« AnteriorContinuar »
only allows, but demands the honours we pay him.
I hope you are not confounded at the thought of yielding this homage—in the stable, and kneeling—before the manger. The wise men, it is probable, judging from the prodigy of the star, expected to find the new-born king surrounded with magnificence; but his abasement hindered not their adoration. And shall it hinder your ardour? Yea rather, shall it not inflame your love? For what has brought him down; what has placed him here? Compulsion? No:—but compassion—a love "that passeth knowledge." He who was in the form of God, took upon him the form of a servant He made himself of no reputation. You know it, Christians! You know it:—" Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor: that ye through his iwverty might be rich." And is dignity lessened by condescension? Shall his goodness rob him of his glory? So far was Paul from being ashamed of' his humiliation, that he exclaimed, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" And when does God require all the highest orders of his creatures to adore him? When he has not where to lay his head. "When He
BRINOETH THE FIRSTBEOOTTEN INTO THE
World, //c saith. And let all the angels of God worship him."
And when John heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders,—and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,—they cried with a loud voice, saying, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing."
GOD THINKS UPON HIS PEOPLE .
T am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me.—Psalm xl. 17.
The life of a Christian is a very chequered scene. If it be said of others, "They have no changes, therefore they fear not God;" he can say, with Job, "changes and war are upon me." However attractive this world may appear to those whose disposition is congenial with it, and who make it their portion, he feels that it is not his rest He is a stranger and a sojourner, as were all his fathers: and there are seasons when he sighs, "Wo is me that I dwell in Meshech, and make my tents in Kedar. Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest"
But let us not view his present condition
on the dark side only. It admits of relief! Under all his disadvantages and trials, he is furnished with everlasting consolation and good hope though grace. Though a soldier, he fights the good fight of faith; and does not go a warfare at his own charges. Though > stranger and a pilgrim, he lias accommodations and refreshments by the way. This is his emblem—a bush burning with fire and not consumed. This is his motto—" We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."—This is his experience—" I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me." It would be fastidious to refuse the divisions which these words naturally atXoni They contain,
I. A HUMBLE CONDITION.
II. A BLESSED ASSURANCE.
I. A HUMBLE CONDITION. "I am poor
and needy." A man may be in such a state —spiritually—experimentally—comparatively—temporally.
All men are by nature poor and needy, as to their spiritual condition. Sin is very properly considered a fall; and it has reduced us to a low estate. It expelled us from paradise; it stripped us of our original righteousness and strength; it robbed us of the image, the favour, and the presence of God; it left us no worthiness, no hope—nothing but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation to devour us.—Tllis is what we mean by being poor and needy, spiritually.
But the conviction of our natural state is not easily fixed in the mind; and hence. Jar from acknowledging it many, like the Laodiceans, are saying, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." But the subjects of divine grace are all acquainted with their condition. The Holy Spirit has convinced them of sin; and bumbled them before God. They now see, that their recovery cannot spring from any goodness or power of their own; they are convinced, that if ever they are saved, it must be by another, in whom, at once, they can find wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Hence they become beggars a' the door of mercy, and are willing to live on alms; feeling their dependence, and thankful for their supplies.—This conviction, though self-abasing, is necessary and profitable. Till we apprehend our danger, we shall not inquire after a refuge; till we are sensible of our disease, we shall not prize the physician, or submit to the remedy; till we know that we are guilty and helpless, we shall never cry with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" or with Peter, "Lord, save; I perish."—But "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom
of heaven. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."—This is what we mean by being poor and needy, experimentally.
As all believers feel this to be their condition, so we may observe no diflerence is made in their sense of it by their worldly circumstances. David was a king; yet this did not alter the view he had of hnnself, as a fallen, sinful, perishing creature before God. His palace was not a substitute for heaven, nor even caused him to forget it He had fame, and armies, and riches; yet these could not supply the place of all spiritual blessings: he therefore prays, "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou Dearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance." "I am poor and needy," says the believer, "unless as I obtain the true riches, the unsearchable riches of Christ: and I often fear I have none of them. But if I am a possessor—O how small a portion do I possess! How little, compared with what I want and wish! How little, compared with the infinite fulness there is in the Redeemer! How little, compared with the acquisitions of others! They have received from him fulness, and grace for grace. But I have not attained: I am not already perfect How weak is my faith; how wavering my hope; how flameless my zeal. How far—O how far am I from being filled with all the fulness of God !—I am less than the least of all saints! I am nothing!"—This is what we mean by being poor and needy, comparatively.
But David was liable to affliction; and there had been periods when he was low in his outward estate. He was originally a shepherd, and often acknowledged, with equal humility and gratitude, his elevation in life. Even after he had the throne of Israel promised him, and the holy oil had been poured upon his head, he was driven out from his inheritance, and was an exile in other lands; pursued from place to place, "like a partridge upon the mountains;" reduced to the necessity of imploring of a foreign prince an asylum for his father and mother; and compelled to beg a sword and even bread for himself at Nob. Years after he was enthroned he was betrayed and opposed, and forced by a rebellion the most unnatural to leave his palace and his capital! Some believers, through life, have had very little of this world's goods. They have found it hard to provide thmgs honest in the sight of all men. We sometimes censure and condemn; as if men were the absolute masters of their secular condition: but they are not It does not depend upon every man to rise and prosper: "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the
battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." There are those who have met with losses which no talent could have prevented. Every time they have attempted to row, the wind and waves have been contrary. Is this the case with any of you! Are you set back in life? Are your visions fled! Are your purposes broken off! Remember, this has been the case with multitudes of your brethren who were before you in the world. Your elder brother had not where to lay his head; was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Your condition is not the result of chance, but appointment Your safety and welfare required it. In more easy and flattering circumstances, you would have had less love to the Scriptures; less business at a throne of grace; less longings after a better country; less proof of the tender care of Providence and the all.sufficiency of Divine grace. This is what we mean by being poor and needy, in a temporal sense. Let us,
II. Examine The Glorious Assurance— "I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me." This is,
First, the language of confidence. David speaks without hesitation, and so may every Christian; for there is nothing of which they can be more certain than this—That God thinks upon them.
It is proved by his relations. He calls himself their deliverer; their friend; their husband; their father; and as a divinity is attached to these relations, they must all therefore be perfectly exemplified. His benificiaries, his bride, his children therefore, can never be forgotten.
It is proved by his promises. "Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me."—" I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." These are words found in a book we know to be divine. They are the words, not of a man, that may lie, or the son of man, that may repent, but of the God of truth. Talking and doing may be two things with creatures, but they are the same with him. He is often better than his word; but who ever found him worse!
It is proved by his works. What lias lie not done, O Christian, to justify your hope! He remembered you in your low estate.— Without your desert, and without your desire, he raised up for you a Saviour; and seemed to love your souls better than his own Son. "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for you all; and shall he not with him freely give you all things?"—He found you wandering the downward road, and turned your leet into the path of peace. He has admitted you into his service, and adopted you into his family. Had he a mind to kill you, he would not have shown you such things as these. You have had your fears, but he has shown you their folly. You have said, "I am cast out of his sight;" but you have been enabled to look agam towards his holy temple, and the shadow of deatii lias been turned into the morning. You have not advanced as you ought to have done, and you mourn it; but you can say, to the praise of the glory of his grace, "Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way: though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death."
How many things are there worthy of particular review in your history. Though they have been less marvellous, they have not been less merciful than his dispensations towards his people of old. Have you not been delivered " from the land of Egypt and the house of bondage, by a strong hand and an outstretched arm !"—I mean have you not been "delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son?" Have you not had the bitter waters of Marah healed by casting a tree into them? —I mean, have not your sufferings been sweetened by the cross of Christ t Have you not been feu by ravens ?—I mean, have not the most unlikely instruments befriended you? Have not the oil and the wine multiplied ?—I mean, have not inconsiderable resources been rendered sufficient for your exigences; so that, while you had nothing to depend upon, you have lacked nothing?— "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord;" and be able to say," I am poor and needy—yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
Secondly. It is the language of wonder. It is said by the apostle Peter, that God calls his people out of darkness into his marvellous light; and one of the things which fill them with surprise, and continue to fill them with surprise through life is, that God tails not to regard such creatures as we are.
It is rendered truly wonderful by the "conduct of men." This we continually witness; and we are prone to judge from what falls under our own observation. How many, alas? of those with whom you have to do, prove either frail or treacherous! How many have abandoned you, after the warmest expressions of friendship and kindness! How often have you heard the voice saying, "Cease from man! Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm!" In this way you have been peculiarly tried when reduced; for people reverse the maxim of Solomon, and suppose a friend born for prosperity. The flower that, while fresh and green, is put into the bosom, is thrown away when Bhriveled and dry. But it is otherwise here.
"Iam poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
It is rendered wonderful by the g-reatneu of God. What a trifling elevation leads one man to overlook another! How generally are the lower ranks disregarded by those who have a few acres of land, a little shining dost, or an empty title to distinguish them—while they are only worms themselves, and are crushed before the moth. "But behold, God is great, and we know him not. All nations are before him as nothing.' Well, therefore, did David, when he surveyed the universe, exclaim, "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the Sob of man, that tboo visitest him!" This is nothing less than Infinite Power and Majesty stooping to weakness and meanness.
It is rendered wonderful by our unttorthness. The more holy any being is, the more must he be offended with sin. How ihes must God be provoked by it, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity !" And yet how much has he seen in me," says the Christian, "to try him, not only before I knew him, bat since I have been called by his name, I cannot take the most superficial review of myself without seeing that it is of the Lord's mercies I am not consumed. Where is there any other benefactor that would have continued his regards, or have given me another thought, after such instances of perversenes and vileness as I have been chargeable with from year to year towards God?"
Thirdly. It is the language of consolation. "I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me." This is enough: this will more than counterbalance every thing that is defective or distressing in my condition. There are three things in God's thinking upon us that are solacing and delightful.
Observe the/reguency of his thoughta Indeed they are incessant You have a friend whom you esteem and love. You wish to live in his mind. You say, when you part and when you write, "Think of me." Yob give him, perhaps, a token to revive his remembrance. How naturally is Selkirk, in his solitary island, made to say;
"My friends,—do they now and then send
Though a friend 1 am never to see
"Ye winds, that have made me your sport.
But the dearest connexion in the world cannot be always thinking upon you. Half his time he is in a state of unconsciousness; and how much, during the other half, is he engrossed! But there is no remission iu the Lord's thoughts. He never slumbers: and though he manages worlds, and calls th<: stars by their names, he numbers the hairs
Jhead, and regards thee as much as if thou wert his only care.
Observe, in the next place, the wisdom of his thoughts. You have a dear child absent from you, and you follow him in your mind. But you know not his present circumstances. You left him in such a place—but where is he now? You left him in such a condition— but what is he now? Perhaps, while you are thinking of his health, he is groaning under a bruised limb, or a painful disorder. Perhaps, while you are thinking of his safety, some enemy is taking advantage of his innocency. Perhaps, while you are rejoicing in his prudence, he is going to* take a step that will involve him for life. But when God thinketh upon you, he is perfectly acquainted with your situation, your dangers, your wants. "He knows all your walking through this great wilderness"—and can afford you the seasonable succour you need.—For again,
Observe the efficiency of his thoughts. You think upon another; and you are anxious to guide, or defend, or relieve him. But in how many cases can you think only! Solicitude cannot control the disease of the body; cannot dissipate the melancholy of the mind. But with God all things are possible. He who thinks upon you is a God at hand, and not afar off; he has all events under his control; he is the God of all grace. If, therefore, he does not immediately deliver, it is not because he is unable to redress, but because he is waiting to be gracious. "The Lord is a God of judgment, and blessed are all they that wait for him." Let us conclude.
Here we see how it is that the believer stands while others sink. He has supports peculiar to himself; and when creatures frown or fail, he encourages himself in the Lord his God. "Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
Is this your portion? How anxious are men to gain the notice of their fellow-creatures, especially if they are a little raised above themselves in condition !" Many will entreat the favour of the prince, and every one is a friend to him that giveth gifts." But in this case you are never sure you shall succeed; and you have gained nothing if you do. Whereas here—the success is sure, and the success is—every thing. Pray therefore, with Nehemiah, "Think upon me, O my 2 Y 30*
God, for good. Seek the Lord, and ye shall live."
O believer! If God thinks upon you, ought you not to think upon him? David did. "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God i how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake I am still with thee." If he minds your affairs—Be not you forgetful of his. Ever ask, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Ever cry, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE.
In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness.—Zech. xiii. 1.
There are many curious things in nature; and there are things useful and necessary. But we have things, shall I say, of the same kind, in the world of grace, far superior; and superior, because they regard the soul and eternity. How is the rising of the orb of day surpassed by "the Sun of righteousness, who arises with healing under his wings!" How are the meekness of the lily, and the fragrance of the rose, excelled by "the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley!" It is pleasing to behold a number of trees adorned with blossoms, or bending with fruit—but we have in the Church "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." It is delightful to view a river refreshing and fertilizing the meadows through which it murmurs—but we read of " the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." There are fountains. We hear of remarkable ones abroad. We have some very valuable ones in our own country. One of these bubbles up in the place of our residence; and to which multitudes repair for relief. But I have to invite your attention this evening to a fountain infinitely more wonderful and efficacious, and of which Zechariah speaks, in the words which I have read: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."
For, my brethren, to what can he refer, but the exclamation of John, the forerunner of the Messiah—" Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!" Nothing less will be found suflicient to justify, or imbody the language. Even allowing that Zechariah had not the same distinct and explicit .views of the Saviour that we have who possess the explanations of the New Testament writers; it does not follow that this was not his object; for we know that the prophets often delivered predictions which they did not completely understand; and therefore studied them after they had announced them: "searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the suflerings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."
I am not unmindful of the day* which has assembled us together; but my choice of a subject shows that I consider it of little importance, to dwell upon the crucifixion of Christ, as a wonderful, or a tragical scene. I am aware that such a pathetical representation might be given of the history as would draw tears from every eye—while the mind remained uninformed of, and the heart unaffected with, the nature and design of the event The grand thing is, to know why the dispensation was necessary; and, realizing its accomplishment in ourselves, to be able to say, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
I have two things in view.—I. To ExPlain THE PROMISE. II. To IMPROVE THE
TRUTH IT CONTAINS.
I. Ill THE l:XI'LANATKiN OH THE PROMISE,
three things are observable. The fountain— the opening—and the end.
First The fountain. This image holds forth the Redeemer. In distinction from creatures, which "are cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water," he may well call himself the fountain of living waters." The Jews were accustomed, on the last, which was called the great day of the feast, to fetch water from the pool of Siloam, singing the words of Isaiah, "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." On that very occasion, we find our Saviour preaching; and lie takes advantage of the ceremony to proclaim himself to the multitude as the true source of blessedness: "In the last day, that great dav of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, It any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his bully shall tlow rivers of living water." To the woman of Samaria he had said before, "The water that I shall give him, shall be m him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."—Tie shall possess a plenitude himself: but the fulness of the Christian is limited; is derived; is the fulness of a vessel. This vessel is supplied from the fulness of a fountain—and this fountain is the Lord Jesus. His fulness is original and boundless. It is the fulness of a spring; always flowing,
• Good Friday
and yet undiminished. He is in himself an infinite and everlasting source of all the influences and blessings we need: "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily: and of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace."
Secondly. This fountain was to be opened. If a fountain was shut up, and sealed, though the contents would be equally precious in themselves, they would be useless to us; yea, they would only provoke our desire, to torment us. And what would the Saviour's excellences and benefits be to us, if unattainable and inaccessible? But they are placed within our view, and within our reach. This fountam was actually opened in his suflerings. His blood flowed in the garden, and upon the cross. His back was wounded by the scourge; his temples with the crown of thorns; h» hands and his feet with the nads; his side with the spear. Then was the fountain opened; and one, hard by, beheld it—
"The dying thief rejoiced to aee
And oh! that each of us, with humility and confidence, may be able to add;
"And there have I, as vile aa he,
The apostles laid it open doctrinally, in their preaching. Panl could appeal to the Corinthians, and say; "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." And referring both to the subject of his preaching, and the plain and lively manner in which he had delivered it, he could say to the Galatians, "Before your eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you."
It was, unquestionably, open, when the apostles wrote their epistles; for thousands were rejoicing in the efficacy of this fountain, and could say, "We are come to the blood of sprinkling—We are redeemed with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin!"—And is it closed since? No: it stands open now—open, in the means of grace —open, in the invitations of the Word— open, in the nearness, the power, and the grace of the Saviour—how open while he says, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out!"
Thirdly. This fountain is "opened for sin and for uncleanness." There had bees provisions for ceremonial pollution, under the Mosaical economy. There was the brazen sea, fifty feet in circumference, and ten in depth; in which the priests were to wash their hands and feet There were also ten lavers, in which the things offered in sacrifice were washed, and whence the water was taken to sprinkle the offerers. There were also fountains for bodily diseases—the pool of Siloam to which our Saviour sent the n.an