wonder when, in answer to such a question, He tells us that He is our Brother, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh?
If, in all our straits and distresses, we would always treasure in our minds the remembrance of our Redeemer's manhood, we should never bemoan the absence of a sympathizing heart, since we should always have His abundant compassion for our consolation. He is no stranger, He is able to enter into the heart's bitterness, for He has Himself tasted the wormwood and the gall. Let us never doubt His power to sympathize with us in our infirmities and sorrows.
There is one aspect of this subject of our natural union to Christ which it were improper to pass over in silence, for it is very precious to the believer. While the Lord Jesus takes upon Himself our nature (2 Peter 1:4), He restores in us that image of God (Gen. 1:27) which was blotted and defac ed by the fall of Adam. He raises us from the degradation of sin to the dignity of perfection. So that, in a two-fold sense, the Head and members are of one nature, and not like that monstrous image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. The head was of fine gold, but the belly and the thighs were of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet, part of iron and part of clay. Christ's mystical body is no absurd combination of opposites; the Head is immortal, and the body is immortal, too, for thus the record stands, "Because I live, ye shall live also." "As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly." "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly:" and this shall in a few more years be more fully manifest to us, for "this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." Such as is the Head, such is the body, and every member in particular;a chosen Head, and chosen members; an accepted Head, and accepted members; a living Head, and living members. If the Head be of pure gold, all the parts of the body are of pure gold also. Thus is there a double union of nature as a basis for the closest communion.
Pause here, and see if thou canst, without ecstatic amazement, contemplate the infinite condescension of the Son of God in exalting thy wretchedness into blessed union with His glory. Thou art so mean that, in remembrance of thy mortality, thou mayest say to corruption, "Thou art my father," and to the worm, "Thou art my sister;" and yet, in Christ, thou art so honoured that thou canst say to the Almighty, "Abba, Father," and to the Incarnate God, "Thou art my Brother and my Husband." Surely, if relationships to ancient and noble families make men think highly of themselves, we have whereof to glory over the heads of them all. Lay hold upon this privilege; let not a senseless indolence make thee negligent to trace this pedigree, and suffer no foolish attachment to present vanities to occupy thy thoughts to the exclusion of this glorious privilege, this heavenly honour of union with Christ.
We must now retrace our steps to the ancient mountains, and contemplate this union in one of its earliest forms.
5. Christ Jesus is also joined unto His people in a mystical union. Borrowing once more from the story of Ruth, we remark that Boaz, although one with Ruth by kinship, did not rest until he had entered into a nearer union still, namely, that of marriage; and in the same manner there is, superadded to the natural union of Christ with His people, a mystical union by which He assumes the position of Husband, while the Church is owned as His bride. In love He espoused her to Himself, as a chaste virgin, long before she fell under the yoke of bondage. Full of burning affection, He toiled like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid, and now, having sought her by His Spirit, and brought her to know and love Him, He awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb. Not yet hath the glorious Bridegroom presented His betrothed, perfected and complete, before the Majesty of heaven; not yet hath she actually entered upon the enjoyment of her dignities as His wife and queen; she is as yet a wanderer in a world of woe, a dweller in the tents of Kedar; but she is even now the bride, the spouse of Jesus, dear to His heart, precious in His sight, and united with His person. In love and tenderness, He says to her,
Engraved on My heart doth for ever remain:
The palms of My hands whilst I look on I see
The wounds I received when suffering for thee."
He exercises towards her all the affectionate offices of Husband. He makes rich provision for her wants, pays all her debts, allows her to assume His name, and to share in all His wealth. Nor will He ever act otherwise to her. The word divorce He will never mention, for "He hateth putting away." Death must sever the conjugal tie between the most loving mortals, but it cannot divide the links of this immortal marriage. In heaven they marry not, but are as the angels of God; yet is there this one marvellous exception to the rule, for in heaven Christ and His Church shall celebrate their joyous nuptials. And this affinity, as it is more lasting, so is it more near than earthly wedlock. Let the love of husband be never so pure and fervent, it is but a faint picture of the flame that burns in the heart of Jesus. Passing all human union is that mystical cleaving unto the Church, for which Christ did leave His Father, and become one flesh with her.
If this be the union which subsists between our souls and the person of our Lord, how deep and broad is the channel of our communion! This is no narrow pipe through which a thread-like stream may wind its way, it is a channel of amazing depth and breadth, along whose breadth and length a ponderous volume of living water may roll its strength. Behold, He hath set before us an open door; let us not be slow to enter. This city of communion hath many pearly gates, every several gate is of one pearl, and each gate is thrown open to the uttermost that we may enter, assured of welcome. If there were but one small loophole through which to talk with Jesus, it would be a high privilege to thrust a word of fellowship through the narrow door; how much we are blessed in having so large an entrance! Had the Lord Jesus been far away from us, with many a stormy sea between, we should have longed to send a messenger to Him to carry Him our love, and bring us tidings from His Father's house; but see His kindness, He has built His house next door to ours, nay, more, He takes lodgings with us, and tabernacles in poor humble hearts, that so He may have perpetual intercourse with us. Oh, how foolish must we be, if we do not live in habitual communion with Him! When the road is long, and dangerous, and difficult, we need not wonder that friends seldom meet each other; but when they live together, shall Jonathan forget his David? A wife may, when her husband is upon a journey, abide many days without holding converse with him; but she could never endure to be separated from him if she knew him to be in one of the chambers of their own house. Seek thy Lord, for He is near; embrace Him, for He is thy Brother; hold Him fast, for He is thine Husband; press Him to thine heart, for He is of thine own flesh.
6. As yet we have only considered the acts of Christ for us, whereby He effects and proves His union to us; we must now come to more personal and sensible forms of this great truth.
Those who are set apart for the Lord are in due time severed from the impure mass of fallen humanity, and are by sovereign grace engrafted into the person of the Lord Jesus. This, which we call vital union, is rather a matter of experience than of doctrine; it must be learned in the heart, and not by the head. Like every other work of the Spirit, the actual implantation of the soul into Christ Jesus is a mysterious and secret operation, and is no more to be understood by carnal reason than is the new birth of which it is an attendant. Nevertheless, the spiritual man discerns it as a most essential thing in the salvation of the soul, and he clearly sees how a living union to Christ is the sure consequence of the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit, and is indeed, in some respects, identical with it.
When the Lord in mercy passed by and saw us in our blood, He first of all said, "Live"; and this He did first, because, without life, there can be no spiritual knowledge, feeling, or motion. Life is one of the absolutely essential things in spiritual matters; and until it be bestowed, we are incapable of partaking in the things of the kingdom. Now, the life which grace confers upon the saints at the moment of their quickening is none other than the life of Christ, which, like the sap from the stem, runs into us, the branches, and establishes a living connection between our souls and Jesus. Faith is the grace which perceives this union, and proceeds from it as its firstfruit. It is, to use a metaphor from the Canticles, the neck which joins the body of the Church to its all-glorious Head.
Is not this office thine? and thy fit name,
In the economy of gospel types,
And symbols appositethe Church's neck;
Identifying her in will and work
With Him ascended?"
Faith lays hold upon the Lord Jesus with a firm and determined grasp. She knows His excellence and worth, and no temptation can induce her to repose her trust elsewhere; and Christ Jesus is so delighted with this heavenly grace, that He never ceases to strengthen and sustain her by the loving embrace and all-sufficient support of His eternal arms. Here, then, is established a living, sensible, and delightful union, which casts forth streams of love, confidence, sympathy, complacency, and joy, whereof both the bride and Bridegroom love to drink. When the eye is clear, and the soul can evidently perceive this oneness between itself and Christ, the pulse may be felt as beating for both, and the one blood may be known as flowing through the veins of each. Then is the heart made exceedingly glad, it is as near heaven as it ever can be on earth, and is prepared for the enjoyment of the most sublime and spiritual kind of fellowship. This union may be quite as true when we are troubled with doubts concerning it, but it cannot afford consolation to the soul unless it be indisputably proven and assuredly felt; then is it indeed a honeycomb dropping with sweetness, a precious jewel sparkling with light. Look well to this matter, ye saints of the Most High!
"I WILL GIVE YOU REST."
A COMMUNION ADDRESS AT MENTONE.
"I will give you rest."Matthew 11:28.
E have a thousand times considered these words as an encouragement to the labouring and the laden; and we may, therefore, have failed to read them as a promise to ourselves. But, beloved friends, we have come to Jesus, and therefore He stands engaged to fufil this priceless pledge to us. We may now enjoy the promise; for we have obeyed the precept. The faithful and true Witness, whose word is truth, promised us rest if we would come to Him; and, therefore, since we have come to Him, and are always coming to Him, we may boldly say, "O Thou, who art our Peace, make good Thy word to us wherein Thou hast said, 'I will give you rest.'"
Fix'd on this blissful centre, rest."
Next, we should take the rest that Jesus gives, because it will refresh us. We are often weary; sometimes we are weary in God's work, though I trust we are never weary of it. There are many things to cause us weariness: sin, sorrow, the worldliness of professors, the prevalence of error in the Church, and so on. Often, we are like a tired child, who can hold up his little head no longer. What does he do? Why, he just goes to sleep in his mother's arms! Let us be as wise as the little one; and let us rest in our loving Saviour's embrace. The poet speaks of
and so it is. Sometimes, the very best thing a Christian man can do is, literally, to go to sleep. When he wakes, he will be so refreshed, that he will seem to be in a new world. But spiritually, there is no refreshing like that which comes from the rest which Christ gives. As Isaiah said, "This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest: and this is the refreshing." Dr. Bonar's sweet hymn, which is so suitable for a sinner coming to Christ for the first time, is just as appropriate for a weary saint returning to his Saviour's arms; for he, too, can sing,
'Come unto Me, and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon My breast.'
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad:
I found in Him a resting-place,
And He has made me glad."
Another reason why we should have this rest is, that it will enable us to concentrate all our faculties. Many, who might be strong servants of the Lord, are very weak, because their energies are not concentrated upon one object. They do not say with Paul, "This one thing I do." We are such poor creatures that we cannot occupy our minds with more than one su bject, at a time. Why, even the buzzing of a fly, or the trumpeting of a mosquito, would be quite sufficient to take our thoughts away from our present holy service! As long as we have any burden resting on our shoulders, we cannot enjoy perfect rest; and as long as there is any burden on our conscience or heart, we cannot have rest of soul. How are we to be freed from these burdens? Only by yielding ourselves wholly to the Great Burden-Bearer, who says, "Come unto Me, and, I will give you rest. "Possessing this rest, all our faculties will be centred and focussed upon one object, and with undivided hearts we shall seek God's glory.
Having obtained this rest, we shall be able to testify for our Lord. I remember, when I first began to teach in a Sunday-school, that I was speaking one day to my class upon the words, "He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life." I was rather taken by surprise when one of the boys said to me, "Teacher, have you got everlasting life?" I replied, "I hope so." The scholar was not satisfied with my answer, so he asked another question, "But, teacher, don't you know? " The boy was right; there can be no true testimony except that which springs from assured conviction of our own safety and joy in the Lord. We speak that we do know; we believe, and therefore speak. Rest of heart, through coming to Christ, enables us to invite others to Him with great confidence, for we can tell them what heavenly peace He has given to us. This will enable us to put the gospel very attractively, for the evidence of our own experience will help others to trust the Lord for themselves. With the beloved apostle John, we shall be able to say to our hearers, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."
Once more, this rest is necessary to our growth. The lily in the garden is not taken up and transplanted two or three times a day; that would be the way to prevent all growth. But it is kept in one place, and tenderly nurtured. It is by keeping it quite still that the gardener helps it to attain to perfection. A child of God would grow much more rapidly if he would but rest in one place instead of being always on the move. "In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." Martha was cumbered about much serving; but Mary sat at Jesus' feet. It is not difficult to tell which of them would be the more likely to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a tempting theme, but I must not linger over it, as we must come to the communion. I will give only one more answer to the question, "Why should we have this rest?" It will prepare us for heaven. I was reading a book, the other day, in which I met with this expression," The streets of heaven begin on earth." That is true; heaven is not so far away as some people think. Heaven is the place of perfect holiness, the place of sinless service, the place of eternal glory; and there is nothing that will prepare us for heaven like this rest that Jesus gives. Heaven must be in us before we are in heaven; and he who has this rest has heaven begun below. Enoch was virtually in heaven while he walked with God on the earth, and he had only to continue that holy walk to find himself actually in heaven. This world is part of our Lord's great house, of which heaven is the upper story. Some of us may hear the Master's call, "Come up higher," sooner than we think; and then, with we rest in Christ, there we shall rest with Christ, The more we have of this blessed rest now, the better shall we be prepared for the rest that remaineth to the people of God, that eternal "keeping of a Sabbath" in the Paradise above.
III. I have left myself only a minute for the answers to my third question,HOW CAN WE OBTAIN THIS REST?
First, by coming to Christ. He says, "Come unto Me, . . . and I will give you rest." I trust that all in this little company have come to Christ by faith; now let us come to Him in blessed fellowship and communion at His table. Let us keep on coming to Him, as the apostle says, "to whom coming," continually coming, and never going away. When we wake in the morning, let us come to Christ in the act of renewed communion with Him; all the day long, let us keep on coming to Him even while we are occupied with the affairs of this life; and at night, let our last waking moments be spent in coming to Jesus. Let us come to Christ by searching the Scriptures, for we shall find Him there on almost every page. Let us come to Christ in our thoughts, desires, aspirations wishes; so shall the promise of the text be fulfilled to us, "I will give you rest. "
Next, we obtain rest by yielding to Christ. "Take My yoke upon you, . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Christ bids us wear His yoke; not make one for ourselves. He wants us to share the yoke with Him, to be His true yoke-fellow. It is wonderful that He should be willing to be yoked with us; the only greater wonder is that we should be so unwilling to be yoked with Him. In taking His yoke upon us what joy we shall enter upon our eternal rest! Here we find rest unto our souls; a further rest beyond that which He gives us when we come to Him. We first rest in Jesus by faith, and then we rest in Him by obedience. The first rest He gives through His death; the further rest we find through copying His life.
Lastly, we secure this rest by learning of Christ. "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." We are to be workers with Christ, taking His yoke upon us; and, at the same time, we are to be scholars in Christ's school, learning of Him. We are to learn of Christ, and to learn Christ; He is both Teacher and lesson. His gentleness of heart fits Him to teach, and makes Him the best illustration of His own teaching. If we can become as He is, we shall rest as He does. The lowly in heart will be restful of heart. Now, as we come to the table of communion, may we find to the full that rest of which we have been speaking, for the Great Rest-Giver's sake! Amen.
THE MEMORABLE HYMN.
"And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."Matthew 26:30.
HE occasion on which these words were spoken was the last meal of which Jesus partook in company with His disciples before He went from them to His shameful trial and His ignominious death. It was His farewell supper before a bitter parting, and yet they needs must sing. He was on the brink of that great depth of misery into which He was about to plunge, and yet He would have them sing "an hymn." It is wonderful that He sang, and in a second degree it is remarkable that they sang. We will consider both singular facts.
Saw from Thy Father's bosom to th' abyss,
Measuring in calm presage
The infinite descent;
So to the end, though now of mortal pangs
Made heir, and emptied of Thy glory a while,
With unaverted eye
Thou meetest all the storm."
Let us, O fellow-heirs of salvation, learn to sing when our suffering time comes, when our season for stern labour approaches; ay, let us pour forth a canticle of deep, mysterious, melody of bliss, when our dying hour is near at hand! Courage, brother! The waters are chilly; but fear will not by any means diminish the terrors of the river. Courage, brother! Death is solemn work; but playing the coward will not make it less so. Bring out the silver trumpet; let thy lips remember the long-loved music, and let the notes be clear and shrill as thou dippest thy feet in the Jordan: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." Dear friends, let the remembrance of the melodies of that upper room go with you tomorrow into business; and if you expect a great trial, and are afraid you will not be able to sing after it, then sing before it comes. Get your holy praise-work done before affliction mars the tune. Fill the air with music while you can. While yet there is bread upon the table, sing, though famine may threaten; while yet the child runs laughing about the house, while yet the flush of health is in your own cheek, while yet your goods are spared, while yet your heart is whole and sound, lift up your song of praise to the Most High God; and let your Master, the singing Saviour, be in this your goodly and comfortable example.
There is much more that might be said concerning our Lord's sweet swan-song, but there is no need to crowd one thought out with another; your leisure will be well spent in meditation upon so fruitful a theme.
II. We will now consider THE SINGING OF THE DISCIPLES. They united in the "Hallel"like true Jews, they joined in the national song. Israel had good cause to sing at the Passover, for God had wrought for His people what He had done for no other nation on the face of the earth. Every Hebrew must have felt his soul elevated and rejoiced on the Paschal night. He was "a citizen of no mean city", and the pedigree which he could look back upon was one, compared with which kings and princes were but of yesterday.
Remembering the fact commemorated by the Paschal supper, Israel might well rejoice. They sang of their nation in bondage, trodden beneath the tyrannical foot of Pharaoh; they began the Psalm right sorrowfully, as they thought of the bricks made without straw, and of the iron furnace; but the strain soon mounted from the deep bass, and began to climb the scale, as they sang of Moses the servant of God, and of the Lord appearing to him in the burning bush. They remembered the mystic rod, which became a serpent, and which swallowed up the rods of the magicians; their music told of the plagues and wonders which God had wrought upon Zoan; and of that dread night when the first-born of Egypt fell before the avenging sword of the angel of death, while they themselves, feeding on the lamb which had been slain for them, and whose blood was sprinkled upon the lintel and upon the side-posts of the door, had been graciously preserved. Then the song went up concerning the hour in which all Egypt was humbled at the feet of Jehovah, whilst as for His people, He led them forth like sheep, by the hand of Moses and Aaron, and they went by the way of the sea, even of the Red Sea. The strain rose higher still as they tuned the song of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb. Jubilantly they sang of the Red Sea, and of the chariots of Pharaoh which went down into the midst thereof, and the depths covered them till there was not one of them left. It was a glorious chant indeed when they sang of Rahab cut in pieces, and of the dragon wounded at the sea, by the right hand of the Most High, for the deliverance of the chosen people.
But, beloved, if I have said that Israel could so properly sing, what shall I say of those of us who are the Lord's spiritually redeemed? We have been emancipated from a slavery worse than that of Egypt: "with a high hand and with an outstretched arm," hath God delivered us. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God's Passover, has been sprinkled on our hearts and consciences. By faith we keep the Passover, for we have been spared; we have been brought out of Egypt; and though our sins did once oppose us, they have all been drowned in the Red Sea of the atoning blood of Jesus: "the depths have covered them, there is not one of them left." If the Jew could sing a "great Hallel", our "Hallel" ought to be more glowing still; and if every house in "Judea's happy land" was full of music when the people ate the Paschal feast, much more reason have we for filling every heart with sacred harmony tonight, while we feast upon Jesus Christ, who was slain, and has redeemed us to God by His blood.
III. The time has now come for me to say HOW EARNESTLY I DESIRE YOU TO "SING AN HYMN."
I do not mean to ask you to use your voices, but let your hearts be brimming with the essence of praise. Whenever we repair to the Lord's table, which represents to us the Passover, we ought not to come to it as to a funeral. Let us select solemn hymns, but not dirges. Let us sing softly, but none the less joyfully. These are no burial feasts; those are not funeral cakes which lie upon this table, and yonder fair white linen cloth is no winding-sheet. "This is My body," said Jesus, but the body so represented was no corpse, we feed upon a living Christ. The blood set forth by yonder wine is the fresh life-blood of our immortal King. We view not our Lord's body as clay-cold flesh, pierced with wounds, but as glorified at the right hand of the Father. We hold a happy festival when we break bread on the first day of the week. We come not hither trembling like bondsmen, cringing on our knees as wretched serfs condemned to eat on their knees; we approach as freemen to our Lord's banquet, like His apostles, to recline at length or sit at ease; not merely to eat bread which may belong to the most sorrowful, but to drink wine which belongs to men whose souls are glad. Let us recognize the rightness, yea, the duty of cheerfulness at this commemorative supper; and, therefore, let us "sing an hymn."
Being satisfied on this point, perhaps you ask, "What hymn shall we sing?" Many sorts of hymns were sung in the olden time: look down the list, and you will scarcely find one which may not suit us now.
One of the earliest of earthly songs was the war-song. They sang of old a song to the conqueror, when he returned from the battle. "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Women took their timbrels, and rejoiced in the dance when the hero returned from the war. Even thus of old did the people of God extol Him for His mighty acts, singing aloud with the high-sounding cymbals: "Sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously . . . The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is His name." My brethren, let us lift up a war-song to-night! Why not?" Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." Come, let us praise our Emmanuel, as we see the head of our foe in His right hand; as we behold Him leading captivity captive, ascending up on high, with trumpets' joyful sound, let us chant the paean; let us shout the war-song, "Io Triumphe!" Behold, He comes, all glorious from the war: as we gather at this festive table, which reminds us both of His conflict and of His victory, let us salute Him with a psalm of gladsome triumph, which shall be but the prelude of the song we expect to sing when we get up
Another early, form of song was the pastoral. When he shepherds sat down amongst the sheep, they tuned their pipes, and warbled forth soft and sweet airs in harmony with rustic quietude. All around was calm and still; the sun was brightly shining, and the birds were making melody among the leafy branches. Shall I seem fanciful if I say, let us unite in a pastoral to-night? Sitting round the table, why should we not sing, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters"? If there be a place beneath the stars where one might feel perfectly at rest and ease, surely it is at the table of the Lord. Here, then, let us sing to our great Shepherd a pastoral of delight. Let the bleating of sheep be in our ears as we remember the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His flock.
You need not to be reminded that the ancients were very fond of festive songs. When they assembled at their great festivals, led by their chosen minstrels, they sang right joyously, with boisterous mirth. Let those who will speak to the praise of wine, my soul shall extol the precious blood of Jesus; let who will laud corn and oil, the rich produce of the harvest, my heart shall sing of the Bread which came down from heaven, whereof, if a man eateth, he shall never hunger. Speak ye of royal banquets, and minstrelsy fit for a monarch's ear? Ours is a nobler festival, and our song is sweeter far. Here is room at this table tonight for all earth's poesy and music, for the place deserves songs more lustrous with delight, more sparkling with gems of holy mirth, than any of which the ancients could conceive.
To great Jehovah's equal Son!
Awake, my voice, in heavenly lays
Tell the loud wonders He hath done!"
The love-song we must not forget, for that is peculiarly the song of this evening. "Now will I sing unto my Well-beloved a song." His love to us is an immortal theme; and as our love, fanned by the breath of heaven, bursts into a vehement flame, we may sing, yea, and we will sing among the lilies, a song of loves.
In the Old Testament, we find many Psalms called by the title, "A Song of Degrees." This "Song of Degrees" is supposed by some to have been sung as the people ascended the temple steps, or made pilgrimages to the holy place. The strain often changes, sometimes it is dolorous, and anon it is gladsome; at one season, the notes are long drawn out and heavy, at another, they are cheerful and jubilant. We will sing a "Song of Degrees" to-night. We will mourn that we pierced the Lord, and we wilt rejoice in pardon bought with blood. Our strain must vary as we talk of sin, feeling its bitterness, and lamenting it, and then of pardon, rejoicing in its glorious fulness.
David wrote a considerable number of Psalms which he entitled, " Maschil," which may be called in English, "instructive Psalms." Where, beloved, can we find richer instruction than at the table of our Lord? He who understands the mystery of incarnation and of substitution, is a master in Scriptural theology. There is more teaching in the Saviour's body and in the Saviour's blood than in all the world besides. O ye who wish to learn the way to comfort, and how to tread the royal road to heavenly wisdom, come ye to the cross, and see the Saviour suffer, and pour out His heart's blood for human sin!
Some of David's Psalms are called, "Michtam", which means "golden Psalm." Surely we must sing one of these. Our psalms must be golden when we sing of the Head of the Church, who is as much fine gold. More precious than silver or gold is the inestimable price which He has paid for our ransom. Yes, ye sons of harmony, bring your most melodious anthems here, and let your Saviour have your golden psalms!
Certain Psalms in the Old Testament are entitled, "Upon Shoshannim ," that is, "Upon the lilies." O ye virgin souls, whose hearts have been washed in blood, and have been made white and pure, bring forth your instruments of song:
Strike aloud each cheerful string!"
Let your hearts, when they are in their best state, when they are purest, and most cleansed from earthly dross, give to Jesus their glory and their excellence.
Then there are other Psalms which are dedicated "To the sons of Korah." If the guess be right, the reason why we get the title, "To the sons of Korah""a song of loves"must be this: that when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were swallowed up, the sons of Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up, too; but the sons of Korah perished not. Why they were not destroyed, we cannot tell. Perhaps it was that sovereign grace spared those whom justice might have doomed; and "the sons of Korah" were ever after made the sweet singers of the sanctuary; and whenever there was a special "song of loves", it was always dedicated to them. Ah! we will have one of those songs of love to-night, around the table, for we, too, are saved by distinguishing grace. We will sing of the heavenly Lover, and the many waters which could not quench His love.
Love, too deep for thought to sound
Love, which made the Lord of all
Drink the wormwood and the gall.
"Love, which led Him to the cross,
"Love, which made Him hence arise
"Love, which will not let Him rest
We have not half exhausted the list, but it is clear that, sitting at the Lord's table, we shall have no lack of suitable psalmody. Perhaps no one hymn will quite meet the sentiments of all; and while we would not write a hymn for you, we would pray the Holy Spirit to write now the spirit of praise upon your hearts, that, sitting here, you may "after supper" sing "an hymn."
IV. For one or two minutes let us ask"WHAT SHALL THE TUNE BE?" It must be a strange one, for if we are to sing "an hymn" to-night, around the table, the tune must have all the parts of music. Yonder believer is heavy of heart through manifold sorrows, bereavements, and watchings by the sick. He loves his Lord, and would fain praise Him, but his soul refuses to use her wings. Brother, we will have a tune in which you can join, and you shall lead the bass. You shall sing of your fellowship with your Beloved in His sufferings; how He, too, lost a friend; how He spent whole nights in sleeplessness; how His soul was exceeding sorrowful. But the tune must not be all bass, or it would not suit some of us to-night, for we can reach the highest note. We have seen the Lord, and our spirit has rejoiced in God our Saviour. We want to lift the chorus high; yea, there are some true hearts here who are at times so full of joy that they will want special music written for them. "Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell:" said Paul, and so have said others since, when Christ has been with them. Ah! then they have been obliged to mount to the highest notes, to the very loftiest range of song.
Remember, beloved, that the same Saviour who will accept the joyful shoutings of the strong, will also receive the plaintive notes of the weak and weeping. You little ones, you babes in grace, may cry, "Hosanna," and the King will not silence you; and you strong men, with all your power of faith, may shout, "Hallelujah!" and your notes shall be accepted, too.
Come, then, let us have a tune in which we can all unite; but ah! we cannot make one which will suit the deadthe dead, I mean, "in trespasses and sins"and there are some such here. Oh, may God open their mouths, and unloose their tongues; but as for those of us who are alive unto God, let us, as we come to the table, all contribute our own share of the music, and so make up a song of blended harmony, with many parts, one great united song of praise to Jesus our Lord!
We should not choose a tune for the communion table which is not very soft. These are no boisterous themes with which we have to deal when we tarry here. A bleeding Saviour, robed in a vesture dyed with bloodthis is a theme which you must treat with loving gentleness, for everything that is coarse is out of place. While the tune is soft, it must also be sweet . Silence, ye doubts; be dumb, ye fears; be hushed, ye cares! Why come ye here? My music must be sweet and soft when I sing of Him. But oh! it must also be strong; there must be a full swell in my praise. Draw out the stops, and let the organ swell the diapason! In fulness let its roll of thundering harmony go up to heaven; let every note be sounded at its loudest. "Praise ye Him upon the cymbals, upon the high-sounding cymbals; upon the harp with a solemn sound." Soft, sweet, and strong, let the music be.
Alas! you complain that your soul is out of tune. Then ask the Master to tune the heart-strings. Those "Selahs" which we find so often in the Psalms, are supposed by many scholars to mean, "Put the harpstrings in tune:" truly we require many "Selahs", for our hearts are constantly unstrung. Oh, that to-night the Master would enable each one of us to offer that tuneful prayer which we so often sing,
Sung by flaming tongues above:
Praise the mountoh, fix me on it,
Mount of God's unchanging love!"
V. We close by enquiring,WHO SHALL SING THIS HYMN?
Sitting around the Father's board, we will raise a joyful song, but who shall do it? "I will," saith one; "and we will," say others. What is the reason why so many are willing to join? The reason is to be found in the verse we were singing just now,
Who can refuse to sing?"
What! a Christian silent when others are praising his Master? No; he must join in the song. Satan tries to make God's people dumb, but he cannot, for the Lord has not a tongue-tied child in all His family. They can all speak, and they can all cry, even if they cannot all sing, and I think there are times when they can all sing; yea, they must, for you know the promise, "Then shall the tongue of the dumb sing." Surely, when Jesus leads the tune, if there should be any silent ones in the Lord's family, they must begin to praise the name of the Lord. After Giant Despair's head had been cut off, Christiana and Mr. Greatheart, and all the rest of them, brought out the best of their provisions, and made a feast, and Mr. Bunyan says that, after they had feasted, they danced. In the dance there was one remarkable dancer, namely, Mr. Ready-to-Halt. Now, Mr. Ready-to-Halt usually went upon crutches, but for once he laid them aside. "And," says Bunyan, "I warrant you he footed it well!" This is quaintly showing us that, sometimes, the very sorrowful ones, the Ready-to-Halts, when they see Giant Despair's head cut off, when they see death, hell, and sin led in triumphant captivity at the wheels of Christ's victorious chariot, feel that even they must for once indulge in a song of gladness. So, when I put the question to-night, "Who will sing?" I trust that Ready-to-Halt will promise, "I will."
You have not much comfort at home, perhaps; by very hard work you earn that little. Sunday is to you a day of true rest, for you are worked very cruelly all the week. Those cheeks of yours, poor girl, are getting very pale, and who knows but what Hood's pathetic lines may be true of you?
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
Sewing at once, with a double thread,
A shroud as well as a shirt."
But, my sister, you may surely rejoice to-night in spite of all this. There may be little on earth, but there is much in heaven. There may be but small comfort for you here apart from Christ; but oh! when, by faith, you mount into His glory, your soul is glad. You shall be as rich as the richest to-night if the Holy Spirit shall but bring you to the table, and enable you to feed upon your Lord and Master. Perhaps you have come here to-night when you ought not to have done so. The physician would have told you to keep to your bed, but you persisted in coming up to the house where the Lord has so often met with you. I trust that we shall hear your voice in the song. There appear to have been in David's day many things to silence the praise of God, but David was one who would sing. I like that expression of his, where the devil seems to come up, and put his hand on his mouth, and say, "Be quiet." "No," says David, "I will sing." Again the devil tries to quiet him, but David is not to be silenced, for three times he puts it, "I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord." May the Lord make you resolve this night that you will praise the Lord Jesus with all your heart!
Alas! there are many of you here to-night whom I could not invite to this feast of song, and who could not truly come if you were invited. Your sins are not forgiven; your souls are not saved; you have not trusted Christ; you are still in nature's darkness, still in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. Must it always be so? Will you destroy yourselves? Have you made a league with death, and a covenant with hell? Mercy lingers! Longsuffering continues! Jesus waits! Remember that He hung upon the cross for sinners such as you are, and that if you believe in Him now, you shall b e saved. One act of faith, and all the sin you have committed is blotted out. A single glance of faith's eye to the wounds of the Messiah, and your load of iniquity is rolled into the depths of the sea, and you are forgiven in a moment!
"Oh!" says one, "would God I could believe!" Poor soul, may God help thee to believe now! God took upon Himself our flesh; Christ was born among men, and suffered on account of human guilt, being made to suffer "the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." Christ was punished in the room, place, and stead of every man and woman who will believe on Him. If you believe on Him, He was punished for you; and you will never be punished. Your debts are paid, your sins are forgiven. God cannot punish you, for He has punished Christ instead of you, and He will never punish twice for one offence. To believe is to trust. If you will now trust your soul entirely with Him, you are saved, for He loved you, and gave Himself for you. When you know this, and feel it to be true, then come to the Lord's table, and join with us, when, after supper we sing our hymn,
Do these charming words afford!
Heavenly blessings without measure
Flow to us from Christ the Lord:
'It is finished! '
Saints, the dying words record.
"Tune your harps anew, ye seraphs,
JESUS ASLEEP ON A PILLOW.
"And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish? And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."Mark 4:38-39.
UR Lord took His disciples with Him into the ship to teach them a practical lesson. It is one thing to talk to people about our oneness with them, and about how they should exercise faith in time of danger, and about their real safety in apparent peril; but it is another, and a far better thing, to go into the ship with them, to let them feel all the terror of the storm, and then to arise, and rebuke the wind, and say unto the sea, "Peace, be still." Our Lord gave His disciples a kind of Kindergarten lesson, an acted sermon, in which the truth was set forth visibly before them. Such teaching produced a wonderful effect upon their lives. May we also be instructed by it!
REAL CONTACT WITH JESUS.
"And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched Me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me."Luke 8:46.
UR Lord was very frequently in the midst of a crowd. His preaching was so plain and so forcible that He always attracted a vast company of hearers; and, moreover, the rumour of the loaves and fishes no doubt had something to do with increasing His audiences, while the expectation of beholding a miracle would be sure to add to the numbers of the hangers-on. Our Lord Jesus Christ often found it difficult to move through the streets, because of the masses who pressed upon Him. This was encouraging to Him as a preacher, and yet how small a residuum of real good came of all the excitement which gathered around His personal ministry! He might have looked upon the great mass, and have said, "What is the chaff to the wheat?" for here it was piled up upon the threshing-floor, heap upon heap; and yet, after His decease, His disciples might have been counted by a few scores, for those who had spiritually received Him were but few. Many were called, but few were chosen. Yet, wherever one was blessed, our Saviour took note of it; it touched a chord in His soul. He never could be unaware when virtue had gone out of Him to heal a sick one, or when power had gone forth with His ministry to save a sinful one. Of all the crowd that gathered round the Saviour upon the day of which our text speaks, I find nothing said about one of them except this solitary "somebody" who had touched Him. The crowd came, and the crowd went; but little is recorded of it all. Just as the ocean, having advanced to full tide, leaves but little behind it when it retires again to its channel, so the vast multitude around the Saviour left only this one precious depositone "somebody" who had touched Him, and had received virtue from Him.
Let your lowliness of heart, your sense of utter nothingness, instead of disqualifying you, be a sweet medium for leading you to receive more of Christ. The more empty I am, the more room is there for my Master. The more I lack, the more He will give me. The more I feel my sickness, the more shall I adore and bless Him when He makes me whole.
You see, the woman did really touch Christ, and so I come back to that. Whatever infirmity there was in the touch, it was a real touch of faith. She did reach Christ Himself. She did not touch Peter; that would have been of no use to her, any more than it is for the parish priest to tell you that you are regenerate when your life soon proves that you are not. She did not touch John or James; that would have been of no more good to her than it is for you to be touched by a bishop's hands, and to be told that you are confirmed in the faith, when you are not even a believer, and therefore have no faith to be confirmed in. She touched the Master Himself; and, I pray you, do not be content unless you can do the same. Put out the hand of faith, and touch Christ. Rest on Him. Rely on His bloody sacrifice, His dying love, His rising power, His ascended plea; and as you rest in Him, yo ur vital touch, however feeble, will certainly give you the blessing your soul needs.
This brings us to the second part of our discourse, upon which I will say only a little.
II. THE WOMAN IN THE CROWD DID TOUCH JESUS, AND, HAVING DONE SO, SHE RECEIVED VIRTUE FROM HIM.
The healing energy streamed at once through the finger of faith into the woman. In Christ, there is healing for all spiritual diseases. There is a speedy healing, a healing which will not take months nor years, but which is complete in one second. There is in Christ a sufficient healing, though your diseases should be multiplied beyond all bounds. There is in Christ an all-conquering power to drive out every ill. Though, like this woman, you baffle physicians, and your case is reckoned desperate beyond all parallel, yet a touch of Christ will heal you. What a precious, glorious gospel I have to preach to sinners! If they touch Jesus, no matter though the devil himself were in them, that touch of faith would drive the devil out of them. Though you were like the man into whom there had entered a legion of devils, the word of Jesus would cast them all into the deep, and you should sit at His feet, clothed, and in your right mind. There is no excess or extravagance of sin which the power of Jesus Christ cannot overcome. If thou canst believe, whatever thou mayest have been, thou shalt be saved. If thou canst believe, though thou hast been lying in the scarlet dye till the warp and woof of thy being are ingrained therewith, yet shall the precious blood of Jesus make thee white as snow. Though thou art become black as hell itself, and only fit to be cast into the pit, yet if thou trustest Jesus, that simple faith shall give to thy soul the healing which shall make thee fit to tread the streets of heaven, and to stand before Jehovah-Rophi's face, magnifying the Lord that healeth thee.
And now, child of God, I want you to learn the same lesson. Very likely, when you came in here, you said,"Alas! I feel very dull; my spirituality is at a very low ebb; the place is hot, and I do not feel prepared to hear; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; I shall have no holy enjoyment to-day!" Why not? Why, the touch of Jesus could make you live if you were dead, and surely it will stir the life that is in you, though it may seem to you to be expiring! Now, struggle hard, my beloved, to get at Jesus! May the Eternal Spirit come and help you, and may you yet find that your dull, dead times can soon become your best times. Oh! what a blessing it is that God takes the beggar up from the dunghill! He does not raise us when He sees us already up, but when He finds us lying on the dunghill, then He delights to lift us up, and set us among princes. Or ever you are aware, your soul may become like the chariots of Ammi-nadib. Up from the depths of heaviness to the very heights of ecstatic worship you may mount as in a single moment if you can but touch Christ crucified. View Him yonder, with streaming wounds, with thorn-crowned head, as in all the majesty of His misery, He expires for you!
"Alas!" say you, "I have a thousand doubts tonight." Ah! but your doubts will soon vanish when you draw nigh to Christ. He never doubts who feels the touch of Christ, at least, not while the touch lasts, for observe this woman! She felt in her body that she was made whole, and so shall you, if you will only come into contact with the Lord. Do not wait for evidences, but come to Christ for evidences. If you cannot even dream of a good thing in yourselves, come to Jesus Christ as you did at the first. Come as if you never had come at all. Come to Jesus as a sinner, and your doubts shall flee away.
"Ay!" saith another, "but my sins come to my remembrance, my sins since conversion." Well, return to Jesus, when your guilt seems to return. The fountain is still open, and that fountain, you will remember, is not only open for sinners, but for saints; for what saith the Scripture"There shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem,"that is, for you, churchmembers, for you, believers in Jesus? The fountain is still open. Come, beloved, come to Jesus anew, and whatever be your sins, or doubts, or heaviness, they shall all depart as soon as you can touch your Lord.
III. And now the last point isand I will not detain you long upon itIF SOMEBODY SHALL TOUCH JESUS, THE LORD WILL KNOW IT.
I do not know your names; a great number of you are perfect strangers to me. It matters nothing; your name is "somebody", and Christ will know you. You are a total stranger, perhaps, to everybody in this place; but if you get a blessing, there will be two who will know it,you will, and Christ will. Oh! if you should look to Jesus this day, it may not be registered in our church-book, and we may not hear of it; but still it will be registered in the courts of heaven, and they will set all the bells of the New Jerusalem a-ringing, and all the harps of angels will take a fresh lease of music as soon as they know that you are born again.
The fruit of His eternal love;
The Son with joy looks down and sees
The purchase of His agonies;
The Spirit takes delight to view
The holy soul He formed anew;
And saints and angels join to sing
The growing empire of their King."
"Somebody!" I do not know the woman's name; I do not know who the man is, but"Somebody!"God's electing love rests on thee, Christ's redeeming blood was shed for thee, the Spirit has wrought a work in thee, or thou wouldst not have touched Jesus; and all this Jesus knows.
It is a consoling thought that Christ not only knows the great children in the family, but He also knows the little ones. This stands fast: "The Lord knoweth them that are His," whether they are only brought to know Him now, or whether they have known Him for fifty years. "The Lord knoweth them that are His," and if I am a part of Christ's body, I may be but the foot, but the Lord knows the foot; and the head and the heart in heaven feel acutely when the foot on earth is bruised. If you have touched Jesus, I tell you that amidst the glories of angels, and the everlasting hallelujahs of all the blood-bought, He has found time to hear your sigh, to receive your faith, and to give you an answer of peace. All the way from heaven to earth there has rushed a mighty stream of healing virtue, which has come from Christ to you. Since you have touched Him, the healing virtue has touched you.
Now, as Jesus knows of your salvation, He wishes other people to know of it, and that is why He has put it into my heart to say,Somebody has touched the Lord. Where is that somebody? Somebody, where are you? Somebody, where are you? You have touched Christ, though with a feeble finger, and you are saved. Let us know it. It is due to us to let us know. You cannot guess what joy it gives us when we hear of sick ones being healed by our Master. Some of you, perhaps, have known the Lord for months, and you have not yet come forward to make an avowal of it; we beg you to do so. You may come forward tremblingly, as this woman did; you may perhaps say, "I do not know what I should tell you." Well, you must tell us what she told the Lord; she told Him all the truth. We do not want anything else. We do not desire any sham experience. We do not want you to manufacture feelings like somebody else's that you have read of in a book. Come and tell us what you have felt. We shall not ask you to tell us what you have not felt, or what you do not know. But, if you have touched Christ, and you have been healed, I ask it, and I think I may ask it as your duty, as well as a favour to us, to come and tell us what the Lord hath done for your soul.
And you, believers, when you come to the Lord's table, if you draw near to Christ, and have a sweet season, tell it to your brethren. Just as when Benjamin's brethren went down to Egypt to buy corn, they left Benjamin at home, but they took a sack for Benjamin, so you ought always to take a word home for the sick wife at home, or the child who cannot come out. Take home food for those of the family who cannot come for it. God grant that you may have always something sweet to tell of what you have experimentally known of precious truth, for while the sermon may have been sweet in itself, it comes with a double power when you can add, "and there was a savour about it which I enjoyed, and which made my heart leap for joy"!
Whoever you may be, my dear friend, though you may be nothing but a poor "somebody", yet if you have touched Christ, tell others about it, in order that they may come and touch Him, too; and the Lord bless you, for Christ's sake! Amen.
CHRIST AND HIS TABLE-COMPANIONS.
"And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him."Luke 22:14.
HE outward ordinances of the Christian religion are but two, and those two are exceedingly simple, yet neither of them has escaped human alteration; and, alas! much mischief has been wrought, and much of precious teaching has been sacrificed, by these miserable perversions. For instance, the ordinance of baptism as it was administered by the apostles betokened the burial of the believer with Christ, and his rising with his Lord into newness of life. Men must needs exchange immersion for sprinkling, and the intelligent believer for an unconscious child, and so the ordinance is slain. The other sacred institution, the Lord's supper, like believers' baptism, is simplicity itself. It consists of bread broken, and wine poured out, these viands being eaten and drunk at a festivala delightful picture of the suff erings of Christ for us, and of the fellowship which the saints have with one another and with Him. But this ordinance, also, has been tampered with by men. By some, the wine has been taken away altogether, or reserved only for a priestly caste; and the simple bread has been changed into a consecrated host. As for the table, the very emblem of fellowship in all nationsfor what expresses fellowship better than surrounding a table, and eating and drinking together?this, forsooth, must be put away, and an altar must be erected, and the bread and wine which were to help us to remember the Lord Jesus are changed into an "unbloody sacrifice", and so the whole thing becomes an unscriptural celebration instead of a holy institution for fellowship. Let us be warned by these mistakes of others never either to add to or take from the Word of God so much as a single jot or tittle. Keep upon the foundation of the Scriptures, and you stand safely, and have an answer for those who question you; yea, and an answer which you may render at the bar of God; but once allow your own whim, or fancy, or taste, or your notion of what is proper and right, to rule you, instead of the Word of God, and you have entered upon a dangerous course, and unless the grace of God prevent, boundless mischief may ensue. The Bible is our standard authority; none may turn from it. The wise man says, in Ecclesiastes, "I counsel thee to keep the King's commandment;" we would repeat his advice, and add to it the sage precept of the mother of our Lord, at Cana, when she said, "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it. "
To that immortal state,
The thoughts of such amazing bliss
Should constant joys create"?
In the anticipation of the joy that shall be yours, forget your present troubles, rise superior to the difficulties of the hour, and if you cannot rejoice in the present, yet rejoice in the future, which shall so soon be your own.
We finish with this word of deep regret,regret that many here cannot understand what we have been talking about, and have no part in it. There are some of you who must not come to the table of communion because you do not love Christ. You have not trusted Him; you have no part in Him. There is no salvation in sacraments. Believe me, they are but delusions to those who do not come to Christ with their heart. You must not come to the outward sign if you have not the thing signified. Here is the way of Salvation: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. To believe in Him is to trust Him; to use an old word, it is recumbency; it is leaning on Him, resting on Him. Here I lean, I rest my whole weight on this support before me; do so with Christ in a spiritual sense: lean on Him. You have a load of sin, lean on Him, sin and all. You are all unworthy, and weak, and perhaps miserable; then cast on Him the weakness, the unworthiness, the misery and all. Take Him to be all in all to you, and when you have thus trusted Him, you will have become His follower; go on by humility to be His disciple, by obedience to be His servant, by love to be His friend, and by communion to be His table-companion.
The Lord so lead you, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
A WORD FROM THE BELOVED'S OWN MOUTH.
"And ye are clean."John 13:10.
S Gideon's fleece was full of dew so that he could wring out the moisture, so will a text sometimes be when the Holy Spirit deigns to visit His servants through its words. This utterance of our Saviour to His disciples has been as a wafer made with honey to our taste, and we doubt not it may prove equally as sweet to others.
His dear hands were pierced for me;
With his spotless vesture on
Holy as the Holy One."
Much of the force of the sentence before us lies in the Person praising . To be certified as clean by the blind priests of Rome, would be small comfort to a true Christian. To receive the approving verdict of our fellow-men is consoling, but it is after all of small consequence. The human standard of purity is itself grossly incorrect, and therefore to be judged by it is but a poor trial, and to be acquitted a slender comfort; but the Lord Jesus judges no man after the flesh, He came forth from God, and is Himself God, infinitely just and good, hence His tests are accurate, and His verdict is absolute. I wot whom He pronounces clean is clean indeed. Our Lord was omniscient, He would have at once detected the least evil in His disciples; if there had remained upon the man unpardoned sin, He must have seen it; if any relic of condemnation had lingered upon them, He must have detected it at once, no speck could have escaped His all-discerning eye; yet did He say without hesitation of all but Judas, "Ye are clean."
Perhaps they did not catch the full glory of this utterance; possibly they missed much of that deep joyous meaning, which is now revealed to us by the Spirit; otherwise, what bliss to have heard with their own ears from those sacred lips, so plain, so positive, so sure a testimony to their character before God! Yet our hearts need not be filled with regret because we cannot hear that ever-blessed voice with these our earthly ears, for the testimony of Jesus in the Word is quite as sure as the witness of His lips when He spoke among the sons of men, and that testimony is, "Whosoever believeth is justified from all things." Yes, it is as certain as if you, dear friends, heard the Redeemer Himself speak, that you are free from all condemning sin if you are looking with your whole heart to Jesus only as your all in all. What a joy is yours and mine! He who is to judge the world in righteousness has Himself affirmed us to be clean. By how much the condemnation of guilt is black and terrible, by so much the forgiveness of sin is bright and comforting. Let us rejoice in the Lord, whose indisputable judgment has given forth a sentence so joyous, so full of glory.
Then clean indeed I am,
However guilty I have been,
I'm cleans'd;through the Lamb.
"His lips can never lie,
It may cheer us to call to mind the persons praised. They were not cherubim and seraphim, but men, and notably they were men compassed with infirmity. There was Peter, who a few minutes after was forward and presumptuous; and, indeed, it is not needful to name them one by one, for they all forsook their Master, and fled in His hour of peril. Not one among them was more than a mere child in grace; they had little about them that was apostolic except their commission, they were very evidently men of like passions with us; yet their Lord declared them to be clean, and clean they were. Here is good cheer for those souls who are hungering after righteousness, and pining because they feel so much of the burden of in dwelling sin; for cleanliness before the Lord is not destroyed by our infirmities, nor prevented by our inward temptations. We stand in the righteousness of Another. No measure of personal weakness, spiritual anxiety, soul conflict, or mental agony can mar our acceptance in the Beloved. We may be weak infants, or wandering sheep in ourselves, and for both reasons we may be very far from what we wish to be; but, as God sees us, we are viewed as washed in the blood of Jesus, and we, even we, are clean every whit.
What a forcible expression, "clean every whit;" every inch, from every point of view, in all respects, and to the uttermost degree! Dear friend, if a believer, this fact is true to you, even to you. Hesitate not to drink, for it is water out of your own cistern, given to you in the covenant of grace. Think not that it is presumption to believe the Word, marvellous though it be. You are dealing with a wonderful Saviour, who only doeth wonderful things, therefore stand not back on account of the greatness of the blessing, but rather believe the more readily because the Word is so like to everything the Lord doeth or speaketh. Yet when thou hast believed for thyself, and cast every doubt to the wind, thou wilt not wonder less, but more, and it will be thy never-ceasing cry, "Whence is this to me?" How is it that I, who wallowed with swine, should be made pure as the angels? Delivered from the foulest guilt, is it indeed possible that I am made the possessor of a perfect righteousness? Sing, O heavens, for the Lord hath done it, and He shall have everlasting praise!
The Lord has wash'd thee white as snow,
In spotless beauty thou art seen,
And Jesus hath pronounced thee so.
"Despite thy conflicts, doubts, and fears,
The time when the praise was given is not without instruction. The word of loving judgment is in the present tense, "Ye are clean." It is not, "ye were clean," that might be a rebuke for purity shamelessly sullied, a condemnation for wilful neglect, a prophecy of wrath to come; neither is it, "ye might have been clean," that would have been a stern rebuke for privileges rejected, and opportunities wasted; nor is it even, "ye shall be clean," though that would have been a delightful prophecy of good things to come at some distant period; but ye are clean, at this moment, in this room, and around this table. Though but just then Peter had spoken so rudely, yet he was even then clean.
What comfort is here amid our present sense of imperfection! Our cleanness is a matter of this present hour, we are, just here in our present condition and our position, "clean every whit." Why then postpone joy? The cause of it is in possession, let the mirth be even now overflowing. Much of our heritage is certainly future, but if there were no other boon tangible to faith in this immediate present, this one blessing alone should awaken all our powers to the highest praise. Are we even now clothed with the fair white linen which is the righteousness of saints? Yes, 'tis even so, for
We're pardon'd through His name;
And the good Spirit of our God
Has sanctified our frame."
Then let us sing a new song unto Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness.
May the Holy Ghost now bear witness with every believer, "and ye are clean."
Then may your voices sweetly ring,
For if your souls through Christ are clear,
What cause have you to faint or fear?"
THE BELIEVER NOT AN ORPHAN.
"I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."John 14:18.
OU will notice that the margin reads, "I will not leave you orphans: I will come to you." In the absence of our Lord Jesus Christ, the disciples were like children deprived of their parents. During the three years in which He had been with them, He had solved all their difficulties, borne all their burdens, and supplied all their needs. Whenever a case was too hard or too heavy for them, they took it to Him. When their enemies well nigh overcame them, Jesus came to the rescue, and turned the tide of battle. They were all happy and safe enough whilst the Master was with them; He walked in their midst like a father amid a large family of children, making all the household glad. But now He was about to be taken from them by an ignominious death, and they might well feel that they would be like little children deprived of their natural and beloved protector. Our Saviour knew the fear that was in their hearts, and before they could express it, He removed it by saying, "You shall not be left alone in this wild and desert world; though I be absent in the flesh, yet I will be present with you in a more efficacious manner; I will come to you spiritually, and you shall derive from My spiritual presence even more good than you could have had from My bodily presence, had I still continued in your midst."
What joy the blest assurance gives!"
We are not orphans, for "the Lord is risen indeed."
The orphan has a sharp sorrow springing out of the death of his parent, namely, that he is left alone. He cannot now make appeals to the wisdom of the parent who could direct him. He cannot run, as once he did, when he was weary, to climb the paternal knee. He cannot lean his aching head upon the parental bosom. "Father," he may say, but no voice gives an answer. "Mother," he may cry, but that fond title, which would awaken the mother if she slept, cannot arouse her from the bed of death. The child is alone, alone as to those two hearts which were its best companions. The parent and lover are gone. The little ones know what it is to be deserted and forsaken. But we are not so; we are not orphans. It is true Jesus is not here in body, but His spiritual presence is quite as blessed as His bodily presence would have been. Nay, it is better, for supposing Jesus Christ to be here in person, you could not all come and touch the hem of His garment,not all at once, at any rate. There might be thousands waiting all the world over to speak with Him; but how could they all reach Him, if He were merely here in body? You might all be wanting to tell Him something, but in the body He could only receive some one or two of you at a time.
But in spirit there is no need for you to stir from the pew, no need to say a word; Jesus hears your thoughts talk, and attends to all your needs at the same moment. No need to press to get at Him because the throng is great, for He is as near to me as He is to you, and as near to you as to saints in America, or the islands of the Southern Sea. He is everywhere present, and all His beloved may talk with Him. You can tell Him at this moment the sorrows which you dare not open up to anyone else. You will feel that, in declaring them to Him, you have not breathed them to the air, but that a real Person has heard you, One as real as though you could grip His hand, and could see the loving flash of His eye and mark the sympathetic change of His countenance.
Is it not so with you, ye children of a living Saviour? You know it is; you have a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. You have a near and dear One, who, in the dead of the night is in the chamber, and in the heat and burden of the day is in the field of labour. You are not orphans, the "Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," is with you; your Lord is here; and, as one whom his mother comforteth, so Jesus comforts you.
The orphan, too, has lost the kind hand which took care always that food and raiment should be provided, that the table should be well stored, and that the house should be kept in comfort. Poor feeble one, who will provide for his wants? His father is dead, his mother is gone: who will take care of the little wanderer now? But it is not so with us. Jesus has not left us orphans; His care for His people is no less now than it was when He sat at the table with Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus, whom "Jesus loved." Instead of the provisions being less, they are even greater, for since the Holy Spirit has been given to us, we have richer fare and are more indulged with spiritual comforts than believers were before the bodily presence of the Master had departed. Do your souls hunger to-night? Jesus gives you the bread of heaven. Do you thirst to-night? The waters from the rock cease not to flow.
You have but to make known your needs to have them all supplied, Christ waits to be gracious in the midst of this assembly. He is here with His golden hand, opening that hand to supply the wants of every living soul. "Oh!" saith one, "I am poor and needy-." Go on with the quotation. "Yet the Lord thinketh upon me." "Ah" saith another, "I have besought the Lord thrice to take away a thorn in the flesh from me." Remember what he said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee." You are not left without the strength you want. The Lord is your Shepherd still. He will provide for you till He leads you through death's dark valley, and brings you to the shining pastures upon the hill-tops of glory. You are not destitute, you need not beg an asylum from an ungodly world by bowing to its demands, or trusting its vain promises, for Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.
The orphan, too, is left without the instruction which is most suitable for a child. We may say what we will, but there is none so fit to form a child's character as the parent. It is a very sad loss for a child to have lost either father or mother in its early days; for the most skilful preceptor, though he may do much, by the blessing of God very much, is but a stop-gap, and but half makes up for the original ordinance of Providence, that the parent's love should fashion the child's mind. But, dear friends, we are not orphans; we who believe in Jesus are not left without an education. Jesus is not here Himself, it is true. I dare say some of you wish you could come on Lord's-days, and listen to Him! Would it not be sweet to look up to this pulpit, and see the Crucified One, and to hear Him preach? Ah! so you think, but the apostle says, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more."
It is most for your profit that you should receive the Spirit of truth, not through the golden vessel of Christ in His actual presence here, but through the poor earthen vessels of humble servants of God like ourselves. At any rate, whether we speak, or an angel from heaven, the speaker matters not; it is the Spirit of God alone that is the power of the Word, and makes that Word to become vital and quickening to you. Now, you have the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is so given, that there is not a truth which you may not understand. You may be led into the deepest mysteries by His teaching. You may be made to know and to comprehend those knotty points in the Word of God which have hitherto puzzled you. You have but humbly to look up to Jesus, and His Spirit will still teach you. I tell you, though you are poor and ignorant, and perhaps can scarcely read a word in the Bible; for all that, you may be better instructed in the things of God than doctors of divinity, if you go to the Holy Spirit, and are taught of Him. Those who go only to books and to the letter, and are taught of men, may be fools in the sight of God; but those who go to Jesus, and sit at His feet, and ask to be taught of His Spirit, shall be wise unto salvation. Blessed be God, there are not a few amongst us of this sort. We are not left orphans; we have an Instructor with us still.
There is one point in which the orphan is often sorrowfully reminded of his orphanhood, namely, in lacking a defender. It is so natural in little children, when some big boy molests them, to say, "I'll tell my father!" How often did we use to say so, and how often have we heard from the little ones since, "I'll tell mother!" Sometimes, the not being able to do this is a much severer loss than we can guess. Unkind and cruel men have snatched away from orphans the little which a father's love had left behind; and in the court of law there has been no defender to protect the orphan's goods. Had the father been there, the child would have had its rights, scarcely would any have dared to infringe them; but, in the absence of the father, the orphan is eaten up like bread, and the wicked of the earth devour his estate. In this sense, the saints are not orphans. The devil would rob us of our heritage if he could, but there is an Advocate with the Father who pleads for us. Satan would snatch from us every promise, and tear from us all the comforts of the covenant; but we are not orphans, and when he brings a suit-at-law against us, and thinks that we are the only defendants in the case, he is mistaken, for we have an Advocate on high. Christ comes in and pleads, as the sinners' Friend, for us; and when He pleads at the bar of justice, there is no fear but that His plea will be of effect, and our inheritance shall be safe. He has not left us orphans.
Now I want, without saying many words, to get you who love the Master to feel what a very precious thought this is, that you are not alone in this world; that, if you have no earthly friends, if you have none to whom you can take your cares, if you are quite lonely so far as outward friends are concerned, yet Jesus is with you, is really with you, practically with you, able to help you, and ready to do so, and that you have a good and kind Protector close at hand at this present moment, for Christ has said it: "I will not leave you orphans."
II. Secondly, there is, A CONSOLATION PROVIDED. The remedy by which the evil is averted is this, our Lord Jesus said, "I will come to you. "
What does this mean? Does it not mean, from the connection, this"I will come to you by My Spirit"? Beloved, we must not confuse the Persons of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is not the Son of God; Jesus, the Son of God, is not the Holy Spirit. They are two distinct Persons of the one Godhead. But yet there is such a wonderful unity, and the blessed Spirit acts so marvellously as the Vicar of Christ, that it is quite correct to say that, when the Spirit comes, Jesus comes, too, and "I will come to you," means -"I, by My Spirit, who shall take My place, and represent Me, I will come to be with you." See then, Christian, you have the Holy Spirit in you and with you to be the Representative of Christ. Christ is with you now, not in person, but by His Representative,an efficient, almighty, divine, everlasting Representative, who stands for Christ, and is as Christ to you in His presence in your souls. Because you thus have Christ by His Spirit, you cannot be orphans, for the Spirit of God is always with you. It is a delightful truth that the Spirit of God always dwells in believers;not sometimes, but always. He is not always active in believers, and He may be grieved until His sensible presence is altogether withdrawn, but His secret presence is always there. At no single moment is the Spirit of God wholly gone from a believer. The believer would die spiritually if this could happen, but that cannot be, for Jesus has said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." Even when the believer sins, the Holy Spirit does not utterly depart from him, but is still in him to make him smart for the sin into which he has fallen. The believer's prayers prove that the Holy Spirit is still within him. "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me," was the prayer of a saint who had fallen very foully, but in whom the Spirit of God still kept His residence, notwithstanding all the foulness of his guilt and sin.
But, beloved, in addition to this, Jesus Christ by His Spirit makes visits to His people of a peculiar kind. The Holy Ghost becomes wonderfully active and potent at certain times of refreshing. We are then especially and joyfully sensible of His divine power. His influence streams through every chamber of our nature, and floods our dark soul with His glorious rays, as the sun shining in its strength. Oh, how delightful this is! Sometimes we have felt this at the Lord's table. My soul pants to sit with you at that table, because I do remember many a happy time when the emblems of bread and wine have assisted my faith, and kindled the passions of my soul into a heavenly flame. I am equally sure that, at the prayer-meeting, under the preaching of the Word, in private meditation, and in searching the Scriptures, we can say that Jesus Christ has come to us. What! have you no hill Mizar to remember?
When with Him in the Holy Mount"?
Oh, yes! some of these blessed seasons have left their impress upon our memories, so that, amongst our dying thoughts, will mingle the remembrance of those blessed seasons when Jesus Christ manifested Himself unto us as He doth not unto the world. Oh, to be wrapped in that crimson vest, closely pressed 'to His open side!' Oh, to put our finger into the print of nails, and thrust our hand into His side! We know what this means by past experience.
Thy former mercies here renew."
Permit us once again to feel the truth of the promise, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." And now, gathering up the few thoughts I have uttered, let me remind you, dear friends, that every word of the text is instructive: "I will not leave you orphans: I will come to you." Observe the "I" there twice over. "I will not leave you orphans; father and mother may, but I will not; friends once beloved may turn stony-hearted, but I will not; Judas may play the traitor, and Ahithophel may betray his David, but I will not leave you comfortless. You have had many disappointments, great heart-breaking sorrows, but I have never caused you any; Ithe faithful and the true Witness, the immutable, the unchangeable Jesus, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, I will not leave you comfortless; I will come unto you." Catch at that word, "I," and let your souls say, "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof; if Thou hadst said, 'I will send an angel to thee,' it would have been a great mercy, but what sayest Thou, 'I will come unto thee'? If Thou hadst bidden some of my brethren come and speak a word of comfort to me, I had been thankful, but Thou hast put it thus in the first person, 'I will come unto you.' O my Lord, what shall I say, what shall I do, but feel a hungering and a thirsting after Thee, which nothing shall satisfy till Thou shalt fulfil Thine own Word, 'I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you'"?
And then notice the persons to whom it is addressed, "I will not leave you comfortless, you, Peter, who will deny Me; you, Thomas, who will doubt Me; I will not leave you comfortless." O you who are so little in Israel that you sometimes think it is a pity that your name is in the church-book at all, because you feel yourselves to be so worthless, so unworthy, He will not leave you comfortless, not even you! "O Lord," thou sayest, "if Thou wouldst look after the rest of Thy sheep, I would bless Thee for Thy tenderness to them, but II deserve to be left; if I were forsaken of Thee, I could not blame Thee, for I have played the harlot against Thy love, but yet Thou sayest, 'I will not leave you.'" Heir of heaven, do not lose your part in this promise. I pray you say, "Lord, come unto me, and though Thou refresh all my brethren, yet, Lord, refresh me with some of the droppings of Thy love; O Lord, fill the cup for me; my thirsty spirit pants for it.
The greatness of redeeming love,
The love of Christ to me.'
Now, Lord, fulfil Thy word to Thine unworthy handmaid, as I stand like Hannah in Thy presence. Come unto me, Thy servant, unworthy to lift so much as his eyes towards heaven, and only daring to say, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' Fulfil Thy promise even to me, 'I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.'"
Take whichever of the words you will, and they each one sparkle and flash after this sort. Observe, too, the richness and sufficiency of the text: "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." He does not promise, "I will send you sanctifying grace, or sustaining mercy, or precious mercy," but He says, what is the only thing that will prevent your being orphans, "I will come to you." Ah! Lord, Thy grace is sweet, but Thou art better. The vine is good, but the clusters are better. It is well enough to have a gift from Thy hand, but oh! to touch the hand itself. It is well enough to hear the words of Thy lips, but oh! to kiss those lips as the spouse did in the Song, this is better still. You know, if there be an orphan child, you cannot prevent its continuing an orphan. You may feel great kindness towards it, supply its wants, and do all you possibly can towards it, but it is an orphan still. It must get its father and its mother back, or else it will still be an orphan. So, our blessed Lord, knowing this, does not say, "I will do this and that for you," but, "I will come to you."
Do you not see, dear friends, here is not only all you can sentence, "I will come to you"? "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell;" so that, when Christ comes, in Him "all fulness" comes. "In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," so that, when Jesus comes, the very Godhead comes to the believer.
In Thee doth richly meet;"
and if Thou shalt come to me, it is better than all the gifts of Thy covenant. If I get Thee, I get all, and more than all, at once. Observe, then, the language and the sufficiency of the promise.
But I want you to notice, further, the continued freshness and force of the promise. Somebody here owes another person fifty pounds, and he gives him a note of hand, "I promise to pay you fifty pounds." Very well! the man calls with that note of hand tomorrow, and gets fifty pounds. And what is the good of the note of hand now? Why, it is of no further value, it is discharged. How would you like to have a note of hand which would always stand good? That would be a right royal present. "I promise to pay evermore, and this bond, though paid a thousand times, shall still hold good." Who would not like to have a cheque of that sort? Yet this is the promise which Christ gives you, "I will not leave you orphans: I will come to you." The first time a sinner looks to Christ, Christ comes to him. And what then? Why, the next minute it is still, "I will come to you." But here is one who has known Christ for fifty years, and he has had this promise fulfilled a thousand times a year: is it not done with? Oh, no! there it stands, just as fresh as when Jesus first spoke it, "I will come to you." Then we will treat our Lord in His own fashion, and take Him at His word. We will go to Him as often as ever we can, for we shall never weary Him; and when He has kept His promise most, then is it that we will go to Him, and ask Him to keep it more still; and after ten thousand proofs of the truth of it, we will only have a greater hungering and thirsting to get it fulfilled again. This is fit provision for life, and for death, "I will come to you." In the last moment, when your pulse beats faintly, and you are just about to pass the curtain, and enter into the invisible world, you may have this upon your lips, and say to your Lord, "My Master, still fulfil the word on which Thou hast caused me to hope, 'I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.' "
Let me remind you that the text is at this moment valid, and for this I delight in it. "I will not leave you comfortless." That means now, "I will not leave you comfortless now." Are you comfortless at this hour? It is your own fault. Jesus Christ does not leave you so, nor make you so. There are rich and precious things in this word, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you, I will come to you now." It may be a very dull time with you, and you are pining to come nearer to Christ. Very well, then plead the promise before the Lord. Plead the promise as you sit where you are: "Lord, Thou hast said Thou wilt come unto me; come unto me to-night." There are many reasons, believer, why you should plead thus. You want Him; you need Him; you require Him; therefore plead the promise, and expect its fulfilment. And oh! when He cometh, what a joy it is; He is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber with his garments fragrant with aloes and cassia! How well the oil of joy will perfume your heart! How soon will your sackcloth be put away, and the garments of gladness adorn you! With what joy of heart will your heavy soul begin to sing when Jesus Christ shall whisper that you are His, and that He is yours! Come, my Beloved, make no tarrying; be Thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of separation, and prove to me Thy promise true, "I will not leave you orphans: I will come to you."
And now, dear friends, in conclusion, let me remind you that there are many who have no share in the text. What can I say to such? From my soul I pity you who do not know what the love of Christ means. Oh! if you could but tell the joy of God's people, you would not rest an hour without it.
Sure the whole world would love Him too."
Remember, if you would find Christ, He is to be found in the way of faith. Trust Him, and He is yours. Depend upon the merit of His sacrifice; cast yourselves entirely upon that, and you are saved, and Christ is yours.
God grant that we may all break bread in the kingdom above, and feast with Jesus, and share His glory! We are expecting His second coming. He is coming personally and gloriously. This is the brightest hope of His people. This will be the fulness of their redemption, the time of their resurrection. Anticipate it, beloved, and may God make your souls to sing for joy!
Which we hope ere long to share;
Christ our Head, and we His members,
Shall appear, divinely fair.
Oh, how glorious !
When we meet Him in the air!
"Bright the prospect soon that greets us
COMMUNION WITH CHRIST AND HIS PEOPLE.
AN ADDRESS AT A COMMUNION SERVICE AT MENTONE.
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread."1 Cor. 10:16-17.
WILL read you the text as it is given in the Revised Version: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the blood of Christ ?" That is to say,Is it not one form of expressing the communion of the blood of Christ? "The bread," or as it is in the margin, "the loaf which we break, is it not a communion of the body of Christ? seeing that we, who are many, are one loaf, one body: for we all partake of the one loaf." The word "loaf" helps to bring out more clearly the idea of unity intended to be set forth by the apostle.
Thus have I given you a list of windows of agate and gates of carbuncle through which you may come at the Lord; but the ordinance of the Lord's supper sets forth a way which surpasses them all. It is the most accessible and the most effectual method of fellowship. Here it is that we have fellowship with the Lord Jesus by receiving Him as our Saviour. We, being guilty, accept of His atonement as our sacrificial cleansing, and in token thereof we eat this bread and drink this cup. "Oh!" says one, "I do not feel that I can get near to Christ. He is so high and holy, and I am only a poor sinner." Just so. For that very reason you can have fellowship with Christ in that which lies nearest to His heart: He is a Saviour, and to be a Saviour there must be a sinner to be saved. Be you that one, and Christ and you shall at once be in union and communion: He shall save, and you shall be saved; He shall sanctify, and you shall be sanctified; and twain shall thus be one. This table sets before you His great sacrifice. Jesus has offered it; will you accept it? He does not ask you to bring anything,no drop of blood, no pang of flesh; all is here, and your part is to come and partake of it, even as of old the offerer partook of the peace-offering which he had brought, and so feasted with God and with the priest. If you work for Christ, that will certainly be some kind of fellowship with Him; but I tell you that the communion of receiving him into your inmost soul is the nearest and closest fellowship possible to mortal man. The fellowship of service is exceedingly honourable, when we and Christ work together for the same objects; the fellowship of suffering is exceedingly instructive, when our heart has graven upon it the same characters as were graven upon the heart of Christ: but the fellowship of the soul which receives Christ, and is received by Christ, is closer, more vital, more essential than any other.
I would disdain to feed?
Is there a foe, before whose face,
I fear Thy cause to plead?"
No, we suffer with each other, and bear each other's burden, and so fulfil the law of Christ. If we do not, we have reason for questioning our own faith; but if we do so, we have communion with each other.
I hope we have fellowship in our joys. Is one happy? We would not envy him, but rejoice with him. Perhaps this is not so universal as it should be among professors. Are we at once glad because another prospers? If another star outshines ours, do we delight in its radiance? When we meet a brother with ten talents, do we congratulate ourselves on having such a man given to help us, or do we depreciate him as much as we can? Such is the depravity of our nature, that we do not readily rejoice in the progress of others if they leave us behind; but we must school ourselves to this. A man will speedily sit down and sympathize with a friend's griefs; but if he sees him honoured and esteemed, he is apt to regard him as a rival, and does not so readily rejoice with him. This ought not to be; without effort we ought to be happy in our brother's happiness. If we are ill, be this our comfort, that many are in robust health; if we are faint, let us be glad that others are strong in the Lord. Thus shall we enjoy a happy fellowship like that of the perfected above.
When I have put all these modes of Christian communion together, no one of them is so sure, so strong, so deep, as communion in receiving the same Christ as our Saviour, and trusting in the same blood for cleansing unto eternal life. Here on the table you have the tokens of the broadest and fullest communion. This is a kind of communion which you and I cannot choose or reject: if we are in Christ, it is and must be ours. Certain brethren restrict their communion in the outward ordinance, and they think they have good reasons for doing so; but I am unable to see the force of their reasoning, because I joyfully observe that these brethren commune with other believers in prayer, and praise, and hearing of the Word, and other ways: the fact being that the matter of real communion is very largely beyond human control, and is to the spiritual body what the circulation of the blood is to the natural body, a necessary process not dependent upon volition. In perusing a deeply spiritual book of devotion, you have been charmed and benefitted, and yet upon looking at the title-page it may be you have found that the author belonged to the Church of Rome. What then? Why, then it has happened that the inner life has broken all barriers, and your spirits have communed. For my own part, in reading certain precious works, I have loathed their Romanism, and yet I have had close fellowship with their writers in weeping over sin, in adoring at the foot of the cross, and in rejoicing in the glorious enthronement of our Lord. Blood is thicker than water, and no fellowship is more inevitable and sincere than fellowship in the precious blood, and in the risen life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, in the common reception of the one loaf, we bear witness that we are one; and in the actual participation of all the chosen in the one redemption, that unity is in very deed displayed and matured in the most substantial manner. Washed in the one blood, fed on the same loaf, cheered by the same cup, all differences pass away, and "we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
A COMMUNION MEDITATION AT MENTONE.
"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."1 Peter 2:24-25.
HIS wonderful passage is a part of Peter's address to servants; and in his day nearly all servants were slaves. Peter begins at the eighteenth verse: "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." If we are in a lowly condition of life, we shall find our best comfort in thinking of the lowly Saviour bearing our sins in all patience and submission. If we are called to suffer, as servants often were in the Roman times, we shall be solaced by a vision of our Lord buffeted, scourged, and crucified, yet silent in the majesty of His endurance. If these sufferings are entirely undeserved, and we are grossly slandered, we shall be comforted by remembering Him who did no sin, and in whose lips was found no guile. Our Lord Jesus is Head of the Guild of Sufferers: He did well, and suffered for it, but took it patiently. Our support under the cross, which we are appointed to bear, is only to be found in Him "who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree."
That ever dawned on sinful earth
Should touch the heart with softer power
For comfort than an angel's mirth?
That to the cross the mourner's eye should turn
Sooner than where the stars of Christmas burn?"
Let us, as we hope to pass through the tribulations of this world, stand fast by the cross; for if that be gone, the lone-star is quenched whose light cheers the down-trodden, shines on the injured, and brings light to the oppressed. If we lose the cross,if we miss the substitutionary sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have lost all.
The verse on which we would now devoutly meditate speaks of three things: the bearing of our sins, the changing of our condition, and the healing of our spiritual diseases. Each of these deserves our most careful notice.
I. The first is, THE BEARING OF OUR SINS by our Lord; "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." These words in plainest terms assert that our Lord Jesus did really bear the sins of His people. How literal is the language! Words mean nothing if substitution is not stated here. I do not know the meaning of the fifty-third of Isaiah if this is not its meaning. Hear the prophet's words: "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all;" "for the transgression of my people was He stricken;" "He shall bear their iniquities:" "He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bare the sin of many."
I cannot imagine that the Holy Spirit would have used language so expressive if He had not intended to teach us that our Saviour did really bear our sins, and suffer in our stead. What else can be intended by texts like these"Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb. 9:28); "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21); "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal. 3:13); "Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour" (Eph. 5:2); "Once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26)? I say modestly, but firmly, that these Scriptures either teach the bearing of our sins by our Lord Jesus, or they teach nothing. In these days, among many errors and denials of truth, there has sprung up a teaching of "modern thought" which explains away the doctrine of substitution and vicarious sacrifice. One wise man has gone so far as to say that the transference of sin or righteousness is impossible, and another creature of the same school has stigmatized the idea as immoral.
It does not much matter what these modern haters of the cross may dare to say; but, assuredly, that which they deny, denounce, and deride, is the cardinal doctrine of our most holy faith, and is as clearly in Scripture as the sun is in the heavens. Beloved, as we suffer through the sin of Adam, so are we saved through the righteousness of Christ. Our fall was by another, and so is our rising again: we are under a system of representation and imputation, gainsay it who may. To us, the transference of our sin to Christ is a blessed fact clearly revealed in the Word of God, and graciously confirmed in the realizations of our faith. In that same chapter of Isaiah we read, "Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, "and we perceive that this was a matter of fact, for He was really, truly, and emphatically sorrowful; and, therefore, when we read that "He bare our sins in His own body on the tree," we dare not flitter it away, but assuredly believe that in very deed He was our Sin-Bearer. Possible or impossible, we sing with full assurance
Had the sorrow been figurative, the sin-bearing might have been mythical; but the one fact is paralleled by the other. There is no figure in our text; it is a bare, literal fact: "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." Oh, that men would give up cavilling! To question and debate at the cross, is an act near akin to the crime of the soldiers when they parted His garments among them, and cast lots for His vesture.
Note how personal are the terms here employed! How expressly the Holy Ghost speaketh! "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body." It was not by delegation, but "His own self"; and it was not in imagination, but "in His own body." Observe, also, the personality from our side of the question, He "bare our sins," that is to say, my sins and your sins. There is a sort of cadence of music here,"His own self," "our sins." As surely as it was Christ's own self that suffered on the cross, so truly was it our own sins that Jesus bore in His own body on the tree. Our Lord has appeared in court for us, accepting our place at the bar: "He was numbered with the transgressors." Nay, more, He has appeared at the place of execution for us, and has borne the death-penalty upon the gibbet of doom in our stead. In propria persona, our Redeemer has been arraigned, though innocent; has come under the curse, though for ever blessed; and has suffered to the death, though He had done nothing worthy of blame. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed."
This sin-bearing on our Lord's part was continual. The passage before us has been forced beyond its teaching, by being made to assert that our Lord Jesus bore our sins nowhere but on the cross: this the words do not say. "The tree" was the place where beyond all other places we see our Lord bearing the chastisement due to our sins; but before this, He had felt the weight of the enormous load. It is wrong to base a great doctrine upon the incidental form of one passage of Scripture, especially when that passage of Scripture bears another meaning.
The marginal reading, which is perfectly correct, is "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body to the tree." Our Lord carried the burden of our sins up to the tree, and there and then He made an end of it. He had carried that load long before, for John the Baptist said of Him, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away" (the verb is in the present tense, "which taketh away") "the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Our Lord was then bearing the sin of the world as the Lamb of God. From the day when He began His divine ministry, I might say even before that, He bore our sins. He was the Lamb "slain from the foundation of the world;" so, when He went up to Calvary, bearing His cross, He was bearing our sins up to the tree. Yet, specially and peculiarly in His death-agony He stood in our stead, and upon His soul and body burst the tempest of justice which had gathered through our transgressions.
This sin-bearing is final. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, but He bears them now no more. The sinner and the sinner's Surety are both free, for the law is vindicated, the honour of government is cleared, the substitutionary sacrifice is complete. He dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him; for He has ended His work, and has cried, "It is finished." As for the sins which He bore in His own body on the tree, they cannot be found, for they have ceased to be, according to that ancient promise, "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found" (Jeremiah 1:20). The work of the Messiah was "to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness" (Daniel 9:24). Now, if sin is made an end of, there is an end of it; and if transgression is "finished", there is no more to be said about it.
Let us look back with holy faith, and see Jesus bearing the stupendous load of our sins up to the tree, and on the tree; and see how effectual was His sacrifice for discharging the whole mass of our moral liability both in reference to guiltiness in the sight of God, and the punishment which follows thereon. It is a law of nature that nothing can be in two places at the same time; and if sin was borne away by our Lord, it cannot rest upon us. If by faith we have accepted the Substitute whom God Himself has accepted, then it cannot be that the penalty should be twice demanded, first of the Surety, and then of those for whom He stood. The Lord Jesus bore the sins of His people away, even as the scape-goat, in the type, carried the sin of Israel to a land uninhabited. Our sins are gone for ever. "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us." He hath cast all our iniquities into the depths of the sea; he hath hurled them behind his back, where they shall no more be seen.
Beloved friends, we very calmly and coolly talk about this thing, but it is the greatest marvel in the universe; it is the miracle of earth, the mystery of heaven, the terror of hell. Could we fully realize the guilt of sin, the punishment due to it, and the literal substitution of Christ, it would work in us an intense enthusiasm of gratitude, love, and praise. I do not wonder that our Methodist friends shout, "Hallelujah!" This is enough to make us all shout and sing, as long as we live, "Glory, glory to the Son of God!" What a wonder that the Prince of glory, in whom is no sin, who was indeed incapable of evil, should condescend to come into such contact with our sin as is implied in His being "made sin for us"! Our Lord Jesus did not handle sin with the golden tongs, but He bore it on His own shoulders. He did not lift it with golden staves, as the priests carried the ark; but He Himself bore the hideous load of our sin in His own body on the tree. This is the mystery of grace which angels desire to look into. I would for ever preach it in the plainest and most unmistakable language.
II. In the second place, briefly notice THE CHANGE IN OUR CONDITION, which the text describes as coming out of the Lord's bearing of our sins: "That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." The change is a dying and a reviving, a burial and a resurrection: we are brought from life to death, and from death to life.
We are henceforth legally dead to the punishment of sin. If I were condemned to die for an offence, and some other died in my stead, then I died in him who died for me. The law could not a second time lay its charge against me, and bring me again before the judge, and condemn me, and lead me out to die. Where would be the justice of such a procedure? I am dead already: how can I die again? I have borne the wrath of God in the person of my glorious and ever-blessed Substitute; how then can I bear it again? Where was the use of a Substitute if I am to bear it also? Should Satan come before God to lay an accusation against me, the answer is, "This man is dead. He has borne the penalty, and is 'dead to sins,' for the sentence against him has been executed upon Another." What a wonderful deliverance for us! Bless the Lord, O my soul!
But Peter also means to remind us that, by and through the influence of Christ's death upon our hearts, the Holy Ghost has made us now to be actually "dead to sins": that is to say, we no longer love them, and they have ceased to hold dominion over us. Sin is no longer at home in our hearts; if it enters there, it is as an intruder. We are no more its willing servants. Sin calls to us by temptation, but we give it no answer, for we are dead to its voice. Sin promises us a high reward, but we do not consent, for we are dead to its allurements. We sin, but our will is not to sin. It would be heaven to us to be perfectly holy. Our heart and life go after perfection, but sin is abhorred of our soul. "Now, if I do that which I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." Our truest and most real self loathes sin; and though we fall into it, it is a fall,we are out of our element, and escape from the evil with all speed. The new-born life within us has no dealings with sin; it is dead to sin.
The Greek word here used cannot be fully rendered into English; it signifies "being unborn to sins." We were born in sin, but by the death of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit upon us, that birth is undone, "we are unborn to sins." That which was wrought in us by sin, even at our birth, is through the death of Jesus counteracted by the new life which His Spirit imparts. "We are unborn to sins." I like the phrase, unusual as it sounds. Does it seem possible that birth should be reversed: the born unborn? Yet so it is. The true ego, the reallest "I," is now unborn to sins, for we are "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." We are unborn to sins, and born unto God.
But our Lord's sin-bearing has also brought us into life. Dead to evil according to law, we also live in newness of life in the kingdom of grace. Our Lord's object is "that we should live unto righteousness. "Not only are our lives to be righteous, which I trust they are, but we are quickened and made sensitive and vigorous unto righteousness: through our Lord's death we are made quick of eye, and quick of thought, and quick of lip, and quick of heart unto righteousness. Certainly, if the doctrine of His atoning sacrifice does not vivify us, nothing will. When we sin, it is the sorrowful result of our former death; but when we work righteousness, we throw our whole soul into it, "We live unto righteousness." Because our Divine Lord has died, we feel that we must lay ourselves out for His praise. The tree which brought death to our Saviour is a tree of life to us. Sit under this true arbor vitae, and you will shake off the weakness and disease which came in by that tree of knowledge of good and evil. Livingstone in Africa used certain medicines which are known as Livingstone's Rousers; but what rousers are those glorious truths which are extracted from the bitter wood of the cross! O my brethren, let us show in our lives what wonders our Lord Jesus has done for us by His agony and bloody sweat, by His cross and passion!
III. The apostle then speaks of THE HEALING OF OUR DISEASES by Christ's death: "By whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. "
We were healed, and we remain so. It is not a thing to be done in the future; it has been wrought. Peter describes our disease in the words which compose verse twenty-five. What was it, then?
First, it was brutishness. "Ye were as sheep." Sin has made us so that we are only fit to be compared to beasts, and to those of the least intelligence. Sometimes the Scripture compares the unregenerate man to an ass. Man is said to be "born like a wild ass's colt." Amos likens Israel to the "kine of Bashan", and he saith to them, "Ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her." David compared himself to behemoth: "So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before Thee." We are nothing better than beasts until Christ comes to us. But we are not beasts after that: a living, heavenly, spiritual nature is created within us when we come into contact with our Redeemer. We still carry about with us the old brutish nature, but by the grace of God it is put in subjection, and kept there; and our fellowship now is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. We "were as sheep," but we are now men redeemed unto God.
We are cured also of the proneness to wander which is so remarkable in sheep. "Ye were as sheep going astray," always going astray, loving to go astray, delighting in it, never so happy as when they are wandering away from the fold. We wander still, but not as sheep wander: we now seek the right way, and desire to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. If we wander, it is through ignorance or temptation. We can truly say, "My soul followeth hard after Thee." Our Lord's cross has nailed us fast as to hands and feet: we cannot now run greedily after iniquity; rather do we say, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee!"
I'm now return'd to Thee:
Be Thou my Father and my Friend,
Be all in all to me."
Another disease of ours was inability to return: "Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned." Dogs and even swine are more likely to return home than wandering sheep. But now, beloved, though we wandered, we have returned, and do still return to our Shepherd. Like Noah's dove, we have found no rest for the sole of our foot anywhere out of the ark, and therefore we return unto Him, and He graciously pulls us in unto Him. If we wander at any time, we bless God that there is a sacred something within us which will not let us rest, and there is a far more powerful something above us which draws us back. We are like the needle in the compass: touch that needle with your finger, and compel it to point to the east, or to the south, and it may do so for the moment; but take away the pressure, and in an instant it returns to the pole. So we must go back to Jesus; we must return to the Bishop of our souls. Our soul cries, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee." Thus, by the virtue of our Lord's death, an immortal love is created in us, which leads us to seek His face, and renew our fellowship with Him.
Our Lord's death has also cured us of our readiness to follow other leaders. If one sheep goes through a gap in the hedge, the whole flock will follow. We have been accustomed to follow ringleaders in sin or in error: we have been too ready to follow custom, and to do that which is judged proper, respectable, and usual: but now we are resolved to follow none but Jesus, according to His word, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers." For my own part, I am resolved to follow no human leader. Faith in Jesus creates a sacred independence of mind. We have learned so entire a dependence upon our crucified Lord that we have none to spare for men.
Finally, beloved friends, when we were wandering we were like sheep exposed to wolves, but we are delivered from this by being near the Shepherd. We were in danger of death, in danger from the devil, in danger from a thousand temptations, which, like ravenous beasts, prowled around us. Having ended our wandering, we are now in a place of safety. When the lion roars, we are driven the closer to the Shepherd, and rejoice that His crook protects us. He says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
What a wonderful work of grace has been wrought in us! We owe all this, not to the teaching of Christ, though that has helped us greatly; not to the example of Christ, though that is charming us into a diligent copying of it; but we owe it all to His stripes: "By whose stripes ye were healed." Brethren, we preach Christ crucified, because we have been saved by Christ crucified. His death is the death of our sins. We can never give up the doctrine of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice, for it is the power by which we hope to be made holy. Not only are we washed from guilt in His blood, but by that blood we overcome sin. Never, so long as breath or pulse remains, can we conceal the blessed truth that He "His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." The Lord give us to know much more of this than I can speak, for Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.
SWOONING AND REVIVING AT CHRIST'S FEET.
AN ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE CLOSE OF ONE OF THE PASTORS' COLLEGE CONFERENCES.
"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold. I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."Revelation 1:17-18.
E have nothing now to think of but our Lord. We come to Him that He may cause us to forget all others. We are not here as ministers, cumbered with much serving, but we now sit at His feet with Mary, or lean on His bosom with John. The Lord Himself gives us our watchword as we muster our band for the last assembly. "Remember Me," is His loving command. We beseech Him to fill the full circle of our memory as the sun fills the heavens and the earth with light. We are to think only of Jesus, and of Him only will I speak. Oh, for a touch of the live coal from Him who is our Altar as well as our Sacrifice!
C. H. SPURGEON'S COMMUNION HYMN.
C. H. SPURGEON'S COMMUNION HYMN.