I WILL GIVE YOU REST
A COMMUNION ADDRESS AT MENTONE
"I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28
WE 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.'"
By faith, I see our Lord standing in our midst, and I hear Him say, with voice of sweetest music, first to all of us together, and then to each one individually, "I will give you rest." May the Holy Spirit bring to each of us the fulness of the rest and peace of God! For a few minutes only shall I need your attention; and we will begin by asking the question,--
I. What must these words mean?
A dear friend prayed this morning that, while studying the Scriptures, we might be enabled to read between the lines, and beneath the letter of the Word. May we have holy insight thus to read our Lord's most gracious language!
This promise must mean rest to all parts of our spiritual nature. Our bodies cannot rest if the head is aching, or the feet are full of pain; if one member is disturbed, the whole frame is unable to rest; and so the higher nature is one, and such intimate sympathies bind together all its faculties and powers, that every one of them must rest, or none can be at ease, Jesus gives real, and, consequently, universal rest to every part of our spiritual being.
The heart is by nature restless as old ocean's waves; it seeks an object for its affection; and when it finds one beneath the stars, it is doomed to sorrow. Either the beloved changes, and there is disappointment; or death comes in, and there is bereavement. The more tender the heart, the greater its unrest. Those in whom the heart is simply one of the largest valves are undisturbed, because they are callous; but the sensitive, the generous, the unselfish, are often found seeking rest and finding none. To such, the Lord Jesus says, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." Look hither, ye loving ones, for here is a refuge for your wounded love! You may delight yourselves in the Well-beloved, and never fear that He will fail or forget you. Love will not be wasted, however much it may be lavished upon Jesus. He deserves it all, and he requites it all. In loving Him, the heart finds a delicious content. When the head lies in His bosom, it enjoys an ease which no pillow of down could bestow. How Madame Guyon rested amid severe persecutions, because her great love to Jesus filled her soul to the brim! O aching heart, O breaking heart, come hither, for Jesus saith, "I will give you rest."
The conscience, when it is at all alive and awake, is much disturbed because the holy law of God has been broken by sin. Now, conscience once aroused is not easily quieted. Neither unbelief nor superstition can avail to lull it to sleep; it defies these opiates of falsehood, and frets the soul with perpetual annoyance. Like the troubled sea, it cannot rest; but constantly casts up upon the shore of memory the mire and dirt of past transgressions and iniquities. Is this your case? Then Jesus says, "I will give you rest." If, at any time, fears and apprehensions arise from an awakened conscience, they can only be safely and surely quieted by our flying to the Crucified. In the blessed truth of a substitution, accepted of God, and fully made by the Lord Jesus, our mind finds peace. Justice is honoured, and law is vindicated, in the sacrifice of Christ. Since God is satisfied, I may well be so. Since the Father has raised Jesus from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand, there can be no question as to His acceptance; and, consequently, all who are in Him are accepted also. We are under no apprehension now as to our being condemned; Jesus gives us rest, by enabling us to utter the challenge, "Who is he that condemneth?" and to give the reassuring answer, "Christ hath died."
The intellect is another source of unrest; and in these times it operates with special energy towards labour and travail of mind. Doubts, stinging like mosquitoes, are suggested by almost every page of the literature of the day. Most men are drifting, like vessels which have no anchors, and these come into collision with us. How can we rest? This scheme of philosophy eats up the other; this new fashion of heresy devours the last. Is there any foundation? Is anything true? Or is it all romance, and are we doomed to be the victims of an ever-changing lie? O soul, seek not a settlement by learning of men; but come and learn of Jesus, and thou shalt find rest! Believe Jesus, and let all the Rabbis contradict. The Son of God was made flesh, He lived, He died, He rose again, He lives, He loves; this is true, and all that He teaches in His Word is assured verity; the rest may blow away, like chaff before the wind. A mind in pursuit of truth is a dove without a proper resting-place for the sole of its foot, till it finds its rest in Jesus, the true Noah.
Next, these words mean rest about all things. He who is uneasy about anything has not found rest. A thousand thorns and briars grow on the soil of this earth, and no man can happily tread life's ways unless his feet are shod with that preparation of the gospel of peace which Jesus gives. In Christ, we are at rest as to our duties; for He instructs and helps us in them. In Him, we are at rest about our trials; for He sympathizes with us in them. With His love, we are restful as to the movements of Providence; for His Father loves us, and will not suffer anything to harm us. Concerning the past, we rest in His forgiving love; as to the present, it is bright with His loving fellowship; as to the future, it is brilliant with His expected Advent. This is true of the little as well as of the great. He who saves us from the battle-axe of Satanic temptation, also extracts the thorn of a domestic trial. We may rest in Jesus as to our sick child, as to our business trouble, or as to grief of any kind. He is our Comforter in all things, our Sympathizer in every form of temptation. Have you such all-covering rest? If not, why not? Jesus gives it; why do you not partake of it? Have you something which you could not bring to Him? Then, fly from it; for it is no fit thing for a believer to possess. A disciple should know neither grief nor joy which he could not reveal to his Lord.
This rest, we may conclude, must be a very wonderful one, since Jesus gives it. His hands give not by pennyworths and ounces; he gives golden gifts, in quantity immeasurable. It is Jesus who gives the peace of God which passeth all understanding. It is written, "Great peace have they which love Thy law;" what peace must they have who love God's Son! There are periods when Jesus gives us a heavenly Elysium of rest; we cannot describe the divine repose of our hearts at such times. We read, in the Gospels, that when Jesus hushed the storm, "there was a great calm," not simply "a calm", but a great calm, unusual, absolute, perfect, memorable. It reminds us of the stillness which John describes in the Revelation: "I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree;" not a ripple stirred the waters, not a leaf moved on the trees.
Assuredly, our Lord has given a blessed rest to those who trust Him, and follow Him. They are often unable to inform others as to their deep peace, and the reasons upon which it is founded; but they know it, and it brings them an inward wealth compared with which the fortune of an ungodly millionaire is poverty itself. May we all know to the full, by happy, personal experience, the meaning of our Saviour's promise, "I will give you rest"!
II. But now, in the second: place, let us ask,--Why should we have this rest?
The first answer is in our text. We should enjoy this rest because Jesus gives it. As He gives it, we ought to take it. Because He gives it, we may take it. I have known some Christians who have thought that it would be presumption on their part to take this rest; so they have kept fluttering about, like frightened birds, weary with their long flights, but not daring to fold their tired wings, and rest. If there is any presumption in the case, let us not be so presumptuous as to think that we know better than our Lord. He gives us rest: for that reason, if for no other, let us take it, promptly and gratefully. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." Say with David, "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.""Now rest, my long-divided heart, 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--"Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep;"
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,--"I heard the voice of Jesus say,
'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 subject, 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
THE 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.
I. Let us dwell a while on the fact that Jesus sang at such a time as this. What does He teach us by it? Does He not say to each of us, His followers "My religion is one of happiness and joy; I, your Master, by My example would instruct you to sing even when the last solemn hour is come, and all the glooms of death are gathering around you? Here, at the table, I am your Singing- master, and set you lessons in music, in which My dying voice shall lead you: notwithstanding all the griefs which overwhelm My heart, I will be to you the Chief Musician, and the Sweet Singer of Israel"? If ever there was a time when it would have been natural and consistent with the solemnities of the occasion for the Saviour to have bowed His head upon the table, bursting into a flood of tears; or, if ever there was a season when He might have fittingly retired from all company, and have bewailed His coming conflict in sighs and groans, it was just then. But no; that brave heart will sing "an hymn." Our glorious Jesus plays the man beyond all other men. Boldest of the sons of men, He quails not in the hour of battle, but tunes His voice to loftiest psalmody. The genius of that Christianity of which Jesus is the Head and Founder, its object, spirit, and design, are happiness and joy, and they who receive it are able to sing in the very jaws of death.
This remark, however, is quite a secondary one to the next: our Lord's complete fulfilment of the law is even more worthy of our attention. It was customary, when the Passover was held, to sing, and this is the main reason why the Saviour did so. During the Passover, it was usual to sing the hundred and thirteenth, and five following Psalms, which were called the "Hallel." The first commences, you will observe, in our version, with "Praise ye the Lord!" or, "Hallelujah!" The hundred and fifteenth, and the three following, were usually sung as the closing song of the Passover. Now, our Saviour would not diminish the splendour of the great Jewish rite, although it was the last time that He would celebrate it. No; there shall be the holy beauty and delight of psalmody; none of it shall be stinted; the "Hallel" shall be full and complete. We may safely believe that the Saviour sang through, or probably chanted, the whole of these six Psalms; and my heart tells me that there was no one at the table who sang more devoutly or more cheerfully than did our blessed Lord. There are some parts of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm, especially, which strike us as having sounded singularly grand, as they flowed from His blessed lips. Note verses 22, 23, 24. Particularly observe those words, near the end of the Psalm, and think you hear the Lord Himself singing them, "God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Thou art my God, and I will praise Thee: Thou art my God, I will exalt Thee. O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever."
Because, then, it was the settled custom of Israel to recite or sing these Psalms, our Lord Jesus Christ did the same; for He would leave nothing unfinished. Just as, when He went down into the waters of baptism, He said, "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness," so He seemed to say, when sitting at the table, "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness; therefore let us sing unto the Lord, as God's, people in past ages have done." Beloved, let us view with holy wonder the strictness of the Saviour's obedience to His Father's will, and let us endeavour to follow in His steps, in all things, seeking to be obedient to the Lord's Word in the little matters as well as in the great ones.
May we not venture to suggest another and deeper reason? Did not the singing of "an hymn" at the supper show the holy absorption of the Saviour's soul in His Father's will? If, beloved, you knew that at--say ten o'clock to-night--you would be led away to be mocked, and despised, and scourged, and that to- morrow's sun would see you falsely accused, hanging, a convicted criminal, to die upon a cross, do you think that you could sing tonight, after your last meal? I am sure you could not, unless with more than earth born courage and resignation your soul could say, "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." You would sing if your spirit were like the Saviour's spirit; if, like Him, you could exclaim, "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt;" but if there should remain in you any selfishness, any desire to be spared the bitterness of death, you would not be able to chant the "Hallel" with the Master. Blessed Jesus, how wholly wert Thou given up! how perfectly consecrated! so that, whereas other men sing when they are marching to their joys, Thou didst sing on the way to death; whereas other men lift up their cheerful voices when honour awaits them, Thou hadst a brave and holy sonnet on Thy lips when shame, and spitting, and death were to be Thy portion.
This singing of the Saviour also teaches us the whole- heartedness of the Master in the work which He was about to do. The patriot-warrior sings as he hastens to battle; to the strains of martial music he advances to meet the foeman; and even thus the heart of our all-glorious Champion supplies Him with song even in the dreadful hour of His solitary agony. He views the battle, but He dreads it not; though in the contest His soul will be "exceeding sorrowful even unto death," yet before it, He is like Job's war-horse, "he saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off." He has a baptism to be baptized with, and He is straitened until it be accomplished. The Master does not go forth to the agony in the garden with a cowed and trembling spirit, all bowed and crushed in the dust; but He advances to the conflict like a man who has his full strength about him--taken out to be a victim (if I may use such a figure), not as a worn-out ox that has long borne the yoke, but as the firstling of the bullock, in the fulness of His strength. He goes forth to the slaughter, with His glorious undaunted spirit fast and firm within Him, glad to suffer for His people's sake and for His Father's glory."For as at first Thine all-pervading look
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--"Where all the singers meet."
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."Now for a tune of lofty praise
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:--"Hither, then, your music bring, 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.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."Love, so vast that nought can bound;
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,
Bearing there unutter'd loss;
Love, which brought Him to the gloom
Of the cold and darksome tomb.
"Love, which made Him hence arise
Far above the starry skies,
There with tender, loving care,
All His people's griefs to share.
"Love, which will not let Him rest
Till His chosen all are blest;
Till they all for whom He died
Live rejoicing by His side."
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 dead--the 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 blood--this 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,--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,--"Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above:
Praise the mount--oh, fix me on it,
Mount of God's unchanging love!""When He's the subject of the song,
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?--"Stitch, stitch, stitch,
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 be 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,--"'It is finished!'--Oh, what pleasure
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,
Join to sing the pleasing theme;
All on earth, and all in heaven,
Join to praise Immanuel's name!
Glory to the bleeding Lamb!"
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
OUR 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! In our text there are two great calms; the first is, the calm in the Saviour's heart, and the second is, the calm which He created with a word upon the storm-tossed sea.
I. Within the Lord where was a great calm, and that is why there was soon a great calm around Him; for what is in God comes out of God. Since there was a calm in Christ for Himself, there was afterwards a calm outside for others. What a wonderful inner calm it was! "He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow."
He had perfect confidence in God that all was well. The waves might roar, the winds might rage, but He was not at all disquieted by their fury. He knew that the waters were in the hollow of His Father's hand, and that every wind was but the breath of His Father's mouth; and so He was not troubled; nay, He had not even a careful thought, He was as much at ease as on a sunny day. His mind and heart were free from every kind of care, for amid the gathering tempest He deliberately laid Himself down, and slept like a weary child. He went to the hinder part of the ship, most out of the gash of the spray; He took a pillow, and put it under His head, and with fixed intent disposed Himself to slumber. It was His own act and deed to go to sleep in the storm; He had nothing for which to keep awake, so pure and perfect was His confidence in the great Father. What an example this is to us! We have not half the confidence in God that we ought to have, not even the best of us. The Lord deserves our unbounded belief, our unquestioning confidence, our undisturbed reliance. Oh, that we rendered it to Him as the Saviour did!
There was also mixed with His faith in the Father a sweet confidence in His own Sonship. He did not doubt that He was the Son of the Highest. I may not question God's power to deliver, but I may sometimes question my right to expect deliverance; and if so, my comfort vanishes. Our Lord had no doubts of this kind. He had long before heard that word, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" He had so lived and walked with God that the witness within Him was continuous, so He had no question about the Father's love to Him as His own Son. "Rocked in the cradle of the deep," His Father keeping watch over Him,--what could a child do better than go to sleep in such a happy position? And so He does. You and I, too, want a fuller assurance of our sonship if we would have greater peace with God. The devil knows that, and therefore he will come to us with his insinuating suggestion, "If thou be the son of God." If we have the Spirit of adoption in us, we shall put the accuser to rout at once, by opposing the Witness within to his question from without. Then shall we be filled with a great calm, because we have confidence in our Father, and assurance of our sonship.
Then He had a sweet way---this blessed Lord of ours--of leaving all with God. He takes no watch, He makes no fret; but He goes to sleep. Whatever comes, He has left all in the hands of the great Caretaker; and what more is needful? If a watchman were set to guard my house, I should be foolish if I also sat up for fear of thieves. Why have a watchman if I cannot trust him to watch? "Cast thy burden upon the Lord;" but when thou hast done so, leave it with the Lord, and do not try to carry it thyself. That is to make a mock of God, to have the name of God, but not the reality, of God. Lay down every care, even as Jesus did when He went calmly to the hinder part of the ship, and quietly took a pillow, and went to sleep.
But I think I hear someone say, "I could do that if mine were solely care about myself." Yes, perhaps you could; and yet you cannot cast upon God your burden of care about your children. But your Lord trusted the Father with those dear to Him. Do you not think that Christ's disciples were as precious to Him as our children are to us? If that ship had been wrecked, what would have become of Peter? What would have become of "that disciple whom Jesus loved"? Our Lord regarded with intense affection those whom He had chosen and called, and who had been with Him in His temptation, yet He was quite content to leave them all in the care of His Father, and go to sleep.
You answer, "Yes, but there is a still wider circle of people watching to see what will happen to me, and to the cause of Christ with which I am connected. I am obliged to care, whether I will or no." Is your case, then, more trying than your Lord's? Do you forget that "there were also with Him many other little ships"? When the storm was tossing His barque, their little ships were even more in jeopardy; and He cared for them all. He was the Lord High Admiral of the Lake of Gennesaret that night. The other ships were a fleet under His convoy, and His great heart went out to them all. Yet He went to sleep, because He had left in His Father's care even the solicitudes of His charity and sympathy. We, my brethren, who are much weaker than He, shall find strength in doing the same.
Having left everything with His Father, our Lord did the very wisest thing possible. He did just what the hour demanded. "Why," say you, "He went to sleep!" That was the best thing Jesus could do; and sometimes it is the best thing we can do. Christ was weary and worn; and when anyone is exhausted, it is his duty to go to sleep if he can. The Saviour must be up again in the morning, preaching and working miracles, and if He does not sleep, He will not be fit for His holy duty; it is incumbent upon Him to keep Himself in trim for His service. Knowing that the time to sleep has come, the Lord sleeps, and does well in sleeping. Often, when we have been fretting and worrying, we should have glorified God far more had we literally gone to sleep. To glorify God by sleep is not so difficult as some might think; at least, to our Lord it was natural. Here you are worried, sad, wearied; the doctor prescribes for you; his medicine does you no good; but oh! if you enter into full peace with God, and go to sleep, you will wake up infinitely more refreshed than by any drug. The sleep which the Lord giveth to His beloved is balmy indeed. Seek it as Jesus sought it. Go to bed, brother, and you will better imitate your Lord than by putting yourself into ill humour, and worrying other people.
There is a spiritual sleep in which we ought to imitate Jesus. How often I have worried my poor brain about my great church, until I have come to my senses, and then I have said to myself, "How foolish you are! Can you not depend upon God? Is it not far more His cause than yours?" Then I have taken my load in prayer, and left it with the Lord. I have said, "In God's name, this matter shall never worry me again," and I have left my urgent care with Him, and ended it for ever. I have so deliberately given up many a trying case into the Lord's care that, when any of my friends have said to me, "What about so and so?" I have simply answered, "I do not know, and I am no longer careful to know. The Lord will interpose in some way or other, but I will trouble no more about it." No mischief has ever come through any matter which I have left in the divine keeping. The staying of my hand has been wisdom. "Stand still, and see the salvation of God," is God's own precept. Here let us follow Jesus. Having a child's confidence in the great Father, He retires to the stern of the ship, selects a pillow, deliberately lies down upon it, and goes to sleep; and though the ship is filling with water, and rolls and pitches, He sleeps on. Nothing can break the peace of His tranquil soul. Every sailor on board reels to and fro, and staggers like a drunken man, and is at his wits' end; but Jesus is neither at his wits' end, nor does He stagger, for He rests in perfect innocence, and undisturbed confidence. His heart is happy in God, and therefore doth He remain in repose. Oh, for grace to copy Him!
II. But here notice, dear friends, The difference between the Master and His disciples; for while He was in a great calm, they were in a great storm. Here see their failure. They were just as we are, and we are often just as they were.
They gave way to fear. They were sorely afraid that the ship would sink, and that they would all perish. In thus yielding to fear, they forgot the solid reasons for courage which lay near at hand; for, in truth, they were safe enough. Christ is on board that vessel, and if the ship goes down, He will sink with them. The heathen mariner took courage during a storm from the fact that Caesar was on board the ship that was tossed by stormy winds; and should not the disciples feel secure with Jesus on board? Fear not, ye carry Jesus and His cause! Jesus had come to do a work, and His disciples might have known that He could not perish with that work unaccomplished. Could they not trust Him? They had seen Him multiply the loaves and fishes, and cast out devils, and heal all manner of sicknesses; could they not trust Him to still the storm? Unreasonable unbelief! Faith in God is true prudence, but to doubt God is irrational. It is the height of absurdity and folly to question omnipotent love.
And the disciples were so unwise as to do the Master a very ill turn. He was sadly weary, and sorely needed sleep; but they hastened to Him, and aroused Him in a somewhat rough and irreverent manner. They were slow to do so, but their fear urged them; and therefore they awoke Him, uttering ungenerous and unloving words: "Master, carest Thou not that we perish?" Shame on the lips that asked so harsh a question! Did they not upon reflection greatly blame themselves? He had given them no cause for such hard speeches; and, moreover, it was unseemly in them to call Him "Master," and then to ask Him, "Carest Thou not that we perish?" Is He to be accused of such hard-heartednesses to let His faithful disciples perish when He has power to deliver them? Alas, we, too, have been guilty of like offences! I think I have known some of Christ's disciples who have appeared to doubt the wisdom or the love of their Lord. They did not quite say that He was mistaken, but they said that He moved in a mysterious way; they did not quite complain that He was unkind to them, but they whispered that they could not reconcile His dealings with His infinite love. Alas, Jesus has endured much from our unbelief! May this picture help us to see our spots, and may the love of our dear Lord remove them!
III. I have spoken to you of the Master's calm and of the disciples' failure; now let us think of the great calm which Jesus created. "There was a great calm."
His voice produced it. They say that if oil be poured upon the waters they will become smooth, and I suppose there is some truth in the statement; but there is all truth in this, that if God speaks, the storm subsides into a calm, so that the waves of the sea are still. It only needs our Lord Jesus to speak in the heart of any one of us, and immediately the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, will possess us. No matter how drear your despondency, nor how dread your despair, the Lord can at once create a great calm of confidence. What a door of hope this opens to any who are in trouble! If I could speak a poor man rich, and a sick one well, I am sure I would do so at once; but Jesus is infinitely better than I am, and therefore I know that He will speak peace to the tried and troubled heart.
Note, too, that this calm came at once. "Jesus arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." As soon as Jesus spoke, all was quiet. I have met with a very large number of persons in trouble of mind, and I have seen a few who have slowly come out into light and liberty; but more frequently deliverance has come suddenly. The iron gate has opened of its own accord, and the prisoner has stepped into immediate freedom. "The snare is broken, and we are escaped." What a joy it is to know that rest is so near even when the tempest rages most furiously!
Note, also, that the Saviour coupled this repose with faith, for He said to the disciples as soon as the calm came, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" Faith and the calm go together. If thou believest, thou shalt rest; if thou wilt but cast thyself upon thy God, surrendering absolutely to His will, thou shalt have mercy, and joy, and light. Even if we have no faith, the Lord will sometimes give us the blessing that we need, for He delights to do more for us than we have any right to expect of Him; but usually the rule of His kingdom is, "According to your faith be it unto you."
This great calm is very delightful, and concerning this I desire to bear my personal testimony. I speak from my own knowledge when I say that it passeth all understanding. I was sitting, the other night, meditating on God's mercy and love, when suddenly I found in my own heart a most delightful sense of perfect peace. I had come to Beulah-land, where the sun shines without a cloud. "There was a great calm." I felt as mariners might do who have been tossed about in broken water, and all on a sudden, they cannot tell why, the ocean becomes as unruffled as a mirror, and the sea-birds come and sit in happy circles upon the water. I felt perfectly content, yea, undividedly happy. Not a wave of trouble broke upon the shore of my heart, and even far out to sea in the deeps of my being all was still. I knew no ungratified wish, no unsatisfied desire. I could not discover a reason for uneasiness, or a motive for fear. There was nothing approaching to fanaticism in my feelings, nothing even of excitement: my soul was waiting upon God, and delighting herself alone in Him. Oh, the blessedness of this rest in the Lord! What an Elysium it is! I must be allowed to say a little upon this purple island in the sea of my life: it was none other than a fragment of heaven. We often talk about our great spiritual storms, why should we not speak of our great calms? If ever we get into trouble, what a noise we make of it! Why should we not sing of our deliverances?
Let us survey our mercies. Every sin that we have ever committed is forgiven. "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." The power of sin within us is broken; it "shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law but under grace." Satan is a vanquished enemy; the world is overcome by our Lord Jesus, and death is abolished by Him. All providence works for our good. Eternity has no threat for us, it bears within its mysteries nothing but immortality and glory. Nothing can harm us. The Lord is our shield, and our exceeding great reward. Wherefore, then, should we fear? The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. To the believer, peace is no presumption: he is warranted in enjoying "perfect peace"--a quiet which is deep, and founded on truth, which encompasses all things, and is not broken by any of the ten thousand disturbing causes which otherwise might prevent our rest. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee." Oh, to get into that calm, and remain in it till we come to that world where there is no more sea!
A calm like that which ruled within our Saviour should we be happy enough to attain to it, will give us in our measure the power to make outside matters calm. He that hath peace can make peace. We cannot work miracles, and yet the works which Jesus did shall we do also. Sleeping His sleep, we shall awake in His rested energy, and treat the winds and waves as things subject to the power of faith, and therefore to be commanded into quiet. We shall speak so as to console others: our calm shall work marvels in the little ships whereof others are captains. We, too, shall say, "Peace! Be still." Our confidence shall prove contagious, and the timid shall grow brave: our tender love shall spread itself, and the contentious shall cool down to patience. Only the matter must begin within ourselves. We cannot create a calm till we are in a calm. It is easier to rule the elements than to govern the unruliness of our wayward nature. When grace has made us masters of our fears, so that we can take a pillow and fall asleep amid the hurricane, the fury of the tempest is over. He giveth peace and safety when He giveth His beloved sleep.
REAL CONTACT WITH JESUS"And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched Me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me." -Luke 8:46
OUR 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 deposit-- one "somebody" who had touched Him, and had received virtue from Him.
Ah, my Master, it may be so again this evening! These Sabbath mornings, and these Sabbath evenings, the crowds come pouring in like a mighty ocean, filling this house, and then they all retire again; only here and there is a "somebody" left weeping for sin, a "somebody" left rejoicing in Christ, a "somebody" who can say, "I have touched the hem of His garment, and I have been made whole." The whole of my other hearers are not worth the "somebodies." The many of you are not worth the few, for the many are the pebbles, and the few are the diamonds; the many are the heaps of husks, and the few are the precious grains. May God find them out at this hour, and His shall be all the praise!
Jesus said, "Somebody hath touched Me," from which we observe that, in the use of means and ordinances, we should never be satisfied unless we get into personal contact with Christ, so that we touch Him, as this woman touched His garment. Secondly, if we can get into such personal contact, we shall have a bless- ing: "I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me;" and, thirdly, if we do get a blessing, Christ will know it; however obscure our case may be, He will know it, and He will have us let others know it; He will speak, and ask such questions as will draw us out, and manifest us to the world.
I. First, then, in the use of all means and ordinances, let it be our chief aim and object to come into personal contact with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter said, "The multitude throng Thee, and press Thee," and that is true of the multitude to this very day; but of those who come where Christ is in the assembly of His saints, a large proportion only come because it is their custom to do so. Perhaps they hardly know why they go to a place of worship. They go because they always did go, and they think it wrong not to go. They are just like the doors which swing upon their hinges; they take no interest in what is done, at least only in the exterior parts of the service; into the heart and soul of the business they do not enter, and cannot enter. They are glad if the sermon is rather short, there is so much the less tedium for them. They are glad if they can look around and gaze at the congregation, they find in that something to interest them; but getting near to the Lord Jesus is not the business they come upon. They have not looked at it in that light. They come and they go; they come and they go; and it will be so till, by-and-by, they will come for the last time, and they will find out in the next world that the means of grace were not instituted to be matters of custom, and that to have heard Jesus Christ preached, and to have rejected Him, is no trifle, but a solemn thing for which they will have to answer in the presence of the great Judge of all the earth.
Others there are who come to the house of prayer, and try to enter into the service, and do so in a certain fashion; but it is only self-righteously or professionally. They may come to the Lord's table; perhaps they attend to baptism; they may even join the church. They are baptized, yet not by the Holy Spirit; they take the Lord's supper, but they take not the Lord Himself; they eat the bread, but they never eat His flesh; they drink the wine, but they never drink His blood; they have been buried in the pool, but they have never been buried with Christ in baptism, nor have they risen again with Him into newness of life. To them, to read, to sing, to kneel, to hear, and so on, are enough. They are content with the shell, but the blessed spiritual kernel, the true marrow and fatness, these they know nothing of. These are the many, go into what church or meeting-house you please. They are in the press around Jesus, but they do not touch Him. They come, but they come not into contact with Jesus. They are outward, external hearers only, but there is no inward touching of the blessed person of Christ, no mysterious contact with the ever-blessed Saviour, no stream of life and love flowing from Him to them. It is all mechanical religion. Of vital godliness, they know nothing.
But, "somebody," said Christ, "somebody hath touched Me," and that is the soul of the matter. O my hearer, when you are in prayer alone, never be satisfied with having prayed; do not give it up till you have touched Christ in prayer; or, if you have not got to Him, at any rate sigh and cry until you do! Do not think you have prayed, but try again. When you come to public worship, I beseech you, rest not satisfied with listening to the sermon, and so on, as you all do with sufficient attention; to that I bear you witness;--but do not be content unless you get at Christ the Master, and touch Him. At all times when you come to the communion table, count it to have been no ordinance of grace to you unless you have gone right through the veil into Christ's own arms, or at least have touched His garment, feeling that the first object, the life and soul of the means of grace, is to touch Jesus Christ Himself; and except "somebody" hath touched Him, the whole has been a mere dead performance, without life or power.
The woman in our text was not only amongst those who were in the crowd, but she touched Jesus; and therefore, beloved, let me hold her up to your example in some respects, though I would to God that in other respects you might excel her.
Note, first, she felt that it was of no use being in the crowd, of no use to be in the same street with Christ, or near to the place where Christ was, but she must get at Him; she must touch Him. She touched Him, you will notice, under many difficulties. There was a great crowd. She was a woman. She was also a woman enfeebled by a long disease which had drained her constitution, and left her more fit to be upon a bed than to be struggling in the seething tumult. Yet, notwithstanding that, so intense was her desire, that she urged on her way, I doubt not with many a bruise, and many an uncouth push, and at last, poor trembler as she was, she got near to the Lord. Beloved, it is not always easy to get at Jesus. It is very easy to kneel down to pray, but not so easy to reach Christ in prayer. There is a child crying, it is your own, and its noise has often hindered you when you were striving to approach Jesus; or a knock will come at the door when you most wish to be retired. When you are sitting in the house of God, your neighbour in the seat before you may unconsciously distract your attention. It is not easy to draw near to Christ, especially coming as some of you do right away from the counting-house, and from the workshop, with a thousand thoughts and cares about you. You cannot always unload your burden outside, and come in here with your hearts prepared to receive the gospel. Ah! it is a terrible fight sometimes, a real foot-to-foot fight with evil, with temptation, and I know not what. But, beloved, do fight it out, do fight it out; do not let your seasons for prayer be wasted, nor your times for hearing be thrown away; but, like this woman, be resolved, with all your feebleness, that you will lay hold upon Christ. And oh! if you be resolved about it, if you cannot get to Him, He will come to you, and sometimes, when you are struggling against unbelieving thoughts, He will turn and say, "Make room for that poor feeble one, that she may come to Me, for My desire is to the work of My own hands; let her come to Me, and let her desire be granted to her."
Observe, again, that this woman touched Jesus very secretly. Perhaps there is a dear sister here who is getting near to Christ at this very moment, and yet her face does not betray her. It is so little contact that she has gained with Christ that the joyous flush, and the sparkle of the eye, which we often see in the child of God, have not yet come to her. She is sitting in yonder obscure corner, or standing in this aisle, but though her touch is secret, it is true. Though she cannot tell another of it, yet it is accomplished. She has touched Jesus. Beloved, that is not always the nearest fellowship with Christ of which we talk the most. Deep waters are still. Nay, I am not sure but what we sometimes get nearer to Christ when we think we are at a distance than we do when we imagine we are near Him, for we are not always exactly the best judges of our own spiritual state, and we may be very close to the Master, and yet for all that we may be so anxious to get closer that we may feel dissatisfied with the measure of grace which we have already received. To be satisfied with self, is no sign of grace; but to long for more grace, is often a far better evidence of the healthy state of the soul. Friend, if thou canst not come to the table to-night publicly, come to the Master in secret. If thou darest not tell thy wife, or thy child, or thy father, that thou art trusting in Jesus, it need not be told as yet. Thou mayest do it secretly, as he did to whom Jesus said, "When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee." Nathanael retired to the shade that no one might see him; but Jesus saw him, and marked his prayer, and He will see thee in the crowd, and in the dark, and not withhold His blessing.
This woman also came into contact with Christ under a very deep sense of unworthiness. I dare say she thought, "If I touch the Great Prophet, it will be a wonder if He does not strike me with some sudden judgment," for she was a woman ceremonially un- clean. She had no right to be in the throng. Had the Levitical law been strictly carried out, I suppose she would have been confined to her house; but there she was wandering about, and she must needs go and touch the holy Saviour. Ah! poor heart, you feel to- night that you are not fit to touch the skirts of the Master's robe, for you are so unworthy. You never felt so undeserving before as you do to-night. In the recollection of last week and its infirmities, in the remembrance of the present state of your heart, and all its wanderings from God, you feel as if there never was so worthless a sinner in the house of God before. "Is grace for me?" say you. "Is Christ for me?" Oh! yes, unworthy one. Do not be put off without it. Jesus Christ does not save the worthy, but the unworthy. Your plea must not be righteousness, but guilt. And you, too, child of God, though you are ashamed of yourself, Jesus is not ashamed of you; and though you feel unfit to come, let your unfitness only impel you with the greater earnestness of desire. Let your sense of need make you the more fervent to approach the Lord, who can supply your need.
Thus, you see, the woman came under difficulties, she came secretly, she came as an unworthy one, but still she obtained the blessing.
I have known many staggered with that saying of Paul's, "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself." Now, understand that this passage does not refer to the unworthiness of those persons who come to the Lord's table; for it does not say, "He that eateth and drinketh being unworthy." It is not an adjective; it is an adverb: "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily," that is to say, he who shall come to the outward and visible sign of Christ's presence, and shall eat of the bread in order to obtain money being a member of the church, knowing himself to be a hypocrite, or who shall do it jestingly, trifling with the ordinance: such a person would be eating and drinking unworthily, and he will be condemned. The sense of the passage is, not "damnation", as our version reads it, but "condemnation." There can be no doubt that members of the church, coming to the Lord's table in an unworthy manner, do receive condemnation. They are condemned for so doing, and the Lord is grieved. If they have any conscience at all, they ought to feel their sin; and if not, they may expect the chastisements of God to visit them. But, O sinner, as to coming to Christ,--which is a very different thing from coming to the Lord's table,--as to coming to Christ, the more unworthy you feel yourself to be, the better. Come, thou filthy one, for Christ can wash thee. Come, thou loathsome one, for Christ can beautify thee. Come utterly ruined and undone, for in Jesus Christ there is the strength and salvation which thy case requires.
Notice, once again, that this woman touched the Master very tremblingly, and it was only a hurried touch, but still it was the touch of faith. Oh, beloved, to lay hold on Christ! Be thankful if you do but get near Him for a few minutes. "Abide with me," should be your prayer; but oh, if He only give you a glimpse, be thankful! Remember that a touch healed the woman. She did not embrace Christ by the hour together. She had but a touch, and she was healed; and oh, may you have a sight of Jesus now, my beloved! Though it be but a glimpse, yet it will gladden and cheer your souls. Perhaps you are waiting on Christ, desiring His company, and while you are turning it over in your mind you are asking, "Will He ever shine upon me? Will He ever speak loving words to me? Will He ever let me sit at His feet? Will He ever permit me to lean my head upon His bosom?" Come and try Him. Though you should shake like an aspen leaf, yet come. They sometimes come best who come most tremblingly, for when the creature is lowest then is the Creator highest, and when in our own esteem we are less than nothing and vanity, then is Christ the more fair and lovely in our eyes. One of the best ways of climbing to heaven is on our hands and knees. At any rate, there is no fear of falling when we are in that position, for--"He that is down need fear no fall."
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, your 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 is--and I will not detain you long upon it--if 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."With joy the Father doth approve
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 experi- ence. 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
THE 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 festival--a delightful picture of the sufferings 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 nations--for 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, "What- soever He saith unto you, do it."
We shall now ask you in contemplation to gaze upon the first celebration of the Lord's supper. You perceive at once that there was no altar in that large upper room. There was a table, a table with bread and wine upon it, but no altar; and Jesus did not kneel,--there is no sign of that,--but He sat down, I doubt not, after the Oriental mode of sitting, that is to say, by a partial reclining, He sat down with His apostles. Now, He who ordained this supper knew how it ought to be observed, and as the first celebration of it was the model for all others, we may be assured that the right way of coming to this communion is to assemble around a table, and to sit or recline while we eat and drink together of bread and wine in remembrance of our Lord.
While we see the Saviour sitting down with His twelve apostles, let us enquire, first, what did this make them? Then, secondly, what did this imply? And, thirdly, what further may we legitimately infer from it?
I. First, then, we see the Great Master, the Lord, the King in Zion, sitting down at the table to eat and drink with His twelve apostles,--what did this make them?
Note what they were at first. By His first calling of them they became His followers, for He said unto them, "Follow Me." That is to say, they were convinced, by sundry marks and signs, that He was the Messias, and they, therefore, became His followers. Followers may be at a great distance from their leader, and enjoy little or no intercourse with him, for the leader may be too great to be approached by the common members of his band. In the case of the disciples, their following was unusually close, for their Master was very condescending, but still their inter- course was not always of the most intimate kind at first, and therefore it was not at the first that He called them to such a festival as this supper. They began with following, and this is where we must begin. If we cannot enter as yet into closer association with our Lord, we may, at least, know His voice by His Spirit, and follow Him as the sheep follow the shepherd. The most important way of following Him is to trust Him, and then diligently to imitate His example. This is a good beginning, and it will end well, for those who walk with Him to-day shall rest with Him hereafter; those who tread in His footsteps shall sit on His throne.
Being His followers, they came next to be His disciples. A man may have been a follower for a while, and yet may not have reached discipleship. A follower may follow blindly, and hear a great deal which he does not understand; but when he becomes a disciple, his Master instructs him, and leads him into truth. To explain, to expound, to solve difficulties, to clear away doubts, and to make truth intelligible, is the office of a teacher amongst his disciples. Now, it was a very blessed thing for the followers to become disciples, but still disciples are not necessarily so intimate with their Master as to sit and eat with him. Socrates and Plato knew many in the Academy whom they did not invite to their homes. My brethren, if Jesus had but called us to be His disciples, and no more we should have had cause for great thankfulness; if we had been allowed to sit at His feet, and had never shared in such an entertainment as that before us, we ought to have been profoundly grateful; but now that He has favoured us with a yet higher place, let us never be unfaithful to our discipleship. Let us daily learn of Jesus, let us search the Bible to see what it was that He taught us, and then by the aid of His Holy Spirit let us scrupulously obey. Yet is there a something beyond.
Being the Lord's disciples, the chosen ones next rose to become His servants, which is a step in advance, since the disciple may be but a child, but the servant has some strength, has received some measure of training, and renders somewhat in return. Their Master gave them power to preach the gospel, and to execute commissions of grace, and happy were they to be called to wait upon such a Master, and aid in setting up His kingdom. My dear brethren and sisters, are you all Christ's servants consciously? If so, though the service may at times seem heavy because your faith is weak, yet be very thankful that you are servants at all, for it is better to serve God than to reign over all the kingdoms of this world. It is better to be the lowest servant of Christ than to be the greatest of men, and remain slaves to your own lusts, or be mere men-pleasers. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. The servant of such a Master should rejoice in his calling; yet is there something beyond.
Towards the close of His life, our Master revealed the yet nearer relation of His disciples, and uttered words like these: "Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you." This is a great step in advance. The friend, however humble, enjoys much familiarity with his friend. The friend is told what the servant need not know. The friend enjoys a communion to which the mere servant, disciple, or follower has not attained. May we know this higher association, this dearer bond of relationship! May we not be content without the enjoyment of our Master's friendship! "He that hath friends must show himself friendly;" and if we would have Christ's friendship, we must befriend His cause, His truth, and His people. He is a Friend that loveth at all times; if you would enjoy His friendship, take care to abide in Him.
Now note that, on the night before His Passion, our Lord led His friends a step beyond ordinary friendship. The mere follower does not sit at table with his leader; the disciple does not claim to be a fellow-commoner with his master; the servant is seldom entertained at the same table with his lord; the befriended one is not always invited to be a guest; but here the Lord Jesus made His chosen ones to be His table-companions; He lifted them up to sit with Him at the same table, to eat of the same bread, and drink of the same cup with Himself. From that position He has never degraded them; they were representative men, and where the Lord placed them, He has placed all His saints permanently. All the Lord's believing people are sitting, by sacred privilege and calling, at the same table with Jesus, for truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. He has come into our hearts, and He sups with us, and we with Him; we are His table-companions, and shall eat bread with Him in the kingdom of God.
Table-companions, then, that is the answer to the question, "What did this festival make the apostles?" This festival shows all the members of the Church of Christ to be, through divine grace, table-companions with one another, and with Christ Jesus their Lord.
II. So now we shall pass on, in the second place, to ask, what did this table-companionship imply?
It implied, first of all, mutual fidelity. This solemn eating and drinking together was a pledge of faithfulness to one another. It must have been so understood, or otherwise there would have been no force in the complaint: "He that eateth bread with Me hath lifted up his heel against Me." Did not this mean that, because Judas had eaten bread with his Lord, he was bound not to betray Him, and so to lift up his heel against Him? This was the seal of an implied covenant; having eaten together, they were under bond to be faithful to one another. Now, as many of you as are really the servants and friends of Christ may know that the Lord Jesus, in eating with you at His table, pledges Himself to be faithful to you. The Master never plays the Judas,--the Judas is among the disciples. There is nothing traitorous in the Lord; He is not only able to keep that which we have committed to Him, but He is faithful, and will do it. He will be faithful, not only as to the great and main matter, but also to every promise He has made. Know ye then, assuredly, that your Master would not have asked you to His table to eat bread with Him if He intended to desert you. He has received you as His honoured guests, and fed you upon His choicest meat, and thereby He does as good as say to you, "I will never leave you, come what may, and in all times of trial, and depression, and temptation, I will be at your right hand, and you shall not be moved, and to the very last you shall prove My faithfulness and truth."
But, beloved, you do not understand this supper unless you are also reminded of the faithfulness that is due from you to your Lord, for the feast is common, and the pledge mutual. In eating with Him, you plight your troth to the Crucified, Beloved, how have you kept your pledge during the past year? You have eaten bread with Him, and I trust that in your hearts you have never gone so far aside as to lift up your heel against Him, but have you always honoured Him as you should? Have you acted as guests should have done? Can you remember His love to you, and put your love to Him side by side with it, without being ashamed? From this time forth, may the Holy Ghost work in our souls a jealous fidelity to the Well-beloved which shall not permit our hearts to wander from Him, or suffer our zeal for His glory to decline!
Again, remember that there is in this solemn eating and drinking together a pledge of fidelity between the disciples themselves, as well as between the disciples and their Lord. Judas would have been a traitor if he had betrayed Peter, or John, or James: so, when ye come to the one table, my brethren, ye must henceforth be true to one another. All bickerings and jealousies must cease, and a generous and affectionate spirit must rule in every bosom. If you hear any speak against those you have communed with, reckon that, as you have eaten bread with them, you are bound to defend their reputations. If any railing accusation be raised against any brother in Christ, reckon that his character is as dear to you as your own. Let a sacred Freemasonry be maintained among us, if I may liken a far higher and more spiritual union to anything which belongs to common life. Ye are members one of another, see that ye love each other with a pure heart fervently. Drinking of the same cup, eating of the same bread, you set forth before the world a token which I trust is not meant to be a lie. As it truly shows Christ's faithfulness to you, so let it as really typify your faithfulness to Christ, and to one another.
In the next place, eating and drinking together was a token of mutual confidence. They, in sitting there together, voluntarily avowed their confidence in each other. Those disciples trusted their Master, they knew He would not mislead or deceive them. They trusted each other also, for when they were told that one of them would betray their Lord, they did not suspect each other, but each one said, "Lord, is it I?" They had much confidence in one another, and the Lord Jesus, as we have seen, had placed great confidence in them by treating them as His friends. He had even trusted them with the great secret of His coming sufferings, and death. They were a trustful company who sat at that supper-table. Now, beloved, when you gather around this table, come in the spirit of implicit trustfulness in the Lord Jesus. If you are suffering, do not doubt His love, but believe that He works all things for your good. If you are vexed with cares, prove your confidence by leaving them entirely in your Redeemer's hands. It will not be a festival of communion to you if you come here with suspicions about your Master. No, show your confidence as you eat of the bread with Him. Let there also be a brotherly confidence in each other. Grievous would it be to see a spirit of suspicion and distrust among you. Suspicion is the death of fellowship. The moment one Christian imagines that another thinks hardly of him, though there may not be the slightest truth in that thought, yet straightway the root of bitterness is planted. Let us believe in one another's sincerity, for we may rest assured that each of our brethren deserves to be trusted more than we do. Turn your suspicions within, and if you must suspect, suspect your own heart; but when you meet with those who have communed with you at this table, say within yourself, "If such can deceive me, and alas I they may, then will I be content to be im- posed upon rather than entertain perpetual mistrust of my fellow- Christians."
A third meaning of the assembling around the table is this, hearty fraternity. Our Lord, in sitting down at the table with His disciples, showed Himself to be one with them, a Brother indeed. We do not read that there was any order of priority by which their seats were arranged. Of course, if the Grand Chamberlain at Rome had arranged the table, he would have placed Peter at the right hand of Christ, and the other apostles in graduated positions according to the dignity of their future bishoprics, but all that we know about their order is this, that John sat next to the Saviour, and leaned upon His bosom, and that Peter sat a good way off,--we feel sure he did, because it is said that he "beckoned" unto John; if he had sat next to him, he would have whispered to him, but he beckoned to him, and so he must have been some way down the table, if, indeed, there was any "down" or "up" in the arrangement of the guests. We believe the fact was, that they sat there on a sacred equality, the Lord Jesus, the EIder Brother, among them, and all else arranged according to those words, "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." Let us feel, then, in coming to the table again at this time, that we are linked in ties sacred relationship with Jesus Christ, who is exalted in heaven, and that through Him our relationship with our fellow-Christians is very near and intimate.
Oh, that Christian brotherhood were more real! The very word "brother" has come to be ridiculed as a piece of hypocrisy, and well it may, for it is mostly used as a cant phrase, and in many cases means very little. But it ought to mean something. You have no right to come to that table unless you really feel that those who are washed in Jesus' blood have a claim upon the love of your heart, and the activity of your benevolence. What! are ye to live together for ever in heaven, and will ye show no affection for one another here below? It is your Master's new command that ye love one another; will ye disregard it? He has given this as the badge of Christians: "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples,"--not if ye wear a gold cross, but--"if ye have love one to another." That is the Christian's badge of his being, in very truth, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Here, at this table, we find fraternity. Whosoever eateth of this sacred supper declares himself to be one of a brotherhood in Christ, a brotherhood striving for the same cause, having sincere sympathy, being members of each other, and all of them members of the body of Christ. God make this to be a fact throughout Christendom even now, and how will the world marvel as it cries, "See how these Christians love one another!"
But this table means more yet: it signifies common enjoyment. Jesus eats, and they eat, the same bread. He drinks, and they drink, of the same cup. There is no distinction in the viands. What meaneth this? Doth it not say to us that the joy of Christ is the joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full"? The very joy that delights Christ is that which He prepares for His people. You, if you are a true believer, have sympathy in Christ's joy, you delight to see His kingdom come, the truth advanced, sinners saved, grace glorified, holiness promoted, God exalted; this also is His delight. But my dear brethren and fellow-professors, are you sure that your chief joy is the same as Christ's? Are you certain that the mainstay of your life is the same as that which was His meat and His drink, namely, to do the will of the heavenly Father? If not, I am afraid you have no business at this table; but if it be so, and you come to the table, then I pray that you may share the joy of Christ. May you joy in Him as He joys in you, and so may your fellowship be sweet!
Lastly, on this point, the feast at the one table indicated familiar affection. It is the child's place to sit at the table with its parents, for there affection rules. It is the place of honour to sit at the table: "Martha served, but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table." But the honour is such as love and not fear suggests. Men at the table often reveal their minds more fully than elsewhere. If you want to understand a man, you do not go to see him at the Stock Exchange, or follow him into the market; for there he keeps himself to himself; but you go to his table, and there he unbosoms himself. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ sat at the table with His disciples. 'Twas a meal; 'twas a meal of a homely kind; intimate intercourse ruled the hour. Oh, brethren and sisters, I am afraid we have come to this table sometimes, and Christ, and then it has been an empty formality and nothing more. I thank God that, coming to this table every Sabbath-day, as some of us do, and have done for many years, we have yet for the most part enjoyed the nearest communion with Christ here that we have ever known, and have a thousand times blessed His name for this ordinance. Still, there is such a thing as only eating the bread and drinking the wine, and losing all the sacred meaning thereof. Do pray the Lord to reveal Himself to you. Ask that it may not be a dead form to you, but that now in very deed you may give to Christ your heart, while He shall show to you His hands and His side, and make known to you His agonies and death, wherewith He redeemed you from the wrath to come. All this, and vastly more, is the teaching of the table at which Jesus sat with the twelve. I have often wondered why the Church of Rome does not buy up all those pictures by one of its most renowned painters, Leonardo da Vinci, in which our Lord is represented as sitting at the table with His disciples, for these are a contradiction of the Popish doctrine on this subject. As long as that picture remains on the wall, and as long as copies of it are spread everywhere, the Church of Rome stands convicted of going against the teaching of the earlier Church by setting up an altar when she confesses her- self that aforetime it was not considered to be an altar of sacrifice but a table of fellowship, at which the Lord did not kneel, nor stand as an officiating priest, but at which He and His disciples sat. We, at least, have no rebukes to fear from antiquity, for we follow, and mean to follow, the primitive method. Our Lord has given us commandment to do this until He comes,--not to alter it, but just to "do this," and nothing else, in the same manner until He shall come.
III. We will draw to a close by asking--What further may be inferred from this sitting of Christ with his disciples at the table?
I answer: first, there may be inferred from it the equality of all the saints. There were here twelve apostles. Their apostleship, however, is not concerned in the matter. When the Lord's supper was celebrated after all the apostles had gone to heaven, was there to be any alteration because the apostles had gone? Not at all. Believers are to do this in remembrance of their Lord until He shall come. There was no command for a change when the first apostles were all gone from the Church: No, it was to be the same still,--bread and wine and the surrounding of the table, until the Lord came. I gather, then, the equality of all saints. There is a difference in office, there was a difference in miraculous gift, and there are great differences in growth of grace; but still, in the household of God, all saints, whether apostles, pastors, teachers, deacons, elders, or private members, being all equal, eat at one table. There is but one bread, there is but one juice of the vine here.
It is only in the Church of God that those words, so wild politically, can ever be any more than a dream, "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity." There you have them, where Jesus is; not in a republic, but in the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, where all rule and dominion are vested in Him, and all of us willingly acknowledge Him as our glorious Head, and all we are brethren. Never fall into the idea that older believers were of a superior nature to ourselves. Do not talk of Saint Paul, and Saint Matthew, and Saint Mark, unless you are prepared to speak of Saint William and Saint Jane sitting over yonder, for if they be in Christ they are as truly saints as those first saints were, and I ween there may be some who have attained even to higher saintship than many whom tradition has canonized. The heights of saintship are by grace open to us all, and the Lord invites us to ascend. Do not think that what the Lord wrought in the early saints cannot be wrought in you. It is because you think so that you do not pray for it, and because you do not pray for it you do not attain it. The grace of God sustained the apostles; that grace is not less to-day than it was then. The Lord's arm is not shortened; His power is not straitened. If we can but believe, and be as earnest as those first saints were, we shall subdue kingdoms yet, and the day shall come when the gods of Hindooism, and the falsehoods of Mohammed, and the lies of Rome, shall as certainly be overthrown as were the ancient philosophies and the classic idolatries of Greece and Rome by the teaching of the first ministers of Christ. There is the same table for you, and the same food is there in emblem, and grace can make you like those holy men, for you are bought with the same blood, and quickened by the same Spirit. Believe only, for all things are possible to him that believeth.
Another inference, only to be hinted at, is this, that the wants of the Church in all ages will be the same, and the supplies for the Church's wants will never vary. There will be the table still, and the table with the same viands upon it,--bread still, nothing more than bread for food; wine still, nothing less than wine for drink. The Church will always want the same food, the same Christ, the same gospel. Out on ye, traitors, who tell us that we are to shape our gospel to suit this enlightened nineteenth century! Out on ye, false-hearts, who would have us tone down the everlasting truth that shall outlive the sun, and moon, and stars, to suit your boasted culture, which is but varnished ignorance! No, that truth which of old was mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, is mighty still, and we will maintain it to the death; the Church wants the doctrines of grace to-day as much as when Paul, or Augustine, or Calvin preached them; the Church wants justification by faith, the substitutionary atonement, and regeneration, and divine sovereignty to be preached from her pulpits as much as in days of yore, and by God's grace she shall have them, too.
Lastly, there is in this truth, that Christ has brought all His disciples into the position of table-companions, a prophecy that this shall be the portion of all His people for ever. In heaven there cannot be less of privilege than on earth. It cannot be that in the celestial state believers will be degraded from what they have been below. What were they, then, below? Table- companions. What shall they be in heaven above? Table-companions still, and blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. "Many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God," and the Lord Jesus shall be at the head of the table. Now, what will His table of joy be? Set your imagination to work, and think what will be His festival of soul when His reward shall be all before Him, and His triumph all achieved. Have ye imagined it? Can ye conceive it? Whatever it is, you shall share in it. I repeat those words, whatever it is, the least believer shall share in it. You, poor working-woman, oh, what a change for you, to sit among princes, near to your Lord Jesus, all your toil and want for ever ended! And you, sad child of suffering, scarcely able to come up to the assembly of God's people, and going back, perhaps, to that bed of languishing again, you shall have no pains there, but you shall be for ever with the Lord, and the joy of Christ shall be your joy for ever and ever! Oh, can you not realize those words of Dr. Watts,--"Yes, and before we rise
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 un- worthiness, 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
AS 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
Observe carefully, dear friends, what the eulogium is which is here passed upon the Lord's beloved disciples: "Ye are clean." This is the primeval blessing, so soon lost by our first parents. This is the virtue, the loss of which shut man out of Paradise, and continues to shut men out of heaven. The want of cleanness in heart and hands condemns sinners to banishment from God, and defiles all their offerings. To be clean before God is the desire of every penitent, and the highest aspiration of the most advanced believer. It is what all the ceremonies and ablutions of the law can never bestow and what Pharisees with all their pretensions cannot attain. To be clean is to be as the angels are, as glorified saints are, yea, as the Father Himself is.
Acceptance with the Lord, safety, happiness, and every blessing, always go with cleanness of heart, and he that hath it cannot miss of heaven. It seems too high a condition to be ascribed to mortals, yet, by the lips of Him who could not err, the disciples were said, without a qualifying word, or adverb of degree, to be "clean"; that is to say, they were perfectly justified in the sight of eternal equity, and were regarded as free from every impurity. Dear friends, is this blessing yours? Have you ever believed unto righteousness? Have you taken the Lord Jesus to be your complete cleansing, your sanctification, your redemption? Has the Holy Spirit ever sealed in your peaceful spirit the gracious testimony, "ye are clean"? The assurance is not confined to the apostles, for ye also are "complete in Him," "perfect in Christ Jesus," if ye have indeed by faith received the righteousness of God. The psalmist said, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;" if you have been washed, you are even to that highest and purest degree clean before the Lord, and clean now. Oh, that all believers would live up to their condition and privilege; but alas! too many are pining as if they were still miserable sinners, and forgetting that they are in Christ Jesus forgiven sinners, and therefore ought to be happy in the Lord. Remember, beloved believer, that, as one with Christ, you are not with sinners in the gall of bitterness, but with the saints in the land which floweth with milk and honey.
Your cleanness is not a thing of degrees, it is not a variable or vanishing quantity, it is present, abiding, perfect, you are clean through the Word, through the application of the blood of sprinkling to the conscience, and through the imputation of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then lift up your head, and sing for joy of heart, seeing that your transgression is pardoned, your sin is covered, and in you Jehovah seeth not iniquity. Dear friends, let not another moment pass till by faith in Jesus you have grasped this privilege. Be not content to believe that the priceless boon may be had, but lay hold upon it for yourself. You will find the song of substitution a choice song if you are able to sing it.
"In my Surety I am free,
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.
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 indwelling 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."Jesus declares me clean,
Then clean indeed I am,
However guilty I have been,
I'm cleans¸d through the Lamb.
"His lips can never lie,
His eye is never blind,
If he acquit, I can defy
All hell a fault to find."
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."Yes, thou, my soul, e'en thou art clean,
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,
Yet art thou still in Christ all fair,
Haste then to wipe away thy tears,
And make His glory all thy care."
"We are wash'd in Jesu's blood,
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
May the Holy Ghost now bear witness with every believer, "and ye are clean."
"Then may your souls rejoice and sing,
Then may your voices sweetly ring,
For if your souls through Christ are clear,
What cause have you to faint or fear?"
Next > Part IV
Index < Content